The definition of a chemical is that it’s a compound or substance that has been purified or prepared, especially artificially. Chemicals can be a combination of elements that sometimes play nice together and other times, not at all. You know those skull and crossbone warnings on the front of some bottles that you have in your garage or under your sink, well they’re a mix of chemicals to make up something that cleans, repels water, breaks down grease or other things that we find use for. When we talk about chemicals, they also include herbicides, pesticides that we know aren’t good for us, but keep the bugs off crops and plants, but what about others like BPA/BPS found in plastics – we thought we got rid of that didn’t we, but it was replaced with BPS, likely as toxic and BPA still likely causing endocrine disruption, obesity, reproductive cancers, and infertility. There’s DHEP, Formaldehyde, Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), parabens, PFOA, PFOs, and GenX that all make their way into our homes, and into us. Chemicals can get into our bodies through our skin, things we eat and drink, and the air we breathe — and that exposure is messing with our cells, our hormones, our ability to detoxify, our immune response and much more. While it’s important to think about what you’re putting in your mouth, it’s also important to be aware of what you’re using to clean your clothes, your home, and your body. But why? Why should you care? The last time you put on a few pounds, your body stored these chemicals in your fat cells. Then if you lose it, your body will get rid of some of it. While I get asked by loyal listeners, “what can I do to detox myself and my liver?”, the conversation of cleaning up what goes into us first, is a worthy one to have.
So today on EAT THIS with Lianne, five ways to take in less toxins from chemicals and stuff that can be negatively affecting your health.
We talk about chemicals, and I mean further to herbicides and pesticides and we know that they’re out there in our environment – in the soil where our food is being grown, on the land that the animals graze and live on, in our water supply; from what’s coming out of our shower to the lake that I look out at from my condo high up in the sky; to rivers and oceans. These chemicals are talked about in the increase in cancer, diabetes, heart disease as the top diseases that are killing the population, but what about the painful periods that you or your daughter is dealing with, what about the IVF treatment because of low sperm count OR female infertility, what about insulin resistance and NAFLD that we talked about with Dr Brockenshire in episode 73, living with high blood pressure that we covered in episode 114, gaining weight that you can’t seem to get a handle on or have an appetite that just won’t be satisfied, no matter what you eat. All that I’ve mentioned here are what your hormones regulate in your body. Even your energy level and rate of metabolism – your body’s burning of fuel, are affected. Your digestion, your sleep cycles and mood are governed by hormones that are bombarded and disrupted by these chemicals that are tough to stay away from.
I talk about eating clean on this show and podcast all the time – avoiding that packaged food because it’s super processed and gives negligible nutritional value, but what about coming at this by reducing the chemical load, those toxins, and anything that can harm your cells that lead to disease as a new perspective of coming at health?
I’ve outlined 3 ways to get a handle on this that are easily doable. Sometimes when I dig into these topics and start researching, I want to hide under the duvet and put myself in a safe bubble. Well that’s not possible, but choosing a better way, a better product, a cleaner food brings me back to what I do have control over and that’s empowering.
Number one is a no brainer – eat organic.
Now can you do that 100% of the time? It’s possible but also challenging. Whether that’s because your favourite take out or restaurant food doesn’t offer it, or because you look at the price of organic berries and other produce versus conventional and say, nope can’t stretch the budget to that, I get it. But know that there is a way to be a savvy organic consumer. But first why – herbicides and pesticides are meant to kill bugs on plants, but end up leading to cancer. Glyphosate is one of the most talked about pesticides that started as a pipe cleaner in the early 1960s and when Monsanto figured it killed bugs it then patented it to use as a pesticide because as the gunk, oil and lead came out of the pipes, it killed the weeds too. So it then became a world wide pesticide by the end of the 60s and took until the 90s to genetically engineer the crops to not die from it which brought GM or GMO foods. Yep, they genetically engineered crops like soy, cotton, corn, canola, papaya, sugar beet, aspartame and zucchini to withstand the chemicals. Glyphosate is linked with many cancers including lymphomas and also knowing that all herbicides and pesticides mess with the microbiome and therefore just about every system in your body from immune to mood, mental health, obesity and digestion, it’s one to look into more and lately has been talked about in oat crops as it’s hard to keep it off even organic crops but it will always be less than non-organic. Following what the Environmental Working group or EWG.org puts out every year is the savvy way of eating organic.
The dirty dozen –
- Kale, Collard & Mustard Greens
- Bell & Hot Peppers
The clean 15
- Sweet Corn*
- Sweet Peas (Frozen)
- Honeydew Melon
- Sweet Potatoes
These are the foods, and basically fruits and vegetables, with the highest amount of pesticides. So, strawberries, for example, grapes. You don’t want to eat those if they’re not organic.
This list is found on their app and on their site. Download and have it with you at all times. With berry season coming here where I am right now.
