We all know we live in a fog of pollutants, exposed without much choice to the chemicals in car fumes, industrial waste, pesticides and heavy metals.
We’re less aware of the toxic chemicals to which we expose ourselves voluntarily — our hair dye, nail polish, perfume, deodorant, hair spray, kitchen cleaning fluids, air freshener and on and on. But together they all add up to a veritable toxic soup.
Since the Industrial Revolution, we have synthesised more than 80,000 artificial chemicals and almost all have found their way into our air, water, soil and food — and so into us.
All of these substances are alien to the human body, and they accumulate over the years, in some cases doing us serious harm and in others leaving us depleted of vital nutrients and feeling exhausted or generally unwell.
Dr Jenny Goodman shares her top tips for living well in our toxic times, including swapping perfumes containing dangerous chemicals for essential oils (file image)
Times of hormonal upheaval such as the menopause are particularly affected by what our bodies unwittingly absorb every day.
But there’s good news. When I qualified as a doctor in 1982, it was taboo to ask why people got ill and instead we were taught to manage symptoms using a vast array of drugs.
There was a sense of fighting the body’s processes, not getting alongside it as an ally or strengthening the immune system so it could fight its own battles.
Today, however, there are plenty of experts asking the right questions about this toxic soup and why so many of us feel so tired and foggy-brained all the time. Excitingly, we are finding answers, too. We are starting to understand how to detox effectively and which vital nutrients we need to replace to best combat the daily onslaught of synthetic chemicals.
For me, for optimum wellness, a 21st-century detox is not just a fast or a cleanse for vague or hopeful reasons, but a means of minimising our exposure to unavoidable toxins and swapping the ones we choose to use, like perfume or aluminium foil, for safe, natural versions.
Over the years I lost count of the number of patients who pleaded with me to write a book about this approach to medicine — and so finally I did it. Here are my top tips to get well and stay well in toxic times.
DETOX FOR MENOPAUSE RELIEF
When women come to me complaining of debilitating symptoms of menopause — hot flushes, insomnia, mood swings and so on — I first ask them about the toxins in their life.
This might include questions about whether they dye their hair, use perfume, have ever worked in a factory or laboratory, or use powerful oven-cleaners in the kitchen.
The absorption of toxic chemicals though the skin or the air we breathe is damaging at any life-stage — most of all pre-natally and in infancy — but it does cause a lot of problems for women during the menopause.
The medical and anti-pollution expert, recommends using glass or ceramic containers to store food instead of tin foil (file image)
Women are shocked to hear that their favourite hair dye, perfume or nail varnish is full of dangerous chemicals. Just read the list of ingredients and look them up. Hair dyes go straight through the scalp into the bloodstream and have been linked to bladder and breast cancer. Perfumes contain benzene and other potentially carcinogenic petrochemicals and go straight into your body and brain via the nose, lungs and skin.
But there are alternatives. You could try replacing perfume with natural essential oils, such as lavender, jasmine, rose or geranium, and any chemical hair dye with pure henna. You could replace your usual moisturiser and cleanser with a safer version; Suma make especially lovely safe soaps (amazon.co.uk). Green People (greenpeople.co.uk) and Urtekram (urtekram.com) are good, safe brands, too. And try to paint your nails outdoors. It’s not a problem once it’s on your nails and dry; the problem is inhaling it while you apply.
If women are prepared to let go of these chemicals and carry out a thorough detox (see my steps below) they often find a radical improvement to their menopausal symptoms.
GUARD AGAINST DEMENTIA
Most people with dementia today did not have a parent with dementia. That means environmental and nutritional factors i.e. changes in the way we are living, must be playing a major part.
While recent studies link air pollution with dementia, heavy metals mercury and aluminium have also been linked to the disease, as well as cadmium (from cigarette smoke) and nickel.
Here are my tips to help you eliminate aluminium from your everyday life . . .
- DON’T cook in aluminium saucepans, and in particular don’t prepare acidic dishes such as tomato sauce in them because some of the aluminium is likely to leach out from the pan.
- DON’T use lots of underarm deodorant. Even if the label on a deodorant says ‘natural’ or ‘herbal’ or even ‘aluminium-free’, it may still contain alum — sometimes called ‘rock crystal alum’ — which is still aluminium by another name.
- DON’T keep leftovers in the fridge wrapped in aluminium foil or use it to wrap sandwiches for lunch, or cook your Sunday roast in it, especially if you squeeze lemon onto the meat. Lemon juice is acidic and leaches the aluminium out into the food.
- DO ditch the tin foil. Store food in ceramic or glass containers and cook using a casserole pot with a lid or pots made of cast iron.
FOUR STEPS TO A MODERN DETOX
1. SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF
Dr Jenny Goodman revealed sweating through exercise and saunas is the most effective way of eliminating toxins (file image)
Sweating is the best way to eliminate toxins. It’s particularly useful to get rid of fat-soluble toxins — from pesticides, dry cleaning solvents and moth balls, for example — because there is a layer of fatty tissue just under the skin. Some of the people who suffer most from their encounters with chemical pollutants are precisely those who do not sweat much. Anything that encourages sweating is good, particularly exercise and saunas. Just five or ten minutes in the sauna is sufficient — longer can be counterproductive — ideally three times per week for a few months. Seek out a leisure centre that has a sauna (it has to be the sauna, not the steam room, because the sweat has to be able to evaporate).
Always take a couple of large towels into the sauna with you, one to sit on and one to regularly mop up the sweat. It is important to wipe off the sweat every few minutes, otherwise the toxins released from the tissues onto the skin will simply be reabsorbed.
