How to Detox the Body from Microplastics: A Comprehensive Guide

The presence of microplastics in our environment, and especially within our bodies, has been a growing concern in recent years.

The accumulation of tiny plastic particles in our bodies can have harmful effects on our health—causing hormone issues and increasing the risk of certain cancers. As an integrative physician who regularly deals with hormonal issues as a result of all causes, I can say this is one we should be actively fighting against.

What’s the best plan of action to rid the body of microplastics, and where should you focus your efforts the most? Read on to find out.

Understanding Microplastics

Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic fragments, fibers, and films less than 5mm in size, and they are found almost everywhere—from the ocean depths to the air we breathe (1). Known for their pervasiveness, these substances can be ingested with food or water and can be absorbed into the body through inhalation or contact with the skin.

The problem is exacerbated by their longevity—once microplastics enter the body, they can remain there for years due to the body’s inability to break them down.

It’s not just their presence but also their potential toxicity that raises concerns. These tiny plastic particles also carry with them other endocrine-disrupting chemicals (2). The health risks associated with consistent exposure to microplastics include reproductive issues, disruptions of the endocrine (hormone) system, and even the development of breast cancer (3).

Humans ingest a credit card worth of plastic every week

Several years ago, a statement began circulating that the average person consumed nearly a credit card’s worth of plastic every week. This would work out to be about 5 grams of plastic.

A scary thought, I know.

However, more in-depth studies have estimated that the author of that initial statement vastly overestimated microplastic consumption by a factor of about 106. To sum up, this means that the average person may consume a credit card worth of microplastics not every week but every 23,000 years (4). 

However, that does not mean that microplastic exposure is any less of a concern, it simply means the amount does equal a credit card on a weekly basis.

Related: Should You Detox to Lose Weight? Learn the Toxins That Drive Weight Gain

Where You’ll Find Microplastics

As microplastics and toxic chemicals are found almost everywhere, it’s nearly impossible to avoid exposure completely. However, there are some specific sources that account for much of our exposure:

Read: How to Detoxify Your Home

How Long Do Microplastics Stay in the Body?

The current understanding is that microplastics can accumulate for significant periods, but scientists aren’t sure exactly how long. But we do know that once microplastics enter your body, either by eating, drinking, or inhaling them, they can make their way into your bloodstream and to other parts of the body (5). 

Microplastics have been found in (6,7):

  • Intestinal Tissues: Studies have shown that microplastics can accumulate in the gut lining and cause inflammation.
  • Liver and Kidneys: Microplastics can also be found in these organs, potentially causing damage over time.
  • Placentas and Fetal Tissues: Recent studies have found microplastics in the placenta, with potential implications for fetal health.
  • Lung Tissues: Inhaled microplastics can also accumulate in lung tissue and potentially cause respiratory issues.

Smaller Particles, More Problems

Smaller particles of microplastics can potentially cross into human cells (sized 700 nm) and through the blood-brain barrier (sized 200 nm) (4). These smaller particles may also be more easily absorbed into the bloodstream and transported to different parts of the body, leading to potential health and hormone issues.

Microplastics also disrupt the integrity of the intestinal barrier, which is one of the ways they gain access to other organs and tissues by being taken up into the bloodstream (8). 

Health Risks Associated with Microplastic Exposure

Studies are emerging about the link between microplastic ingestion and health issues, including inflammation, oxidative stress, and genotoxicity, which means they may harm DNA.

Microplastics are endocrine disrupting chemicals, affecting hormone levels and potentially leading to reproductive issues.

Listen: Can Toxic Fabric Harm My Kids? With Alexandra Ulmer

Microplastics Contain BPAs & Other Toxic Chemicals

While microplastics themselves pose a threat to human health, the toxic chemicals they contain only add to their potential harm.

Bisphenol-A, or BPA, is found in microplastics. And in fact, this EDC is so ubiquitous that it gets inside the human body before we’re even born. One 2014 study detected the chemical in 75% of nursing mothers’ breast milk, and in the urine of 93% of their infants (9).

Bisphenol-A is a known endocrine disrupting chemical, and it’s a good idea to avoid it wherever possible. BPA exposure is linked to thyroid problems, fertility issues, and cancer.

Many companies claim to be reducing their use of BPA, labeling canned foods and plastic bottles “BPA-free.” Unfortunately, many of the replacements for BPA are equally bad, or worse (10). 

Because of their small size and ability to absorb toxins from the environment, microplastics may also carry other harmful chemicals that can cause additional health risks. These chemicals include pesticides, flame retardants, and bisphenol A.

Read: Women, These 4 Mistakes Tank Your Thyroid Health

How Can You Detox from Microplastics?

To detoxify from microplastics, we need to reduce our exposure while also supporting the body’s natural detoxification processes.

While there doesn’t appear to be a deliberate way you can totally rid the body of whatever plastic is already present, that doesn’t mean you’re powerless to support your body in the fight against microplastics.

Hydration and Water Quality

Staying well-hydrated with clean water is essential for the body’s natural detox processes. Water filtrations systems can help reduce your exposure to plastic-based contaminants.

Consume Organic Foods

Organic produce is less likely to have come into contact with plastic-based chemicals, and by extension, microplastics.

Eat a Fiber-Rich Diet

Fiber supports detox in the digestive system, potentially including microplastics.

Detoxifying Supplements

Support your body with natural detoxifiers:

  • Chlorella and Spirulina: These algae supplements have been shown to bind with and eliminate heavy metals and other toxins from the body (11).
  • Activated Charcoal: Activated charcoal is a popular detox supplement that can absorb chemicals and toxins in the digestive tract. It has been shown to be effective at removing BPA from the digestive system (12). Note: Activated charcoal is best taken periodically as part of a short-term detox strategy, and not daily as it can interfere with the absorption of some essential nutrients.

Sweating and Exercise

Physical activity can promote sweating, which is one of the body’s mechanisms for toxin elimination.

Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Microplastics

Making conscious choices about everyday habits can significantly reduce your overall exposure to microplastics:

  • Food Packaging: Choosing fresh whole foods instead of processed or packaged foods reduces exposure to microplastics from plastic packaging.
  • Avoid heating food in plastic containers or wrapping food in cling wrap.
  • Avoid drinking water from plastic water bottles. Instead, opt for glass or stainless steel, and avoid plastic straws when possible.

Choose Natural and Eco-Friendly Products

Opt for personal care items that are free from microplastics, such as natural scrubs and biodegradable packaging.

  • Cosmetics and Personal Care Products: Choosing products without microbeads or opting for natural alternatives reduces exposure to endocrine disruptors through skin contact.
  • For your everyday household cleaning products, consider using natural and eco-friendly options that are free from microplastics.
  • Choose natural fibers over synthetic ones for clothing and textiles.
  • Avoid handling receipt paper while shopping, and if your job regularly requires touching thermal paper, consider wearing gloves when possible.

Read: The Holistic Guide to Glowing Skin | EastWest Skin Care Tips

What to Remember

Detoxifying the body from microplastics is an essential part of maintaining long-term health, especially considering the pervasive nature of these particles. By being mindful of your habits, making dietary adjustments, and utilizing specific detoxification methods, you can reduce your body’s toxic load and enhance overall well-being. 

Regular detoxification practices can support your body’s natural ability to eliminate microplastics, which is becoming increasingly important in the current environmental landscape. 

Every step you take toward a cleaner, plastic-free lifestyle is a step toward a healthier you.