Master herbalist Vickie Gould shares how to lower your body’s exposure to toxins so you can live healthier, happier and ward off disease.
By Vickie Gould
Growing up, my mom didn’t teach me to cook. We ate whatever we wanted. Remember those huge plastic barrels of cheese balls? Well, I ate a lot of them after school each day. Most of my life, I figured that if something was being sold at the grocery store, it was food. Little did I know how wrong I was.
It took my being diagnosed at 38 with early onset osteoarthritis, early onset perimenopause, sick building syndrome, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, vertigo, cognitive disorder, lupus (which was a misdiagnosis) and chronic Lyme disease for me to finally investigate what was going on with my body. Yes, I got all these diagnosis very close together. The first thing I knew I needed to learn about was my food.
What I realized about healthy eating is that it’s not a trend you can just join. It’s not about your blood type. It’s not about making smoothies or juicing. And it’s definitely not about giving up bread.
Healthy eating (and living) is about lowering your toxin load. Our bodies are bombarded every day with internal and external toxins, and when we are unable to flush them out of the body faster than we’re taking them in, symptoms can occur.
One of the biggest problems I see in people that I’ve helped is that they get used to feeling a certain way. They don’t remember life ever being different. Then they don’t even realize something is wrong. They think how they feel is normal or just part of aging, they accept it and don’t realize they could be living a better life.
Signs you have too many toxins in your system:
- Brain fog
- Puffy face
- Dark circles under your eyes
- Insomnia/waking up at night
- Weight gain/inability to lose weight
- Achy joints or muscle pain
- Digestive issues (stomach and intestines)
- Fatigue even with sleep
- Chronic bad breath
- Sensitivity to chemicals (perfumes, household cleaners, exhaust)
- Rashes or eczema
There are three main things that happen when you have too many toxins:
- Your body has to use a lot of energy to get rid of them.
- They recirculate back into the system because they have nowhere else to go.
- Toxins store in your fat when they’re not flushed out so the only way to get rid of them in this location is to flush out more than you’re taking in.
So how can you lower your body’s exposure to toxins?
Lower Your External Exposure to Toxins
One easy step is to get rid of all the chemicals in your house and switch to natural, organic products and essential oils. I use hydrogen peroxide and lemon essential oil to clean, and you can also use baking soda for your toilets. Get rid of perfumes and candles, and if you need a scent, use essential oil blends instead in a diffuser.
Change Your Internal Exposure to Toxins
Clean up your eating habits by following these tips:
- Buy only clean organic foods where possible.
- Avoid foods with toxic pesticides.
- Do not eat GMO (genetically modified organisms). You can check your foods in the Non-GMO Project Verified
- Shop the perimeter of the grocery store.
- Read the labels of anything you buy in a box. If it comes in a box, the fewer ingredients the better.
- Research ingredients you’re not familiar with, including food dyes.
Empty Your Pantry of Toxins
At first, changing these habits may seem overwhelming. My suggestion is to empty your pantry of everything that is toxic so you won’t be tempted to eat it. Then just add one new replacement food at a time, starting with your favorite item.
For example, if you love popsicles, find organic juice bars with no added sugar. As you find food replacements one at a time, you’ll eventually know how to shop cleanly for your whole grocery list, or you’ll know how to make it from scratch (basically a smoothie in a popsicle tray).
Find Your Motivation
From experience, I know that sometimes people need a swift kick in the butt to make a change. For me it was illness. Find what will give you the motivation to stick with clean eating so that you’ll be most successful.
At times we can feel like our situation is hopeless or unchangeable. Is that really true? Maybe you’ve tried something in the past and it didn’t work, was too hard or you gave up. Ask yourself who you identify as — someone who is moody, can’t think straight or achy all the time? Or would you like to see yourself as energetic, happy and out enjoying life? Whichever you decide is whom you’ll gravitate toward being.
Learn to Love Cooking
If you love to cook already or know you can learn to enjoy cooking, you have a leg up. Home-cooked meals are the best because you can control all the ingredients. You can find just about any recipe your heart desires on Pinterest or by Googling. Any recipe can be modified with organic ingredients or substitutes like using arrowroot instead of GMO cornstarch.
However, if you feel like you struggle with cooking or don’t have enough time to shop, you can invest in an organic home-cooking meal prep program delivered right to your doorstep.
Organic Only Appears to be More Costly
I would be remiss to not discuss the added cost of organic groceries. Yes, per item it costs more, but the reality is that real food fills you up where junk food keeps you unsatisfied and looking for more. When you take that into consideration, it shouldn’t cost much more to switch over.
Final note: Just because it says “organic,” or “non-gmo project verified” it doesn’t mean you are clear to over indulge in the item. Organic cookies are still cookies and non-gmo lollipops are still candy.
Vickie Gould is a master herbalist, wellness coach and speaker. She is the best-selling author of “The Waiting Room” and “Herb Journal.” She often shares her chronic Lyme disease story hoping to inspire and give hope to those with chronic health issues. By changing her lifestyle, eating habits and lowering her toxin load she is back to living life after being in bed 16-18 hours per day. She runs a blog at detoxifiedlife-style.com.