Are You Toxic? Answer These Questions to Find Out

Take this quiz to see if a major detox is in order.

Adapted from The Detox Prescription, a new book by Woodson Merrell, MD, chairman of the department of integrative medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center and the executive director of the Center for Health and Healing (CHH) in New York City

You can spend thousands of dollars on pricey medical tests to determine if you're overrun with toxic compounds. Or, you can take a moment to listen to your body, looking for clues that could signal a bodily invasion of toxic chemicals, stress, and destructive foods. In his new book The Detox Prescription, Dr. Woodson Merrell outlines easy—free—ways you can figure out how to determine your own toxic body burden and what you can do about it.

First, the warning signs…and there are many that could be linked to toxic overload. They may seem like "little issues," so small patients often don't even think to mention them. But if you rule out underlying conditions and still experience these symptoms, it could signal the need for my safe detox plan and lifestyle changes.

Here are five of the many clues that could signal overload of toxic compounds if you've ruled out other underlying conditions:
• Pain or aches in your muscles or joints
• Trouble concentrating
• Fatigue or sluggishness
• Headaches
• Mood swings

The good news is if the food you're eating, the medicine you're taking, and the products in your home are causing these symptoms, there's a lot you can do to detox. But first, take my Environmental Factors Questionnaire to figure out how toxic your life might be.

Self-Test: Environmental Factors Questionnaire
0 = never (no)
1 = occasionally (yes)
2 = frequently
(Some exposures are so damaging, you’ll need to add extra points where indicated.)

Do you use conventional chemical cleaners (furniture polish; disinfecting sprays; scrubs; or glass, surface, or metal cleaners) in any of these rooms?
• living room ___
• bedroom ___
• kitchen ___
• bathroom ___
Do you use conventional detergents, bleaches, or softeners for laundry? ___
Do you use conventional soap for dishwashing? ___
Do you use nonorganic room deodorizers like aerosols or plug-ins? ___
Is your shower curtain liner made of vinyl or plastic? ___
Do you use a conventional dry cleaner and remove the clothing from the plastic wrap less than 12 hours before wearing it? ___
Ideal section score = less than 2

Do you use chemical weedkillers or herbicides on your lawn or landscape? ___
Do you use chemical fertilizers? ___
Have you treated your home or yard chemically for insect infestation? (ants, termites, etc.) ___
Does your outdoor area feature older treated wood in decking, play structures, or landscaping materials? ___
Ideal section score = less than 2 ___

Does your work involve exposure to inhaled or skin-contact chemical agents (dentist, dry cleaner, shoe repairman, welder, industrial worker, etc.)? ___
Ideal section score = less than 2 ___

Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs)
Do you use an electric blanket? ___
Do you use a mobile phone next to your ear more than 15 minutes a day? ___
Do you keep your mobile phone in a pocket or clipped to your body? ___
Is there a powered electric device within 2 feet of your bed? ___
Do you live within 50 feet of a mobile phone tower or high power line? ___
Ideal section score = less than 2 ___

Air Quality
Have you renovated your home using any of the following?
• conventional paints ___
• plasterboard ___
• polyurethane (+1) ___
• sanding ___
• glues for carpet or flooring (+1) ___
Are there outdoor-air-quality alerts where you live? ___
Are you often exposed to automotive exhaust? ___
Do you spend more than 2 hours a day in a car? ___
Do you tend to travel by air? ___
Do you own new furniture—purchased less than 2 years ago? ___
Does your home contain cabinets made of pressed wood composites? ___
Is there paint in your house that’s cracking and more than 20 years old? ___
Is there heavy accumulation of dust on furniture or drapes? ___
Do you have wall-to-wall carpet? ___
Do you have a damp or musty basement? ___
Is there visible mold in your home? ___
Does anyone in your household smoke? (+2) ___
Ideal section score = less than 8 ___

Does your home have old pipes? ___
Do you drink from untested well water? ___
Do you live in a building with a roof tank? ___
Do you have heavy water discoloration in the morning? ___
Ideal section score = less than 1 ___

Ingested Therapies and Over-the-Counter Medicines
Do you use antibiotics more than twice a year? ___
Do you use nicotine patches, gum, or spray more than twice a week? ___
Do you use acetaminophen (aka Tylenol) more than 4 days a week? ___
Do you use NSAIDs (such as aspirin or ibuprofen) more than 4 days a week? ___
Do you use antihistamines (like diphenhydramine) daily? ___
Do you use decongestants daily? ___
Do you use stomach acid‑suppressing medications daily? (+1) ___
Do you use nutritional or herbal supplements that are produced with no ostensible quality assurance? ___
Do you drink grapefruit juice (6 ounces) with your prescription medication? ___
Do you have silver mercury fillings in your teeth? ___
Ideal section score = less than 4 ___

Daily Prescription Medications
Do you use inhaled steroids? Or oral steroids? (+1) ___
Do you take anticonvulsing or antipsychotic medication? ___
Do you use tranquilizers, sleeping pills, or antidepressants? ___
Are you on hormone therapy? ___
Are you undergoing chemotherapy? (+1) ___
Are you in radiation therapy? (+1) ___
Are you on a biologic agent (e.g., TNF blocker)? ___
Are you on other medications? (+1 for each additional beyond 2) ___
Ideal section score = limit as much as possible

