We make choices many times a day that either guide us towards or away from health. I am going to walk you through a typical day, and highlight the opportunities we have to make PROACTIVE choices.
Let’s start with the morning. How do you wake up? A jarring alarm clock can startle you out of sleep and trigger a stress response. We all know that stress is harmful, but it’s important to know that cortisol, your stress hormone slows down your bodies ability to detoxify, making you more vulnerable to the chemicals in our environments. In essence, the more stress hormones in your bloodstream, the more reactive you will be the the many chemicals you come into contact with daily. Try to wake to a gentle sound, that gets progressively louder or if possible, avoid using an alarm clock. Morning is also the best time of day to jot down your intentions for the day, how you want to feel, and your “to do” list. Planning to feel good help to keep your stress hormones down.
The first choice you encounter is what to drink first thing in the morning and your best bet is filtered water. Adding lemon to your water helps to stimulate bile flow, which promotes elimination. Adding mint can help wake you up. Ginger will help you settle any morning queasiness and help you digest breakfast. Or you can add fruit like berries, oranges or cucumber to add flavour and nutrients to the water. You simply cannot detoxify without enough water and not drinking enough is what makes so many of us struggle to excrete toxins. There is a very true saying out there: Dilution is the solution to pollution.
The next choice is what to eat for breakfast. Smoothie make an excellent choice because they are fast, portable and can be easily customized. This is important because what is good for some, is not good for all. For example, if you have hypothyroidism there is a limit to how much raw cruciferous veggies, like kale you should eat. For a hypothyroid patient, the kale would be best steamed so it doesn’t inhibit the thyroid gland. An even better green option would be parsley or romaine lettuce. Smoothies taste sweeter with fruit, but if you are easily bloated and gassy you may be aggravated by apples, mangoes, pears, peaches and watermelon. Limit the fruit content of your smoothie and use organic berries whenever possible. If you are using a protein powder in your smoothie you want to beware of artificial sweeteners. Sucralose, aka Splenda is a hormone disruptor and aspartame can be very toxic to all of your cells, especially those of your brain. Make sure you add some good fat to your smoothie like flax oil, hemp oil, or avocado to help you absorb all of those nutrients. If smoothies aren’t your thing, find a way to eat veggies in the morning. There is nothing to say you can’t eat leftovers for breakfast. You can also use a greens powder in water if you struggle to eat veggies in the morning. My favourite is Raw Reserve by Amazing Grass.
Now it’s time to get ready for work. This is a very important choice because we absorb everything we put on our skin. Our beauty habits account for one of the greatest sources of toxins we come into contact with daily. David Suzuki has created a very important list called the Dirty Dozen Cosmetic Chemicals. Use this as your guide to safer products.
Your next choice comes one your way to work. What are you listening to? Driving in silence can help you prepare for the day by visualizing what you want to happen. Calm music can help reduce the cortisol raised by driving. If you have an air freshener, pull over and throw it out. Each breath brings more toxic fumes to your brain and into your bloodstream. There is an incredible amount of off gassing of toxic fumes that already occurs in the car, so it is best not to add to it. Whenever possible, drive with the windows open. Even though Essex County air is not known for its freshness, it is still better than the off gassing from the car.
What are you breathing at work? Many offices and schools have windows that do not open. Indoor air is much more toxic than outdoor air. One simple way to improve your indoor air is to have peace lilies and garden mums nearby, which can filter the most variety of air pollution.
The next obvious fork in our life is what to eat for lunch. Is it possible that your lunch choice can actually protect you from heart disease, cancer, depression, anxiety or Alzheimer’s? If you are one of the up to 40% of people that have the MTHFR gene, then a salad with spinach, arugula, parsley, lentils really could improve your life. People with the MTHFR gene are unable to use synthetic folic acid to protect their DNA. That means they need to get naturally occurring folate from their foods or else they are at higher risk of mutations, along with imbalances in their neurotransmitters. Eating a salad is also not enough. People with this gene should also avoid synthetic folic acid which is found in prenatals, multis, B vitamins and even more ubiquitously in fortified foods like white flour, pasta, breads, nutrition bars as well as a lot of gluten free products. What’s interesting is that this synthetic type of folic acid can actually become toxic to this group of people. This is why whole foods are your best bet for nutrients and why you should always eat vegetables with every meal.
As the afternoon rolls on, most of us as faced with another big decision: what to snack on when we crave sugar. The first thing to do is drink water because you are probably thirsty. If that doesn’t do the trick, grab a big dried fig. Figs help to bind up any toxins that are in your digestive tract. They help your liver break down the chemicals around us that mimic estrogen and put us at higher risk for breast cancer. They are also a great source of calcium and iron. If it’s chocolate you are craving, stick a piece a dark square or a few dark chocolate chips into the fig.
It’s now dinner time, another important choice in our day. What are you cooking on? If it’s teflon, get rid of it. The fumes teflon creates are toxic to your immune system and even worse for your kids. You can safely use all glass, stainless steel, cast iron (as long as you don’t have iron overload) and ceramic as long as it is not chipping.
So what do you throw in that healthy pan? We all need a fast option so it’s okay to take short cuts. The most important ingredients in your dinner are vegetables. When you build around that, it will always be healthy. One of my favourite “fast food” strategies is to use shredded cabbage. I buy it shredded to save time. It’s not a dirty dozen veggie so it doesn’t have to be organic. Shredded cabbage can be tossed in a salad, and it’s also great for adding bulk to a stir fry and makes a great substitute for noodles. Cabbage contains glucosinolates, a phytonutrient your body converts into cancer fighting compounds. It can protect you from H pylori, a common stomach infection that can cause ulcers. It is also has cholesterol lowering properties. In addition to stir-frying cabbage you should add crimini mushrooms. If you want to save time, get them sliced. What makes crimini mushrooms so special is that they are a surprising source of CLA, a fatty acid that is not just good for burning fat but also helps women with hormone dependent cancer to reduce the amount of dangerous estrogen the body makes. CLA is mostly found in animal foods like meat and dairy, so this makes it a great vegetarian source for an important nutrient. They can also potentially provide B12, produced by the bacteria that grows on the them. B12 is also found primarily in animal foods. Adding in a can of lentils or chickpeas with some rosemary and garlic makes a super healthy, fast stir-fry.
As the day comes to a close, one of the last choices in our day is what to snack on after dinner. This is when most of us get derailed because our stress hormones have been running high all day causing our blood sugar to be all over the place. Instead of cookies, try eating a banana or apple with organic peanut butter and hemp seeds sprinkled on it. Hemp is a complete and very easy to digest protein. It is an excellent source of omega 3 fats, which is an essential nutrient to protect our cells from toxins. Organic peanuts have more antioxidants than carrots, beets and strawberries and it is those antioxidants that also protect our DNA from toxins. They are a great source of folate, protein and cancer fighting phytonutrients.
Lastly, it is time for bed. It is very important that you sleep in complete darkness so that melatonin, one of our bodies most potent anti-oxidants can be released. Melatonin can help keep cancer in check and it allows your hormones to balance and your body to heal.
The goal at the end of the day is to provide your body with all the nutrients it needs to detoxify efficiently, while avoiding any unnecessary and harmful toxins to add to your toxic load. Tomorrow, you can get to do it all over again.