How to Live a Less Toxic Life

toxins
I recently had the pleasure of attending two terrific events in the city, and both were important discussions around food and environmental toxicity. The experiences inspired me to take immediate action in any way that I could, so I decided to share my experience through this post.

The first event was a Q & A with Ken Cook, co-founder and president of the Environmental Working Group (EWG), and integrative and functional medicine expert Dr. Frank Lipman, whom I work with.

In the hour-long discussion, I was reminded of the number of toxic chemicals in everything from our food supply to our personal care and cleaning products to the air we breathe and the water we drink.

A lot of important questions were asked, such as how to handle cost when the price of organic products is still so much higher than that of subsidized junk foods that wreak havoc on our health. Or whether glyphosate — the primary ingredient in the widely used herbicide Roundup —  could be the actual cause of intense wheat sensitivity in society, rather than hybridization or GMOs. That part alone stunned me to think about.

The second event I attended was a wonderful dinner hosted by Applegate, a brand which thankfully offers meats that are organic, humanely raised, and free of antibiotics, hormones, and chemical nitrates or nitrites.  

We sat around a beautiful dinner table, enjoying delicious food, and had an insightful discussion with experts Robyn O’Brien, Lance B. Price, PhD, and Gina Asoudegan (Applegate’s Senior Director of Mission), about how to spread the important information regarding meat quality and the need for change. A major focal point was the use of antibiotics in the animals we consume. Just like overuse in humans, the abuse of antibiotics in animals (80% of which are used to make animals grow faster, rather than actual illness) are causing bacteria to become more and more resistant, dangerously creating “superbugs” that could cause minor illnesses today to become life-threatening issues in the future. Bacteria, especially within our microbiome, are of great importance and discussed with every client at Be Well.

I’ll be honest: Hearing how many issues we still face in the fight against toxic chemicals is enough to leave anyone overwhelmed. I recently wanted to perform a deeper detox of my entire home, but the mere idea of purchasing all the detoxifying gadgets and products made me shrink at the thought of how expensive that could get. Just living in a city like NYC can make one feel that detoxification of one’s environment is nearly impossible.

But both of these events inspired me and reminded me of two very important factors we must all keep in mind: awareness and perspective. Step one is becoming aware of what’s actually happening in our environment, and to share this information with everyone we know to bring about greater awareness.

Step two is keeping a grounded perspective. Will we change the world’s toxic overload overnight? No. But what reignited my desire to take action and gave me hope for change is this simple-yet-powerful fact: Every single day of our lives, we as consumers have the ability to influence the food supply. Unfortunately, my faith in governmental policy to change the tides is low, but consumer-driven demands force the producers and business owners to listen.

Think about that for a moment. A business simply won’t survive without your hard-earned dollars going toward its products. No demand = no supply. So if we, as a collective, stood up and demanded the best-quality foods and products possible (free of toxic chemicals, preservatives, antibiotics, artificial sweeteners, GMOs, etc.) just think of the changes that would take place.

To eliminate overwhelm, I was reminded that the small daily changes we can make add up like compound interest and can detoxify our lives. So, to help both myself and others tackle this mission, I’ve compiled my top 12 suggestions for how to live a less toxic life. They are all affordable and accessible. Making conscious decisions not only impacts your health immensely, but also generates incredible change in our world.

