According to New York Times best-selling author and founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center, Dr. Mark Hyman once stated, “We are exposed to 6 million pounds of mercury and the 2.5 billion pounds other toxic chemicals each year.” And according to one study, even newborn babies have more than 200 kinds of toxins in their blood!
Toxins are hard to escape from — they’re in our food, the air we breathe, on toys, in makeup…the list goes on and on. The good news is that there are lots of ways to reduce our exposure. You don’t have to learn the hard way like I did! I’d like to share my personal journey with you, as well as easy ways you can start reducing toxic exposure in your life today.
In 2011, I had a very traumatic delivery and postpartum healing after the birth of my daughter. Following my delivery, I experienced overwhelming fatigue, brain fog, and mood swings. At first, I was told those symptoms were “normal” and they were to be expected. But as the months carried on, my symptoms only got worse. I began to experience tremors, fatigue, extreme depression, anxiety, twitching, pain all over my body, and excruciating headaches. After going to the doctor a couple of times, I realized that they couldn’t just “fix me”. I was no longer myself, and I certainly was not happy. I didn’t know who I was anymore, and I was terrified that a helpless little life was dependent on me. As time went on, I learned how to manage my symptoms and was so entangled with the pressures of being a mom that I never really found out what was going on with me.
I lost so much weight and had little to no appetite while I was nursing. I was never educated on what to expect postpartum, the basics of nutrition postpartum, or how to take care of myself while nursing. I felt so lost and confused in my new role as a mother.
In 2014, I delivered my son and had a slightly better delivery and postpartum experience; but I wanted things to be different this time. I didn't want to relive the same debilitating symptoms from my first pregnancy. It was around this time that a friend recommended the “21-Day Sugar Detox” diet. She explained that the diet dealt with health at the root cause. I was ready for a change and had extra baby weight to lose anyways, so I tried it out. This is when I was introduced to clean eating for the first time in my life. I couldn't believe eating better could make me feel so good! Not all my symptoms improved, but I did experience noticeable relief from joint pain, anxiety and mood swings. But —with all the crazy life demands that go along with being a mother of two, I gradually fell back into my previous bad eating habits.
After a couple of years, I decided to go to a new doctor to try to find answers for all my symptoms that never fully went away. The last doctor I went to told me that my thyroid levels were “borderline” but not to worry. He also told me that I was an “exhausted mom”, that I needed to drink a beer, and to take time to calm down or take more medications. Really?! I thought to myself, “You have to be kidding me!” I was so fed up at this point. I knew there had to be a real reason for the symptoms I was experiencing. Why did they never go away? How come I had some improvements when I changed my diet? I was too close to finding out the answer to give up.
So, I started doing my own research. I searched the Internet for hours and hours, and I also went to the library and checked out tons of health books. After doing extensive research, I realized none of my doctors had ever performed thorough blood tests on my thyroid levels. I decided to fire my current doctor and searched for a holistic doctor that was willing to listen to me. This new doctor looked at my medical chart as a whole and performed the blood work I requested— a FULL thyroid panel. My results uncovered a major piece of my health crisis puzzle. In 2018, I was officially diagnosed with Hashimotos thyroiditis disease and started taking a natural desiccated thyroid medication called Nature Thyroid, prescribed by my doctor. This was a HUGE turning point for me. I was finally able to dig deeper and learn more about this disease, and I could actually start the healing process.
While doing more research, I discovered internationally acclaimed thyroid specialist and licensed pharmacist Dr. Izabella Wentz and the “Wellness Mama” podcast. To my surprise, I learned that food wasn't the only contributing factor or main culprit to my disease; it was also toxic exposures! I became so motivated to learn everything I could about toxic exposure, especially for my children.
I started to implement the changes I read about in Dr. Wentz’s book, Hashimoto's Protocol: A 90-Day Plan for Reversing Thyroid Symptoms and Getting Your Life Back, and I was amazed at the changes in my health and in my blood work. I completed her 90-day protocol, and my antibody levels went from over 300 to 150. I felt less pain in my body than I had in years, and all of my other symptoms improved significantly. I was so excited that I started telling everyone I knew about my new lifestyle change.
I slowly started tossing everything in my life away that could be a potential threat to my health. This included hair and beauty products, lotions, and detergents. Additionally, I realized that a huge opportunity for toxic exposure was with cookware. After that discovery, I understood that using clean and safe cookware was a close second to changing my diet. As it turned out, it was actually more important than changing the detergents, makeup, and other forms of toxic exposures. All exposure is bad, but unsafe cookware actually gets into the food you eat! I ate 90% of my meals at home and cooked all of them in my pans. I was using old, scratched cookware that I had purchased years ago at a garage sale.
I was listening to a podcast episode by Wellness Mama where the founder of Xtrema cookware was interviewed. In that episode, all of the dangers of toxic cookware and how they could negatively impact your health were explained. I was shocked at how toxic my cookware was and how important it was to make sure I cooked with good quality cookware. After that episode, I threw all my cookware away and only used my oven to bake until I could afford new cookware.
