This month, environmental conditions in our area inspired me to dive into the topic of toxins and how to help the body clear them. In specific, I am referring to the low air quality we’ve had for many weeks now due to wildfire smoke in our valley. It does ebb and flow but it’s been a source of toxicity in our airways for too long, and many are feeling the impacts including headaches, sore/scratchy/swollen throats, sinus congestion, even flu-like symptoms. Even if you’re not feeling the effects outright, if you spend time outside exercising or otherwise enjoying the warm fall weather your body is having to process the components in the smoke.
This hazy smoke contains carbon monoxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and fine particulate matter. Toxins in wildfire smoke are known to promote inflammation, oxidative stress, and higher infection risk with alteration of immune function. Therefore, eating foods and taking herbs that reduce inflammation, are antioxidant in nature, and support our immune systems could all help counterbalance.
Environmental toxins have long been an interest of mine because of their impact on our physical health and well-being, as well as their impact on the natural world around us. I am continually learning and removing products from my life that I learn have a negative impact on my health, my dogs health, or the critters, soil, and water in my surroundings. These include toxic artificial fragrances in candles, scented plug-ins, dryer sheets, laundry detergent, dish soap, hair care, beauty products, perfume & cologne, skincare, etc. as well as microplastics in water bottles (especially soft single-use bottles), BPA and other chemicals in receipt paper (yes, receipt paper!), cleaning products, scented garbage bags (why yes, those do exist!) and much more. It’s a sad reality that we are exposed to so many toxic chemicals by default.
The latest potential toxin I recently thought about and began researching is tattoo ink. How many of us have gotten this body art, and how many of us have thought about and asked questions about what’s in the ink the artist uses? This ink that is getting placed right into our epidermis and is processed through our bloodstream and lymphatic system. It’s frightening what I found. In fact, the artist I most recently interviewed has been using ink for decades that is not even designed for tattooing. It is ink for ink pens. There is no list of ingredients, no testing for chemicals, no approval for use in the body (not that this approval would necessarily make me feel any better). For sure there are likely phthalates, plastics, artificial dyes, and other potentially carcinogenic materials in there for the color, the staying power, and the preservatives. Fortunately, awareness is increasing and some companies are doing a better job at disclosing ingredients and testing for heavy metals and other contaminants. So there are “cleaner inks” out there. The truth remains, however, that we don’t really know what the long-term effects are of any of these inks applied in this way.
So, what do we do about these toxins when we do get exposed to them? First, go about eliminating as many as you have control over. What goes on in your home and on your body is largely within your capacity to control. Next, the best way to keep ourselves healthy and well in an unhealthy world is to keep our body as physically healthy and resilient as possible. There is a lot that goes into that, but one way that has been front of mind for me lately is how well we are eliminating. How well are our detoxification pathways working in the body to keep moving out the toxins we are exposed to? In particular, I have been more aware of my lymphatic system and its important role in helping move out toxins from the body, including those that come through the respiratory tract. The lymph is vital for elimination of toxins and waste products, and also for our immune system function.
Healthy and consistent movement is essential for lymphatic flow. On top of that, I advocate the use of herbs that support the lymphatic system, as well as dry-skin brushing, lymphatic massage (you can do simple movements yourself), and light exercise, stretching/yoga, and breathwork, all of which help move lymph, which is in need of muscular or manual movement to work efficiently. I also recommend the use of NAC and/or Glutathione to act as antioxidant support and help with liver function and detoxification. NAC (N-acetyl-l-cysteine) is such a supportive supplement for toxic exposure since it supports respiratory, cardiovascular, and liver health and glutathione production – a powerful antioxidant. Liver supportive herbs such as milk thistle seed, schisandra berries, and dandelion root are all also useful for promoting health elimination of toxins through the liver and digestive tract. Of course, the addition of respiratory herbs and essential oils for reducing inflammation, congestion, and harm to the lung tissue are also recommended and important if the toxins are airborne such as with smoke or artificial scent. These herbs can include mullein leaf, hyssop, and elecampane. Essential oils for the respiratory tract include any of the conifer tree distillations, such as spruce, pine, and fir.
There are some good resources and blogs out there about the contaminants in common items such as candles, detergents, and cleaning products, and what else to use. If you want to learn more, this is one blog I found with a lot of useful information: https://naturalpioneers.com/what-is-non-toxic-living/
In the meantime, check out our supportive herbal products for the lymphatic system, respiratory system, liver, and overall health at our online store http://shop.herbanwellness.net