Currently, more than 80,000 chemicals are used to produce many of the common household products we use in the United States. With an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 new chemicals being introduced every year, it’s impossible to completely avoid exposure to these agents. It is, however, possible to cleanse your body of many harmful compounds and create a healthier environment inside your home. Here we’ll explore the various types of toxins that can affect your health, how you’re exposed to them, and how you can reduce that exposure.
What Are Toxins?
The actual technical definition of toxin is a poisonous substance created biologically through a living organism. However, in colloquial usage, many people use the word toxins as any chemical in the environment (though the correct word scientifically would be "toxics" as in "toxic chemicals." In the more common usage, toxins can come from either outside or inside our bodies.
Endogenous toxins consist of by-products that originate inside the body. An example could be the hormones produced in excess when you are under stress. Under normal conditions, these hormones operate in a healthy manner, but when stress becomes chronic, the excess cortisol can cause health issues and can become toxic.
The severity of a toxin is measured by its toxicity, or its ability to harm or damage an organ, disrupt an enzyme system, or disturb a biochemical process.
Types of Toxins
Toxins can come from just about anywhere and are either biological or chemical. Biological toxins are found in nature. There are three types of biological toxins, or biotoxins: zootoxins (made by animals), mycotoxins (made by fungi), and phytotoxins (made by plants).
Chemical toxins are created artificially, often as a byproduct of producing something else. Toxins can cause damage directly at the site of contact (local) or elsewhere in the body (systemic). These effects may be immediate or delayed.[3, 4]
Some of the most common sources of toxins are found in everyday products, appliances, and foods. According to The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), even though outdoor pollution can be highly toxic, growing evidence shows that most toxins are found in public buildings, offices, and even homes.
The home, both inside and out, is host to an abundance of chemical and biological pollutants. These toxins are found in everything from cleansers, floors, and cookware, to certain bacteria and insects that live on mattresses and upholsteries. Electrical devices can emit electromagnetic radiation. If they break, they can poison their immediate environment with toxic metals such as lead, mercury, and arsenic.
Some of the worst carriers of chemical toxins are the cosmetic products you put on your body. Soap, shampoo, and other personal care products expose the average person to hundreds of chemicals. While people may assume these products are harmless, many contain chemicals that have not been fully tested. These products often carry known carcinogens and endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
Ingredient labels are unclear, leaving most consumers confused about the safety of the products they use every day. Unfortunately, every time you bathe, breathe, cook, sleep, or continue your beauty regimen, these toxins and their effects begin to accumulate in your body.[7, 8]
Common Biological Toxins in Your Home
When you’re in your home, you are in constant contact with floors, doors, cabinets, surfaces, and furniture. All of these household structures are home to varying levels of bacteria. For example, in the kitchen, bacteria from raw meat can be transferred from one surface, object, or food to another, causing cross-contamination — a major cause of foodborne illnesses.
Here is a list of organisms that can produce biotoxins you may encounter:
- Dust mites live in mattresses, pillows, upholstery, fabrics, and floors.
- Mold and mildew are found on bathroom walls, window sills, wallpaper, ceilings, fabrics, and in food.
- Bacteria and viruses live on kitchen surfaces, toilets, sinks, showers, food, and in tap water. Most are harmless, but some can cause illness.
- Dander is found on pets, floors, clothes, curtains, beds, furniture, skin, and hair.
- Insect parts and excrement can create allergies in many people and are commonly found in attics, basements, closets, storage boxes, cabinets, and garages.
- Pollen also causes allergies in many people. It is found in anything that has come in contact with the outside, including shoes, pets, hair, skin, and clothes. 
Common Chemical Toxins in Your Home
The idea of chemical toxins probably stir up thoughts of a garage full of paint cans and other liquid waste. But did you know that chemicals are used to produce plastic and other synthetic materials used to build homes? Paint, carpet, and pressed wood are just a few items that can release health-disrupting chemicals long after they’ve been installed. Here is a list of common chemicals and the products that may contain them.
- Diethanolamine (DEA): shampoos, lotions, sunscreens, brake fluid, antifreeze
- Formaldehyde: nail polish/removers, air fresheners, cleaning products, paper towels
- Triclosan: hair products, shaving gels, deodorants, toothpastes
- Petroleum: detergents, fertilizer, synthetic fibers, vitamins, plastic, candles
- Butylated compounds (BHA, BHT): Hair products, makeup, deodorant, fragrances
- Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE): cosmetics, Teflon, water
- P-Phenylenediamine (PPD): hair dyes, cosmetics, henna tattoos
- Mica: makeup products, insulation, wallpaper, shingles, cement[14, 15]
- Dibutyl phthalate: plastics, adhesives, printing inks
- Sodium laureth sulphate: shampoos, toothpastes, mouthwashes, body wash, soaps, detergents
- Aluminum: antacids, cake mix, processed cheese, deodorants, baking soda, baking powder, soy based baby formulas
- Ammonia: fertilizers, cleaning solutions, plastics, fabrics, pesticides, dyes
- Chlorine: water, pesticides, synthetic rubbers, polymers, refrigerants
- Fluoride: non-organic or processed foods, toothpastes/mouthwashes, Teflon cookware, water
- Sodium hydroxide: soaps, rayon, paper, dyes, petroleum products, detergents, oven cleaners
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are common chemical contaminants that can be found in indoor environments. These compounds contain carbon, can disperse through the air, and usually have an odor. VOCs are released by many types of building materials, including:
- Sealants, caulks, and coatings
- Paint and varnish
- Wall coverings
- Cleaning agents
- Air fresheners and other scented products
- Vinyl flooring
- Upholsteries, fabrics, and furnishings
- Personal beauty and hygiene products
Signs It’s Time to Detox
When toxins overwhelm your body, they can weaken your immune system and cause a domino effect of digestive issues, mood swings, loss of mental focus, and sleep disruption. Basically, they make you feel unpleasant. Even your body odor can change — an outward sign your body is telling you that it needs help. Signs that your body could benefit from a cleanse are:
- Sugar cravings
- Digestive issues
- Sinus issues
- Acne and rashes
- Loss of mental sharpness
- Joint and muscle aches
- Depression and anxiety
- Sudden weight loss, or difficult losing weight
- Unpleasant breath and body odor
- Irregular sleep cycles or trouble sleeping
A poor diet and weakened immune system can also result in the overgrowth of a fungus called Candida that takes residence in your mouth, gut, and skin. This condition is referred to as candidiasis, also called a yeast infection. To support a healthy gut, a change in diet as part of a toxin cleanse will help balance levels of candida.
