When the rain begins and the flowers and luscious green grass start poking their heads out of the winter earth, I get inspired for new beginnings and cleansing. The dull, cold winter is moving along, and spring is filling my mind with fresh smells and ideas. I find myself cleaning up the yard from winter debris, sending boxes of old clothes and knickknacks to Goodwill, and leaning towards spiritual and physical cleansing. Perhaps the spirit of the season is why so many of us begin “spring cleaning” our homes. This is also a perfect opportunity to “spring clean” our bodies with a simple detox of our foods and personal care/household products.
Many people get overwhelmed by the idea of a “detox.” They picture long weeks of fasting, giving up their favorite vice foods, and going through painful withdrawal symptoms. The Spring Cleaning Detox I’m proposing is much more comfortable and fun to do! Yes, it will require some cleaning out of your kitchen and drawers… but you get to replace these items with healthy, non-toxic, wholesome items that will make you feel great and foster better health for years to come! Having trouble losing weight? Studies are beginning to suggest that toxins in our bodies are stored in body fat as well as the liver, further compromising our biggest detox organ, and making that body fat difficult to get rid of (Crinnion, 2010).
Let’s talk a little bit about what we’re going to consider TOXIC. I could write a long article on each item, but let’s focus on the important points of each:
These are chemicals that are placed on produce to prevent insects, fungi, rodents, and weeds from damaging crops. You may have heard of the recent lawsuit won by a farmer who developed cancer from years of using Monsanto’s Round Up pesticide containing glycosphate. Unfortunately, most pesticides contain toxic chemicals including heavy metals and organophosphates (developed for chemical warfare). Side effects from these pesticides include seizures, neuropathy, psychiatric problems, cancer, asthma, vomiting and diarrhea, birth defects, and rashes. Some of these chemicals bioaccumulate in human tissue and have toxic synergistic effects with each other. Eating non-organic animal products (meat, dairy) can increase your exposure since these toxins can be stored in animal fat and excreted in their milk (Krohn & Taylor, 2000).
Organic produce is more expensive and has a shorter shelf life. However, weigh the cost of organic products over the healthcare costs of a chronic disease, and you may find organic eating is worth the expense. Additionally, organic foods have higher nutrient levels since the soil they grow in is richer, and the animals are fed healthier, organic feed (Crinnion, 2010).
The EWG (Environmental Working Group) has a list of the most important fruits and vegetables to buy organic, since they tend to otherwise have the highest amount of pesticide residue. They are known as the “Dirty Dozen”. I would add dairy products and meats to that list as well. Pesticides are often fat vs. water soluble, and difficult to remove by a simple washing. The list can be found at here.
2. GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS:
These are foods that have had genes inserted into them from other animals and plants in an attempt to improve their resistance to pesticides or deterioration. This sounds good in theory, but for people with food allergies or sensitivities, this can be disastrous! In addition, not enough research has been done on the health effects of genetically modified foods, and the genes of these foods are passed down from generation to generation. The most common GMO foods are soy and corn, especially those used as animal feed. Organic foods are not allowed to be GMO, and organic dairy and meat products come from animals NOT fed GMO feed… another important reason to eat organic when buying these types of foods. Learn more here.
3. FOOD ADDITIVES:
You will find artificial colorings, flavor enhancers, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives in many pre-made, packaged foods. Although approved by the FDA, these chemicals have been linked to allergies, behavioral problems in children, neurological damage (MSG and aspartame are excitotoxins, over stimulating brain neurotransmitters), migraines, cancer, and kidney problems (Krohn & Taylor, 2000). Read labels carefully and avoid ingredients like Yellow No.5, FD&C, monosodium glutamate, aspartame, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, yeast extract, artificial flavoring, BHA, BHT, and sulfites. If you can’t pronounce and don’t know what an ingredient is, it’s likely something that shouldn’t be in your body!