It is important to replace not only the water you’ve lost, but also the major minerals, so take an electrolyte solution immediately afterwards.
2. SOAK IT OUT
Dr Jenny recommends soaking in a bath containing Epsom salts to boost your intake of magnesium sulphate (file image)
People have bathed in Epsom salts for hundreds of years, but it’s more valuable than ever in today’s stressed and polluted world. Epsom salts are magnesium sulphate, and if you put ½ lb to 1lb (approx. 250–500g) of Epsom salts into a bath every night or every other night for a few months, and lie in it for 20–30 minutes, you will absorb a substantial amount of magnesium sulphate through the skin.
Almost all of us are magnesium deficient, for reasons to do with diet, stress and pollution, and it’s easier to absorb magnesium in a bath than it is orally. Magnesium is vital for all sorts of health reasons, but it also helps push toxic metals out of the body.
Do not use soap or shampoo or any other products in an Epsom salts bath — they may combine with the salts and create scum. Shower first if you need to, but the point of the Epsom salts bath is to soak and absorb the magnesium sulphate — not to wash. Turn the lights down, light a candle, burn some essential oils of lavender or rose, play some music and enjoy!
3. JUICE IT UP
The medical expert advises juicing to ensure a fresh and concentrated source of vitamins, minerals and natural antioxidants (file image)
Get a good size, good-quality masticating juicer — i.e. one that extracts pure juice and doesn’t blend it with the fibre like a Nutribullet — and make your own raw, organic, green vegetable juice at home. Use only organically grown vegetables, otherwise you’re juicing pesticide residues, which defeats the object. Use handfuls of celery, cucumber, lettuce, watercress, parsley, rocket, spinach, kale, cabbage and small amounts of the sweeter veg such as beetroot, carrot or red peppers.
Initially you’ll want to get a balance between these sweeter ones and the dark green leaves but as you get used to it, gradually use more of the latter and less of the former, ideally until the juice is only green. Your taste buds will get used to it!
The purpose is to cleanse the gut and thus the liver, to give it the maximum capacity to do its detox work.
Juicing also provides a fresh and concentrated source of vitamins, minerals and natural antioxidants, which we need to quench the toxic free radicals in our body.
It is hard work, but it really is worth it; many of my patients have seen dramatic benefits once they have put in the work to build vegetable juicing into their daily routine.
The juice should not, ideally, be made hours in advance, or it will lose much of its antioxidant power.
4. GET SPROUTING
Dr Jenny Goodman recommends sprouting as a detox – she suggests alfalfa, broccoli, aduki beans, sunflower seeds and chickpeas (file image)
Sprouting (soaking a seed until it sprouts) is great for a detox. It’s nutritionally beneficial, like having an instant allotment in your kitchen, and will help your body to fight off environmental pollutants.
Raw veg in the supermarket has often been shipped from far-away polytunnels and is neither fresh nor cheap. What’s more, tiny young plants are far more digestible than larger, older ones, so you’ll get more nutritional mileage out of growing your own.
Many seeds sprout well on a window ledge: mung beans are the easiest, but try alfalfa, broccoli, aduki beans, sunflower seeds and chickpeas. Sprouted mung beans are the ‘bean shoots’ you get in Chinese restaurants, but yours will be greener because they won’t be deprived of light. Sprouted broccoli seedlings are slightly spicy, and even more nutritious than mature broccoli. The 3-day-old seedlings contain vastly more Di-Indolyl Methane (DIM) and Sulphoraphane weight-for-weight than mature broccoli — substances that help convert oestrogen into its safer (non-carcinogenic) form in the body.
This means that broccoli sprouts eaten regularly could potentially be protective against the more common types of breast cancer.
If you put your sprouted seedlings in a stir-fry, do so at the very last minute, so they’re warm, but still essentially raw.
Sometimes it’s hard to take in the facts about our toxic soup — it seems so overwhelming and impossible to combat — but it’s important not to despair! There is plenty we can do about it.
Changing the products you buy and tweaking your lifestyle to include a regular detox are do-able steps towards a healthier life — and you can do it while cleaning up our planet too.
WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER BUY CHEAP SUPPLEMENTS
Dr Jenny recommends being weary when shopping for supplements as some include nasties such as talcum powder and titanium dioxide (file image)
Do we need nutritional supplements? The short answer is: some of us do, some of the time.
Of course, supplements can never be a substitute for good food, fresh air, exercise and sufficient sleep. But they may be a helpful add-on at certain moments in our lives.
When choosing them, you are looking for maximum nutrients with minimum ‘rubbish’ — by which I mean fillers, flavours, colours, coatings, binding agents, lubricants, thickeners, stabilisers, preservatives and anti-caking agents that many cheap supplements contain.
Dr Jenny Goodman’s supplement advice
I recommend b complex, Vitamin C, probiotic with breakfast and Zinc, Magnesium, Vitamin D with dinner
So always take your magnifying glass when buying supplements, and be very careful when reading labels. The nasties include talc, which, I kid you not, is talcum powder; titanium dioxide, a white dye also used in paint and sunscreen; potassium sorbate, a preservative that can spark off hay fever or asthma in certain sensitive people; calcium carbonate, which is basically limestone or chalk.
There are a dizzying number of supplement companies out there. I have absolutely no commerical or financial links with any of them, and my favourite brands in the UK for purity and safety are Viridian, Metabolics, Pure Bio and BioCare.
Adapted from Staying Alive In Toxic Times by Dr Jenny Goodman, published on January 23 by Yellow Kite at £18.99. © Dr Jenny Goodman 2020. To order a copy for £15.20 (offer valid to 3/2/20; P&P free), visit mailshop.co.uk or call 01603 648155.