GAPS for Beginners Series: Reducing Toxins

In discussing choosing good sources for meat and eggs last week I mentioned that GAPS encourages us to choose organic animal products because they contain fewer toxins than conventional products. Part of the reasoning behind toxin reduction in food is that GAPS people do not have well-functioning detoxification systems. Part of this is due to the fact that the detoxification system requires a full complement of nutrients to perform optimally. Many of these nutrients are missing or inadequate in people with gut issues. Secondly, the detoxification system in GAPS people is already overloaded because a damaged gut is constantly producing huge amounts of toxins that need to be dealt with by the detoxification system.

When your detoxification system can’t keep up, your body will store toxins or try to remove them in other ways. This can lead to a wide array of GAPS symptoms, such as psychological issues, fatigue, acne, eczema and other skin problems.

To assist your detoxification system, the GAPS program requires us to also reduce toxins in the non-food areas of our life. While some toxins, such as air pollution, can be impossible to avoid, we do have control over many other toxins in our life. Reducing these substances will help lighten the load on your detoxification system, allowing it do a better job handling internal toxins as well as the external toxins that we can’t elude.

Reducing toxins is important even if you’re not contemplating GAPS. Given how many unavoidable toxins are present in our environment these days, I think everyone could benefit from removing unnecessary stress on our detoxification systems.

The first place I’d suggest targeting for toxin reduction is cleaning products. Most commercial cleaning products are chock-full of ingredients that are dangerous for humans or the environment. Ditch any suspect cleaning products in favor of natural options. I have found that I can do most everyday cleaning with baking soda, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and Castile soap. All of these are inexpensive and easy to use.

There are also many safe, eco-friendly commercial options available if you prefer to buy your cleaners. I buy laundry detergent, stain remover, dish soap and dishwasher tablets, but I know that there are natural options available for nearly every type of cleaning product. With a little bit of searching you should be able to find safe, toxin-free substitutes for all of your favorites.

The second place to look out for toxins is personal care products. Most commercial personal care products contain questionable ingredients like parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate and other potential hazards. Fortunately there are many natural options available. To decide whether you need to switch, check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database. The database contains safety ratings for a huge number of products and can help you determine which items you should ditch and what you could replace them with.

You can also make many personal care products yourself. I haven’t delved into this much yet but I have had good results with hard lotion and using milk of magnesia as deodorant. Many natural products tend to be quite expensive so making your own can be a great way to save money while still enjoying safe products.

Lastly, be mindful of toxin reduction when buying new furniture or making any improvements to your home. We rent right now (and mostly buy used furniture) so this hasn’t been an issue for us, but I know it’s something to look out for. The type of paint, carpeting, mattress, etc. you buy can have a big effect on how many toxins you’re being exposed to every day.

If you’re new to natural products this may all seem overwhelming. Keep in mind that you certainly don’t need to switch everything at once. Personally I’m the type of person who likes to make big, dramatic changes quickly but I know that’s not the right strategy for everyone. 🙂 It’s okay if you need to make changes gradually. All the changes that you do make will benefit your body by reducing the amount of toxins it needs to address on a daily basis.

Have you switched to safer products? What changes were hardest to make? If you haven’t made any changes yet, where do you think you’ll start?


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