Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Detox Your Life (How To)

You guys, this year has been full of some fairly radical changes for me. I gave up meat and cigarettes, started exercising just about daily, and have eaten more different types of food in the last 3 months than I did in the past 3 years. It's been an adventure.

All these changes have made me realize just how toxic and messed up the "normal" lifestyle is these days. My senses have never been more keen and all of a sudden my body is reacting to things I never even noticed before - like the smoke creeping in to my apartment from the neighbor's or just how many products people have to use to cover up their personal smell that is all wonky from the total crap they eat. I think it's high time we all clean up our acts a bit. Here's what I'm doing about it:

1) Limit the use of harsh chemicals
Whether you realize it or not, harsh chemicals are in just about everything manufactured these days, from the products used to clean your house, to the products used to clean your face or fix your hair.

Let's take an everyday example from makeup. Most adult women in this country wear makeup on a daily basis. The cosmetics are a $30 billion industry with a 20 percent growth rate. Obviously that's some high market penetration and here are just some of the chemicals most makeup products include:

  • MERCURY compounds are permitted by the FDA for use in eye makeup at concentrations up to 65 parts per million (p/p/m). Mercury is both a deadly poison and a heavy metal. The skin easily absorbs mercury, and it accumulates in the body. Mercury exposure also may cause allergic reactions, skin irritation, or neurotoxicity problems.

  • BRONOPOL is used in mascara and other cosmetics. A skin irritant, bronopol has caused blindness and death in laboratory animals at concentrations much higher than used in cosmetic products.
  • FORMALDEHYDE-releasing ingredients are found in nearly all brands of skin, body, and hair care products, antiperspirants, and nail polishes. Formaldehyde exposure can cause joint or chest pain, depression, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, immune dysfunction, and cancer.
  • P-HYDROXYBENZOIC ACID Benzyl Ester (PHB Esters), are widely used preservatives more commonly known as methyl paraben, propyl paraben, ethyl paraben, and butyl paraben. They are highly toxic, causing skin rashes and can behave as xenoestrogens, raising the risk of breast cancer in women and low sperm count in men.

  • PROPYLENE GLYCOL is a petroleum derivative found in most forms of makeup and other cosmetics as a humectant (moisture retainer), surfactant (oil emulsifier), and solvent. Its industrial uses include hydraulic brake fluid and antifreeze. This additive causes allergic and toxic reactions in some individuals. The Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) warn against skin contact because of possible brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities.

  • SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE is a surfactant, detergent, and emulsifier used in thousands of cosmetic products and industrial chemicals as a cleansing agent. It has a degenerative action on cell membranes and is damaging to hair and skin. High levels of skin penetration may occur at even low-use concentrations. Permanent eye damage has been observed, as well as residual levels of SLS in the heart, liver, lungs, and brain from skin contact. It may be damaging to the immune system. SLS's protein-denaturing properties can inflame and separate skin layers. (Excerpted from Townsend Letter: The Examiner of Alternative Medicine)
Pretty messed up, right? The problem is there's all this crap in just about everything, so it is important to become aware of these poisons and to start replacing the products you use with ones that are organic and natural, because that's what your body wants anyway. Also, like everything else you put in your body, your food should also be as chemical-free as possible.

2) Exercise
Sweating is the body's natural method of releasing toxins, so the more you exercise, the more your body can clean itself. Herbs Hands Ltd, offer this advice:
To release the toxins the circulatory system must be invigorated. Just 20 minutes a day of heart pounding exercise is all that is needed. If this is not possible then try brisk (power) walking for ¼ hour to ¾ hour. Swimming, dancing, Yoga, pilates; anything will help according to your abilities. Any movement massages your organs and moves your internal systems to help eliminate and neutralise toxins quicker, and with less dis-ease to yourself.
Until I started incorporating exercise and even just simple stretches to my daily routine, I didn't realize just how completely immobile I am in my daily life... and I walk to work every day! I kept finding ways to excuse movement, so I made a concentrated effort to do something -even if it was just bending down to touch my toes- and now I'm doing yoga every morning 6 days a week. That change only took me about a month, so take heart!

3) Clean up/Air Out
Keeping your home clean can do incredible things for your life detox. Vacuuming is especially important for those with carpets to remove allergens, bacteria and other gunk. Dusting is also important for the same reason. MedicineNet has some great tips compiled originally for allergy sufferers. It has good information about thorough cleansing without using harsh chemicals, so definitely check it out.

The air quality in your home will improve upon cleaning, but for most of us, it's still a serious problem. Here's what the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services had to say:
Healthy indoor environments have become a critical part of overall health in today's society. Missourians on average spend 90% of their time indoors, at home, at work, and at play. While being inside has traditionally been thought of as a safe haven, recent studies have shown, unfortunately, that pollutant levels indoors are often much higher than those outside. Recent technology has created more energy efficient buildings, which while good, has also served to trap a wide variety of pollutants in homes, schools, and office spaces with too little fresh air. A heavy reliance on strong chemical cleaners, solvents, and pesticides has increased possible pollutant exposure levels, while improper construction can trap moisture leading to a build-up of biological pollutants such as dust mites, bacteria, or mold. Health effects from these indoor pollutants, ranging from asthma to headaches, to increased cancer risks to death from chemical poisoning, can result. Increasing the risk is the fact that our most vulnerable citizens to disease, children and the elderly, often spend the most time indoors.
So what should you do? As often as possible air out your house by opening the windows. That is the first and best thing you can do to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and a host of other air quality problems. The second best step you can take is to keep houseplants. SixWise.com reports that NASA found houseplants removed up to 87% of toxins after just 24 hours! That is some major benefit for a little bit of work. Suite101 offers a list of 10 starter house plants that are easy to care for. My healthiest plant is a rubber plant, which isn't on the list. But it likes warm weather and is just growing like crazy so it's also an easy option.

Of course, there are tons more ways to clean up your life, but these three are the biggest hitters in my opinion. Watch what you're putting in yourself, work out, and keep your air healthy. Making a few lifestyle changes is way better than undergoing massive chemotherapy, which is just another way of saying that prevention is worth and ounce of cure.

Related posts:
How To Poo
I Am What I Eat
The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard
Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Midwest

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Jenna said...

I opened up my windows yesterday thanks to this post. I love how the spring air smells when it all comes rushing into your home ... I felt very refreshed by the time evening rolled around.

I've wanted to get some plants for our apartment, but we have a cat and she's a tard ... she tears up the ones at my parents. Not only does she eat them, but she regurgitates them. So I'm not sure what to do in that department.

I really, really want to become more "green". This is something I'm going to have to work on, but I'm loving how much I learn as I read through your posts. You're so full of information!!!

May said...

Yay! I'm so glad some of the stuff I babble about is helpful. :)

About your cat, I think there are plants that are safe and even healthy for cats to chew on. Maybe if you got her a box of cat grass she would leave other plants alone? But I guess that still doesn't solve the regurgitation problem.

Thanks for reading!

Mike Lowe said...

Good to see that more people are becoming aware of the huge amounts of chemical crap we are being exposed to. When I was your age it just wasn't an issue in the same way. Now, as a parent, I worry about the world our kids are going into. We started a blog to document what we are learning about health issues: All Things Well.

May said...

Thanks for sharing your blog, I'm totally subscribing.

Thanks for reading/commenting ^__^