From what goes in your body to what goes on your body – as in what you wash with, put on your skin, brush your teeth with. It all has chemicals that with small tweaks, can have a positive rather than negative impact. Again, many of the chemicals that you find contain hormone disruptors that aren’t just like mess up periods or give you erectile dysfunction, but go deeper too heart disease, cancer and diabetes, the three big hitters that we all want to avoid.
What you put on your hair and body is next.
Parabens can mimic the hormone estrogen and have been linked to increased growth of breast cancer cells and affect fetal development. One chemical to note that’s still allowed in Canada, but in smaller amounts is a chemical antibacterial agent called triclosan. Thyroid, testosterone and estrogen regulation and has been linked to issues like early puberty, poor sperm quality, infertility, obesity and cancer. It’s found in after-shave, moisturizers, deodorants, body sprays, face masks, dry shampoos, and hand sanitizers, and even some toothpaste. Remember, Chris when your kids would just eat the toothpaste off the brush and not really brush with it. Yea, not good. As we’ve been sanitizing just about everything in earnest over the past two years, it—or one of its chemical cousins—is also often found in “germ-fighting” or “anti-bacterial” versions of just about any type of household product you can imagine from, toys, knives, clothing, cutting boards, and mouse pads. You know that stuff that are naturally antibacterial but with chemicals? Yea those. This also disrupts the microbiome in our guts and not surprisingly is linked with allergy. These chemicals are also found in water; in surface, ground, and drinking water, and in wastewater from processing plants, and is likely contributing antibiotic resistance, and C difficile, a real public health concern. A CDC study found triclosan present in the urine of nearly 75% of people tested. Other studies have found it in human urine, blood and breast milk. So check and read your labels and ask questions. It can be overwhelming to dig into this, but know that as we head into summer (and berry season) where I am right now, sunscreens are huge for chemicals so head to https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ and put in the product that’s in your bathroom right now. I did it for my Aesop products and was thankfully met with good ratings. Think about lipstick, lipgloss that we women, and some men wear all day. It’s like having a popsicle of chemicals on your lips, if you’re not careful. Laundry detergent also falls into this category although it could be it’s own, so I’ll give it a quick mention here. Those dryer sheets contain formaldehyde that is used to embalm once you die. They mess with the vaginal flora of women from underwear work and gents, what’s keep your penis and balls in check when not going comando, yep. Embalming fluid.
The third on the list is back to food, and yes, this time packaged food.
Not only the food that’s in the package, but the packaging itself. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydrozyttoluene (BHT) are preservatives used in many foods to prevent oxidation and extend shelf life, so you know that the best before dates, that’s because of taste or the preservative wearing off. I mean really, what does cereal taste like anyway other than sweet? Is there any particular taste that comes from the various cereals, or crackers that you can say taste of something real? BHA and BHT are found in packaging materials, cereals, they’re in sausage, hot dogs, meat patties, chewing gum, potato chips, beer, butter, vegetable oils, cosmetics and animal feed. Speaking of vegetable oils, they’re all highly processed refined oils. Yes, we can use oils like avocado oil, coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil, they’re your best case use. But all the vegetable oils, canola and corn oil which is also GM and contain glyphosate highly refined oils that are from called vegetable oils, are made through solvents, and hexane, and high temperatures, and they’re unstable so oxidize easily. And they can be linked to increase inflammation and gut issues. Think of when you eat out, and grab something that you think is the best of the bunch like chicken tenders and fries at the baseball game that I bought the other night. It was dollar dog day, which sadly my great friend Jerry Agar went for, but I had the healthiest option that was on the menu as I had cycled 15Km to get there. Yep, those oils weren’t good, so knowing that it was a bit better than the dollar dog that Jerry got, was what I had to focus on. Then there’s high fructose corn syrup and trans fats. Trans fats are just about gone now but anythnig that’s hydrogenated, put it back. dietary guidelines say we should have less than 5% of our diet is sugar and yet it’s more like 50% in some cases, if not more. Both these features of HFCS lead to increased metabolic disturbances that drive increases in appetite, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, and more. HFCS and cane sugar are NOT biochemically identical or processed the same way by the body. High fructose corn syrup is an industrial food product and far from “natural” or a naturally occurring substance. The body digests it differently – Regular cane sugar (sucrose) is made of two-sugar molecules bound tightly together– glucose and fructose in equal amounts. The enzymes in your digestive tract must break down the sucrose into glucose and fructose, which are then absorbed into the body. HFCS doesn’t need enzymes to break it down and Fructose goes right to the liver and triggers lipogenesis (the production of fats like triglycerides and cholesterol) this is why it is the major cause of liver damage in this country and causes a condition called “fatty liver” which affects 70 million people.The rapidly absorbed glucose triggers big spikes in insulin–our body’s major fat storage hormone. Both these features of HFCS lead to increased metabolic disturbances that drive increases in appetite, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, and more. Ok enough about that – know that every sugary drink that you consume on a hot day contains this. Mix maple syrup, lemon and water and presto, delicious lemonade. Avoid food packaging – plastics and chemicals leech into the food, especially those that contain fat. That microwave dinner, in a plastic container with that film on the top that has droplets of moisture dripping onto your soon-to-be meal? Those are chemicals that are also hormone disruptors.