4. HOUSEHOLD AND PERSONAL CARE CHEMICALS:
There is an exhaustive list of chemicals in most of the sprays, lotions, makeup, cleaning products, and hair care products on the market. These chemicals can be carcinogenic and cause endocrine (hormone) disruption. Stay away from ingredients including: laureth sulfate, triclosan, oxybenzone, parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, mineral oil, paraffin, sulfates, synthetic colors, talc, ureas, and PEG. Scent your home and body with essential oils and diffusers instead of artificial perfumes, candles, and room sprays. Beware of “natural” products sold at health food stores… many of the ingredients are still toxic! Check out this great site for verified non-toxic body and household products.
Plastic bottles and storage containers can leach plastics into your food, especially if food is heated in them, or if your food is oily/high in fat. BPA is a chemical found in many plastics and tin can liners that disrupts hormones, causes cancer, and stimulates insulin resistance (and diabetes). If you buy canned food, check the label for “BPA free” statements. Try to replace your plastic water bottles with glass or stainless steel ones, and replace plastic food storage containers with glass ones. Amazon has some great glass Tupperware and water bottle collections. Re-heat food in glass containers, not plastic or aluminum.
Talking about aluminum, heavy metals can lurk in your pots and pans and leech into your food. Aluminum is a neurotoxin, and is usually the base metal for “non-stick” cookware. Neither of these is good for you, so replacing your cookware with less toxic alternatives is worthwhile. I personally like Dr. Mercola’s clay cookware and HomiChef’s nickel free stainless steel.
Don’t drink tap water! Although the EPA limits levels of certain toxins in municipal water, these levels are vastly higher than is safe for health. Think about the recent Flint, Michigan lead situation. Tap water contains pesticides, heavy metals, pharmaceutical drugs, chlorine, and fluoride. I recommend everyone have a water filter in your home that filters out as much of these toxins as possible. Look into Kangen or Berkey water filters. Bottled water is just not a good option because of the plastic bottles used to store the water, and the fact that bottled water is often “reverse osmosis” filtered, depleting the water of minerals and causing your body to have to leach these minerals from your bones.
So besides spring cleaning your food and drawers, what else can you do to support your body’s spring cleaning process? There are a few great foods and liquids to introduce into your diet that support the liver in cleaning out the body. These include green tea, cruciferous vegetables (kale, broccoli, cabbage), dandelion greens, milk thistle tea, apples, organic chlorella, organic berries, all herbs and spices, and probiotics or fermented food (Crinnion, 2010). Don’t forget exercise too, which works up a sweat, allowing fat soluble toxins to be excreted and moves your lymphatic fluid and blood through your body to prevent stagnation of toxins and nutrients. Sweating in a hot sauna a few times per week is also a great, relaxing way to move toxins out of your body. A multi-vitamin as well as antioxidant supplements (Vitamin C especially) is crucial, since these micronutrients are necessary for all body functions, including processing toxins.
If you feel overwhelmed by all of this information, don’t give up. Incorporate a new tip every week, and before you know it, a toxin-free home and kitchen will be your new lifestyle! Just like the season of spring, the old foods and habits will be washed away, making way for beautiful things to grow in your body and your life. If you would like to learn more, check out the two books listed at the bottom of this article that have great resources for a toxin-free life.
Nurse in the Kitchen Detox Salad:
Organic dandelion greens
Organic diced bell pepper
Organic shredded carrots
Organic diced cucumber
Organic diced radishes
Organic shredded cabbage
Mandarin oranges (drained)
Organic baked tofu (diced)
Sesame seed sticks
Dressing made of orange juice, organic soy sauce, sesame oil, peanut butter, honey, cayenne pepper. (Ingredient amounts are up to you! Taste a few times for the flavors you like).
Crinnion, Walter. (2010). Clean, Green, & Lean: Get Rid of the Toxins That Make You Fat.
Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Krohn, Jacquline & Taylor, Frances. (2000). Natural Detoxification: A Practical Encyclopedia.
Pt. Roberts, WA: Hartley & Marks Publishers Inc.