By Allison Tannis BSc MSc RHN
There’s nothing like that crisp, refreshing feeling of cold waves on your hot, sun-kissed toes at the beach, or the mouthwatering taste of a summer barbeque feast. But, are these summer adventures exposing you to toxins? Toxins are all around us and, at high enough levels, they can affect how you feel. If you feel tired, bloated or are experiencing headaches, you may be in need of a little detoxing. Don’t worry—there are quick and easy ways to do this.
There Ain’t No Toxins in Me!
It would be naïve to assume the toxins in our environment don’t end up in in our bodies. The non-stick pan I made blueberry pancakes in this morning, the flame-retardant chemicals on the airplane I flew in while on vacation, heterocyclic amines (HCAs) on my barbequed meat, pesticides in my watermelon and chemicals in my sunscreen are all sources of toxins in my summer-time environment. Toxins can easily build up in our bodies. Let’s clean up our act with the top five quick and easy ways to detox.
1) Go Char-free
Research studies have shown that consuming well done, processed or red meat increases the risk of prostate, colon and breast cancer. High temperature cooking methods such as grilling and barbecuing may produce HCAs and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are known carcinogens. HCAs were first discovered in the 1970s by scientists, who noted the charred parts of cooked fish and meat were capable of damaging cells.
Skip the processed meats too! Nitrates and nitrite intake from processed meat, such as your summer sausage, increases the risk of colorectal cancer according to a case-control study reported in the journal Carcinogenesis in 2007. To help reduce your toxic exposure this summer, reduce the temperature and grill time of your favourite meats, consider alternatives like tofu and veggies for the grill, or fill up on alternative protein sources like bean salads and nuts.
2) Skip the Plastic
Many chemicals in plastics may leach into our foods and water and, ultimately, could build up in our bodies. One such chemical is Bisphenol-A (BPAs). BPAs are hiding in hard polycarbonate plastic containers and tin can liners. The softer plastic water bottle may leach phthalates. Both BPA and phthalates are hormone disrupters. Detox your drink. Toss a stainless steel, glass or porcelain water container into your summer bag. Less plastic is great for the environment too!
3) Load Up on Nutrients
It’s impossible to avoid all toxins in your day. What’s your best defense? Fill up on nutrients that will help your body find, neutralize and eliminate toxins. One of the most important detox nutrients is vitamin C, a major antioxidant in the body. Vitamin C and other antioxidants can be found in high quantities in brightly coloured plants including berries, green tea and leafy green vegetables. These foods are a great defense against toxins. In supplement form, choose a vitamin C source that contains supportive nutrients to ensure optimal vitamin C absorption—such as Progressive’s Vitamin C Complex.
Toxins in the body cause the creation of free radicals which can damage cells. Antioxidants help your body fight and neutralize free radicals. Berries are notoriously some of the most potent sources of antioxidants. Berries are usually easy to find in the summer, making it easy to add these detoxing foods to your diet. But, be wary of toxins (pesticides and herbicides) on your berries—choose organic.
An easy, great tasting, convenient, travelling-friendly source of antioxidants is Progressive’s PhytoBerry®. PhytoBerry® is a highly concentrated whole food supplement that is loaded with natural antioxidants. It contains over 40 high ORAC value (high antioxidant capacities) foods including acai, acerola, blueberry, goji and pomegranate. Plus, PhytoBerry® offers essential fatty acids and herbal extracts to help your body be healthy and detox. It’s delicious, quick and easy. A single serving has the equivalent nutrient content of 6 to 8 servings of fresh fruit—now, that’s a quick detox trick!
Another great source of antioxidants is vegetables. It’s easy to find fresh vegetables in the summer. Raw and paired with a tasty dip, they taste great and are easy to serve. Dark greens (spirulina, barley grass, alfalfa, wheat grass, chlorella, spinach) are touted as the ultimate vegetables as they contain antioxidants to fight free radicals, vitamins and minerals to support energy metabolism and enzymes that help digestion. An easy and effective way to get these great detox supporting foods into your diet is Progressive’s VegeGreens®. With over 60 vegetables, green foods, essential fatty acids, pre- and probiotics, enzymes and herbal extracts, VegeGreens® is packed with the ultimate combination of nutrients to help your body detox, stay healthy and full of energy. Each scoop provides the equivalent of 6 to 8 servings of fresh vegetables. Progressive’s VegeGreens® is available in powder or capsule. VegeGreens® is a quick, healthy, “feel good about eating” food that can help you detox.
