Toxic Home, Toxic Body

Dr. Laura Roxann Alexander
11 min readOct 30, 2023

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There are many sources of chemicals and toxic elements that interfere with maintaining health. Good nutrition, sleep, and regular exercise are sometimes not enough. We live in a toxic environment. Toxin exposure is not a rare event. Our environment; the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the home we live in are significant sources of toxin exposure. Think on this, day in and day out, small amounts of volatile organic compounds might be causing your migraine. Endocrine disrupting chemicals might be causing your infertility, weight gain, mood swings, low libido. Persistent organic pollutants might be the only cause of your weight gain. These chemicals are ending up in your body through touch, the act of breathing, and by ingesting. They can affect the body in a myriad of ways and lead to a wide range of symptoms. Anything from headaches to brain fog, high blood pressure to high cholesterol, dementia to memory loss; all can be symptoms of toxin buildup.

If you think your safe because you live in the country, think again. Our indoor air can be 2 to 5 times more polluted than the outside air. More than 40,000 chemicals are used to manufacture common consumer goods. Many of these chemicals are deemed safe on an individual level. The problem is that there is no one chemical that we are in contact with at any one time. The mixture of these toxins have dramatic and cumulative effects. An individual’s toxin tolerance is unique and the ability to eliminate certain toxins are highly variable. What is the status of your liver? What about your vitamin and mineral intake? Nutrient deficiencies create even more dysfunction. Not only is ultra-processed food full of synthetic chemicals, it also is devoid of nutrients necessary to promote your own detoxification process.

Living a non-toxic life

Living a non-toxic life means taking actionable steps that will have the greatest impact on your health and wellness. The truth is that our bodies are making new cells and healing 24/7. Once a diagnosis is received that does not mean there is nothing you can do about it. Even age related changes can be arrested if we add in nutrients the body needs and remove sources of toxins.

What does that mean? You have control! Yes, you have actual control over your health. Our bodies are powerful and they have powerful systems in place to detoxify our blood with the aid our livers, kidneys, intestines, lungs, and even our sweat. These organs and the entire system is working non-stop to remove harmful substances. As soon as the chemicals are removed, our body can heal.

The problem then, begins with the inability to get away from those toxins and unmet nutritional needs. We cannot live in a bubble. Therefore we must become a toxin detective. The government isn’t keeping us safe from these toxins, we as individual must do the work. There are many people out there lobbying for safer, cleaner products and as consumers we can make an impact by purchasing products that meet certain safety standards that are rating through agencies outside the governement. The Environmental Working Group is one such agency. Also following the Europena Unions recommendations are helpful as well. Sadly, Europe is way ahead of the US in terms of banning certain harmful chemicals and protecting the public. My hope is that an increase in awareness on the subject of environmental toxins and each of us as individuals demanding safer products, will create change for future generations. Until then, there are practical tips that you can do at home to decrease your risk of disease from toxins. To undercover just how many toxins are lurking in your home and in your environment we must understand what toxins actually are, what they do, and how you can identify and eliminate them from your life.

Toxins are any substance that causes damage or functional disturbances to a human body.

There are six major ways toxins can harm us.

  1. Cellular damage- Toxins can damage individual cells. Our DNA, mitochondria and cell membranes are particularly vulnerable to toxins. Damaging the cells leads to a decrease in energy production, promotes cancer, and impairs cell signaling. This affects any cells function.
  2. Mitochondrial damage- Toxins can change the behavior of the enzymes and proteins used in energy generation which triggers mitochondrial death and keeps the organelles from regenerating.
  3. Enzyme dysfunction- Toxins can impair any enzyme necessary for human functioning, from detoxification to thyroid hormones. For example, fluoride can take the place of iodine, which will result in a mis-folding of the protein and a hormone that can’t work.
  4. Displacement- Lead can displace calcium from bones and Bisphosphenol-A can displace testosterone from it’s protein carrier.
  5. Immune System Disruption- Toxins can create immune hypervigilence and autoimmune disease.
  6. Hormone Receptor Dysfunction- Toxins can change the shape of the hormone receptor temporarily or by blocking it permanently. Endocrine disrupting chemicals from plastics work in this way.

