Xenobiotics include environmental toxins, pollutants, antibiotics, chemicals in plastics, heavy metals, synthetic estrogens, and herbicides and pesticides. When xenobiotics get into your body – usually through contaminated food, water, and air – they can wreak serious havoc, and exposure, especially early exposure, can lead to endocrine disorders, liver toxicity, a suppressed immune system, infertility, obesity, cancer, and, in large enough quantities, death.
Like I said, xenobiotics, not good.
While you can’t avoid eating, drinking water, or breathing – at least not for very long – there are some simple ways to reduce xenobiotic exposure and avoid their damaging health effects.
Five Ways to Reduce Xenobiotic Exposure
1. Just say “No!” to plastic
While ditching plastic may seem like a tall task, it’s actually quite simple. If you’re storing hot food or preparing food that needs to be reheated, use glassware. For water or other beverages you can use glass, stainless steel (like a Klean Kanteen or Hydro Flask), or a number 2 plastic container. For hot beverages like tea or coffee, stick with a traditional porcelain mug or glass.
As much as possible, try to avoid plastics numbered:
- 3 – PVC; commonly found in condiment and salad dressing bottles, shower curtains, and many older baby toys
- 6 – used in styrofoam coffee cups, take-out containers, and ubiquitous red party cups
- 7 – unless it specifically states “BPA-free”
Another source of BPA is the lining of canned food and soda/beer cans. Say “No!” to those, too.
Xenobiotics avoided: Bisphenol A (BPA), phthlates
2. Wash your produce
Before you eat any fruits or vegetables, make sure you wash them as they’re most likely contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, and pathogenic microorganisms. Rinsing under plain warm water for 20-30 seconds is enough to remove most contaminants. You should wash fruits and vegetables that have a peel or rind, too, because bacteria can contaminate the edible portion when you cut into them.
Washing fruits and vegetables can reduce xenobiotic exposure and so can eating them. Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage contain indole-3-carbinol (I3C) and diindolylmethane (DIM) that convert xenoestrogens into less harmful compounds; berries, pomegranates, and apples are rich sources of antioxidants; and garlic, tomatoes, olives, and ginger all assist with detoxification and the elimination of xenobiotics from the body.
Xenobiotics avoided: Pesticides and herbicides
3. Be VOC free
Sick building syndrome is a condition that occurs when someone moves into a new or recently renovated home or office and they get sick. A major source of that sickness is volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from new paint, new furnishings, new carpeting, and new office equipment.
If you’re building a new home or renovating your current one, or even if you’re just adding new paint or carpet, be sure to choose VOC-free or low-VOC products. When cleaning your house, new or old, be sure to choose low-VOC cleaners, and to help improve indoor air quality and keep VOC levels low make sure there is adequate air flow and ventilation.
Another significant source of VOCs is dry cleaners. If you have your clothes dry cleaned, find one that doesn’t use chemicals like perchloroethylene.
Xenobiotics avoided: Solvents, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), benzene, perchloroethylene, formeldahyde
4. Filters are your friend
Whether it’s through direct dumping into lakes and rivers or through air pollution falling with the rain, xenobiotics tend to find their way into our water supply. We’ve written before about all the nasty stuff in tap water and the importance of at least some type of water filtration system for your home; you can add xenobiotics to the list of reasons to filter your water.
Air purifiers are a great way to remove airborne pollutants as well as allergens, dust, and mold from the air. This is especially beneficial in modern homes and offices where there is little to no ventilation due to energy saving efforts. You can find filters that are HEPA-certified that can also remove some of the VOCs in your air.
Plants are another good way to keep your air clean (and fix your feng shui). In terms of effectiveness and ease of maintenance, these are the best plants to buy:
1. Areca palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)
2. Lady palm (Rhapis excels)
3. Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea erumpens)
4. Rubber plant (Ficus elastica)
5. Dracaena (Dracaena decremensis “Janet Craig”)
6. English ivy (Hedera helix)
7. Dwarf date palm (Phoenix roebelenii)
8. Ficus (Ficus macleilandii “Alii”)
9. Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata “Bostoniensis”)
10. Peace lily (Spathiphyllum walisii)
Xenobiotics avoided: Heavy metals, antibiotics, synthetic estrogens, VOCs, PCBs…pretty much all of them
5. Use Xenobiotic-Reducing Foods and Supplements
A healthy diet including an adequate intake of protein, essential fats, complex carbohydrates, and fiber can help reduce the harmful effects of xenobiotics. As was mentioned above, fruits and vegetables that can reduce and eliminate xenobiotics include:
- Cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.
- Olives and olive oil
Supplemental antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and other nutrients can help directly diminish the effects of xenobiotics, are precursors to the body’s innate detoxifiers, and support metabolic processes that eliminate xenobiotics from your body. Below are some important supplements for reducing and eliminating xenobiotics:
- N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a precursor to one of the body’s most effective antioxidants – glutathione
- Green tea extract, quercetin, and alpha lipoic acid are powerful antioxidants that assist in xenobiotic metabolism
- B vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin E are cofactors in metabolic processes that eliminate xenobiotics
- Calcium D-glucarate assists in the metabolism and removal of xenobiotics and xenoestrogens
- I3C and DIM convert toxic xenoestrogens into less harmful forms
- Probiotics – beneficial bacteria in your gut can protect you against xenobiotics and other toxins by converting them into less harmful compounds
Xenobiotics are everywhere. Unfortunately, you can’t see them and you can’t taste them, so it’s tough to avoid them. It’s also tough to know how much is too much. While the EPA and USDA have established some “safe limits,” it’s not necessarily large amounts of isolated xenobiotics that are the problem: it’s the cumulative effect of chronic low-dose exposure to multiple sources like plastics, pesticides, VOCs, etc. It’s also a matter of when exposure occurs; from the womb until adolescence, developing children are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of xenobiotics which may not emerge until later in life. Follow the five tips above (pregnant Moms, please consult your physician before taking any supplements) to greatly reduce your exposure to xenobiotics and greatly improve your health and the health of your family.
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