Non-toxic Foods and Promoting Detoxification

Posted by Mary R. Fry, N.D. on Friday, September 28, 2012



Why do we need Detoxification? As the Environmental Medicine blog series draws to a close, we are working our way from toxins found outside our bodies to those that are found inside. The main route of entry to ingested toxins is through the food and water we consume. As our environment and food supply have become increasingly complex and modernized, so too have our food choices.

To eat well we must become educated about not only what is in our food (micronutrients, macronutrients, phytochemicals…), but also what isn’t supposed to be in it (pesticides, phthalates, bisphenol A, heavy metals, hormones, antibiotics, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and more).

These chemicals and agents can exert a variety of deleterious effects on mental and physical health; ranging from neurodevelopmental disorders, neurological and psychological complaints to hormonal imbalances, infertility, inflammation, cancer, obesity, and insulin resistance.

Below are some key things to watch out for in the food you eat, the water you drink and how you store and prepare your food. Lastly, I will give you a resource to assess your body burden of toxins and tips on foods you can eat to boost your body’s detoxification capacity.

Produce (Fruit & Vegetables) 

Whenever possible, opt for organic and locally grown fruits and vegetables to have the most vital and fresh foods. If organic is not available or is too costly, you can still relatively safely consume the following non-organic foods (known as the ‘Clean 15’): asparagus, avocado, cabbage, cantaloupe, corn, eggplant, grapefruit, kiwi, mangoes, mushrooms, onions, pineapples, sweet peas, sweet potatoes, and watermelon.

If you can’t find the Dirty Dozen fruits and vegetables (apples, bell peppers, blueberries, celery, cucumbers, grapes, lettuce, nectarines, peaches, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, kale/greens, and green beans) in organic, it is best to eat something else! To download a handy guide of the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen Plus for your smartphone or to print, click here. Remember to wash all produce thoroughly (even if it is organic and even if it has a peel or rind that you will remove).

Meat, Eggs
Choose organic, free-range or pasture-raised meat/eggs whenever possible to minimize your intake of antibiotics, hormones, pesticides and poor-quality fats (wild game and pasture-raised meat have a healthier fat profile than conventionally raised animals).

Opt for an organic cow or goat milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products to minimize exposure to milk produced from cattle treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) and to minimize exposure to antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides.

Fish and seafood are touted as healthy foods and properly selected, the omega-3 fat, lean protein, and other nutrients they contain do make for very healthy food. Fish that are lower in mercury include Wild Alaskan salmon, Clams, Catfish, Scallops, Sole, Shrimp, and Catfish. Smaller fish such as anchovies and sardines do not concentrate mercury as readily as larger fish and are thus some of the healthiest options. Shark, Swordfish, Sea Bass, Halibut, Tuna (except for albacore), and snapper are best avoided.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
We are at a pivotal point in the regulation of GMO foods in this country. Thus far, the FDA and USDA do not require mandatory labeling of GMO foods. California is in the midst of a potentially groundbreaking change in GMO labeling with Proposition 37, a bill that, if passed, would require labeling of all genetically engineered food.

The safety of GMO foods is hotly debated and is beyond the scope of this blog post, but to revisit a principle mentioned in an earlier blog post, until we know more conclusively, perhaps the Precautionary Principle (as followed by Europe, Japan, Canada, and several other countries) is best adhered to. Until labeling of GMO foods is mandated in this country, you can learn more about what foods have GMO ingredients in them by downloading the Non-GMO Shopping Guide.

To learn more about how to determine the safety of your water and how to filter or treat it appropriately, see my earlier blog post (Home Improvement for Health Improvement).

Cooking your food with non-toxic cookware is imperative. Non-stick/Teflon pans are best avoided as they can leach toxins when heated (particularly if the coating is scratched). Microwaving food with plastic or plastic wraps is unwise as phthalates, BPA and other chemicals in the plastic can readily leach into your foods once heated. Safe forms of cookware include stainless steel, ceramics, porcelain-enameled cast iron, Pyrex glass, and cast iron (provided your iron levels are not excessive and you don’t suffer from an iron storage disorder).

Food Storage Containers
It is hard to purchase foods without plastic anymore, but whenever you can find a food packaged in glass, paper, or BPA-free cans, this is best. As chemicals found in plastic can readily leach into fat, fatty foods are the most important to buy/store in less toxic containers. Thus, BPA-free cans are most important for higher fat foods. Here is some information on food manufacturers using BPA-free cans. To find plastics that are BPA-free, look at the numbers on the bottom of the container (avoid numbers 3 & 7) and see the following Guide for more.