Optimizing Your Body’s Natural Ability to Cleanse
Your body has a comprehensive detoxification system in which the immune system, respiratory system, skin, intestines, kidneys, and liver all work together. Your skin and respiratory system are the first defense to harmful toxins and chemicals. Once a toxic chemical or biotoxin makes it past these first two body defenses, your immune system takes over. After a filtering and metabolizing process, toxins are expelled from the body as waste.
Over time, the buildup of toxins can make it increasingly difficult for your immune system to work properly. Cleansing your body is a natural way to help it rid itself of toxins, optimizing its ability to defend itself.
How to Remove Toxins From Your Body
Cleanses have been performed for centuries. Indigenous Americans often cleansed using methods like fasting and sweat lodges to purge the body of unhealthy substances. It wasn’t until recently that society started adopting these older, more organic practices like fasting and herbal cleansing as a more organic way to detoxify, lose weight, and stay healthy, without the use of harsh medicines.
Flushing toxins from your body by performing a cleanse is a refreshing way to bring back a healthier you on the inside. Fewer toxins in your body will also result in higher energy levels. There are a number of cleanses you can try. Most last between three to seven days, though some last longer. I recommend Global Healing's Chemical and Heavy Metal Cleanse Program™. During the course of 30 days, you will detoxify your body using zeolite-based liquid extract (Heavy Metal & Chemical Cleanse) and Dr. Group, DC's Organic Detox Foot Pads™.
Reduce Your Exposure to Toxins
The first thing to tackle when starting a cleanse is to rid your home environment of harmful toxins — both chemical and biological. Avoid the microwave, and reduce your use of electronics. Clean the floors, beds, and upholsteries. Use a wet cloth to wipe up dust instead of sweeping, which can spread dust particles into the air and throughout the house. Make your own natural cleaning products.
Replace cosmetics and hygiene products with organic versions. For example, coconut oil is a nice substitute for skin and hair care products.
Improve Your Diet
Once you have achieved a clean home environment, focus on the foods you’ll be eating to cleanse your body. Shifting to an organic vegan or vegetarian diet is essential for a successful cleanse. In order to flush harmful toxins, you must give your organs a rest from unhealthy foods so that they can function at peak efficiency. Foods to avoid include:
- Processed or packaged food
- Sodium-rich foods and MSG
- Added sugar
- Artificial sweeteners
- Refined carbohydrates
- Trans fats
- Wheat and gluten
Organic foods that naturally provide antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients can help combat the damage from toxins. Incorporate plenty of probiotic foods to keep your gut microbiota balanced. Some of the foods that are recommended during a cleanse include:
- Brightly colored fruits: watermelon, strawberries, blueberries
- Citrus fruits: limes, lemons, oranges
- Brightly colored vegetables: broccoli, beets, carrots
- Leafy greens: kale, Swiss chard, spinach
- Seeds and nuts: flax and sunflower seeds, cashews pistachios, walnuts
- Distilled or purified water
- Non-caffeinated herbal teas
Adding herbs and spices like dandelion, cilantro, eucalyptus, alfalfa leaf, peppermint, organic milk thistle, and organic gum acacia are a great way to season your meals and will be beneficial for a healthier cleanse.
It is extremely important to stay hydrated during a cleanse. Drink purified or distilled water instead of tap water. To add taste and nutrients, mix two tablespoons of raw, organic apple cider vinegar (ACV) into a gallon of distilled water and shake thoroughly.
Take Nutritional Supplements
Performing a cleanse using natural organic supplements is a great way to ensure success. Ensure you get enough vitamins and minerals daily.
Some dietary supplements are even grouped together in kits that are specifically designed to target certain organs or certain issues. These kits include Global Healing’s own Kidney Cleanse Program™, Liver Cleanse Program™, and Harmful Organism Cleanse Program™, and the Chemical and Heavy Metal Cleanse Program™.
Get More Exercise
Exercising during a detox or cleanse is a great way to help the body push out toxins and waste, especially if you break a sweat. An hour of exercise a day, which can be broken up into two 30-minute sessions, is ideal. As an added benefit, studies have shown that short bursts of high-intensity training during a detox diet may support weight loss and cardiovascular health.
What Kind of Cleanse Is Right for You?
Review your goals with your healthcare provider to determine which toxin cleanse is best for you. It’s also a good idea to speak with them if you have any special dietary needs. Do not use laxatives during a cleanse, or in place of a cleanse. If you’re used to an unhealthy diet full of processed food, it’s best to approach a cleanse by easing into a healthier, organic diet. How often you should cleanse is best decided by you and your healthcare provider. Many people have seen high success from performing series of liver and colon cleanses throughout the year.
The Future of Cleansing
Growing attention to toxic chemical exposure and environmental health sciences continues to inspire extensive research. This interest has prompted the medical and scientific communities to report on the impact of environmental toxins on human health. Knowing how toxins affect our bodies and environment will help us discover new ways to cleanse and improve our quality of life.
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†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.