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Navigating Pregnancy in a Toxic World: Understanding Environmental Toxins and Safe Detox Practices

The toxic load humans have to deal with today on a daily basis has risen exponentially. Umbilical cord blood samples have been found to contain hundreds of chemicals including PFAS, Mercury, Lead, BPA, pesticides, and other hazardous chemicals. In 2004 the Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested the umbilical cords of 10 babies born in U.S. hospitals and found 287 chemicals in the group. Of the 287 chemicals detected, 180 were carcinogenic, 217 were toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 caused birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests. In 2009, the EWG again commissioned lab tests assessing the umbilical cord blood samples of 10 babies in the U.S. and found 232 chemicals. The effects on human health of this combination of chemicals has never been studied. The takeaway is that there is a high chance that we are coming into contact with environmental toxins, and our bodies are working hard to protect us. Detoxification is a constant and ongoing process in the body carried out by the liver, kidneys, lungs, colon, lymph, and skin.

 

So how do you detox during pregnancies?

Apart from supporting the body's natural detoxification processes, please DO NOT actively detox during pregnancy. Some examples of targeted detox include consuming herbs and nutraceuticals with the goal of upregulating detoxification pathways, castor oil packs, sauna, nutritional IV’s that induce detoxification, detox cupping or coffee enemas. This can liberate stored toxins that are able to pass through the placenta during pregnancy and through breastmilk, so attempting targeted detoxing is not recommended to those trying to conceive, are currently pregnant, or are breastfeeding. However, it is highly recommended to detox for 3-4 months prior to conceiving. In some cases it is medically prudent to facilitate detox during pregnancy. In these cases, detoxing ought to be done under the supervision of a healthcare provider.


woman holding her pregnant belly

If you are currently breastfeeding or pregnant, here are some gentle ways to support your body's detox organs that won’t place your baby at risk:

 

  1. Buy a water filter that reduces PFAS, heavy metals, pesticides and other toxins from tap water.

  2. Stay hydrated by drinking primarily water! Choose glass or stainless steel water bottles to decrease plastic particle absorption.

  3. Avoid products that advertise long-lasting, non-stick, and waterproof properties. Especially items you use on a daily basis like pans. Choose ceramic or stainless steel for safer cookware alternatives. Bake on parchment paper instead of aluminum foil. 

  4. Take Epsom salt baths.

  5. Choose the EWG Clean 15 foods and Avoid the Dirty Dozen when shopping for produce to decrease pesticide exposure.

  6. Take a comprehensive prenatal multivitamin that provides essential nutrients and cofactors needed for hepatic detoxification. Some of these nutrients include B vitamins, CoQ10, alpha lipoic acid, magnesium, NAC, omega 3’s, taurine, vitamin C, inositol, molybdenum. Safety of these nutrients are dose dependent- please seek the support of a healthcare provider for guidance.  

  7. Eat liver supportive foods: blueberries, cranberries, fish, olive oil, cruciferous vegetables, citrus, leafy greens, garlic and onions.

  8. Spend time outside, breathing fresh air to detoxify through the lungs.

  9. Get quality sleep. The brain is able to flush out toxins that build up during waking hours while you are sleeping.

  10. Incorporate gentle movement to stimulate lymphatic flow, this allows toxins to be flushed through the body and eventually excreted. This includes long walks, Pilates, and yoga/stretching.

  11. Decrease toxin exposure via skin. Switch your personal care products to toxin-free alternatives. The EWG Skin Deep Database provides a free resource that makes this switch easier.

  12. Sip on pregnancy safe herbal teas (In moderate amounts): ginger, corn silk, nettle, cleavers, marshmallow root, peppermint. These herbs naturally and gently support the body's natural detoxification pathways.

 

Wanting more information on natural support during pregnancy? At IVY Integrative, you can work with one practitioner or build your own team of holistic practitioners! Reach your optimum health in-person or online. Check out our Get Started page to learn how to work with us!






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References:

  1. “Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns.” Environmental Working Groupwww.ewg.org/research/body-burden-pollution-newborns. Accessed 22 Dec. 2023.

  2. Morello-Frosch, Rachel, et al. “Environmental Chemicals in an urban population of pregnant women and their newborns from San Francisco.” Environmental Science & Technology, vol. 50, no. 22, 2016, pp. 12464–12472, https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.6b03492.



Disclaimer:


This information is generalized and intended for educational purposes only. Due to potential individual contraindications, please see your primary care provider before implementing any strategies in these posts.

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