10 Ways to Lighten Your Toxic Load

“There is almost universal agreement among scientists and physicians that the environmental toxins and chemicals to which we are increasingly exposed are interfering with the immune system’s ability to distinguish self from non-self.”

– Douglas Kerr, M.D., Ph.D., neurologist and neuroscientist at the Johns Hopkins Hospital from the forward to The Autoimmune Epidemic by Donna Jackson-Nakazawa

Toxins are the main reason autoimmune disorders have become epidemic, affecting approximately 80 million Americans or maybe ten percent of people worldwide. Big culprits include environmental chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, farmed fish (fed GMO corn, soy, and wheat), plastic everywhere, and drinking water that often contains chlorine, traces of prescription medications, and lead.1 Studies have found that babies born today have an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in their umbilical cord blood.2Talk about an unfair start!

According to health educator, Chris Kresser, Toxic burden is determined by two factors: the levels of toxic chemicals and microorganisms that we’re exposed to, and the function of our innate detoxification system. If our exposure to toxins is high and our detoxification system is compromised—due to genetic predisposition, environmental factors, or both—then our toxic burden will be high.”

Nearly half of us have mutations in our detoxification systems; and more than 4 billion pounds of toxic chemicals are released into the US environment each year, including 72 million pounds of recognized carcinogens. Only a small percentage of these chemicals are tested for safety.3 What can we do? We must protect ourselves proactively from the onslaught. And we’re not just talking about toxins “out there.” We also mean toxins “in here” like toxic gut bacteria, mycotoxins (toxic mold byproducts), and toxic stress.

We must do what we can to lower our toxic load to unburden our struggling immune systems.

“The good news is that we can make steady progress toward a lighter load every day with what we choose to eat, think, drink, and do.”

Here are ten things you can do to lighten your toxic load:

Kick the Sugar Habit

If you were to make just one change to positively impact your health, you’d be wise to remove added sugar and processed foods, which quickly convert into sugar in your bloodstream. Accumulating evidence shows that sugar plays a lead role in screwing up your metabolism, developing insulin resistance (your pancreas can’t keep up with the demands for insulin), obesity (your body stores excess sugar as fat), type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.4 Each of those preventable and reversible disorders puts you at a heightened risk for autoimmune conditions, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.5

Switch to Organic or Wild Food

According to toxin expert, Joseph Pizzorno, ND, founder of Bastyr University of Naturopathic Medicine, and author of the excellent book, The Toxin Solutionwe can reduce 85% of our “non-persistent” body burden in four days just by switching to an organic diet. Organic produce has up to 60% more antioxidants—protection against autoimmune disease and viral infections—and up to 100 times lower pesticide residue than conventionally farmed produce. Pay special attention to animal products, which concentrate chemicals. Choose organic, 100% grass-fed or wild meats, pastured poultry, and wild fish. Remember you are whatever you eat ate.

Dispose of Chemically-Based Home and Body Care Products

Home cleaning and body-care products are filled with harmful chemicals like parabens (a preservative), phthalates (found in fragranced lotions, soaps, even toilet paper!), and chlorine (found in scouring powders, toilet bowl cleaners, and your drinking water!). Each of these are known endocrine (hormone) disruptors and carcinogens (cancer-causing). Dispose of these products at a “hazardous waste” drop-off location. A good rule of thumb is to only use products with ingredients you can identify or would eat. For guidance on which ingredients and products are safe and which contain potentially toxic chemicals, consult the Environmental Working Group.

Turn Off The Tap

Most tap water is far from pure, containing numerous chemicals, metals, solvents, herbicides, pesticides, heavy metals, arsenic, and even pharmaceutical drugs like anti-depressants.6 Filter the tap water in your kitchen and bathrooms to avoid consuming or soaking in these hazardous chemicals. Do your research and make sure the filter gets out chlorine, metals, and fluoride too. A good, NSF-certified, solid carbon block filter should do the trick. Remember to store filtered water in glass or stainless steel containers, NOT plastic, and add a pinch of sea salt to remineralize filtered drinking water so you absorb it and don’t just pee it out. 

Pass On Plastic

Most plastic bottles and storage containers contain BPA (Bisphenol-A) and phthalates, known endocrine (hormone) disruptors. According to the National Institute of Health, Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife.” Store your water in glass or stainless steel containers, and never heat food in plastic storage containers. Did you know that even  “paper” cups you get for coffee and tea are lined with plastic? Carry your own stainless steel containers or use ceramic mugs.