Minimizing your toxic burden can have a huge impact on your well-being now and for years to come. Unfortunately in current times, most of us have some chemical burden from the environment we live in, our food and water supply, our home medical interventions that we have had. Testing can be performed to most accurately assess your toxic burden, but to get a rough idea of your current body burden, you can take this Online Body Burden Assessment Test.

Foods You Can Eat to Promote Detoxification
There are several foods and culinary herbs and spices that support and optimize liver health, the key organ in detoxifying ingested chemicals. To boost your liver function, include berries, wolfberries, beets, green tea, broccoli and other Brassica vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage, kale, collards, Brussel sprouts, mustard greens, arugula, bok choy, watercress & more ), and dark green leafy vegetables, artichokes, brown rice, turmeric, chiles and rosemary into your diet.

If more intensive detoxification is needed, herbal supplements and a variety of other methods can be employed by a physician trained in Environmental Medicine.

If you aren’t on my email mailing list, don’t miss receiving the first quarterly newsletter to be published next month or notifications of new blog posts and other news…. sign up here! If you know of others who might benefit from this information, please help me get the word out by forwarding it on to them by sending them this link: and inviting them to sign up. Thanks for reading!

References & Resources:

-Crinnon, W. (2010). Clean, Green & Lean. Get Rid of the Toxins That Make You Fat. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

-University of Arizona Integrative Medicine Continuing Education:

-Environmental Working Group:

Categories: Diet & Nutrition, Environmental Medicine Tags: body burden, BPA, detoxification, environmental medicine, GMO, Heavy Metals, Hormonal imbalances, liver health, organic.



Neurotoxins, Carcinogens & Toxins in Personal Care Products | A Healthy State of Mind

Posted by Mary R. Fry, N.D. on Friday, August 31, 2012

Is your liquid soap contributing to bacterial resistance, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), social impairment or metabolic problems? Is the ingredient that makes your shampoo lather contaminated with a carcinogenic compound? Or is the lotion that you use potentially affecting your hormones and fertility?  The personal care products industry is a large and ever-growing enterprise with labeling and regulations that are arguably insufficient. Unfortunately many people are unaware of the potential adverse health effects of products that they use every day and may be suffering as a result…

With a little knowledge and some helpful resources, you can become a more educated and healthy consumer. Before we jump into the chemical soup, a helpful principle deserves mention: The Precautionary Principle. This principle advocates a cautious approach when considering adopting a new chemical or product for human use. You can apply this yourself if you find an ingredient in a product that you do not recognize or are concerned about- if in doubt, opt out! There are lots of safe products on the market to choose from.

Particular caution should be exercised in using new skin products if you have a history of eczema, contact dermatitis or other skin complaints.

So let’s review some of the leading chemicals found in personal care products such as soap, shampoo, conditioners, lotion, sunscreens, make-up, nail polish/products, hair products and dyes:

Phthalates– I spoke of these in my last blog post with regards to their presence in the home. This class of chemicals is also ubiquitous in personal care products. It can be found in cosmetics, perfume, nail polish & products, liquid soap, hairspray and also in medical tubing and IV (intravenous) bags. Phthalates can interfere with reproductive health, fat and carbohydrate metabolism and can contribute to cancer, allergies, asthma, obesity, insulin resistance and neurodevelopmental disorders (ADHD, social impairment in kids).

Parabens are preservatives that are widely used in cosmetics and other personal care products to prevent microbial growth. They have been shown to possess endocrine disruptor activity. (Chemicals with this distinction interfere with normal hormonal function and can cause developmental, behavioral and fertility issues. Chemicals with endocrine disruptive activity can interact with receptors for neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine (which are important in regulating mood, behavior and hormonal function).)  Phthalates  have been detected in human blood, breast and placenta. On labels, this class of chemicals may be listed as ‘methylparaben’, ‘butylparaben’ or ‘propyl paraben’.

Perfumes– from those you apply directly to your skin, to the wafting of perfume from magazine strips, perfume is all around us and can cause a host of problems. There are at least 3,000 chemicals used as fragrances and on labels they may simply be listed as ‘parfum’ or ‘fragrance’. No further disclosure of their ingredients on labels is required. Musk xylene and musk ketone are common chemical bases for perfume scents and have been linked to PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome), disruptions in the estrogen:progesterone balance, decreased ovarian function and infertility. Other chemicals in perfume have been linked to cancers and neurotoxicity.

