Toxins and autoimmunity are intimately connected.
From a functional medicine perspective, toxins are one of the root causes of autoimmune disease and must be addressed on your road back to better health.
Not only can toxins directly trigger autoimmune conditions to develop but they can also worsen your symptoms.
That’s why toxins and detoxification are important topics when it comes to autoimmune disease…they’re directly influencing how you feel.
Simply put, toxins are substances that cause a harmful reaction in your body and include the chemicals you’re exposed to in the environment, the foods you eat, the water you drink, and the personal care products you use.
Heavy metals and mycotoxins (toxins from mold exposures) are specific toxins that are known to be connected with autoimmune conditions.
In regards to toxins, there are three important questions you must ask yourself when you have an autoimmune condition.
- How can I minimize my exposure to new toxins?
- What can I do to help my body detoxify more efficiently?
- Do I need to work with my functional medicine doctor to test for specific toxins in my body (like heavy metals or mold)?
Your body is constantly being exposed to toxic chemicals. And, while your body is designed to detoxify what you’re exposed to it often has a hard time keeping up.
That’s why it’s important to minimize your exposures in the first place. It lessens the total toxic load that your body must process and detoxify.
Detoxifying your life and home can feel overwhelming (and it can be quite expensive). If you’re able to, it’s best to reduce your exposures as quickly as possible but that’s not always possible for people.
Anything you can do to minimize toxicity in your life will help. Even seemingly small changes to your home can make a big difference.
Here are several ideas for you to minimize your exposure to new toxins.
Start with the Tier 1 suggestions below which include things that are more simple and affordable. Pick a few in each category and when you master those move on to the next things.
Tier 2 suggestions are more expensive and time consuming and only need to be addressed if time and your budget allow.
Your Kitchen and Your Food:
- Buy organic food when possible. At a minimum, buy organic fruits and vegetables on the “Dirty Dozen” to reduce your exposure to pesticides.
- Wash your fruits and vegetables in a mild castile soap (even if they’re organic) and rinse well to remove any residual pesticides or toxins.
- Buy a water filter for your drinking and cooking water. Buy the best filtering system you can afford.
- Avoid plastic water bottles and plastic food storage containers, including plastic bags.
- Store your food and water in glass, ceramic, or stainless steel containers.
- Avoid eating off of plastic dishes and using plastic utensils.
- Avoid non-stick or Teflon cooking pans and bakeware. Start with buying one good cooking pan and add to your collection when your budget permits.
- Use non-toxic or “green” soaps, cleaners, and dishwasher detergent.
- Buy all organic foods, especially all animal products like meat and dairy.
- Buy a more robust water filtration system for your kitchen and/or home.
- Replace all toxic cookware with cast iron, stainless steel or copper including baking sheets and pans, and stove top cookware.
- Leave your shoes at the door to avoid tracking toxins in your home.
- Open your windows if the weather permits. The air indoors is up to 5 times more toxic than outdoors.
- Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter and replace it according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Change your furnace filters every 3 months or sooner if the manufacturer recommends.
- Fill your home with plants that are known to clean the air.
- Buy a HEPA air filter for your bedroom.
- Use essential oils in your home instead of artificial scents, perfumes and/or air fresheners.
- Buy organic bedding and mattress covers and launder them regularly in non-toxic laundry detergent.
- Turn off the wi-fi in your home during sleep hours. Getting a simple timer for the outlet can automatically turn it off in the evening.
- Never sleep with your cell phone or other electronics in your bedroom or at a minimum turn them to airplane mode.
- Replace toxic cleaning chemicals with non-toxic ones or make your own with vinegar, baking soda, and lemon.
- Install a water filtration system for your entire home.
- Install a HEPA air purifying system in your home or put filters throughout your house.
- Replace your mattress with a non-toxic option made from organic or natural materials.
- Clean your carpets regularly. Look for companies that use non-toxic or green products.
- Only use low VOC paints in your home.
- Gradually replace synthetic carpets, curtains, and flooring with natural, non-toxic options.
- Only buy furniture that is made from natural materials to avoid off-gassing from synthetic furniture.
Personal Care Products and Clothing:
- Only use the minimum amount of personal care products that are necessary.
- Use organic and non-toxic soaps, lotions, and shampoos. As you run out of old products replace them with less toxic options.
- Replace toxic makeup with non-toxic products. Check out the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database to learn about less toxic options.
- Use non-toxic nail polish.
- Use a natural deodorant, avoiding the chemicals and aluminum found in perspirants.
- Replace your laundry detergent with green, non-toxic products.
- Avoid using fabric softeners and dryer sheets. A few drops of your favorite essential oils on a damp washcloth can leave closes refreshed.
- Avoid dry cleaning your clothes. Or, at a minimum, take clothes out of the plastic and hang outside of your home for a few hours to off-gas.
- Buy clothes made from natural and organic fibers.
Some Parting Thoughts:
When you have an autoimmune condition, it’s important to address the many things that contribute to how you feel.
Toxins directly influence your body’s ability to function optimally. And, if you have a less than optimally functioning body you’re far more likely to suffer symptoms and worsen the progression of your autoimmune condition.
Doing your best to reduce the amount of toxins you’re exposed to in your home will make a big difference. Start slow, choose a few things to tackle at a time, and gradually work to limit the toxins in your home.
What’s your take?
What steps have you taken to reduce the amount of chemicals you’re exposed to?
I’d welcome your thoughts and comments below.