What the body doesn’t eliminate, it stores. Where it stores it can be anywhere from the brain, bone, nervous tissues, and adipose tissue. Adipose tissue is the largest storage site of excess chemicals, including persistent organic pollutants, endocrine disrupting hormones, and even our own endogenous chemicals like cortisol and estrogen. Rapid weight loss can inadvertently cause damage to our organs and tissue because of quantity of toxins released and the overall burden that places on our livers.

Persistent detox capability is key for sustaining health long-term because most body burden is through chronic, low level exposure. Rapid detoxification or weight loss can pose risks and gentle cleanses along with an increase in exercise, use of saunas, and maintaining optimal bowel function is key to reducing damage and maintaining health. Toxin clearance varies dramatically and depends on the state of our organs and overall health as well as dietary patterns. Working with a practioner is highly recommended if you are struggling with unexplained weight gain, headaches, muscle fatigue, joint pain, autoimmune disease, hormone imbalances, mood imbalances, and brain fog or memory loss. Don’t let the “it’s just age” mentality stand in your way to making long term, sustainable changes that can impact your life. It’s not just age, not even close!

Identifying the Supertoxins

There a few items found in many households that Daniella Chace in her book, “Home Detox,” calls supertoxins. Those items emit such high levels of chemicals in the air that once we’ve breathed them in and absorbed them in our blood stream, they can cause asthma, headaches, inflammation and even chronic fatigue. Eliminating these from your home is a great first step. Air fresheners, brominated flame retardants, teflon and other fluoropolmers, bath bombs, dryer sheets, and incense are all supertoxic and if you really think on it, highly unnecessary. All of the above chemicals are considered volatile compounds or, in the case of the teflon, can release compounds into the air when heated.

The air we breath

What we do most often matters most. What we do the most of each day? Breathe. Chronic low exposure to chemicals such as those used in paints, nail polish adhesive, wood finishers and air fresheners contain products such as acetone, hexane, and acetaldehyde. All of which can promote cancer. So what steps can you do to minimize these chemicals? Go outside! Open your windows in the summer and winter for an hour or more and let the house air out. Minimize use of any chemicals that have a strong scent, especially chemicals sprayed in the air. Don’t believe the hype of Febreeze. Purchase an air purifier for your home, preferably one that contains a HEPA filter and is certified to remove household containments.

Drink More Water

Drink more water. Yes, even though water can be a huge source of toxin exposure, water is necessary for all biological processes and our detoxification system. There are many ways you can make sure you are consumer cleaner water. Buy a home filtration unit, use a personal reusable stainless steel or glass water bottle and go to the Environmental Working Groups Tap Water Database for more information. You can even view your water by state and zip code. Water maybe a tough one to tackle but you can start small. First, just stop drinking excess juices, milk, coffee, soda, or even carbonated water. Second, begin your day with a large glass of lemon water which will help you begin your day in a hydrated state. Third, stop purchasing tons of plastic water bottles that contain microplastics and use a simple reusable bottle.

Putting on Your Face

The bathroom might be your first stop after rolling out of bed in the morning. There you might find highly volatile toxins thanks to plastic curtains, memory foam products, microorganisms, and hair products. Air fresheners might be by the toilet and these products are among the worst indoor air pollutants we bring into our homes. They emit formaldehyde, phthalates and volatile organic compounds which can trigger sensory irritation, respiratory symptoms, and autoimmune issues. These are called secondhand scents and even short-term exposure can cause skin reactions, migraines, fatigue, asthma, visual disorders and nausea. Some people may even be chemically sensitive and not even know it.

A major source of toxins for women can be the “stuff” we slather on our faces every morning. Believe it or not, there are no laws in place that keep companies from using health-damaging compounds in their products.

“The average woman puts 515 synthetic chemicals on her body every single day!” Home Detox

What we put on our skin goes directly into circulation and bypasses the liver’s ability to modify a chemical so it can be excreted from the body. Soap, face wash, hand sanitizer, lipstick, foundation, eyeshadow, you name it, it is full of chemicals that are known hormone disruptors. These endocrine disruptors affect both men and women and can affect any bodily system, including fertility and metabolism. Plastics, phtlates, aluminum, parabens, formaldehyde, microplastics, and triclosan which is the common ingredient in hand sanitizer, all can disrupt the bodies communication system and have a drastic effect on how we feel.