4) Supplement with Detox-Supporters
Our bodies have multiple ways of removing toxins. One organ involved in the body’s detoxification is the kidney. The kidney pulls toxins from your blood and excretes it with urine. Drinking plenty of water will support optimal detoxification by the kidneys. Herbs such as dandelion root and cranberry are traditionally used to support the urinary tract. Cranberries prevent bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract, thus preventing infection and helping keep your urinary tract working optimally. Dandelion is thought to help your kidneys filter more efficiently (diuretic). Yet, dandelion has other cleansing benefits. Dandelion is traditionally used as a laxative, diuretic, circulatory tonic, skin toner, blood tonic, and digestive tonic.
The major organ of detoxification is the liver. The liver filters toxins out of your blood and excretes it with bile into your intestines. With sufficient fibre in your diet, these toxins will be excreted with your feces. However, a diet low in fibre allows the toxins to be re-absorbed. Fibre is hiding in many of the detoxing foods we’ve already discussed, like berries and vegetables, so getting fibre into your detox diet will be easy!
Antioxidants can help protect your liver from damage and keep it detoxing at maximum capacity. One such antioxidant is silymarin, which is found in milk thistle. It protects the liver through antioxidant activity and stabilization of liver cell membranes. Silymarin also stimulates the regeneration of damaged liver cells.
There are lots of supplements that can help your body detox. Want something quick that can offer your body all? Progressive’s VegeGreens® contains many detox supporters including dandelion, milk thistle and cranberry, plus antioxidant-rich vegetables.
5) Eat Some Microbes
Probiotics, that is. These helpful microbes live in our bodies and support digestion, the immune system, and help keep toxin levels low. In your digestive tract, bad microbes (E. coli, Salmonella, Candida) excrete toxic compounds. These sit around in your colon causing damage and can get absorbed into your bloodstream. Probiotics help keep bad microbes at low levels in your body, along with the toxins they produce.
But, don’t forget to pump up your probiotic consumption when you’re detoxing. Probiotics in your digestive tract are bombarded by toxins during a detox (the liver excretes filtered toxins from the blood into the digestive tract via bile). This higher toxin level causes a decline in the number of probiotics in your digestive tract. Include a high-dosage probiotic to your cleansing program and keep your intestines healthy.
Probiotics are a great supplement to add into your daily routine throughout the year as it supports healthy digestion, can improve inflammation and boosts immunity. Probiotics are available in all shapes and sizes. All in all, reaching for a probiotic that contains multiple species is optimal as it offers a greater health benefit. Progressive has a high quality line of full spectrum (multiple species) probiotics (HCP®Support, HCP®30 and HCP®70) to support any of your probiotic needs. You can also find them in other well thought through, high quality products such as Progressive’s VegeGreens®.
Are You Toxic?
Hundreds of toxins are released each year into our environment. These toxins end up in our drinking water, food and on our beaches. You simply can’t avoid them all. But how dangerous are they to your health? Four of the most widespread environmental toxins—lead, trihalomethanes (found in drinking water), ionizing radiation from indoor radon gas, and tobacco smoke—can cause serious damage to health even at very low levels, say researchers in the international medical journal PLoS Medicine. What this means, say the researchers, Donald Wigle of the University of Ottawa and Bruce Lanphear of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, is that there are simply no safe levels of exposure to these toxins. Feelings of fatigue, headaches and poor metabolism may be signs that your body needs to detox.
Skip the Detox Hula Hoops
The trick to an easy, quick and healthy detox is not to starve, drink strange unpalatable concoctions or jump through hula hoops. A healthy cleanse is one in which you offer your body the support it needs. Support your body’s ability to detox with help from herbal extracts, probiotics, enzymes and nutrients…and, of course, limit your exposure to toxins. Detoxing can be simple and quick with the help of nutritious foods and supplements.
John EM, et al. Meat consumption, cooking practices, meat mutagens, and risk of prostate cancer. Nutr Cancer. 2011;63(4):525-37.
Steck SE, et al. Cooked meat and risk of breast cancer--lifetime versus recent dietary intake. Epidemiology. 2007 May;18(3):373-82.
Tannis, Allison. Probiotic Rescue: How you can use probiotics to fight cholesterol, cancer, superbugs, digestive complaints and more. John Wiley and Sons, Toronto, Canada, 2008.
Ward MH, et al. Processed meat intake, CYP2A6 activity and risk of colorectal adenoma. Carcinogenesis. 2007 Jun;28(6):1210-6. Epub 2007 Feb 2.
Wigle DT, Lanphear BP (2005) Human health risks from low-level environmental exposures: No apparent safety thresholds. PLoS Med 2(12): e350.