Tami Best, MS, RD, CDN
Toxic load can be summarized as the accumulation of harmful chemicals we are exposed to or that we ingest and our body’s ability to mitigate the negative impact of those harmful chemicals. Currently in production and widely used are tens of thousands of chemicals with sparse safety testing.
There are broad categories of chemicals that can be labeled as obesogens. Obesogens are hormone imitating chemicals that interfere with metabolism and cause weight gain. These are some common obesogens:
- Bisphenol A (BPA) and Phthalates – widely used in the manufacturing of plastics and in the lining of cans
- Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs) – used as a flame retardant, it is pervasive in manufacturing apparel, electronics, furniture and much more
- Parabens – commonly used as a preservative in cosmetics
- 4-Nonylphenol – often an ingredient in pesticides, laundry and dish detergents
- Heavy metals such as mercury (Hg) – high levels are present in some seafoods and lead(Pb) – used in the paint of older homes
Recently, I was inspired by the documentary Prosperity. The film covered a lot of ground. For example, relevant to the topic of toxic load, the film puts forth real life examples on how we can all become more conscious consumers, assessing how we can make purchases and choices that more positively affect our health and the environment.
How can we become more conscious consumers and help reduce our toxic burden?
- Since it is impossible to avoid all exposure to obesogens, make sure you eat in a way that supports your body’s own detoxification system. Foods rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals help neutralize harmful chemicals so they can’t disrupt our hormone balance. Include cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage) in your diet on a daily basis. Also eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, berries, and orange vegetables (eg winter squash and sweet potatoes). Garlic, onion, turmeric, and apple cider vinegar also help your body’s detoxification system.
- Choose organic foods whenever possible. This includes organic free-range poultry and organic grass-fed beef. The Environmental Working Group helps you determine which produce you should buy the organic versions for with their “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists
- Eat wild (never farm-raised), smaller seafood such as salmon and sardines. Larger fish like tuna and swordfish are high in the hormone disrupting heavy metal mercury.
- Avoid the use of pesticides in your own yard. Choosing to weed your yard instead will give you an increase in physical activity. Exercise is a natural way to rid your body of toxins and keep your hormones in balance.
- Eat plenty of fiber-rich foods. Fiber promotes gastrointestinal health and regular elimination. This will help prevent prolonged exposure to obesogens and reduce their detrimental metabolic impact.
- Stay hydrated with plenty of filtered or spring water. Filtering water removes any obesogens which may have seeped into our water supply.
- If you have an older home, test for lead paint. Your local health department can connect you with resources.
- Chose paraben-free beauty products.
- Minimize your use of plastics. Use glass or stainless steel to store foods, especially hot foods. Heat allows harmful hormone disruptors from plastic to leach into the foods you eat. Never use plastic containers or wrap to heat foods in the microwave. Skip the plastic lid on hot beverages you purchase away from home.
- Purchase gifts, groceries, household goods, and clothing from companies who are committed to green manufacturing practice and avoid using or selling products produced with obesogens. A couple examples highlighted in the Prosperity film include Thrive Market and abc Carpet and Home
- Finally, reduce obesogens in your home.
- Take off your shoes prior to entering house. Obesogens such as pesticides can trickle in from the outdoors and contaminate your living space.
- If possible use only hard surface floors throughout the home. Carpets can hang onto dust and dirt making it difficult to remove harmful environmental toxins.
- Dust and vacuum often. Obesogenic particles can live in dust and dirt.
- Use plant-based natural cleaning products.
- Keep your home green by adding plenty of green. Plants naturally reduce airborne toxins.
For more helpful resources on how to reduce your toxic load and exposure to obesogens visit the Environmental Working Group.