Triclosan is an antimicrobial used in hand sanitizing products and in antibacterial soaps. This chemical is a known endocrine disruptor- linked to thyroid and reproductive issues. Its frequent use may also lead antibiotic resistance to bacteria. Cleaning your hands thoroughly with soap and water is just as effective as antimicrobial soap (and safer)!

Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) is a foaming agent used in shampoos, shower gels and cleansers. It is an irritant to the skin and eyes and may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane (which we will discuss in a moment).

1,4- dioxane is a carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemical that is not required to be disclosed on a label. USDA Organic products do not contain this chemical.

DEA (diethanolamine) and related compounds can be found in soaps, shampoos and cleansers (added as a foaming agent or to adjust the pH of the product). These compounds cause skin and eye irritation, precancerous changes in the skin and thyroid and cancerous changes in the liver (in laboratory experiments). DEA compounds can react with other chemicals in cosmetics to form carcinogenic nitrosamine compounds.

Lead can be found in lipstick and hair dyes. The FDA claims that concern over lead in lipstick is unwarranted, while others in this Washington Post article question this point of view. As discussed in last month’s blog, “excess levels of lead in the body can lead to autism, ADHD, developmental disorders, neuropsychiatric symptoms, cancer, reproductive health issues and other conditions. It is particularly problematic for young children, leading to behavioral problems, lower IQ scores and learning difficulties.”

Nanotechnology is an emerging technology in which tiny molecules are used in medicine for targeted drug delivery and imaging purposes. In the cosmetics industry, nanoparticles can be found in sunscreen and cosmetics. There are concerns about the possible consequences of these particles, but no hard evidence about their effects in humans just yet.

Oxybenzone, Methoxycinnamate are endocrine disruptors found in sunscreen. Choosing sunscreens with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide is a safer bet.

PERC (perchloroethylene), also known as tetrachloroethylene, is used in dry cleaning. This chemical is neurotoxic and is a suspected carcinogen. Opt for ‘green dry cleaning’ or hand wash instead.

Petrochemicals are petroleum based compounds such as petrolatum, mineral oil and paraffin. These compounds prevent the skin from breathing properly and can be contaminated with PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) which can cause (when exposure occurs prenatally) low birth weight, premature delivery, heart malformations, decreased IQ and childhood asthma. PAHs are also associated with cancer.

Coal Tar is present in synthetic colors and will appear on labels as ‘FD & C’ or ‘D & C’. These compounds can contain heavy metal salts with can be carcinogenic.

Ureas are preservatives that release formaldehyde (a known human carcinogen). These chemicals can also cause contact dermatitis. This class of compounds may appear on labels as ‘diazolidinyl urea’, imidazolidinyl urea, hydantoin, DMDM, sodium hydroxymethlyglycinate methaenamine, and quaternium-15.

Formaldehyde is also found in nail hardening products.

BHA & BHT ( butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene respectively) are preservatives which possess possible endocrine disruptor activity and carcinogenic effects.

PEGs (polyethylene glycols) are used as cream bases, thickeners and solvents for a wide variety of personal care products. PEGs may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane and show some evidence of genotoxicity. PEGs also increase the permeability of the skin and can thus increase absorption of other, potentially harmful, constituents in a product. Propylene glycol is a related chemical that is best avoided.

Siloxanes are another class of endocrine disruptor chemicals that can be found in hair products, deodorants, moisturizers and facial products. This class of chemicals includes ‘cyclotetrasiloxane’, ‘cyclopentasiloxane’, ‘cycloshexasiloxane’, and ‘cyclomethicone’.

Resorcinol, a compound in hair coloring and bleaching products, can cause allergies, is potentially toxic to the immune system and can disrupt thyroid function.

Retinyl Palmitate, a vitamin A containing compound, when applied to skin in the presence of sunlight, can speed the development of skin tumors and lesions.

So now that you re armed with greater knowledge on some of the leading compounds to avoid in personal care products, how do you find what is safe to use? There are a number of helpful resources and guides to consult (see below). And remember the Precautionary Principle…when in doubt, opt out! Taking care of your overall health will bring greater beauty and health to your skin, hair and nails than most products could ever impart!

Please check my blog again soon for more on reducing one’s exposure to harmful chemicals in food and beverages and for ways that you can assess your body burden and risk of toxicity. If you aren’t on my email list, sign up to be emailed once the next blog post is ready and to receive future posts and news. If you know of others who might benefit from this information, please forward it on to them by sending them the link ( and inviting them to sign up. Thanks for reading!