Personal Care
How often do you use conventional (not specifically organic nor free of synthetic preservatives, fragrances, or sudsing agents) versions of the following beauty and personal care products?
• Soap (perfumed) ___
• Antibacterial soap ___
• Perfume ___
• Moisturizers ___
• Shampoo ___
• Hair dye ___
• Sunblock ___
• Nail polish ___
• Deodorant/antiperspirant ___
• Conditioner ___
• Hairspray ___
• Foundation ___
• Eye and cheek color ___
• Lipstick ___
Ideal section score = less than 4 ___

Food Quality and Quantity
Do you eat a lot (3 or 4 days a week) of fried food? (+1) ___
Do you eat a lot (3 or 4 days a week) of red meat? ___
Do you eat a lot (3 or 4 days a week) of cheese or other full-fat dairy? ___
Do you eat tuna, swordfish, or other large predatory fish? ___
Do you eat a lot of sugar or refined carbohydrates? (+1) ___
Do you charbroil your meat? (+1) ___
Do you usually subject your vegetables to long cooking times? ___
Do you eat foods that contain high-fructose corn syrup (such as sodas or salad dressings)? (+1) ___
Do you eat foods (such as drinks or processed foods) that contain preservatives or colorants? ___
Do you eat less than 50 grams of protein a day? ___
Do you eat less than 25 grams of fiber a day? ___
Do you eat less than eight servings of fruits and vegetables a day? (+1) ___
Ideal section score = less than 4 ___

Do you drink less than 8 cups of water a day? ___
Do you drink more than 4 cups of coffee a day? ___
Do you use artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin, or sucralose? ___
Do you drink sugary soda daily? (+2) ___
Do you drink more than two alcoholic drinks a day? ___
Do you drink alcohol more than 5 days a week? ___
Ideal section score = less than 2 ___

Grocery Shopping
Do you usually buy conventional rather than organic produce? (+1) ___
Do you buy meat, eggs, or milk not labeled antibiotic or rBGH free? ___
Do you buy fish that may contain mercury/heavy metals? (+1) ___
Do you accept and handle paper shopping receipts? (+1) ___
Ideal section score = less than 3 ___

Do you use Teflon-coated nonstick pans? __
Do you store food in plastic containers? ___
Do you reheat food in plastic containers? (+1) ___
Do you use plastic wrap? ___
Do you use canned foods? ___
Do you microwave popcorn in prepared bags? (+1) ___
Ideal section score = less than 4 ___

Exercise and Rest
Do you sleep less than 7 hours a day? ___
Do you wake more than twice a night? ___
Do you have a job that requires you to sit more than 4 hours a day? ___
Do you exercise less than 3 hours a week? ___
Do you exercise more than 2 hours a day? ___
Do you fail to take one rest day a week away from exercise? ___
Ideal section score = less than 2 ___

Do you experience continuous daily stress? (+1) ___
Do you have episodic, high-intensity stress? (+1) ___
Do you suffer from chronic anxiety? (+1) ___
Are you depressed, or do you have a feeling of hopelessness? (+1) ___
Are you a caregiver for someone who is chronically ill? (+1) ___
Do you smoke? (+2) ___
Ideal section score = less than 4 ___


Scoring the Environmental Factors Questionnaire
0 to 50: Supportive Surroundings

If you totaled 50 points or less, you are living pretty clean. Don't rest on those laurels, though. Everything you do to nudge that number toward zero will benefit your health in the long term. Also, look carefully at your results to see if the questionnaire has revealed one or more areas of your life that need your serious attention. I've indicated what I believe to be the healthiest range for each lifestyle area. If you scored very high in any one or two areas—say, your kitchen equipment needs updating or you haven't been buying organic personal care products—you should address it as soon as you can. If you can see that a little of this and a little of that environmental toxin is sneaking in, hopefully your awareness is raised enough to tighten up the ship. (Ever heard the expression "nibbled to death by ducks"? Don't let that be your fate.)

50+: Toxins All around You
If you scored over 50, consider this a wake-up call: You need to make changes to your lifestyle and your environment, because your lifestyle and/or your environment are putting your health at risk. If you haven't already, you may soon start to feel the onset of symptoms related to toxicity.

Simple Steps to Start Detoxifying Your Life
• Trade in harsh chemical cleaners for green cleaners.
• Install a water filter if you can afford it.
• Replace your PVC vinyl shower curtain with cotton, hemp, or more ecofriendly PEVA.
• Replace plastic containers and nonstick cookware in the kitchen with glass, ceramic, or stainless steel if you can.
• Get rid of your kids' flame-resistant-coated pajamas—and flame-resistant everything.
• Stop using chemical lawn treatments.
• Stops using chemical air freshener sprays and plug-ins.
• Eat clean and well.

For an in-depth plan, including how to use safe and effective cleanses designed by Dr. Woodson Merrell, including the 3-Day Turbo Cleanse that will jumpstart your energy, buy The Detox Prescription from your favorite retailer. You won't just feel well again—you'll feel better than ever!
Barnes & Noble
Rodale Store


Published on: January 6, 2014

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