Everyday Toxin Exposure
As a naturopathic doctor, I strive to find a balance between educating patients about how to avoid toxin exposure, and also recognize that some degree of exposure is largely out of our control. For example, while we can control aspects of indoor air pollution with filters and using natural household cleaners, the quality of the outdoor air where we live, work and play is largely out of our control. To set people up for success, I emphasize focusing on the choices that we can control.
An aspect of everyday life that is largely within our control is the food that we choose to eat. The modern food supply certainly has inherent limitations, including soil depletion and long-haul transportation that consequently lowers nutrient and flavor status. Compared to the era of our grandparents, we as a society have become disconnected from our food, as farms are no longer a part of our community experience.
Yet, I do see signs of positive change in this area every day. For example, the number of farmer’s markets has experienced a meteoric rise all over the country. Restaurants featuring local foods are gaining popularity. When noticing these trends happening all around them, patients often ask me, “Is it really worth it to buy organic fruits and vegetables rather than conventional?”
My answer is a resounding “Yes!”
Let’s look at the data. One of the most compelling studies to date has a pretty simple design and yielded quick results. Basically, children were given an organic diet to replace their conventional one. The organic diet replacement was done for 5 days. During that time, organophosphorus pesticides were measured in the urine.
The outcome was clear, “In conclusion, we were able to demonstrate that an organic diet provides a dramatic and immediate protective effect against exposures to organophosphorus pesticides that are commonly used in agricultural production.” Specific metabolites actually decreased to undetectable levels right after the switch to organic foods, and then increased again once the conventional foods were brought back.
Looking at the results of this study, it seems that we should all eat organic all of the time, no questions asked. However, this isn’t always possible when shopping on a budget. To empower people to make informed choices, I like to recommend the “EWG’s (Environmental Working Group’s) 2016 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™,“ and the Dirty Dozen list. These fruits and vegetables have high pesticide usage and contain the highest residues.
Consequently, I suggest patients always buy organic from this list. Apples, peaches, nectarines and strawberries top the Dirty Dozen. Equally as important is the “Clean Fifteen”, the list of foods with the lowest pesticide usage and residue levels. For instance, for patients who need advice on foods to purchase that are not organic, focus on foods such as avocados, sweet corn, pineapples and cabbage. Simply go to www.ewg.org/foodnews to access the full list.
Knowledge is power. When patients have the knowledge to make healthy choices about what they can control, then they can limit toxin exposure and optimize health.
Erin Stokes, ND is the Medical Director at INNATE Response. Erin’s personal mission is to empower people with the inspiration and tools to change their lives. She received her Naturopathic Doctor degree from Bastyr University in 2001. Shortly afterwards she began to pursue her passion for educating others by teaching Western Pathology and Psychology of Healing at Southwest Acupuncture College in Boulder, Colorado.
By Erin Stokes, ND
Erin combines her experience as a Naturopathic Doctor with an extensive background in the natural retail industry. Most recently she worked as a Lead Practitioner at Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy for 6.5 years. The focus of Erin’s Naturopathic practice in Boulder, Colorado is on healthy Moms. She believes, “When Moms are healthy, the world can be healthy.”