While sheltering in place these past few weeks I’ve found myself exploring new strategies to maintain my mental and physical wellbeing. This week I virtually checked into a Facebook Live event titled Detox 101: Simple + Effective Holistic Detox Tips featuring Lauren Klitzsch, a holistic health coach based in Charlotte.
The free evening webinar discussion focused not just on the food we eat but also massive holes in the food industry around it. What I’ve learned has been eye-opening to say the least, exposing just the tip of the septic iceberg when it comes to the toxins we consume and the underlying policies involving food and chemical manufacturing.
According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. High blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. If you’re like me, you may feel overwhelmed by statistics and medical jargon, but maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet and not smoking (obviously) are all detox dynamics that are within our control — lifestyle factors that will help mitigate the likelihood of developing chronic heart disease.
Data connecting diet to cardiovascular diseases (CVD) has mostly been generated from high-income countries, but over 80% of CVD deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. This gives me pause. If we are citizens of the 12th richest country, but suffering from the same afflictions that affect those in low- and middle-income countries, what are we doing wrong?
Klitzch noted that toxins are an important part of the conversation around the American diet and disease.
Toxicology is the branch of science concerned with the study of poisons, often referred to as the “Science of Safety” because it has evolved from a science focused on studying poisons to studying safety. Of the more than 80,000 chemicals currently used in the United States, most haven’t been adequately tested for their effects on human health. In fact, we only know the effects of 1-2% of them. These chemicals lurk in everyday items: furniture, cosmetics, household cleaners, children’s toys, and yes, our food.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is pushing Congress to reform outdated chemical-safety laws and close loopholes exploited by the chemical industry. I would be remiss not to note I signed up to receive NRDC updates via email. Clean air, water, and a healthy community are causes near and dear to my heart. But what can we do at home to advocate for ourselves when industries that put food on our tables don’t?
To start, we can control our toxin consumption by paying closer attention to food packaging. For example, Bisphenol-A (BPA), is a chemical found in the plastic containers of common foods and beverages. The main culprits are bottled water, packaged foods and canned items.
While the benefits of plastic are innumerable, studies have shown that BPA can leech out of these containers and into our food. Klitzsch recommends switching to glass or stainless steel storage options. Sounds easy enough to manage without breaking the bank.
She continued with the lecture, disclosing the alarming effects of BPA in the body. I dug a little deeper in my detox research and found that, according to Healthline, studies on pregnant animals have shown that BPA exposure leads to reproduction issues and also increases the future breast and prostate cancer risk in a developing fetus.
Some studies have also found that high BPA levels are associated with infertility, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and obesity. Remember that obesity is linked to heart disease? According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), “studies indicate that BPA should be considered an obesogenic environmental compound.”
To sum it up, BPA exposure correlates to increased body weight and/or body mass index. An obesogenic, Klitzch revealed, is another type of toxin that tends to cause obesity.
This data leads us to our next set of avoidable toxins: “forever chemicals,” or fluorochemicals found in everyday food packaging. Fluorochemicals, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are (PFAS) are fire, heat and stain-resistant. I never would have correlated food storage with firefighting but these chemicals are also used in fire-retardant foams. This is distressing because the chemicals leak into drinking water. Once in the human body their presence becomes associated with diseases including cancer.
PFAS are a class of over 3,000 synthetic, man-made chemicals, meaning these compounds do not biodegrade naturally. Certain PFAS are used in food packaging like take-out containers, bakery and deli paper and disposable plates to prevent fat and water from the food reducing the strength of the material. This means our beloved fries and doughnuts are even worse for us than we thought.
While the thought process behind using these products in restaurants is understandable, restaurateurs most likely don’t understand the health consequences associated with them. Toxins leach from container to food and are consumed by the customer. As with other toxins mentioned, research has shown that these compounds can cause cancer and disrupt sexual development in lab animals.
Holistic health practitioner Ann Wigmore’s quote expresses these revelations accurately when she says “The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”
Echoing these sentiments, Klitzsch advises, “If it comes from a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, don’t.” Heard loud and clear.
Leveraging this type of complimentary advice from holistic professionals, making some lifestyle adjustments, becoming our own health advocates will allow us to detox with gratifying undertones of consumer empowerment.
Check here for more of Katie’s journey with past Seeker columns.