Ok lots of doom and gloom there or lots of really influential information taht will drive your next purchasing decisions. To recap: follow the dirty dozen and clean 15 in buying organic. Think about the chemicals found in products that you use to clean your home, your body and hair, and your teeth, then what you put on afterwards like moisturizers, deodorants and hairspray. Look at what you wash your clothes in and what water you drink – listen to episode 61 called Wonderous Water again and get yourself a berkey filter to use anywhere and get the chemicals out of your water. Then look at the packaged food that is making its way into your cart and cupboards, because it’s going to make it your mouth, right?! I’ve got twoo teens right now and that’s a whole new challenge for eating clean. Packaged food is a favourite of theirs and that means to get them to eat I’ve gravitated towards more packaged over hte past few years, so this is a kick in my butt too.
Small chagnes have big impact so the next time you shop, the next time you buy anything, take a moment and do better than the last purchase. That was what I was talking about in episode 120. You can make changes and that’s the way forward. Thanks for being along and remember to eat this one bite at a time.
A mineral that is resistant to heat and chemical corrosion and can be mixed with other materials to strengthen them. Though asbestos use has declined, it has not been banned in the US. Building materials still legally may be up to one percent asbestos, and old buildings are more likely to contain higher percentages. Homes should be checked for asbestos before any renovation—check roof and floor tiles especially. Asbestos fibers can be inhaled and accumulate in the body and cause inflammation, scarring, respiratory diseases, and cancer.
A common insecticide that is used medically to kill lice or scabies. It is also used as a food additive for flavor, in fragrances, and in plastics. It is a suspected neurotoxin.
Bisphenol-A (BPA)and Bisphenol-S (BPS)
Used to make transparent, hard plastic known as polycarbonate used for baby bottles and linings of metal cans. BPS is a common substitute for BPA since public outcry reduced use of BPA in plastics. Studies are showing the chemicals are similarly toxic. BPA/BPS are endocrine disruptors, and exposure may cause obesity, reproductive cancers, and infertility.
A common class of phthalate—a liquid plasticizer used in hydraulic fluids and PVC plastic. It may leach into food and water through plastic and could cause damage to reproductive organs, lungs, kidneys, liver, and fetuses.
The endocrine system regulates hormones and the glands that secrete those hormones in the body. Endocrine disruptors (a.k.a. endocrine modifiers or hormone disrupters) are chemicals that interfere with the endocrine system by mimicking or inhibiting natural hormones. They can cause reproductive damage and have been implicated in cancers of the reproductive system.
(A.k.a. methanal, methyl aldehyde, or methylene oxide) A smelly, colorless, flammable gas used in pesticides, building materials, textiles, cosmetics, and home goods. The “new” smell of a mattress, piece of clothing, or car comes from formaldehyde. It is a carcinogen and suspected gastrointestinal, immune, nerve, reproductive, respiratory, and skin toxicant.
An abundant metal that may be found in a home in the form of old paint on toys or walls, in pipes, or in makeup. Lead is a neurotoxin that accumulates in the body and can cause brain damage and behavioral issues, and is especially harmful to children. There is no safe dose of lead.
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)
Used as fire retardants in foam furniture, carpet padding, electronics, plastics, textiles, and building materials. PBDEs build up in people’s bodies over time and have been associated with tumors, delayed brain development, and thyroid issues.
A preservative in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, parabens are used in toothpaste, shampoo, moisturizers, and shaving gels. Parabens are endocrine disruptors that can be absorbed through the skin, and they have been linked to cancer.
A softening agent used in plastics and in a variety of beauty and skincare products. Studies have identified phthalates as endocrine disruptors. They may also cause liver and kidney lesions, lead to a higher risk of certain cancer, and exacerbate asthma and allergies in some children.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs)
PFAs are a class of chemicals including PFOA, PFOs, and GenX. They repel water and grease, so they’re used in the manufacturing of nonstick cookware, stain-resistant clothes and carpet, and even the inside of microwave popcorn bags. PFAs accumulate in the body over time and can lead to cancer, heart disease, and immune system damage.
Perifluorinated chemicals (PFCs)
PFCs repel grease and water, and are heat-resistant, so they’re popular in many products from fast food containers to paints, flooring, and furniture. Studies have linked them to cancer, thyroid issues, damage to immune and reproductive systems, high cholesterol, hypertension, and birth defects.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
A category of chemicals that evaporate into the air and react with sunlight, which pollutes indoor air. The word “organic” means that these chemicals contain the element carbon. Formaldehyde is an example of a VOC that’s likely to be in your home. Some VOCs can be lumped under the term “fragrance” (though not all fragrances are VOCs). VOCs may cause eye, nose and throat irriation in the short term, and cancer, liver damage, kidney damage, and nervous system problems in the long term. VOCs pose a particular risk to infants and fetuses.