Natural Medicine with Dr. Monique

By on September 17, 2014

Part 1: Easy ways to tank the toxins

This is the first in a series of articles about making a positive effect on your health through detoxification. This column will focus on detox through eliminating toxins in your diet and personal environment. Subsequent segments will discuss detoxing by supporting the bowels, lungs, skin, kidneys, lymph and liver.

Dr. Monique Lai is a local natural health expert.

Dr. Monique Lai is a local natural health expert.


Jackson Hole, Wyoming — Fall is one of the best times to detox. Naturopathic medicine, which I practice, is greatly influenced by Chinese medicine, wherein fall is associated with letting go of waste, like trees letting go of their leaves. In addition, we all gain a couple pounds when the weather turns and our bodies prepare for a Jackson winter, which is good (anyone else notice an increase in appetite during last week’s wet, cool spell?). A fall detox routine helps ensure that winter’s extra pounds are healthier ones.

I attend an environmental health conference every year to learn more about the detrimental effects of toxins on the body, as well as ways to eliminate them. According to Dr. Walter Crinnion, long-term exposure to chemicals can cause “immune dysregulation, autoimmunity, asthma, allergies, cancers, cognitive deficit, mood changes, neurological illnesses, changes in libido, reproductive dysfunction, and glucose dysregulation.” Sound bad? It is. And often, these toxins are closer than you think.

At this point, many of my patients ask nervously if I’m going to make them completely rearrange their lives. Relax, it’s not that complicated. It’s more about identifying simple changes to decrease the load, and the burden on our bodies.

Let’s look at a typical day, starting with brushing your teeth.

Studies conducted by the Environmental Working Group document that the average person comes into contact with 126 different chemicals in their personal care products and cosmetics: shampoo, soap, toothpaste, moisturizer, mascara, eyeliner, deodorant, shaving cream, etc. (Seriously, read the ingredients on your shaving cream can sometime). On average, we use nine products a day. A great start to decreasing your load begins with changing even a few of your products. The EWG website rates products, many of which can be found locally, including in Whole Grocer’s expanded personal care department.

Next, let’s talk about that cup of coffee or tea. This is a smart place to go organic. Tea is one of the crops most frequently sprayed with pesticides, sometimes up to 15 times a year. If you are drinking coffee, try to get organic, especially if you are drinking decaf. Be aware that the conventional decaffination process is done with the use of solvents. Try to find a decaf coffee that uses the Swiss water process.

When it comes to food, again stick to the gradual process of changeover. You don’t have to reinvent your diet in a day, but start by eating real food. That means avoiding processed snacks like candy, artificially flavored chips, and my personal detox archenemy: soda (especially diet). Replace them with a piece of organic fruit, nuts, chips without artificial ingredients or sparkling water.

A good tip is to shop more on the perimeter at the grocery store, rather than the middle where the processed food seems to be stocked. Read labels. If something you’re considering has an ingredient that you cannot pronounce, don’t eat it. Try to eat organic if possible and pick low mercury fish, like flounder, tilapia and wild Pacific salmon. This will definitely decease your toxic load.

Get in the habit of packing a lunch a couple times a week and carry it in a glass, ceramic or stainless steel container. Many plastic containers and water bottles contain bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates. Replace them. Wrap food up in wax paper for storage instead of using plastic wrap.

At home, consider reducing your exposure to chemicals from your non-stick pans, and replacing them with stainless steel, glass, ceramic or cast iron.

Many dishwashing liquids and all-purpose cleaners have VOCs. The EWG site rates these products as well. When it’s time to get a refill, consider a less toxic alternative.

As I said, you don’t have to turn your life upside down to lessen your exposure to everyday toxins. It’s more a matter of making a number of small changes over time. You absolutely will notice the difference.

If you feel like your exposure is very high and unavoidable from other sources, especially your job, there are tests available to check your current level of solvents and heavy metals.

Monique Lai, ND, is a naturopathic doctor and natural health expert with a family practice in Jackson Hole.









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