Looking our best sometimes means a little extra makeup and a monthly trip to the hair salon for a touch up of our “new growth”. But with all of the talk about chemicals found in our personal care products, how can we continue to look fabulous and at the same time, make sure we are not being harmed by our choices?
Beginning in the 1940’s, the US has introduced a few thousand new chemical products into the market each year. This equates to about 85,000 chemicals that our great grandparents were never exposed to and that our bodies now have to process. Such chemicals can be found in the foods we eat, the inside and outside environment in which we live, and the personal care products that we place on our bodies.
When we were young and invincible, our outward appearance often mattered most. We didn’t think about the long term consequences of our shampoo or lipstick - just as long as it did the job that it was marketed to do. As our bodies begin to age, however, could these same products be causing us harm? As it turns out, our increasing waist size, minor unexplained aches and pains, gastrointestinal problems and progressively aging skin changes can, in fact, be related to the same chemicals that once made us look gorgeous.
Over time, if we do not regularly and safely remove them from our body, these cumulative toxin exposures can impact the development of many chronic diseases.
So let’s be smart and learn to detoxify.
Often this word, “detox”, gets thrown around to mean many things: from juice cleanses, to liver flushes to sauna therapy and colonics. Simply put, detoxification is the process by which the body removes unwanted chemical substances via the skin, gastrointestinal tract (GI) and kidneys. In other words we sweat, poop, and pee them out. Of course, these biological processes, with the liver as the major filtering system, are a lot more complicated but let me not bore you with those details.
Let’s focus rather on learning simple ways to detox your body in preparation for your upcoming salon visit.
DIET, EXERCISE and LIFESTYLE
As many medical interventions recommend, start by eating a diet high in phytonutrients and fiber. Getting in a variety of fruits and vegetables will provide the necessary co-factors for the liver's detoxification pathways as well as allow for the binding of toxins for transport out of the GI tract. Eat organic, non-GMO foods that span the color of the rainbow - from red, orange, and yellow peppers to purple carrots – diversify your food choices daily. On those hectic days when healthy choices are limited, try a supplemental veggie powder that you can mix with water or consider juicing mostly vegetables. Be sure to avoid the high sugar juice options from the corner eatery. Also, hydrate well with clean, filtered water but be sure to wait about 30 minutes after a meal before you begin to drink liquids to allow time for your digestive enzymes to process your food.
Detoxification works more efficiently when you give your mind, body and bowel a rest. Seven to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep is crucial for overall health and well-being. This gives your body time to replenish the necessary chemical factors used for daily detoxification. Sleeping is also important to help manage stress which, if high, can pull resources away from the toxic cleanup. Give your GI system a rest by incorporating intermittent fasting with a 14-16 hour window during which time you only hydrate.
Regular bowel movements are critical for the removal of toxins out of the body. If you are not having one daily, increase your hydration, add magnesium citrate or glycinate, or consume additional fiber rich foods. As well, you may benefit from colon hydrotherapy or coffee enemas. Add bitter foods like dandelion, endive, artichoke, ginger, arugula, and coffee to stimulate more bile production by the liver facilitating the removal of unwanted waste.
Incorporate activities that allow you to sweat such as hot yoga or palates. You can also add sauna treatments for relaxation and detoxification. However, try not to overexert yourself during your work out as it can put undue stress on the body and further weaken your adrenal function.
CHOICE of PRODUCTS
Fortunately, there are organizations that can help you interpret the complex ingredient lists found on your personal care products. The nonprofit, Environmental Working Group (www.EWG.org), offers consumer information regarding home and personal care products that are safe. They also provide information about foods that should be eaten organic and how to clean up your overall diet. I recommend a phone app that rates the safety of your personal care products by scanning your items while out shopping. Also, try a “make up free” day; or use the minimal amount necessary to feel comfortable when you leave your house.
VITAMINS and SUPPLEMENTS
There are basic vitamins, minerals and supplements that can help the detoxification process. This will vary based on individual needs and a functional medicine doctor can order appropriate tests to determine what specific regimen will work best for you. In general, taking a high quality multivitamin/multi mineral, vitamin D3, and fish oil is a good place to start. Adding anti-inflammatory agents such as quercetin, anti-oxidants, B vitamins and probiotics can also be taken as a part of a comprehensive detoxification regimen. Some people may even benefit from intravenous vitamin and mineral therapies to expedite the detoxification process.
As many people have specific genetic factors that make it more difficult to remove toxins, testing blood, urine and stool can help determine your unique detoxification capacity. The body is a complex system and the more we know about the status of your hormones, endocrine and immune function, nutrient and microbiome status, the more personalized your treatment regimen can be.
In additional to feeling and looking great, detoxification has many other favorable benefits. For instance, the body instinctively protects itself by removing toxic chemicals out of the blood stream to be stored as fat. As you become more efficient at detoxifying, you no longer need this protection resulting in the loss of body fat as it is no longer needed. And incredibly, removing toxins from your body can decrease your risk of cancer, heart disease, obesity, autoimmune diseases and Alzheimer’s by lowering your total body inflammation- the underlying cause of virtually all chronic diseases.
So as we continue to search for the fountain of youth, let’s be smart about the use of personal care products and begin to implement safe and effective daily detoxification strategies.
Dr. Denia Tapscott, M.D., is board certified in internal medicine and provides personalized treatment with a functional medicine approach to get to the root cause of issues and begin the journey towards wellness. Her areas of interest include: Functional Medicine, Adult Holistic Primary Care, Obesity Medicine and Weight Loss, Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes Prevention & Metabolic Syndrome, Executive "functional" physicals, Chronic Disease Management, Pre and Post Bariatric Surgery Care and Diet and Lifestyle focused care.