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Are You Toxic? Answer These Questions to Find Out

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

By Woodson Merrell, MD


detoxPhotograph By Thinkstock

Adapted from The Detox Prescription

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 the new book The Detox Prescription, you'll find easy—free—ways 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 Scoring 0 = never (no) 1 = occasionally (yes) 2 = frequently (Some exposures are so damaging, you'll need to add extra points where indicated.)

Cleaners
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 ___

Outdoors
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 ___

Occupation
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 ___

Water
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) ___

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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 ___

Drinking
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 ___

Cooking
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 ___

Stress 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 ___

GRAND TOTAL ___

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.

Filed Under: HEALTH, HOUSEHOLD CHEMICALS, ORGANIC

Published on: January 6, 2014



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