Bentonite clay is not the only game in town when it comes to natural methods of detoxification. (Find testimonials from others that have used bentonite clay for detoxification here.) Dr. Benjamin Brown is a Naturopathic Doctor as well as a speaker and science writer. He is passionate about detoxification because it’s an important human health issue as well as an environmental issue. Dr. Brown believes not enough people are talking about detoxification and is committed to increasing awareness of it as a ‘big picture’ issue. This blog post is a rough transcription of an interview he recently had with Dr. Deanna Minich.
Why Aren’t More People Concerned with Toxicity?
In the course of his studies, Dr. Brown was introduced to a book by David Suzuki called The Sacred Balance. The book takes the reader on a journey of our connectedness to all the elements found on planet earth. While reading the book, Dr. Brown had an epiphany – we are all connected to everything around us. We’re made from the earth; we eat food that comes from the earth and sunlight. Toxicity arises from lack of awareness of this connectedness between us and the earth. Part of why toxicity is not talked of as much is that as people, we believe we live insular lives, separate from other beings and the planet. We’re all polluted because we’ve polluted the world around us. In fact, we are part of the world around us and there is no barrier. Toxicity is a health issue as much as a grass roots environmental issue. Human health is directly related to the health of the environment and vice versa.
Dr. Brown’s own experience with chronic fatigue syndrome as a teenager steered him towards self-care and natural medicine. According to Dr. Brown, chronic fatigue is an energy collapse. Energy can collapse or its production impaired a number of ways. Since there are a number of different causes, chronic fatigue is not a single disease. For some people, environmental toxicity such as mercury, environmental pollutants, pesticides, herbicides and use of plastics are triggers for chronic fatigue. There are scientific studies supporting this. There’s a very strong connection between environmental pollutants and conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and weight gain. One of the underlying mechanisms for how this occurs in these metabolic conditions is that the pollutants hinder energy production. Environmental pollutants are mitochondrial toxins, meaning they impact cells’ ability to function and specifically, to produce energy.
A study on the herbicide atrazine shows a strong link between human exposure to this toxin and obesity. Herbicides are designed to kill plants. Atrazine targets chloroplasts, the cells in plants responsible for creating energy from sunlight in plants. From here, it’s not farfetched to imagine that the same function happens in people. The herbicide targets the part of the human cell responsible for producing energy. Atrazine falls into a broad category of toxins known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs).
Where Environmental Toxins Come From
Persistent organic pollutants are environmental toxins that are harmful to humans and the environment around the world. They are transported by water and wind, so a ‘clean’ area can easily become polluted with them. They are referred to as persistent because they stay in the environment for a long time and accumulate in plants and animals. They also pass from one species to another in the food chain. The major source of contamination is food. Fruits, vegetables and in particular fattier animal products grown conventionally are laced with these chemicals. Read about another toxin in the food supply, aflatoxins here.
How to Minimize Exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)
Eating organic food is an obvious way to minimize exposure to POPs. There is some evidence that transitioning from a conventional POP-laced diet to an organic diet can significantly reduce the amount of POPs found in the system in a matter of days.
Avoid eating foods that come in plastic packages as well as foods that come in cans with plastic liners. Many of these foods are acidic and therefore active and able to pull noxious elements of the plastic liner into the food.
Depending on where you live, eating food that is locally grown or raised is more likely not to be sprayed with herbicides and pesticides. If you live in an area where there is a lot of agriculture, such as California’s Central Valley, this is not necessarily the case. It’s always best to ask if the food has been grown with pesticides or other chemicals.
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Herbs and Spices as Detoxifiers
Herbs and spices are the bridge between food and medicine. They are powerful foods and delicious. Phytochemicals are chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants. They are also known as secondary metabolites and can enhance natural detoxification processes in the body. They also help with ordinary metabolism processes in the body. Traditional cultures incorporate herbs and spices in their diets and have lower incidences of many chronic diseases found in Western, modern cultures. Spices in traditional cultures are often the feature of meals.
One of the single best ways to enhance your body’s ability to detoxify itself is to increase chlorophyll in the diet. Toxins bind to chlorophyll in the body. Specific herbs to include are dark green plants such as parsley, basil, oregano and coriander. Turmeric – a member of the ginger family – contains a lot of curcuminoids. Curcumin is the most active compound of turmeric and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. However, there are many other beneficial compounds in the whole turmeric root and should be used generously in the diet.
Rosemary increases the activity of detoxification enzymes in the body, in addition to have powerful antioxidant properties. A study published in the Journal of Food Science found that adding rosemary to hamburger has been found to significantly decrease the concentration of the toxin created from cooking muscle meat at high temperatures (malondialdehyde). Wild seaweed – in particular kombu – is a super food that pulls toxins from the body. It can often be substituted for salt in recipes and is used in traditional soups and stews in Scotland and Ireland.
Think of detoxification as a big picture issue. Detoxification is an environmental, political and human issue that extends beyond simply detoxifying yourself. It includes helping to reduce the use of environmental pollutants and getting engaged locally in your community to raise awareness. Reduce your exposure to POPs and other environmental pollutants. Educate yourself about their sources, primarily the food supply. Avoid non-organic foods. Increase your intake of chlorophyll rich foods as well as herbs and spices known for their detoxification properties. Short courses of detoxification are brilliant for enhancing the body’s ability to detoxify and kick start a detoxification lifestyle. However, you want to maintain the body’s detoxification function on a daily basis. You need to be detoxifying every day, really well for the rest of your life.