Hidden Toxins That Can Affect Your Health

I’m pleased to introduce a multi-part series on cleaning out your home and detoxifying your life for improved health, immunity, and mental clarity.

The first part of this series will focus on one of the most important aspects of our everyday lives: food. What we eat, where it comes from, and how our food is processed greatly determines whether or not we enjoy long and vital lives, which is why nutrition is a major focus of my treatment protocol. One look at the offerings in any modern grocery store will reveal aisles upon aisles of processed, irradiated, genetically modified, and additive- or preservative-rich foods. It can be difficult to make healthy, wholesome choices for ourselves and our families, so I’ve compiled some guidelines to follow that should make your next shopping trip easier.

What we want to avoid

Foods that have been subjected to intense heat and pressure or exposed to certain forms of light/radiation (such as canned fruits and vegetables, and pasteurized dairy products) during packing and processing have a severely diminished potential for nourishment. These processes destroy naturally occurring enzymes, fats, and nutrients that we need to fuel our bodies and brains.

These so-called “foods” also place an incredible burden on our digestive systems, compromising immunity and greatly contributing to the growing cancer epidemic. In addition to destroying nutrients, most packaging and processing procedures ADD chemical toxins to our food that have been deemed “safe” by various government regulatory agencies, even though there are decades of research and testing to empirically demonstrate that they’re NOT.

So what exactly do we mean when we say chemical toxins? A short list of these include preservatives, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners (e.g. aspartame), artificial flavor enhancers, and a smattering of what are called “food conditioning” agents – emulsifiers, anti-foaming agents, anti-caking agents, stabilizers, thickeners, modified starches, gelling agents… and many more.

Consider that there are over 10,000 chemicals deemed “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAs) by the food industry itself. By labeling them as such, food companies are able to take advantage of a loophole that allows these chemicals to be approved for use without ever having to be tested for human safety. Incredibly, even if you actively look for these ingredients on the label, they aren’t there, thanks to the same loophole that allows food corporations to avoid labeling these ingredients. Knowing all this, how can we possibly avoid them?

Skip the chain grocery store: Flavor, freshness, nutrition, and community are all sacrificed when we purchase food that isn’t local. Go to your local farmer’s market whenever possible for the best seasonal selection. Produce that spends less time in transit from the field to your table is more vital, meaning it contains a higher level of beneficial vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and enzymes. In addition, eating locally with the seasons facilitates your body’s natural healing and elimination processes.

Avoid GMOs: Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are associated with potential health risks not fully assessed under existing regulatory protocols, including: gastrointestinal disease, DNA damage, and cancer, as revealed in hundreds of independent scientific studies. The truth of the matter is that GMOs simply do not contain the same nutrient levels as non-GMO and organic foods. The most common ones to avoid are: US-grown soy, corn, canola, and sugar beets; Hawaiian papaya, alfalfa (as fed to conventional livestock), as well as non-organic yellow (summer) squash and zucchini.

What we want to incorporate

A good maxim to live by is: “If you want to live a long and healthy, cancer-free life, eat foods with a shorter shelf life.”

Eat whole foods! Remember: if it only comes from a plant or an animal, ditch it. If it IS an animal or a plant, eat it!

Eat organic: If you can’t commit to going totally organic, make sure the following purchases absolutely are—as they contain the highest concentration of pesticide residues—or avoid buying them altogether: apples, peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, sweet peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, imported snap peas, carrots, and white potatoes.

The following list of produce is the least likely to contain pesticide residue: avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, cabbage, frozen sweet peas, onions, asparagus, mangoes, papaya, kiwi, eggplant, grapefruit, cantaloupe, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes.

Buy only free range, hormone-free meat: Avoiding factory-farmed meat is an extremely high priority if you’re concerned with your health and longevity. Highly polluting factory farms (also called CAFOs) raise animals in extremely confined areas, feeding them unnatural diets of GMO soy and corn, all the while pumping them full of antibiotics and hormones. These leech into our groundwater, and are also detectable in our meat, our milk, and our eggs. Antibiotic over-exposure contributes to increasingly virulent mutations of harmful bacteria such as E. coli, and factory farm crowding encourages the rapid spread of devastating epidemic viruses like H1N1. This is a toxic chain of production from start to finish, which directly and negatively impacts the quality of our environment, not to mention our health.

Alternately, meat and eggs derived from pastured-raised (“grass fed”) animals contain significantly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help reduce the risk of cancer, as well as block cancer cells from spreading. Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), vitamin E, vitamin D, and alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) are also found in abundance in pasture-raised meat and eggs. As compared to CAFO animals, these same foods also have higher levels of beta-carotene, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

Likewise, chickens that forage on pasture produce eggs with rich, orange yolks that naturally contain some of the highest known levels of lutein and zeaxanthin. Both of these nutrients have been scientifically shown to protect against colon cancer.

If you don’t have a relationship with a local farmer (your best bet), and talk to your grocer or butcher about where to find pasture-raised, free range animal products. Look for labels that say “Non-GMO Certified,” “Certified Organic,” “Pasture-raised,” and “Grass-fed” or “100% Grass-fed,” and purchase only raw and unprocessed dairy products. Pasteurization kills beneficial enzymes and other nutrients that help boost your immune system, and homogenization changes the molecular structure of butterfat in milk, rendering it toxic and pro-inflammatory. Check out realmilk.com to find local sources of raw and unpasteurized dairy. The alternative to this is to consider becoming a vegetarian or vegan. If this is something you’re considering, make an appointment at the clinic for a nutritional assessment and to discuss your dietary options.

Of course, take into consideration your current health and treatment protocol when following these guidelines and adjusting your “temperament diet.” Call the clinic with specific questions and, as always, take care of yourself!

Naturopathic physician who is educating people about their health in order to empower them to practice self care.