Can toxins in our environment make us fat?
February 22, 2011
Toxins. You hear about them all the time. Your masseuse hands you a bottle of water after the massage to help you flush out the toxins they released during the massage. You can get Jillian Michaels detox in a box at WalMart to jumpstart your “biggest loser” diet. So last year I decided that I wanted to learn more about toxins. I was ready to find out it was a nothing to be concerned with. Turns out I was wrong.
It’s much worse than I ever thought. On average we are exposed to over 500 chemicals a day, and many stay in our bodies and wreak all kinds of havoc. The average adult has between 150-170 man-made chemicals in his or her body at any given time, and many of these chemicals weren’t around even 20 years ago. It might not be so bad if these were harmless, but many of them turn out to be very damaging. Let’s just focus on a few of these and how they may hinder our fat loss.
Phthalates: Phthalates are a class of plastics that many of you should be familiar with. Manufacturers use these to make things smell good or to make plastics soft and pliable. They’re in Glade PlugIns, those beautiful scented candles we love, perfume, deodorant -- if it smells good, chances are it contains a phthalate, and as soon as you smell it, it’s going in you. These little guys suppress testosterone, mimic estrogen, and have links to many cancers. What’s more, the changes these phthalates make in your hormonal profile can make it harder for you to gain or maintain muscle.
BPA: BPA is another chemical that mimics estrogens and also drops testosterone making it harder to make that fat burning muscle. While we’ve made some headway getting them out of baby bottles and your water bottle, they’re still everywhere. In fact, the latest Evironmental Working Group cord blood study, which is where they look at toxins in babies, found that 9 out of 10 babies have BPA in their bodies at birth. Where do we get them you ask? They’re in that little can of diet soda or your canned foods (especially any tomato products), and the latest reports show that a large amount of BPA comes from the receipts you get from almost any retail store.
Heavy metals: These are everywhere and not always where you’d think. Unfiltered water can be a source, toys imported from China, and even cheap supplements (including well-known supplements like Muscle Milk, which can contain mercury, cadmium, lead, and arsenic). Also, if you run on the roads near traffic, you dramatically increase your levels of heavy metals. These metals can play roles in many functions in the body, from disrupting thyroid function to blocking metabolic pathways, making it harder to lose weight.
So what to do then? Well, if your sink was plugged and the water was running, you would first turn off the faucet. In the same way, you should start by trying to turn off the flow of toxins. Begin with getting rid of those air fresheners, and check your topical products out at www.cosmeticsdatabase.com for phthalates and other chemicals. Try to use glass or ceramic containers for eating and drinking, especially when microwaving food. Get a filter for your water-- even a cheap one will help. Choose supplements from quality producers and companies who test for heavy metals and solvents. And if you can take that run through the woods or on a bike trail instead of near a busy road, that’s fantastic.
After you’ve turned off the sink, unplug the drain. Our bodies use many things to get rid of toxins, mostly amino acids and trace minerals. These are some of the first things to deplete when our bodies deal with everyday chemicals. A diet rich in a wide variety of vegetables and high quality animal proteins (preferably wild or grass-fed) is where you should start to restore healthy levels of toxin-fighting nutrients. Adding a quality multivitamin/mineral is another good step.
You won’t be able to avoid toxins completely, but you can certainly minimize the exposure. Your goal is to become a sieve for these chemicals, rather than a holding tank. This is just one step towards a healthier body and achieving your weight loss goals. If you want to read more on this topic, I would suggest the following books:
Clean, Green, and Lean: Get Rid of the Toxins That Make You Fat by Walter Crinnon
Achieving Victory Over a Toxic World by Mark Schauss
Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie