Ann Louise Gittleman, MD, MS, CNS
Going organic is a sure way of decreasing your consumption of pesticide.
Going organic is a sure way of decreasing your consumption of pesticides. But another reason to choose organic foods is that conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are severely lacking in beauty-specific nutrients that give you younger-looking skin, lustrous hair that is not graying and thinning and strong bones, nails and teeth.
The fact is that just about every nutrient in our soil-and now, our produce-has sharply declined, as researcher Paul Bergner documented in his outstanding book, The Healing Power of Minerals, Special Nutrients, and Trace Elements (Prima, 1997). Bergner reports, for instance, that the amount of vitamin A–the skin vitamin par excellence–in some fruits (such as oranges, bananas and apples) has dropped by approximately 66 percent since 1963. That means you would have to eat three pieces of these fruits to equal the vitamin level you would have received in just one piece three decades ago.
Likewise, the amount of bone-building calcium in leafy green vegetables (like broccoli, romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce, collard greens, Swiss chard) decreased on average by 46.4 percent. And studies of carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, corn and celery demonstrated an average loss of 35 percent in cell-rebuilding magnesium content.
Even if you’ve "gone organic," you may not realize that the most toxic foods around are ones you may still be ingesting: coffee and chocolate. Both coffee and chocolate are loaded with pesticides because many xenohormonic pesticides [fat-soluble] that are forbidden in this country are used in countries exporting their coffee and cocoa beans to us. For example, cocoa beans (used to make chocolate) are often dripping with pesticides like lindane, a pesticide the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] considers "probably carcinogenic." And so, if you are still addicted to chocolate, I urge you to at least search out brands that are certified organic. Coffee lovers might look for certified organic coffee as well as the words shade grown on the label to ensure that the coffee beans didn’t come in contact with the pesticides from the plantation-grown variety.
Fruits and Vegetables
Some of our favorite fruits and vegetables contain major beauty-disrupting pesticides. The following chart appeared in the June 1997 issue of Nutrition Action, rating the most highly pesticide laden fruits and vegetables, both domestic and imported. The chart was prepared by the Environmental Working Group of Washington, DC, using FDA [Food] data. According to their research, the top 10 pesticide-ridden types of produce are:
So by all means, locate organic strawberries, cherries and apples for your seasonal detox menus. I am quite serious when I say that the fate of our next generation may very well depend on our ability to limit as much as possible our exposure to petrochemical xenohormones. What better way then through life-sustaining beauty foods?
And remember, fruits and vegetables are not the only source of harmful pesticides. Like toxins, pesticides are often stored in an animal’s body fat, where they accumulate over time into dangerous concentrations. In fact, some species of freshwater and saltwater fish these days contain a variety of toxins like the xenoestrogenic DDT, dioxin, PCBs and heavy metals such as mercury. Since the toxins accumulate in the skin, organs and fat of the fish, it’s best to avoid eating the skin or excess fish fat in general. You’ll still get your dose of omega-3s [essential] throughout the body of the fish. The FDA has recommended that we limit our intake of fish like orange roughy, grouper and marlin to about two times per week because of the presence of mercury. Also pregnant women should probably eat high-mercury fish like swordfish or shark only once a month. You can always check the EPA’s web site for the latest advisories at www.epa.gov/ost/fish.
For nonorganic produce as well as commercial fish, eggs and beef, consider a hydrogen peroxide soak. And as a side note, because plastics are also a source of those nasty xenohormones, try not to heat your food in plastic or store it in plastic containers. Glass is my preference.
Water: The Chlorine Connection
Chlorine is another prevalent toxic chemical with xenohormonic properties. Used as a disinfectant against bacteria in drinking water, chlorine destroys the premier rejuvenating antioxidant, vitamin E, which is crucial for feminine beauty, exquisite skin texture and firm muscle tone. And chlorine has also been linked to heart disease as well as cancer. Even if you don’t drink chlorinated water anymore think of how many times you may swim, shower or bathe in it. Chlorine, similar to other xenobiotics, can gain entrance into your body through the skin, most conveniently through your morning shower.
Chlorine reacts with water’s natural organic matter creating new compounds called trihalomethanes, or THMs, which are carcinogenic. The best known and best researched of the THMs is chloroform. Chloroform is a solvent and a general anesthetic--the stuff used to knock people out--and can cause kidney, liver and nervous system damage and has been associated with cancer in laboratory experiments. If there is chlorine in your water, you are being sprayed with chloroform every time you take a shower. Emissions from hot showers can dissolve 50 per cent of the chlorine and 80 per cent of other carcinogens like tetrachlorethylene and radon in the water. You are then breathing and soaking in these chemicals through your skin.
As you can see, drinking contaminated water is not the only way water becomes dangerous to your health. One-half of all water pollution exposure is through the skin and lungs via hot showers and baths.
Granted, chlorination is effective against many (but not all) bacteria in water. Experts, however, increasingly question the wisdom of trading the risk of bacterial infection for the risk of bladder cancer. Some are strongly against all chlorination of drinking water. Others suggest a change in its technology, including increased use of granular activated charcoal and the use of ozone gas. Plus, making chlorination the last rather than initial step of water treatment would reduce the amount of trihalomethanes.