Posted on Mon, 9 Nov 09
Environmental pollutants are widespread though our environment including in the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. Minimising exposure and improving your body’s ability to detoxify is an important step towards reducing the effects of these chemicals and improving your health.
Your health is an environmental issue
Common pollutants include heavy metals, industrial chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, and food additives. These pollutants, even at very low levels of exposure, have been linked to a number of serious health concerns; heart disease, weight gain, type-2 diabetes, certain cancers, endometriosis, autoimmune disease, cognitive and behavioural disorders, dementia, and chronic fatigue (1-8).
Tips for minimising exposure to environmental pollutants
Choose organic foods to reduce exposure to chemicals used in conventional food production such as antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides (9).
Filter drinking water to reduce exposure to contaminants that may be present even after water has been treated (10).
Ensure good air quality by monitoring carbon monoxide levels if you have a heating system, using an ionizer or air filter to reduce dust and moulds and considering indoor plants as they purify the air (11).
Avoid exposure to household products and cosmetics that contain toxic chemicals including aluminium containing antiperspirants and lead based lipsticks (12).
Reduce your exposure to heavy metals such as mercury from fish, aluminium from pots and pans, lead from paint and cadmium from cigarette smoke.
Tips for improving detoxification and elimination of pollutants
Eat a predominantly plant based diet rich in fruits and vegetables as these foods are high in nutrients that support and improve detoxification (13-15).
Brassica vegetables (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower etc) are particularly good promoters of detoxification, aim to consume about a cup per day (16).
Improve elimination through your kidneys by drinking approximately 1.5-2 litres (6-8 glasses) of water a day (17).
A high fibre intake from foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits and nuts encourages regular bowel movements and the elimination of detoxified waste (18).
Use herbs and spices, particularly turmeric, rosemary and garlic, in food and cooking as they may enhance detoxification (19).
Sweating regularly through saunas, infrared saunas, stream rooms or exercise may improve elimination of toxins through your skin (20).
Consume foods rich in the green pigment chlorophyll such as dark green leafy vegetables and the super foods chlorella or spirulina as they may assist toxin removal (21).
Consider supplementing your diet with the herb milk thistle to support liver detoxification at a dose equivalent of 200-400mg of silymarin per day (silymarin is the active ingredient found in the herb) (22).
A probiotic supplement may improve elimination as well as reduce the production of toxic compounds in your digestive system (23).
Although efforts, such as the Stockholm Convention (24), are being made internationally to reduce the production and contamination of the environment with toxic pollutants the long life of these chemicals ensures they will remain a threat to human health for generations to come. There is however accumulating evidence to suggest you can minimise their effects with simple dietary and lifestyle behaviours that reduce exposure and increase their detoxification and elimination.
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24. Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. http://chm.pops.int