Tuesday 21 February 2012

Losing toxins, gaining health

The key factors that contribute to health problems and weight gain are :

  • Stress/lack of sleep
  • Malnutrition (poor diet and/or gut dysfunction)
  • Toxin overload

Early this week there was an article mentioned in the news which estimates around 5000 cancers per year are caused by carcinogens in the workplace. So I decided to track down said article and see what all the hoo-ha was about. It turns out Lin Fritschi and friends discovered that indeed people are being exposed to “chemical, physical and microbiological agents” at work which could be causing cancer, with the key culprits including silica, asbestos, solar radiation, diesel exhaust and tobacco. Which means in order to protect ourselves we need to stay indoors, away from cars, construction sites and smokers; and then we need to not use our computers or mobile phones to avoid radiation exposure which will also give us cancer. And god forbid we drink a little alcohol on the weekends! Perhaps we should just do as Pauly Shore did and live in a Biodome:

Wow, what a bad movie that was. The reality is that unless you live in a bubble, you will be exposed to some form of toxin each and every day, if not multiple times per day, just by going about your daily activities. So unless you can afford to go and live in the wilderness with the lemurs in Madagascar (see image below) my suggestion would be to try and minimise your overall exposure as much as possible. 

Get to the point, you say? OK – I’m talking about the easiest way to reduce your toxin load:

Control what you put in your mouth! It is the one thing that YOU are in control of – not your employer, not the government, not me – YOU need to take responsibility for your own health.

Here are some fun facts on some pesticides with fancy names that you may be chomping on with your fruit and veg:

  • Chlorothalonil – long term exposure has been shown to cause kidney damage and tumours; listed as a “probable human carcinogen” (probable??? How is that OK??); highly toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates (great, so if it doesn’t kill us, we’ll just be left with no marine life. Awesome)
  • Buprofezin – listed as a “possible human carcinogen”; not known as to whether or not it is a developmental or reproductive toxin, or endocrine (hormone) disruptor. (Pretty sure we should have a definite ‘yes’ or ‘no’ before spraying these babies willy-nilly).

But fruit and vegetable are healthy, right? Yes, yes they are. When grown properly and not lathered with pesticides and fungicides, they should contribute a large proportion of your diet. Just think – do you really want to eat something that not even rats and bugs will eat??

Now, while I would love to tell you to eat all organic food, this is just not realistic. First of all, it is expensive (although the money you spend now might save you in healthcare costs later in life), and if you live in a rural or remote area and do not grow your own, it may be difficult to access. I know the organic section at Coles and Woolies tends to be very limited. Therefore, I give you……..


Fruit and especially vegetables are extremely important to a healthy diet, providing (among other things) an abundance of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and fibre. Staple this to your head when you go to the supermarket to substantially lower your pesticide intake by avoiding the most contaminated produce:

Dirty Dozen (Buy these organic, if you can)
  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines
  7. Grapes
  8. Capsicum
  9. Potatoes
  10. Blueberries
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale/Collard Greens

Clean Fifteen (Lowest in pesticide – not as essential to choose organic)
  1. Onions
  2. Sweet Corn (although this is often genetically modified)
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Asparagus
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Mangoes
  8. Eggplant
  9. Rockmelon
  10. Kiwi fruit
  11. Cabbage
  12. Watermelon
  13. Sweet Potatoes
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Mushrooms

You can find a more extensive list here.

Note: apparently the residue testing was carried out on these foods after they were washed with high-power water systems, so don’t be fooled into thinking that washing them makes them safe. Also remember that “natural” is not the same as “organic”. When buying organic produce, always look for these symbols:

Do you have any suggestions on minimising your toxin exposure? Are you concerned at all about toxins? Will you use this list?



  1. Hi Kate, thanks for sharing this info! Super informative (I was one of those people who thought washing fruit and veg was the solution).

    Having recently added two weekly yoga practices back into my life, and seeing the increasing attention - positive and negative (see, eg, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/20/its-not-too-late-to-become-a-yoga-believer/?ref=yoga) - that it's getting in the media, I'm wondering what people mean when they say that one of the benefits of yoga is that it helps to 'flush out toxins'? These claims seem to be more associated with bikram yoga (http://www.lululemon.com/education/yoga/bikram-yoga) but occasionally one of my yoga instructors will refer to 'flushing toxins' as well and I don't do bikram yoga!

    Anyhoo, got any tips on how we can reduce toxins that we've already taken in?

  2. Hi there!

    I'm not a big enough yogi (although I wish I was) to comment too much on what they say about toxins, but I believe the poses are supposed to massage your internal organs and lymphatic system and therefore help with general digestion and detoxification. I could be wrong though, so you may want to ask your yoga instructor.

    In terms of toxins already ingested, your liver plays this role, so if you think you may be quite "toxic" you should pay special attention to this super-organ. This could mean going a month with no alcohol and/or supplementing with a liver tonic from a naturopath. Also, making sure your diet consists of whole foods, and clean, filtered water. If your diet is really good, I would suggest chatting with a naturopath if this is something you are concerned about.

    Hope this helps!