Removing Toxins: What to Tackle First & What Makes the Biggest Impact
Inside this post: Removing and reducing environmental toxins can feel overwhelming. This guide will help you get started ditch harmful toxins in your body and home with the most impactful areas first. This post may contain affiliate links. You can see my disclosure policy here.
Removing Toxins: What to tackle first & what makes the biggest impact
We’ve seen shocking studies showing babies today inherit more toxicity than any other time in history, being born with more than 280+ chemicals in the umbilical cord, unknowing passed along from mother to baby.
The EPA says indoor air can be 100x more toxic than outdoor air, and we know the skin, which is the largest organ of the human body, absorbs 60-70% of whatever is put onto it and sends it directly into the blood stream within 26 seconds.
So, how do you take a proactive stance to remove & eliminate as much toxic chemicals making you, your family members, and homes sick, or causing and keeping you in a dis-eased state?
While we all know about detoxing our bodies, let’s not forget our environments need a little help to detox, too!
It’s important to overall avoid exposures where you can, especially with the air your breathe, food you consume, and water you drink and bathe in.
This list talks about the most impactful areas to remove toxins and where to start first, before expanding other areas in your home.
Here are ways to minimize the body’s burden of toxicants as much as you can:
1) Eat as much Organic Food as Possible
The more organic food you eat, versus conventional food, the better. In fact, this study demonstrates you can reduce the presence of glyphosate (known carcinogen) by 70% within 6 days with a fully organic diet.
Here’s a quick guide to help you when shopping at the store for organic, or when purchasing local at a farmer’s market or farm.
If you want to start someplace, always buy the Dirty Dozen produce as organic and expand from there. Here’s the list of the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 from the Environmental Working Group (EWG.)
2) Switch from Commercial to Non-Toxic Cleaning Products
Cleaning products not only saturate the surfaces of our home where we use them, which we touch with our extremities and little kids crawl on each day forcing transdermal absorption directly into the blood steam, but you breathe in the ingredients, which if it’s not a plant-based non-toxic cleaner, may mean you’re taking in a smorgasbord of chemicals and respiratory irritants all-day long.
I exclusively use the non-toxic Branch Basics cleaner for everything including floors, laundry, stains, windows and even my car! Their concentrate is human-safe, plant- and mineral-based and versatile, replacing all your cleaning needs.
Branch Basics doesn’t use any harmful preservatives, stabilizers, brighteners, chelators, harmful surfactants, parabens, phthalates, ethoxylates, GMOs, gluten or tree nuts.
Conventional cleaning products may contain ingredients that disrupt our microbiomes and that elicit the following effects:
- reproductive toxic
- endocrine disruptors (affect hormones and fertility)
Some non-alcohol based cleaning products labelled “disinfectant” or “sanitizer” may contain EPA registered pesticides, and even products labeled “unscented” or “free and clear” merely contain equally toxic masking agents to over up the fragrance. You can see how toxic fragrance is in this article and common household products it’s found in.
Don’t risk it. Just use a non-toxic household cleaner such as Branch Basics.
3) Invest in a Quality Water Filtration System
Tap water in the United States averages 250+ contaminants such as arsenic, lead, aluminum, fluoride, chlorine, manganese, disinfectant by-products, pharmaceutical medication, bleach, agricultural herbicides and pesticides, pathogens and fluorinated persistent organic pollutants called PFAS – dubbed “forever chemicals.”
Just because it’s called “drinking water” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe.
Contaminants get into the drinking water from many different ways including municipal & industrial discharges, urban & rural run-off, geological formations & shifts, and water treatment processes.
Runoff from industrial and agricultural areas can pollute the water supply with organic solvents, heavy metals, and petroleum products that get into aquifers from disposal sites, farm fields and storage facilities.
Sewage and septic systems containing human waste as well as animal feed lots can also allow E. coli, Giardia, Cryptosporidium, and other pathogens which make their way into water systems.
Grossed out yet?
In 2000, the blockbuster movie Erin Brockovich came out and exposed large audiences to the carcinogenic chemical hexavalent chromium, which was discovered in the tap water of more than 200 million Americans. It’s still found in tap water today.
Fluoride is a known neurotoxin, yet is found in all tap water and is also know to lower thyroid function.
According to the EWG, “Even for chemicals that are regulated, the legal limit is often hundreds of times higher than the health standards recommended by scientists and public safety agencies.”
First, find out what you need to filter out.
To see what’s in your tap water by typing in your zip code into the EWG Tap Water Database or call your local water provider to get the results of their most recent water assessment and testing. If you have well water, you may need to have a sample of water analyzed to find what’s in it.
Now, you’ll have a better idea of what kind of filter you need based on what contaminants you’re trying to filter out.
How do you filter all the contaminants before they get into your body?
I really like the 4-stage Reverse Osmosis AquaTrue Countertop System. It’s a 4-stage reverse osmosis system technology certified to NSF standards and removes 83 contaminants, including lead, chlorine, fluoride, nitrates, PFAs and one of the only on the market to filter the “Erin Brockovich” chemical, hexavalent chromium.