  1. 1. Consult EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists. While I love supporting and buying all organic, the cost can add up quickly. The “Dirty Dozen” are foods recommended to always buy organic by the EWG, given their high levels of pesticide residue when purchased non-organic (even when washed/peeled). The “Clean Fifteen” are foods least likely to hold pesticide residue when purchased non-organic.
  1. 2. Shop on Thrive Market. Think of it as Costco meets Whole Foods — and it delivers to your door! Not only do I love Thrive Market for the savings (25-50% off my favorite health food brands), but I also love their mission.  With every new member joined, Thrive donates a free membership to a family in need. I value this deeply, as affordable healthy food should never be a privilege, but rather a right.
  1. 3. Support local farmers. Probably the easiest way to assure quality is to develop relationships with your local growers at a farmer’s market! It’s a great opportunity to ask questions about how the food is grown/treated. Also, given the shorter transit time, these foods have better nutrient quality than those being shipped long distance. I also love supporting restaurants that utilize local foods, and joining a CSA is another valuable option.  
  1. 4. Vote with your dollar. Wherever I go, I keep the EWG apps handy so that I can make sure a product is telling me the truth, and spend wisely! We’re bombarded with advertising everywhere we go, telling us whatever we want to hear so businesses can sell their products. Being an informed shopper is of utmost importance so you don’t fall prey to false advertising from words like “natural,” “healthy,” and “clean.” Scan the barcode or search the product in these apps for quality ratings. And remember — putting your money towards companies that truly care about quality, sustainability, and your health is worth every penny.  
  1. 5. Invest in a good water filter. Considering health scares that can result from toxic drinking water (i.e., Flint, MI), and the fact that our bodies are 50-60% water, filtered water is incredibly important to prioritize. I love that the EWG has a guide to assist customers in making a choice that satisfies their budget and safety.  
  1. 6. Buy quality supplements. As with food, body products and cleaning supplies, it’s hugely important to ensure that the supplements you’re taking daily are what they say they are! Our food supply is sadly not as nutrient-dense as it used to be, so it’s important to take premium supplements (I always recommend Be Well supplements to my clients, friends, and family for quality assurance).
  1. 7. Know what’s in your meat, poultry, and fish! Let’s be honest, labeling is confusing! And while progressive companies like Applegate exist, we still have a long way to go to truly clean up our animal protein supply. Look specifically for labels that assure your beef is grass-fed and not grain-fed (grain-fed meat is pro-inflammatory), your chicken is organic, and your fish is wild-caught. It’s also important to look for meat that is humanely treated and fish that are sustainably caught and low in mercury. Here’s the EWG’s list that defines the meaning of different food label claims, so you feel more informed. Also, download the app Seafood Watch to get quality ratings for fish. Or check out the EWG’s “Seafood Calculator” to make the best choices possible.  
  1. 8. Not sure about a personal care product? Get samples! Probably the most overwhelming task for me has been to weed through my body and cleaning products. Some things don’t always work as I had hoped, and I have very sensitive skin. SO, before you buy, check a product’s return policy (once opened), or ask if they offer samples to try instead! That way, you make sure it’s a good buy, and avoid racking up cost and unused/wasted products in your cabinets.
  1. 9. Waste not, want not. Do your groceries or leftovers go bad before you get to them? Start paying attention and only buy what you need. You’ll save money AND help our world’s buildup of waste. If you have leftovers, share it with a friend, family member, or feed a homeless person. Freeze things for later if you don’t have time. And be sure to check the expiration date, especially on sale products, so you know you can use it up in time!
  1. 10. Pay attention to the air you breathe. Simple ways of breathing better could be adding plants to your home, buying green cleaning products since many sprays, washes, and air fresheners add to the toxic load in your home, and avoiding bars/restaurants where there’s smoking. I hate the idea of breathing deadly secondhand smoke, so I do my best to avoid it.  
  1. 11. Be wary of GMOs. You deserve to know if your food has genetically modified organisms or not. Don’t be a test subject for later years, or uninformed from improper labeling. Look out for EWG’s label recommendations for Certified Organic, and the Non-GMO project.   
  1. 12. Live 80/20. No one is perfect, and trying to seek perfection, especially when it comes to decreasing toxicity, can drive anybody mad. I do my best to live 80/20 both in diet and in lifestyle and aim to hit my marks on the most important things, including eating organic produce and clean animal protein and drinking filtered water. I also continue to upgrade my body, beauty, and cleaning products with better options.

At the end of the day, remember that you deserve to know what’s in and on your products so that you can make the best choices for your health. It’s my dream that one day, we can all sit at the dinner table together, in peace, and not even have to think twice about checking labels because we know our food is clean. Until that day, I hope you’ll begin to create daily simple changes by utilizing these resources. You truly have the power to change your health, your life, and our world with every dollar that you spend.