For a handy pocket guide or app on The Dirty Dozen – Cosmetic Chemicals to Avoid, click here.

To determine the safety of your personal care products, visit the EWG (Environmental Working Group) Cosmetics Database, ‘Skin Deep’ where you can look up over 75, 000 products and get helpful tips and credible information.

The following video:  ‘The Story of Cosmetics’ provides a helpful overview of what was covered in this blog.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has a host of helpful news and resources  on its site:

Nanotechnology Consumer Products Inventory provides an inventory of nanotechnology-based products currently on the market:


Crinnon, W. (2010). Clean, Green & Lean. Get Rid of the Toxins That Make You Fat. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Suzuki, D. (2010, Oct.). Backgrounder. The “Dirty Dozen” Ingredients Investigated in the David Suzuki Foundation Survey of Chemicals Used in Cosmetics. Retrieved from

University of Arizona Integrative Medicine Continuing Education. (2012). Environmental Medicine: An Integrative Approach. Retrieved from

Categories: ADD/ADHD, Environmental Medicine Tags: Behavior, Dirty Dozen, Endocrine Disruptors, environmental medicine, Fertility, Heavy Metals, Hormonal imbalances, Neurotoxicity, Thyroid

Improving your Mental and Physical Health by Home Cleaning! | A Healthy State of Mind

Posted by Mary R. Fry, N.D. on Thursday, July 12, 2012

Well if you haven’t yet got to that spring cleaning or are working on home improvement projects this summer, now is your chance to clean for your health and for that of your family and pets! Toxins can be found in a wide array of household products, furnishings and equipment and contribute to a myriad of health problems including psychological, psychiatric and neuropsychiatric conditions. While there is a lot of information in this post, please keep the following few things in mind as you read:

1)      Any efforts that you can make to reduce your body burden of toxins is a step in the right direction; start with what you can manage!

2)      Your ability to more effectively deal with toxins in your home and the environment depend upon the strength of your digestion, liver and other eliminatory pathways such as the kidneys and skin.

3)      I will be covering more information on toxins in personal care products, the food that you eat and more in upcoming blogs and will list resources f or reading on this topic further.

The image depicted here is a good overview to finding toxins in your home, click here for a larger view (seen on page 7). This diagram is by no means exhaustive, so let’s get into some more detail… Some of the key sources of toxins in the home include carpets, furniture, mattresses, kitchen appliances, paint, wallpaper, detergents and cleansers, mold, plastics and chemicals found in water. Household and environmental toxicity is associated with a wide range of conditions: Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism, Developmental Disorders, disturbances in thyroid and reproductive hormone function (thyroid hormones abnormalities may present as depression or mania).  In addition a number of household chemicals are irritating to the lungs, affect immune system function, liver function, can cause cancer and are pro-inflammatory. (This is of concern because inflammation is a contributing factor to several chronic health problems including depression, heart disease, joint pains, skin complaints and cancer.)

Flame retardants are one class of chemicals to beware of. These chemicals can be found in a number of the above mentioned products and in bedding, mattresses and foam used in furniture. To learn how to reduce your exposure to these chemicals which can affect thyroid function, contribute to atherosclerosis and cancer and cause inflammation, click here.

Phthalates are used as plasticizers and are ubiquitous in household products. They can be found in children’s toys, vinyl flooring, wallpaper, shower curtains, paint adhesives, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) piping, non-stick cookware and artificial leather. We will return to this class of compounds in future postings, but in the interim, whenever possible, decrease your use of plastics and other phthalate sources.

Formaldehyde is known about by some as a chemical used to preserve specimens in biology class, but unfortunately it is also in cigarette smoke, pressed wood products, cabinets, shelving and flooring and can off-gas for up to fifteen years!  It is also in personal care products- more on this in an upcoming post…

Lead is a toxin found in air, water and soil from gasoline, old paint and plumbing. Excess levels of lead in the body can lead to autism, ADHD, developmental disorders, neuropsychiatric symptoms, cancer, reproductive health issues and other conditions. It is particularly problematic for young children, leading to behavioral problems, lower IQ scores and learning difficulties.

Mercury may be present in thermometers and fluorescent lights and is a by-product of industrial air pollutants. Excess levels of mercury in the body lead to neurological and psychological problems and problems associated with the muscles and skin.