Remove Hidden Mold

If you have had any water damage in your home ever, you may have a mold problem and don’t know it. Common places that mold grows include window sills, under sinks, in the washing machine, and inside the HVAC system. Scientific research connects mold exposure with various health conditions including headaches, autoimmune conditions, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.7 Educate yourself about the dangers of mold, do a home ERMI dust (not air) test, and consult with a qualified mold inspector who will provide a top-to-bottom report on your home.

Lower Your Mercury Load

A study by researchers from the University of Michigan claims that even at levels considered to be safe, mercury exposure may be hazardous to health, raising the risk factor for autoimmune disorders among women of childbearing age. Dr. Patrick Kingsley, who was the UK’s leading expert on Multiple Sclerosis (MS), reported that of the nearly 4,000 patients he has seen, only five didn’t suffer from mercury poisoning.8 What can you do to lower your risk and reclaim your health? Minimize consumption of big fish like tuna, swordfish, and orange roughy, and explore having your silver amalgam (which are 50% mercury) fillings removed safely by a holistic (aka biological) dentist.

Find and Treat Hidden Infections

Growing scientific evidence indicates that chronic infections from bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi may be the primary environmental trigger for autoimmune disease.9 According to Lee Cowden, MD, board certified cardiologist, and teacher of integrative health, the key to recovery is to strengthen the resistance of the host. Strengthening resistance means getting your immune system in good fighting shape. That entails getting toxins out of the body which may be weakening your immune system and adding in nourishing lifestyle practices to unburden or rejuvenate your immune system.

Catch and Release Negative Thoughts and Emotions

Often the biggest source of our stress is our own mind. Research shows that we have about 60,000 thoughts each day and most are negative. Worrying, catastrophizing, mind reading and all-or-nothing thinking are examples of distorted, negative thinking. The antidote is to become aware of your thoughts and challenge the unproductive, distorted ones. A very helpful book to read and implement is Byron Katie’s Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life.

Turn Off Stressful Media

Most news exists to do one thing: sell advertising. And even the advertising itself, like drugs with their endless lists of unwanted effects, can be stressful. As they say, “the more it bleeds, the more it leads.” Did you know that scary movies and sad music negatively impact your nervous system?10 Make a conscious choice to watch and listen to positive news, comedies, and uplifting music, particularly in the evening.

There is SO much you can do to lighten your load and reduce your body burden. To avoid being overwhelmed by the sheer number of things to do, make it super simple and just pick one or two things that you will do, starting today.

Better yet, what’s one thing you’ll do to lighten your load right now?

Take good care!

P.S: Want my help reversing an autoimmune condition?

If you live in the continental U.S. and are ready, willing, and able to invest in your best health, I offer Functional Medicine Total Health Transformation Programs over Zoom in collaboration with a skilled naturopathic doctor (ND). Get on my calendar for a free 30-minute discovery call.  
Photo by: Tim Foster
1 Reference  
2 A Benchmark Investigation of Industrial Chemicals, Pollutants and Pesticides in Umbilical Cord Blood, Environmental Working Group, July 14, 2005, Reference
3 The Great Chemical Unknown: A Graphical View of Limited Lab Testing, Mark Fischetti, Scientific American, Reference
4 Hypertriglyceridemia, insulin resistance, and the metabolic syndrome, Scott M Grundy, MD, PhD, American Journal of Cardiology, Reference
5 Role of “Western diet” in inflammatory autoimmune diseases., A. Manzel, et. al, Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2014 Jan;14(1):404. doi: 10.1007/s11882-013-0404-6., Reference
6 Reference
7 Kraft S, Buchenauer L, Polte T. Mold, Mycotoxins and a Dysregulated Immune System: A Combination of Concern? Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Nov 12;22(22):12269. doi: 10.3390/ijms222212269. PMID: 34830149; PMCID: PMC8619365.
8 Multiple Sclerosis – Poisoning in Slow Motion, What Doctors Don’t Tell You (WDDTY); Reference
9 Infections and autoimmunity: the multifaceted relationship, Sfriso, P., et. al.; March 2010, Journal of Leukocyte Biology, vol. 87 no. 3 385-395, Reference
10 Neural correlates of fear-induced sympathetic response associated with the peripheral temperature change rate.,Yoshihara K, et. al., Neuroimage. 2016 Jul 1;134:522-31. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.04.040. Epub 2016 Apr 19., Reference




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