For shower filters, make sure you find one that effectively filters out chlorine. This is especially important for kids who are breathing in chlorine saturated area and take in more per pound than adults.
I use a Therasage Bubbler to clean bath water before use (be sure not to inhale the oxygen while it’s running or afterwards until it’s dissipated), and also use it to soak fruit and vegetables in to remove bacteria, pathogens, contaminants such as chlorine. Just remember, you can’t be in the same room while the bubbler is running, so set the timer and leave for a few minutes and don’t breathe in the oxygen in the air during or afterwards until it’s dissipated.
4) Clean your Air with an Air Filtration System
Here are just a few reasons why you should invest in an air purifier:
- The EPA says that indoor air can be 100x more toxic than outdoor air.
- The EPA also lists poor indoor air quality as one of the top 5 threats to public health.
- People spend 90% of their time indoors, often inhaling stagnant air and all the slew of chemicals in it.
- Indoor air will always be inundated by cleaning agents, electrical equipment (plastics) off-gassing of textiles, home furnishing, and construction materials, as well as potentially pet dander, allergens and pollen, smoke and microbes.
What is this toxic soup floating around in your home’s air?
Well, for one… dust.
100% of dust samples tested contain phthalates (study by researchers at Miliken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University (PMID: 27623734) sought to identify toxins found in household dust.
Four (4) categories of toxic chemicals consistently showed up:
- flame retardants
- PFAS chemicals
Phthalates were found in 100% of the samples.
What are phthalates?
Phthalates are classified as SVOC’s, or semi-volatile organic compounds.
They come from plastic materials found in the home such as electronics, wires, vinyl blinds, vinyl shower curtains, and products with fragrance (candles, air fresheners, dryer sheets, personal care products, cleaning products, etc.) and settle, then accumulate in house dust.
Children, who are lower to the ground and have smaller mass, have been shown to have higher levels of these toxic chemicals in their system, partly due to being on the ground, lower to the ground and interact more with dust (the whole, hand in mouth and toys in mouth sensory experience plays into this as well.)
Then, we have volatile organic compounds (VOCs), as well as flame retardants (think mattresses and furniture), pesticides, toxic metals, mycotoxins and mold, allergens, and particulate matter like PM-2.5. PM-2.5 is linked to respiratory and flu-like symptoms, gastrointestinal distress, neurological symptoms, auto immune diseases and cardiovascular disease.
Prioritizing clean air in your home and ensuring you have a healthy living space can stop one of the biggest saboteurs to your health.
When you purchase a high-quality air filter, look for one that has a HEPA filter, carbon block and can sweep up air particles as small as .3 microns.
You’ll also want to make to check the square footage the air purifier reaches because you’ll need one for your most commonly used room. Air purifiers cannot reach outside a room such as through hallways and into bedrooms, so you may need one for each space.
Place your air filter near electronics if you can, such as the TV, because they emit higher levels of VOCS.
I like the AlexaPure HEPA air filtration system and we have one in each of the kid’s bedrooms and our main room running 24/7. They were a lifesaver during the 2020 summer with all the wildfires less than 10 miles away for over 2 months! We have an Air Doctor for our main level that’s open style and runs 24/7 (I just don’t have a link for this because I’m not that cool yet.)
AirThereal also has a variety of high quality air purifiers with third-party testing and results to back up their products able to filter down to .3 microns. The air filters aren’t very expensive to replace every 6 months, too!
Easy Air Cleaning Tip: Set air purifying plants in each room of your home to help improve air quality and filter out toxins. The rule of thumb is one plant for every 100 square feet of living space.
5) Focus on Restorative Sleep
While the body has many means of detoxification (lymphatic system, kidneys, liver, bowels, sweat), the brain only has one. The glymphatic system is what detoxes the brain and it only flushes toxins out while you’re sleeping.
A study by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), suggests that the space between brain cells may increase during sleep, effectively working as a flushing system to detoxify the brain of toxins that accumulate during the day.
The glial cells in the brain control the “glympathic system” which is the plumbing system of the brain that manages waste removal from the central nervous system (CNS) by shrinking or swelling to accommodate an increase or decreased flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) – the clear liquid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord.
When researchers injected dye into the cerebrospinal fluid of mice in an animal model, they found that the dye flowed rapidly while the mice were asleep, but hardly moved when the mice were awake.
What’s more is the glymphatic system is hypothesized to be responsible for clearing toxic substances in the brain, such as plaque and tau oligomers, which are implicated in the development of Alzeimer’s Disease.
Thus, the importance of restorative sleep to prevent cognitive dysfunction and decline.
This also relates to the fight-or-flight response (aka having excessive sympathetic nervous system tone), whereas it may prevent your brain’s ability to detox. Stress management techniques are just as important as restorative sleep and the two go hand-in-hand.
How do you optimize your sleep?
- Reset your circadian rhythm by getting real sunlight on your eyes as soon as you wake up, and naturally going to sleep between 9-10pm at night when cortisol levels drop.
