Nanci Miklowski, ND
Reducing Body Burden
Updated: Aug 22, 2019
What is Body Burden?
Every day we are exposed to harmful chemicals and toxins, which creates a burden on our bodies. Today’s average person is carrying 700 chemicals in their body (1). Unfortunately, even newborns are affected. One study tested newborn umbilical cord blood and found over 200 contaminants already present (2). These toxins, if not properly cleared, create a body burden and can cause an array of symptoms and ailments.
To better explain this concept, I like to use a rain barrel analogy. Rain barrels collect water from downspouts and the stored water is drained by a tap at the bottom of the barrel. If no one ever opens the tap, the collected water will eventually overflow. The same happens with our bodies. We absorb, ingest, and inhale toxins and certain bodily mechanisms help to eliminate them. But if our detoxification pathways are jammed up or we aren’t making healthy choices, our bodies will “overflow” with these toxins.
What are Sources of Body Burden?
The following all cause a burden to and affect the health of our bodies:
Chemicals...Pesticides and herbicides, plastic, phthalates, perfluoroalkyls and polyfluoroalkyls (PFAs), flame retardants, artificial flavor/colors, etc.
Drugs, alcohol, cigarettes
Indoor and outdoor pollution...Artificial fragrances (the new second-hand smoke), cigarettes (first, second and third-hand), bleach/ammonia, volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
Pathogens (bacteria and viruses)
Poor diet/nutrient deficiencies
Trauma (emotional and physical)
How Can We Reduce Our Body Burden?
There are three ways to reduce your body burden: (1) avoidance, (2) clearance, and (3) healthy habits. Let’s look at each one individually.
This is a huge component of reducing body burden. If you never absorb, ingest, or inhale the toxin, then it won’t burden your body. There are so many avenues in which we are exposed to toxins, such as food, water, air, clothing, body care products, cleaning products, furniture, etc. The list goes on and on.
Luckily there are two wonderful resources that can help you identify your main exposures and how to avoid them. The first is the Environmental Working Group (EWG). This fantastic, non-profit organization (donate if you can! 😊) is “dedicated to protecting human health and the environment”. Here’s a short video about what they do:
EWG consumer guides help you chose safe body care products, the best water filter for your needs, healthy cleaning products, toxin-free sunscreen, and more.
One resource I frequently share with my patients is the EWG shopper’s guide that includes the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen. The Clean Fifteen includes produce that is low in pesticide residues, making them acceptable to be purchased conventionally/non-organic. The Dirty Dozen, on the other hand, lists the produce with high pesticide residues. It is best to buy these organic.
Click here to download your free guide! The EWG also has a free app called “Healthy Living” (Apple | Android).
The second resource to help you avoid toxins is another free app called “Detox Me” by Silent Spring (Apple | Android). It provides you a personalized guide to help you identify sources of toxins in your life and learn how to easily avoid them. What I really love about the app is that it allows you to set healthy goals and helps you track them. It’s a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to make healthier changes but feels overwhelmed and unsure where to start.
Okay, so now you are doing your best to avoid harmful chemicals. That's great! Unfortunately, we live in a pretty toxic world so we can never completely avoid all contaminants. That’s where our body’s natural clearance mechanisms come into play.
Our bodies are equipped with several emunctories, a fancy word for organs or parts of the body that eliminate waste. These include the skin (sweat), intestines (stool), kidney and bladder (urine), and lungs (gaseous waste). The emunctories must be “open” in order for you to eliminate properly.
What does it mean to be open? It means you are seeing healthy waste products every day: 1-3 formed stool, pale yellow urine every couple hours, sweating in response to increased activity, and regular deep, belly breaths. Certain healthy habits allow your emunctories to function more efficiently, which we will talk about shortly.
The liver, which is part of the gastrointestinal system, plays a very large role in bodily detoxification. You can learn more about the science here. Ways to support liver detox include regularly eating cruciferous vegetables, beets, and herbs like parsley and cilantro. There are several herbal teas available that gently support detoxification in the liver. I particularly like Yogi’s DeTox (***Check with your primary care provider before starting.***). Here's an article that discusses five ways to help your liver detox.
Lastly, let’s discuss 10 healthy habits to improve reduce your body burden.
1. Quit smoking/vaping.
2. Limit alcohol intake as much as possible. Avoid completely if feasible.
3. Drink plenty of filtered water. A rule of thumb is half your weight in ounces, i.e. a 150 pound person typically needs 75 ounces a day.
4. Increase fiber in your diet.
5. Eat a rainbow of vegetables daily.
6. Move your body every single day.
7. Reduce stress. This is a loaded one, I know. Here is a good resource - #9 is essential in today’s world.
8. Get 7-8 hours of sleep nightly.
9. Dry skin brushing.
10. Castor oil packs before bed.
In Health and Happiness,
(1) Onstot J, Ayling R, Stanley J. Characterization of HRGC/MS Unidentified Peaks from the Analysis of Human Adipose Tissue. Volume 1: Technical Approach. Washington, DC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Toxic Substances (560/6-87-002a), 1987.