This month I have been sharing some alarming facts about the ingredients commonly found in processed foods. Folks have been outraged and rightly so. It’s frightening when we really exam what is in the food we eat. I’m angry that the standards in the US are often so much lower than elsewhere. If you have the notion that the USDA and the FDA are protecting us sufficiently (or even decently,) please inform yourself and take responsibility for the food on your plate. I urge you to Take Back Your Food.
Once you are aware of just how toxic the industrial food system is, it’s logical to worry about what all of these toxins are cumulatively doing in our bodies. “Total Load” refers to the total toxic load our bodies are carrying. Imagine yourself as a giant filter not just taking in everything you swallow, but also everything you breathe in and absorb through your skin. Our bodies are remarkably resilient and have numerous pathways to filter and excrete the toxins we encounter. The systems of filtering and excreting toxins, whether the toxins are shed in fecal matter, urine, or sweat, are known as detoxification pathways.
Total load refers to the total number of toxic stressors or burdens we carry at any given time. Our modern culture is loaded with such burdens and individuals may come to a tipping point at which the total load tips one over into disease. Here’s why:
- We are taking in more toxins than our system can successfully and safely excrete
- We don’t provide our bodies with the raw materials needed to support detoxification
- Some of the toxins coming into our bodies accumulate over time and/or combine with others to become far more dangerous.
The concept of total load is important because it reframes the “cause“ of disease and even a medical crisis not into one or even a few factors, but as the sum total of stressors that became too much for the body to handle. Remeber, total load is the sum total of toxic burdens we carry. When that burden becomes too great, our health gives way. The total load of each individual is unique just as the accumulation of toxic load needed to reach a tipping point varies by individual.
For me, total load factors became a burden too great for my body in college. I now can see that is when my autoimmune disease started. It took me another 15 years and many more inflictions added to my list of maladies, to really start to unravel the tangled mess and reclaim my health.
Many times I have been asked what did I do that made all the difference. Unfortunately, there has been no single quick fix. What I have done for over a decade is make diet and lifestyle choices to promote detoxification. If I support my body, it supports me. My body may need more support than others, but I’ve learned to respect its ability to heal.
How bad is total load in our modern society? The answer is it’s bad and getting worse. A 2014 study of 10 minority babies born in the US showed that the infants had over 200 chemicals in their umbilical cord blood. 21 of the contaminants were found for the first time in umbilical cord studies—showing we are getting more, not less toxic. One contaminant of concern was BPA which is a known endocrine disruptor and cancer agent. (Goodman)
Total load goes beyond food. When we put something on our body, we put it in our body. Lead is regulated in house paint but not in lipstick. The air we breathe pulls toxins into us. Stress and even lack of exercise and movement are contributors to total load.
The news is bad, but I am optimistic because there are so many things we have control over. We can control:
- What we eat and drink
- What we put on our bodies
- Self-care including time in nature, mindfulness, and stress reduction
- Toxins we come into contact within our own homes
With the right inputs, our bodies can detoxify and thrive. What people often get wrong is that they look at “detox” as an event or a regimen. Detox is a set of daily choices. It also doesn’t mean perfection. Moving toward better is the goal. There are small choices to be made all day long to reduce total load and support detoxification. If someone is pushing a “detox” product or service on you, be aware. Those are no substitution for knowledge about how to reduce toxins from food and everything else we encounter on a daily basis.
Follow along with me social media as I offer tips on how to “detox” the right way with the hashtag #dailydetox.