Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Bit About Detox

I just read an article by Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald about detox. Fitzgerald has written a book called The Detox Solution, and her article is a pretty sensible piece.

I agree with much of the article (haven't yet seen the book) and I'll throw in my two cents:

1) With all the toxins around us -- largely due to the thousands of synthetic chemicals of varying toxicity added over the last century to our food, water and air -- we all carry toxins in our tissues. It's true that our bodies detox naturally as we breathe, sweat, and excrete. But since that probably doesn't keep up with current toxin levels, it helps to increase your outflow of toxins as you take steps to reduce your exposure. The goal is to keep your outflow higher than your exposure on an ongoing basis, thus reducing the toxin quantity in your body.

2) To do this effectively, we need to reduce the level of toxins out in the world at large, and that means cutting way back on the use of synthetic chemicals. There are easy ways for individuals to do this in their own lives, which helps personal detox as well as the health of others. A few of my favorite approaches:

• As much as possible, eat fresh whole food instead of processed and packaged items. Processed foods contain chemicals that may be food grade but often have long-term deleterious effects on the body. Packaging manufacture creates toxic pollution as well as landfill waste, both of which can ultimately add to toxin loads in our bodies.

Use simple, cheap non-toxic cleaners such as baking soda, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and unscented plant-based laundry detergent instead of commercial cleaning products which contain petroleum derivatives and solvents. Don't use dryer sheets.

Go unscented. "Air fresheners" and perfumes contain synthetics and solvents which add to your body's toxin load as you smell them. If you really need scent, use a small quantity of essential oil in a diffuser -- but make sure the oil is pure and unadulterated.

Be careful with candles. Standard candles are made of paraffin, a petroleum product; they are often scented with synthetic chemicals; and candle wicks often contain a metal core which can release tiny quantities of metal as the wick burns, exposing you to heavy metal contamination. The good news is you can get beeswax or plant-based candles (often soy) with metal-free wicks. We like the beeswax candles you can get at our local Keweenaw Coop, made with solar power by Sunbeam Candles - a better choice all around!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Primer on pH: Acid-Alkaline Balance, Part 1

Every day, I track my body's acid-alkaline balance, or pH. A lot of people ask me why. What makes pH important?

I like the explanation given in a handy little book called The Acid-Alkaline Food Guide, by Dr. Susan E. Brown and Larry Trivieri, Jr. The body likes to maintain certain balances – including an acid-alkaline balance, or pH, just slightly more alkaline than water. This, says the book, "allows for an easy flow of oxygen and nutrients into the cell walls and an equally easy disposal of cellular waste." In other words, peak performance and good clean health at the cellular level, which can translate into good health overall.

Diet has a big effect on the body's pH, with some foods tending to acidify our tissues and others acting to alkalize us. In general, most fresh vegetables, fruits and minerals tend to alkalize us, while the "Standard American Diet" or SAD – heavy on meat, grains, dairy, and sugar – tends to acidify us.

This average Western diet, say Brown and Trivieri, "produces a low-grade systemic acidosis in otherwise healthy people .... While not life-threatening, this low-level acid condition compromises our health." According to various sources, even low-grade acidosis can contribute to osteoporosis, kidney stones, gout, joint disease, age-related muscle loss, tooth decay, chronic fatigue, hormonal imbalances, weight problems, and other disorders.

Many guides suggest a diet of 80% alkalizing foods to 20% acidifying. A good approach to this is eating plenty of fresh vegetables. You can get charts listing which foods acidify and which alkalize, and it's helpful to look at these, but a word of warning: sometimes different acid-alkaline food charts disagree.

I'll write more about acid-alkaline balance in future posts. In the meantime, here are two sources for more information.

The Acid-Alkaline Food Guide: A Quick Reference to Foods and Their Effect on pH Levels, by Dr. Susan E. Brown and Larry Trivieri, Jr. (Click on the title to get the publisher's page about this book)

The Ultimate pH Solution: Balance Your Body Chemistry to Prevent Disease and Lose Weight, by Michelle Schoffro Cook, DNM, DAc. (click on the title to get the publisher's page about this book, and on the author's name to get her website which is also worth a look)