- Sleep in a cooler environment. Studies show cooler temperatures help you drop into deep sleep faster. Temps should be between 65 – 68 degrees.
- Stay away from blue light emitting screens and devices 2 hours before bedtime. Use blue blockers if you can’t yet quit this habit.
- Don’t drink caffeinated beverages or consume foods with caffeine after 2pm.
- Eat 3 hours before bedtime to allow for better digestion and detox processes which naturally begin to occur around 10-11pm.
- Have an air purifier in your bedroom to keep pet dander, allergens and other irritants at bay so you can sleep deeply.
Here are more sleep tips to hack your circadian rhythm.
6) De-Toxify Your Kitchen and Cooking Materials
What you cook with and store food inside, if it’s not non-toxic, has the ability to leach into your food. For example, PFOAS, aluminum, teflon, and plastics are known carcinogens and are linked to infertility, weight gain, impaired learning and cancer.
Here are some suggestions to help you get started and more in-depth articles to specific changes are below.
- Switch from non-stick to non-toxic cooking pans including cast iron and stainless steel pots + pans.
- Ditch aluminum foil for storage, cooking, heating (choose unbleached parchment paper instead, and buying in pre-cut sheets makes it super easy to do)
- Stop using plastic tupperware for food cooking, reheating and storage (use glass storage containers with BPA-free lids instead)
- Switch out plastic materials in cups, straws, baby bottles, plates and utensils for stainless steel
- Use stainless steel strainers when draining hot foods to avoid leached plastic getting into the food
- Use pyrex glass containers and glass mason jars for food storage.
- Do not use plastic wrap on top of foods – wrap in beeswax wraps or parchment paper if you can.
- Grab non-toxic snack and food bags the next time you’re at the store for food storage and kid’s snacks and lunch prep (reach for parchment paper snack bags and silicon stasher bags)
- Get rid of anything non-stick including baking sheets, pots and pans, baking pans and reach for glass, stainless steel or cast iron in it’s place
- Choose a stainless steel coffee option like a glass pour-over Chemex instead of allowing your coffee to seep through a plastic strainer
- Swap out non-stick cooking & stirring utensils for uncoated wood, stainless steel and silicon instead
- Switch to food-grade stainless steel water bottles, glass and stainless steel drinking cups. Hydroflask stainless steel water bottles, Simple Modern and Klean Kanteen with the soft BPA-free spouts for the kids are the favorites in our home. (avoid the ones with plastic straws inside!)
- Ditch plastic cutting boards and choose organic and BPA-free, non-toxic cutting boards like this one, wooden without sealants (be sure you disinfect if placing raw meat on it because of how porous wood is) or a natural stone such as slate cutting boards or a marble board.
Here are helpful articles to help you navigate making big switches in the kitchen:
- Top Chemicals in the Kitchen: Where to make changes now
- Why you should stop cooking with aluminum foil & what to use instead
- Replace plastic in the kitchen, storage containers, drink and lunch containers for safer options
7) Avoid Seafood High in Mercury
Shark, Chilean Sea Bass, Swordfish, Tuna, farmed/Atlantic Salmon, Marlin, Grouper, Bluefish are the highest levels of mercury.
If you want to eat fish, the best choices are:
- Atlantic Mackerel
- Black Sea Bass
- Haddock (Atlantic)
- Lobster (American & Spiny)
- Perch (freshwater and ocean)
- Salmon (canned, fresh, wild)
- Trout (freshwater)
8) Create Daily Practices to Mitigate Oxidative Stress
Activities like grounding to the earth, listening to high vibrational music and high hertz sounds, taking a walk, meditation, yoga, journaling, and making a gratitude list aren’t woo, they’re proven tools to help you reduce your stress.
They are self-care practices that assist bringing your body into a sympathetic state where you’re calm, and can feel into higher vibrations like love, peace, joy, willingness and satisfaction.
When you also focus on lymphatic drainage with walking, rebounding, use a vibration plate, dry brushing, lymphatic massage, and movement. Sweat regularly through exercise or sauna to excrete metals, toxins and pathogens.
Making plans for a massage, Reiki appointment to help you balance your energy, red light therapy, or outside services also help you rebalance your body, mind and spirit.
You don’t have to do all these things at once (this may create more stress and be even more deleterious to health than exposures), but taking steps to remove exposures over time will be beneficial to everyone in your home, including a baby in the future.
More Tox Free Living Suggestions:
- What Does Organic Mean & How to Tell if Food is Organic or Not
- Finding Safe Cleaning Products & Ditching Harmful Household Chemicals
- Coffee & Pesticides: What’s In Your Coffee Can Hurt Your Health
- The Problem with “Fragrance” Used in Perfumes & Home Products
- 6 Dangers of Hand Sanitizers & Safer Options To Reach For Instead
- Chemicals Found In Feminine Care Products & Non-Toxic Alternatives
- 7 Apps to Help You Check for Chemicals & Find Non-Toxic Alternatives