I saved up money and purchased my first set of Xtrema - 100% pure non-toxic ceramic cookware. I knew this was the beginning of a new, healthier chapter for me and for my family. I became so passionate about my experience and the amount of time spent researching this topic that in May of 2020 I joined the Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) program through the Nutritional Therapy Association and graduated this past March (2021). I have made it my life’s mission to help as many people as I can to find ways to treat their autoimmune disease(s) naturally without wasting time like I did. I know there are lots of variables to living a “healthy” life, and the information can feel overwhelming. So, to help us think through the basics of living a healthy and toxic-free life, here are some topics to consider:
Improve Your Nutrition: As an NTP, I fully believe in what's called "bio individuality". Bio individuality means that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all diet that works for everyone. Our genetic makeup, illnesses, age, etc., all contribute to our bodies’ individual needs. There are, however, vital macronutrients that we all need in order for our bodies to function at their optimal level and to perform their specific roles. It’s important to consume a balanced diet with proteins, fats and carbs. The ratio may differ depending on your needs, which is why it’s important to be in tune with your body. It’s also important to consume a variety of organic and local fruits and vegetables and grass fed or pastured meats. These sources provide significantly more nutrients and little to no toxins compared to conventional options. Consuming an adequate amount of filtered water daily is a vital part in helping your body flush out toxins and provides the hydration your body needs to perform important functions.
Reduce Your Stress: I don't think many people understand how much stress can affect our overall health. There are many major health issues that can all be a result of chronic, untreated stress: our digestion doesn’t work the same and begins losing major enzyme functions, gut motility decreases while digesting food, nutrients are not absorbed as well, and many more issues. Also, our adrenals overwork and begin stealing nutrients from other major organs in our body to compensate. This can eventually lead to leaky gut, food sensitivities, lower immune system, and blood sugar imbalance, which can increase our chances of developing diabetes. Unfortunately, when someone has been in a chronic state of stress for so long, it can be hard to learn how to cope in a different way. That is something I struggled with for a while, and I had to re-learn how to cope with the stressors in my life. Here some easy ways to reduce stress that I have implemented in my own life:
- Alternate nostril breathing
- Taking a walk and breathing in fresh air
- Prayer and scripture meditation
- Finding a fun hobby to do alone and/or with friends
- Technology-free nighttime routine you can look forward to
- Essential oils
Remove Household Toxins: As I learned more and more about all the horrible toxins that existed in almost everything I used in my home, I was on a mission to toss it all and replace it with healthier options. I used helpful resources for guidance with this process like www.EWG.com, the Think Dirty app, and blog posts and articles from many credible health experts like Dr. Axe, Dr. Mercola, and Dr. Mark Hyman to name a few. Little by little, I started disposing anything and everything that contained toxins until my entire home was (mostly) toxin-free. I started with my most used items like my personal care products, cleaning products, and cookware. After removing the toxic products from my home, I replaced them with cleaner options. These are some of my favorite brands:
Personal care products: Dr. Bronner’s, Primally Pure, W3LL PEOPLE, and Beautycounter.
Cleaning products: Baking soda, vinegar, essential oils, and Dr. Bronner’s.
Cookware: Xtrema non-toxic ceramic pots, pans, and bakeware, and any brand for glassware for baking and food storage.
Detox: Most people are more familiar with a typical cleanse or different detoxes, but we fail to realize that our body is very fragile and needs to be able to handle these detoxes. Our bodies were designed to detox on its own, in different ways. But, with the numerous toxic exposures we come in contact with over the years, our bodies have a harder and harder time getting rid of any dangerous and/or toxic chemicals.
When we bombard our bodies with a cleanse or detox, we may experience some serious consequences. That’s why it’s essential to keep the pathways clear so that our bodies can get rid of toxins naturally. Here are the ways our bodies detoxify and simple ways to ensure this process is enabled:
- Skin: our skin acts as a second kidney in our body and is another great way to get rid of toxins. You can help your skin accomplishes this by sweating through exercise or spending time in a sauna.
- Kidneys: the role of our kidneys is to help filter our blood and get rid of cellular waste. Make sure you are drinking lots of water to help with this process.
- Lungs: our lungs are another great way to get rid of toxins, mainly carbon dioxide. It’s also a major mechanism of pH control. You can help with this process by exercising and drinking adequate amounts of water to help moisten oxygen for easier breathing.
- Digestion: according to the NTA, digestion “scans for invaders, detoxifies poorly digested, fermented toxins, filters food and intestinal bacteria, eliminates toxins and other unusable substances from the body.” You can help digest your food better by eating in a relaxed state, and eating enough fiber to help with daily bowel movements.
- Liver: the NTA also states that the liver filters toxins from the blood and neutralizes them in preparation for elimination. It’s then passed on to the gallbladder as bile and is eventually excreted in our feces. You can help with this important process by ensuring your digestion is working properly from north the south. Eating a diverse, nutrient-dense diet will help provide necessary nutrients to enable your body to function optimally.
Each step helps you get closer to providing a safe and clean environment for you and your family. There's never a “right" time to start, so why not start today?
- Dr. Hyman. Is there toxic waste in your body? Retrieved from https://drhyman.com/blog/2010/05/19/is-there-toxic-waste-in-your-body-2/
- Pizzorno, J. (2017). The Toxin Solution. HarperOne; 1 edition.
- Nutritional Therapy Association. (2020). Environmental Factors [PDF document].
- Nutritional Therapy Association. (2020). Detoxification Student Lectures [PDF document].