Radon is produced by the natural decay of uranium in soil and water. It is the leading cause of cancer in non-smokers. Radon typically enters the home from cracks in the foundation and construction seams. To test your home for radon, pick up a test kit at your local hardware store. To be safe, you will want levels of radon to be ≤4 picocuries/L.

Carbon monoxide (CO) arises from kerosene and gas space heaters that are not vented properly, gas stoves and leaking furnaces. Good precautionary measures against excess CO exposure include using a stove vent, properly venting rooms with space heaters and installing a home carbon monoxide monitor. In excess, carbon monoxide can lead to reduced delivery of oxygen to the brain, heart, lungs and other organs- interfering with their normal functioning. This chemical is also pro-inflammatory to the heart and lungs.

Mold is a problem for many in the Pacific Northwest. If your air humidity exceeds 50%, consider using a dehumidifier to mitigate mold growth. Inspect for mold on or in walls, in the bathroom, in the kitchen, around windows and water heaters. In excess, mold can cause asthma, allergies, immune problems, can impair memory and can decrease one’s cognitive function. If there is excess mold in your home, hiring a trained and licensed contractor for mold remediation is warranted.

Water is a major source of contaminants and while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates some toxins and microorganisms in the water supply, many are not tested for. Pharmaceuticals and personal care products find their way into the water supply and antidepressants, antimicrobials, anticonvulsants, antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs and other agents can be found at low levels in the water supply. If you are on well water, it is imperative to test annually for contaminants as the EPA will not monitor and control for toxins in well water. To learn more about the water quality in Oregon, click here, or in other states, check this link.

Selecting a good quality water filter can help to minimize toxins in your water. Here is a resource to help you select a good filter: Environmental Working Group’s Water Filter Guide . It is also important to filter the water that you bathe in. Shower and bath filters help to reduce your exposure to chlorine and trihalomethanes.

Dust is a repository for several toxins in the house and for fine particulate matter. It is best removed with a damp cloth or a vacuum installed with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter.

Additional tips to ‘Greening’ your home:

-Eliminate slow-burning candles from your home (the wicks contain lead)

-Install fans in the bathroom and kitchen to reduce humidity and mold growth

-Use filters on all water supplies

-Use green detergents and cleansers & chlorine-free bleach. Avoid fabric softeners. See the National Geographic Green Guide Cleaning Products Video.

-Avoid antimicrobial soaps and sanitizers as they can contain triclosan which can alter thyroid and other hormone function (more on this in future posts…)

-Clean your furnace and change the filters on it and any air conditioners regularly. Clean any chimneys annually and burn only dry firewood.

-Minimize the use of plastics in the home

-Avoid mothballs and air fresheners with solvents or plug-ins (as they are neurotoxic).

-Choose low VOC  (Volatile Organic Compounds) paint, carpeting and flooring. Non-treated wood, tile, stone and throw rugs made from  natural fibers are safe options for flooring.

-Use natural fabrics and materials for bedding, curtains, blinds and furnishings.

-Consider installing a HEPA filter in your bedroom and other rooms in which you spend a considerable amount of time.

-Don’t store toxins in your home. If you must use certain toxic compounds, keep them in a sealed cabinet in a non-attached garage, shed or shop.

-Take off your shoes- this simple step can considerably reduce the number of toxins in your home!

-Avoid the use of pesticides and herbicides in your home garden by finding natural alternatives.

-Get your soil tested for contaminants (especially if you grow your own food) by calling your County Extension Office.  For a list of Laboratories Serving Oregon, click here.

-Take a virtual home tour to identify where household toxins might be lurking. (This is meant for kids, but all can benefit!)

While this all may seem a little overwhelming, remember any change for the better is helpful in making one’s home a haven of health! Please check my blog again soon for more on reducing one’s exposure to harmful chemicals in personal care products, food and other common products & devices. If you aren’t on my email list, sign up to be emailed once the next blog post is ready and to receive future posts and news. If you know of others who might benefit from this information, please forward it on to them by sending them the link ( and inviting them to sign up. Thanks for reading!

 References & Resources:

-Crinnon, W. (2010). Clean, Green & Lean. Get Rid of the Toxins That Make You Fat. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

-University of Arizona Integrative Medicine Continuing Education:


-National Geographic Green Guide:

-Environmental Working Group:

Categories: Environmental Medicine Tags: ADHD, environmental medicine, EPA, EWG, Heavy Metals, HEPA, neuropsychiatric