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.

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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.



Ayurveda & Cleansing | A Healthy State of Mind

Posted by Mary R. Fry, N.D. on Thursday, February 27, 2014

Signs of spring are starting to show – with bulbs pushing through the soil and buds on trees forming. With the first day of spring still a few weeks away, now is the time to plan for a spring cleanse. Cleansing has been performed for centuries, but is perhaps all the more important in our current time with chemical, emotional and physical stressors abounding. Cleansing not only helps clear the body of accumulated physical toxins, but also helps clear out ‘emotional’ toxins or stagnant patterns of thinking and feeling.  While I have long known the benefits of cleansing, it has not always been foremost in my treatment approach for a couple of reasons: there are so many more pressing issues to address in an office visit and many cleansing regimens I was taught do not address the individual, but rather focus on a single protocol for all. I find this inherently unappealing as my focus in treating people is to customize treatment as much as possible. The robust, hearty individual who tends to be warm, resilient and perhaps a little over-indulgent needs a different cleanse than a petite, cool and fatigued individual with a poor appetite. Thankfully Ayurvedic medicine, in all its wisdom, provides an answer.

In Ayurvedic medicine, each individual is seen as having their own unique constitution. This constitution is described according to 3 different doshas. An individual is made up of a unique combination of the 3 doshas, known as Vata, Pitta & Kapha. Each dosha is said to be a distinct combination of universal energies (air, fire, water, earth and ether) and is said to predict one’s mental-emotional and physical constitution. Let me give an example: someone who is predominantly Vata dosha is more prone to digestive disturbances, muscle aches and pain, insomnia and mental illness (anxiety often) with  an improper diet or psychological or environment stressors, whereas someone who is predominantly Pitta dosha is often more prone to inflammatory conditions of the skin, ulcers and heart disease when imbalanced. Identifying one’s unique combination of doshas helps guide diet and lifestyle regimens to restore a balance of the doshas.  Knowledge of one’s constitution is also used to decide on the most appropriate cleansing regimen. To determine your predominant dosha, you can take the following quiz (please note that this is a guide only, a skilled practitioner is best suited to determine your dosha(s)):

Cleansing in Ayurveda is an extensive system of steps that help to restore a harmonious balance of the doshas, rid the body and mind of toxins and restore health. A cleanse consists of a preparatory phase, the active cleansing phase and a post-cleansing phase. The term given to the active cleansing phase is ‘panchakarma’. ‘Pancha’ means five and ‘karma’ loosely translates as cleansing procedures. The five procedures classically consist of:

  1. Vaman (vomiting)
  2. Virechan (purging)
  3. Basti (enemas)
  4. Nasya (nasal treatment)
  5. Raktmokshan (bloodletting)

Now before you stop reading and decide that you would never do this, please realize a more modern, less intense set of cleansing procedures have evolved for short seasonal cleanses – thank goodness! Using the principles behind the classic steps, one can follow a more practical, protracted and tolerable regimen.This regimen can be followed for 4 to 7 days and consists of specific diet, exercise, and self-massage routines and the use of a mild laxative (once) to mobilize and excrete toxins. Such a regimen can be followed quite simply at home and is advised at each seasonal transition (ideally within a two week window of the change of season) to revitalize body, mind and spirit.

Each dosha will follow these core cleansing practices, but the particular herbs used in the detox tea and in the meals consumed during the fast (a rice, vegetable, lentil and herb porridge) will vary according to dosha. The oil used in self-massage will also be selected according to dosha.  Most of these herbs and oils are readily available in grocery and health food stores. While there is a bit of work involved in preparing for and following a cleansing regimen, it can be done around a work schedule typically. The cleansing period is a great opportunity to get more in touch with oneself and one’s health, often emerging on the other side with renewed health and an appreciation of the habits needed to maintain this higher level of health and vitality. If you are interested in learning more about Ayurvedic cleansing, and ways to reduce your exposure to toxins, please contact the office.

The following resources are helpful introductions to Ayurveda:

  • -Beginner’s Introduction to Ayurveda by Vivek Shanbhag, ND, MD (Ayurved), BAMS, CYEd
  • -Ayurvedic Healing by David Frawley
  • -Perfect Health by Deepak Chopra

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Lad, V. (2010). Ayurvedic Medicine. Continuing Education. Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. Retrieved from

Shanbhag, V. (2013, Dec. 7). Natural Cleanse with Ayurvedic Herbs, Food & Yoga. Continuing Education. Kenmore, WA: Bastyr University.

Categories: Diet & Nutrition, Environmental Medicine Tags: Ayurveda, cleansing, detoxification, spring