There are clean make-up alternatives made from plant based materials and minerals. I always check the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database for clean alternatives. I also encourage you to ask yourself why you feel the need for products in the first place. They are not necessary for health and in fact moisturizers can often cause the skin to dry out and affect our skin’s microbiome so that we feel the need to use more and more of the moisturizer. Washing with harsh chemicals daily affects the pH of the skin and our body’s own ability to maintain hydration. I encourage you to do a 2 to 3 week product free cleanse. Use the Skin Deep database to find alternatives and keep it to a minimum. I’ve been make-up free for years now and my skin looks and feels better than it did in my 20s. At the end of the day our skin is an organ just like our liver. It requires healthy fats, protein, hydration and a balance of natural bacteria to maintain it’s function.

Beware the word fragrance which can literally mean over 40,000 different chemicals in a chemical soup. The manufact can use the word fragrance on a label and it can be a cumulation of many, many chemicals.

Toxic Kitchen

Our kitchens play such an important role in maintaining our health but the average kitchen is loaded with toxins in food packaging, cooking equipment and other items. The kitchen is the most critical room in the home to clean up because so many kitchen toxins touch our food and water. Other areas of the house expose us to toxins via our skin and lungs but in the kitchen, we consume them too.

What do we cook our food on? First step in detoxifying the kitchen is to stop cooking food on aluminum and use beeswax food wrap and patchment paper instead. Aluminum is a heavy metal that acts as a neurotoxin and has been linked to anemia, Alzheimer’s disease, and breat cancer. Even though we know this, it is still being used in products that touch our food. I find this a bit baffling. Processed foods especially are highly contaminated by aluminum due to its use in manufacturing facilities and packaging. Replace aluminum pans with stainless steel, cast iron, copper or ceramic.

For some people, coffee pods are the first thing they use each day and the first source of toxin exposure. When hot water is forced through the plastic, the heat carries phthalates and other chemicals from the plastic right into the coffee. These pods are hurting you and the planet. Don’t use the recycled pods! They have a high level of formaldehyde due to the way that the plastics are melded together at the recycling center. Coffee itself may also be a source of lead, nickel, and mold that can lead to hormonal changes, breast cancer, dementia and autoimmune conditions. A french press is a wonderful single use alternative and in my opnion, tastes better. I also suggest finding coffee brands that state they are sustainably sourced as well as routinely tested for mold and heavy metals. You may end up paying an extra 2 or 3 dollars a bag, but it is worth it.

Other items in the kitchen that are sources of toxic exposure are cutting boards, food packaging, soap, food storage containers, sponges, teflon pans, and sprays used to clean the kitchen. The kitchen is truly the most complex source of chemicals in our homes and reducing toxic items can help you decrease inflammation and maintain your health. I recommend using Home Detox as a guide so overwhelm doesn’t cause you to give up before you get started.

Necessary Products?

Landfills across the United States are full and other countries have starting denial our waste. Did you know that we ship our plastic waste to other countries? What an incredibly sad fact. Many recycling centers are overloaded and not accepting new materials. Even when you buy something that is technically recyclable, it may stil end up in a landfill at the end of its life. I wa shocked when I went to my local donation center and saw the warehouse filled to the brim with boxes and boxes of junk. I am a minimalist at heart and seeing these discarded items really hurts. What is truly necessary in your own life? Toxin avoidance isn’t just about minimizing those products that physically harm your biological processes, but also those products that take up space in your home, your mind and now all over our planet.

Toxin Avoidance

Riding ourselves of toxins won’t happen in a day or even a month or two. It takes time and effort to go through your home room by room. I suggest starting with the two most toxic areas, the kitchen and the bathroom, and work your way out from there. Minimize your beauty products and keep the ultra-processed junk food out of your pantry and your mouth. Support your body and give it what it really needs to thrive with plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and fats. Toxin avoidance isn’t about perfection, but doing the best you can to minimize exposure.

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Dr. Laura Roxann Alexander

Pharmacist.Personal Trainer.Lift heavy, skip the run.Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food.