The Power of a Clean Diet
By now, you’ve probably discovered some of your favorite healthy recipes. These are the food and nutrient combos that leave you feeling refreshed, energized, and well. When you’re at the grocery store, you try to browse the seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables first, selecting organic produce and filling your cart with delicious, versatile whole food options. You’re on a roll! Now, let’s examine some other ways you can be mindful of elements of your diet and your daily life which may be affecting your overall health.
The Food We Choose to Eat
We’ll begin in the garden, where you can decrease your toxic load by filling your pots and planters with organic produce from the “Dirty Dozen” list. This list is made up of those fruits and veggies which have been found to contain the most pesticides in their non-organic form. Growing your own pesticide-free apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, strawberries, bell peppers, squash, spinach, collard greens, and kale will save you money and also cut down on the pesticides that go into your system. You can also count on veggies and fruits like asparagus, avocado, cabbage, cantaloupe, sweet corn, eggplant, grapefruit, kiwi, mangos, mushrooms, onions, pineapple, and sweet potato from the “Clean 15” list if you’re lacking in garden space or tight on time.
If you enjoy seafood, try to steer clear of farmed Atlantic salmon, canned albacore tuna, king mackerel, swordfish, and other options that are high in mercury. Limit your halibut, lobster, Mahi Mahi, canned chunk light tuna, and Alaskan cod to less than one portion a week. Options lowest in mercury include sardines, anchovies, scallops, wild-caught Pacific salmon, North Atlantic mackerel, and Arctic cod—so enjoy these liberally!
Your naturopathic doctor can administer an evaluation to determine any possible food intolerances you may have. Food intolerance is any food your body does not properly digest, metabolize or utilize. Improperly digested foods will decay within the intestinal tract, creating a number of toxic chemicals in the body. Symptoms of this phenomenon will show up differently in each person; however, avoiding your food intolerance is a powerful tool for every person’s long-term health. Unlike food allergies, food intolerances often do not change over time.
While we’re on the subject of food, let’s talk about your cookware.
How We Prepare Our Meals
If you’re going for stainless steel, the highest quality (and the most resistant to corrosion) is food-grade 18/10 stainless steel. Do confirm the ratio numbers before making a purchase, as unlabeled products can contain higher ratios of some harmful metals like aluminum, cadmium, manganese, and nickel. You can also opt for Dutch ovens and cast-iron pans, which are excellent for baking and frying. It’s best to avoid cast-iron products that are coated in anything besides ceramic or enamel. To ensure that your products are free from lead and cadmium, select cast-iron cookware that either meets or exceeds California Prop 65 (the strictest U.S. standard for cadmium and lead content). Keep your cast iron seasoned with oil and well-maintained; it will rust if left damp. You can also opt for ceramic, which contains no metals, or carbon steel, which is safe and efficient for high-performance cooking.
The next chemical to look out for is BPA, as constant exposure throughout your life may increase your risk of altered metabolism, reproductive complications, hypertension, insulin resistance, and certain types of cancer. Some everyday products that contain BPA are make-up and feminine products, hygiene products (like shampoo and toothpaste) and their containers, canned goods, sales receipts, and hard plastics. These plastics can include water bottles, plastic baggies, Tupperware, plastic utensils, and plastic plates and cups. You can make a conscious effort to decrease your BPA contact every day by using glassware to store food, avoiding canned goods, eating non-pre-packaged foods, avoiding the use of hand sanitizer, and purchasing BPA-free make-up and hygiene products. This may feel overwhelming, but if you actively make one lifestyle change per week, you will make a significant difference in your exposure levels in no time flat.
As far as other kinds of household pollutants go, some common exposure risks include:
- Asbestos – Used in insulation, linked to lung and stomach cancers.
- Arsenic – Known carcinogen used in pesticides and wood preservatives.
- Carbon monoxide – Causes headache, nausea, and death; comes from non-maintained furnaces burning butane, oil, or propane.
- House dust – Causes allergies from bacteria, mites, mold spores, pesticides, lead, cadmium, dust mites, flea eggs, and asbestos.
- Lead – Found in paint in older houses, it causes neurological and kidney damage, high blood pressure, reproductive problems, and contributes to learning disabilities and behavioral problems.
- Radon – This natural radioactive gas enters homes through cracks in the foundation or through well water, and is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S.
- Formaldehyde – Causes eye and respiratory irritation when it evaporates from cushions, cosmetics, disinfectants, adhesives, and carpet.
- Pesticides – These poisons, used to control fungi, insects, rodents, and weeds, cause nervous system depression and childhood leukemia.
Of course, always check with your naturopathic doctor if you suspect that you have any of these elements in your household that may be causing you to react physically to your daily exposures. Some other recommendations from our doctors include strengthening your adrenal glands and maintaining the health of your digestive tract.
Adjusting Your Diet to Support Your Adrenal Glands.
Your adrenals affect immune function, oxygen levels, hormones (including reproductive hormones), blood pressure, sleep, and inflammation in multiple areas of the body. Support your adrenal function by avoiding excess caffeine and all trans fats. Avoid big swings in your blood sugar; this means no skipping meals. Limit excess starches and sugars like white flour products, refined sugars, pasta, chips, cookies, and potatoes. Consume a variety of raw and cooked vegetables (for the vitamin content). And finally, aim for at least 7 ½ hours of sleep per night. Your naturopathic doctor can give you additional tips and adaptations which you can incorporate in order to best support your adrenal glands.
A Healthy Digestive Tract
Finally, maintaining a healthy digestive tract will prevent undesirable symptoms such as bloating, food sensitivities, inflammation, constipation, abdominal discomfort, fatigue, and even skin rashes. Your gastrointestinal tract is responsible for your body’s digestion, absorption, intestinal integrity, and waste elimination. When any of these areas are compromised, perhaps from antibiotics, alcohol use, hormone imbalance, bacterial or parasitic infections, stress, or yeast overgrowth, the result could be an immune reaction. Your naturopathic doctor can prescribe a GI Revive program to improve and heal the gastrointestinal tract, including your gut ecology, which is the balance of microbes in your gut.
We're Here to Help!
We understand that this information is a lot to absorb and that’s why we’re here. Your naturopathic doctor can coach you through small lifestyle adjustments a little at a time. The more positive changes you make to your diet and lifestyle, the faster your health will improve. Soon, you’ll be seeking out more changes to make, because you’ll delight in the healthy feelings that come as a result.
Build Health. Live Well.