Have you ever tried to lose weight? If successful, does it seem that even by maintaining a relatively healthy diet and exercising that the pounds creep back? There is a reason. Every day, we are exposed to many environmental toxins – the CDC reports that hundreds of synthetic chemicals are present in our bodies. Many of these toxins have a tendency to store themselves in our bones, organs, and fat and NOT to easily leave our body. Research has shown that many of these chemicals disrupt our immune, endocrine, nervous, and reproductive systems. When we lose weight, many of these stored toxins are released, radically raising our levels of toxins.
If you are more than 10 pounds overweight and experience any of these symptoms, you probably have a toxic load that contributes to your weight problem: asthma, allergies, brain fog, depression, fatigue, headaches, memory problems, hormonal imbalance, or chronic pain. One of the reasons why is that our kidneys and liver cannot automatically eliminate these fat-soluble toxins – they are designed to recycle fats and oils because the body recognizes them as essential nutrients. The body can’t tell the difference between a fat molecule and a fat-soluble toxic molecule. It has been proven that dieting without helping the body purify or detoxify released toxins is a sure way to poison yourself and get fatter.
Purification or detoxification measures help your body by providing support to safely remove toxins while you lose weight. But before I talk about this, it is important to first talk about how to AVOID the sources of toxins, i.e. CLEAN them from your diet or REMOVE them from your home. Chlorinated pesticides – one of the top nine classes of toxic compounds – are found in nonorganic beef, nonorganic dairy products, farm-raised fish (especially catfish and salmon), and nonorganic butter. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has reported the most toxic to most clean fruits and vegetables. The “dirty dozen”, i.e. highest in pesticides of the most toxic includes (nonorganic): apples, bell peppers, carrots, celery, cherries, imported grapes, kale, lettuce, nectarines, peaches, pears, and strawberries. If one has to pick and choose what to buy organic (or not), these should be on your organic list. The “clean dozen”, i.e. lowest in pesticides and therefore safer to buy nonorganic varieties, includes: asparagus, avocados, cabbage, eggplant, kiwis, mangoes, onions, papayas, pineapples, sweet corn, sweet peas, and watermelon.
How else can one avoid, clean, or remove your exposure to harmful toxins? Protect your home! Avoid bringing into your home outdoor toxins by declaring your home a shoe-free zone. Don’t permit smoking in your home. Use unscented detergents and fabric softeners. Replace your furnace filters every 6 weeks and use a quality air purifier. Consider replacing carpeting with tile or non-pressboard wood flooring. Check for mold and remediate if your home has it. Use a chlorine filter for drinking AND on your showerhead.
So, back to safely detoxifying your body while shedding the pounds… Ironically, the measures that help you detoxify or safely remove toxins will ALSO cause you to lose unwanted weight. Here is a list:
- Eat plenty of lean protein with every meal. Protein deficiency impairs the liver’s ability to clear toxins from the body and lowers your immune system, making you more vulnerable to the effects of toxins.
- Eat foods that help you battle the toxic effects of toxins. Foods rich in antioxidants include green tea, broccoli, turmeric, and berries
- Eat healthy, organic fats. These include fish, olive, safflower, coconut, and flax oils. They will help us have healthy hair and skin, sleep through the night without having to wake up and eat, help our brain function and insulate our nerves from injury. Fats in good balance will reduce inflammation in our bodies. However if we eat too many fats that turn solid at room temperature – cheese, butter, animal fat – it can create inflammation.
- Eat less refined sugar – the NO WHITE DIET! Sugar suppresses our immune function, causes fatigue, and increases our risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Sugar can harm the liver and contribute to a condition known as fatty liver, a condition common in yo-yo dieters. When sugar is restricted, studies have shown that liver cells stop dying and normal function can return.
- Avoid the other WHITE food – breads, pastas, and cereals. Many people are intolerant or reactive to a protein found in grains called gluten. Just as importantly, wheat is a simple carbohydrate that breaks down quickly into sugar and raises blood sugar. By eliminating sugar and grains, one can lose weight almost immediately.
- One more WHITE food – dairy. Dairy products are the other most common reactive food. Some healthy alternatives are rice, almond, or coconut milk. Many people can tolerate goat, sheep, or bison cheese instead of cow.
- Keep your body’s main exit moving. The bowel is the main pathway for waste to leave the body. If your stool is hard or you are not eliminating at least once a day try drinking more water. Magnesium is a common deficiency in our toxic world. Without enough magnesium, the bowel can’t hold onto its water. Probiotics will make your digestion stronger and psyllium husks or rice bran fiber provide good food for the good bacteria in our gut, fluff up our poop, and toxins will bind to it so your body can expel it. Green veggies containing chlorophyll, such as spinach, kale, and seaweeds, will help remove toxins such as PCBs.
- Keep the rest of your body moving too! Walking and other aerobic exercise is not only good for your heart health, but will improve your circulation, aiding your body’s ability to rid toxins. Sweating, be it from exercise or the sauna, will take some of the burden off the liver as toxins get released through your sweat. Don’t forget to stay hydrated!
- Use the secret weapon: nutritional supplements! Take a quality multivitamin that contains higher (than RDA) amounts of B1, B2, B6, Magnesium, and selenium, nutrients that are needed by the liver to detoxify and get depleted from our chronic exposures. Other nutrients that will support the body include Alpha-Lipoic acid, N-acetyl-L-cysteine, and vitamin C. Nutrients that will help you burn fat include capsaicin (red pepper) and conjugated linoleic acid, an essential omega-6 oil. There are a host of other nutrients that can be helpful.
When undergoing a weight loss or new exercise program, I always recommend working with a licensed and knowledgeable health care provider to help you safely and effectively reach your goals. Protect yourself and your family by removing toxins from the home and the pantry as discussed above. Just by incorporating the measures above, you may find your energy and stamina return while losing unhealthy and unwanted weight. Good luck and I wish you the best of health in 2012!
Renae Blanton, MSN, ANP is a Family Nurse Practitioner at Sonas Integrative Medical Center in Durango. She specializes in integrative family medicine with a focus on environmental issues such as lead toxicity, hormone therapy for men and women, and chronic disease and illness. She can be reached at 970-247-2500 or www.sonasimc.com.