You can’t escape them anymore. They’re in plastics, car upholstery and food packaging. In the flame retardants in your bed and furniture. They’re even in the air, in the water you drink and the food you eat. At last count, our environment contains more than 80,000 synthetic chemicals, with new ones being added constantly, and the health effects of only a handful of these chemicals have been studied.

Although it’s prudent to minimize our exposure to toxins (like using natural household cleaners and eating organic food), escaping them has become impossible. Even Arctic polar bears show high amounts of environmental toxins in their livers. The key, then, is to become an effective detoxifier.

Removing toxic foods, especially sugars, is an excellent place to start. A sneakier but still quite damaging source of toxicity are those foods which look innocent but cause an immune response, resulting in anything from an itchy rash to auto-immune diseases. The five most common problem foods are gluten products, dairy, eggs, soy and corn. It is typical for folks to eat a food daily, particularly gluten or dairy, that silently wreaks internal havoc, since the body has long given up on sounding the alarms. An elimination/challenge diet, in which all possible allergens are eliminated for two weeks and then reintroduced one by one every three days, is the best way to ferret out these offenders.

After removing toxic foods, the next step is to add cleansing foods, with the most obvious being an abundance of colorful vegetables. Such foods provide not only important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, but also FIBER. Laxatives are one of the top-selling drug store items in the United States, which is a sad commentary on the state of our digestive tracts. Everybody should be having at least one bulky, easy, well-formed bowel movement a day. Your body absorbs about six liters of water a day through the intestines. If the intestines are impacted with fecal matter, you’re absorbing and reabsorbing dirty water, circulating dirty blood and creating a launch pad for poorer health. Vegetables that are low in carbohydrates (that means no potatoes, and remember, corn is a grain) should make up at least half of your plate at every meal. For breakfast, shoot for low-carb fruits, such as blueberries, which are also loaded with antioxidants.

The lymphatic system is another vital component to staying detoxed. Lymph flows at a sluggish three liters per day, compared to our blood, which speeds through the body at five liters per minute. Which brings us to our next crucial detoxifier: exercise. Lymph requires the contraction of muscles to circulate throughout the body, cleaning up as it goes along. So if framing workouts in terms of minutes of cardio or pounds pushed sends shivers up your spine, get out for a walk to pump your lymph and boost your immunity.

I must end by addressing the most powerful detox tool you possess: Your mind! Mental stress is perhaps the most potent toxin you can inflict on yourself. Even stressing out about all the toxins in our environment is going to rob you of good health. It is simply amazing to see how a positive attitude affects health, versus a negative one.

Elaine Fawcett is a Certified Nutritional Therapist and health writer. She practices in Salem and Canby. For a nutritional consultation or to schedule a detox foot bath call (971) 327-8509. Or visit www.digestionconnexion.com.