More and more we are all hearing about the huge role our genetics play in our health. It is the age-old question of nature vs nurture or another way to phrase it is genetics vs lifestyle.
As Dietitians, we receive hundreds of questions regarding all aspects of food/health: from the quantity of macros, where to find micros, supplements and almost every single thing our clients should be ingesting.
In general, we do not receive questions on the environment and how we as humans are affected by the environments we are surrounded by. You are actually a part of many environments: your home, your work, your neighborhood, and the larger global environment. All of these places shape us in many ways and have a direct and indirect effect on our health. This is why we have spent time and our efforts on becoming “Environmental Nutritionists.” It becomes more difficult to help our patients truly reach a thriving level of health without educating on the environmental factors driving underlying health issues.
As Environmental Nutritionists we take time to not only learn about your nutrition habits, but many of your other habits as well: where you live, where you work, your hygiene product, beauty products, and household cleaning products (to name a few). All of these factors blend together along with many other variables in the larger environments (city, state, and world) to have a major impact on your health. Agriculture is one of the larger global factors that has a huge effect on human health. Herbicides, rodenticides, fungicides, and fertilizers are all toxins that not only affect our immediate health, but can even alter our DNA to have trans-generational effects on human health for generations to come!
It is no secret that our post-industrial revolutionized world is filled with synthetic chemicals. If you have a single eco-friendly bone in your body you have probably heard (and care) about oil spills, air pollution, water pollution, pesticides, fertilizers, solvents, heavy metals, dioxins, PCBs, and more infiltrating our environment each day. What you have probably not heard about is how these chemicals are showing up in places we hoped they never would: infant formulas, cereal, animal fat, fetal cord blood, and breast milk. In two separate studies funded by the Environmental Working Group done on separate occasions with two different cohorts, 232 and 287 different industrial chemicals and pollutants were found to present in the cord blood of newborn babies. They were already highly exposed to the industrial world without ever setting foot into it.
It is foolish to think any and all synthetic chemicals we introduce to the environment won’t show up into our food system. Bioaccumulation is the mechanism by which toxins in the environment can climb the food chain to not only harm animals, but the animals who eat animals. Just imagine the food chain you were shown in your elementary life science class, and now put humans at the top. This is why heavy metals show up in large fish, why over 90% of dioxin exposure comes from animal products, and why PCBs can be found in our very own body. This is also why we advocate for a Whole Food Plant-Based (WFPB) diet. This ensures low-risk with a high reward.
From one concerned family to another, here is what you can do to eliminate exposure and increases your body’s chances of excreting these harmful chemicals.
- Eat Certified Organic
- Avoiding animal products is a great way to avoid excessive toxins
- Avoid Toxic Makeup and Hygiene Products
- Avoid Toxic Household Cleaners
- Eat a variety of plant-foods to help your body naturally detox
Think of your body as a beautiful river. Many are aware that their river is being contaminated, so everyone is racing to the end of the river to figure out which filter will work the best in removing these toxins. Instead, we challenge our patients to walk along their river and identify where people are pouring toxins. It is much more effective in removing toxic exposure than just doing a cleanse every 3-6 months (filter at the end of the river) and never identifying how you are being poisoned. Your body is usually very good at detoxing, so the best thing to do for many is to ensure the body can do its job.
Remember, we cannot have a clean and healthy body without a clean and healthy environment!
James and Dahlia Marin, RDN, EN
Founders of Married to Health, Holistic Registered Dietitians
17 Corporate Plaza Dr. Suite 110, Newport Beach, CA 92660