A build up of these toxins can disrupt hormones like insulin, bog down detoxification pathways, and contribute to inflammation, all of which healthy eating habits and exercise can’t overcome on their own.
If you want a successful weight loss detox, make sure to address these sources of toxins to make sure they’re not bogging down detox function and sabotaging your weight loss efforts.
Can Toxins Make You Fat?
Environmental toxins that cause weight gain are known as obesogens, and they contribute to weight gain by altering fat storage, metabolism, and hormone balance, and can even increase our number of fat cells (1).
These toxins are found in our food, water, toiletries, make up, perfume, cleaning products, and so much more. And while it can feel overwhelming to try to avoid the chemical soup we live in, there are simple ways you can drastically reduce your toxic load and support detox to lose weight!
Need a safe and effective 3-Day Detox plan? Check out this easy-to-follow resource.
Toxins contribute to weight gain in three main ways:
1. They overload your body’s detox systems creating inflammation – While your kidneys, liver, and digestive system work hard to get rid of unwanted toxins, a higher toxic load can increase this burden and create cellular damage known as oxidative stress which increases inflammation within your body.
2. They disrupt hormone function – Many toxins are known endocrine disruptors, which means they mimic or confuse certain hormones and alter the chemical messages your metabolism relies on. This can cause insulin resistance which promotes fat storage.
3. They increase fat cells or fat metabolism – Exposure to environmental toxins has been shown to alter lipid metabolism and promote the growth of fat cells (2).
6 Most Common Toxins That Cause Weight Gain
1. Bisphenol-A (BPA)
Found in plastic food storage containers, water bottles, and the linings of some canned goods, bisphenol-A or BPA is the ultimate endocrine disrupting compound.
Researchers measured BPA concentration in urine samples, and found that higher levels of BPA were significantly associated with obesity among children and adolescents. In adults, BPA levels in urine were positively correlated with obesity even after accounting for age, sex, and activity level (3).
Instead try: Swapping plastic products for reusable silicone, beeswax food wrap, and glass containers. If you must store things in plastic, never microwave them, and try not to store highly acidic food (like tomato sauce) in them, as it causes the plastic to break down at a higher rate.
Phthalates are commonly found in makeup, air fresheners, plastics, food and drink containers, and medical devices. Phthalates seem to be everywhere, which makes their impact on our health even more worrying.
One study linked exposure to bisphenols (like BPA) and phthalates with oxidative stress that can cause insulin resistance even in healthy children (4). And while kids are more sensitive to these compounds because of their smaller bodies and rapid development, they can also wreak havoc on the health of an adult body as well.
Phthalates are used widely in the plastic industry as a type of softener, but they’re also used in lotion to make the product cling better to the skin, and in hair care for the same purpose.
Instead try: Clean and natural body care and personal care products. The natural skincare world uses the power of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients for radiant beauty–without any of the endocrine disruptors and artificial junk.
3. Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs)
Most non-stick pans use a coating made of Teflon, which is made of a class of compounds known as perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). PFC’s are known endocrine disruptors, can depress thyroid function, and alter sex hormones (5).
From a chemical standpoint, these kinds of compounds are pretty useful because nothing sticks to them, but this versatility has also made them almost ubiquitous in our environment, which means that there’s almost nowhere that isn’t contaminated with them, including groundwater and soil.
Why does this matter? You may have heard of these compounds referred to as “forever chemicals” and that’s because they take so long to break down both in the environment and your body. It’s estimated that your body can take 4 to 5 years to metabolize and eliminate these PFCs.
Low thyroid function or altered hormone levels can contribute to weight gain by slowing metabolism and affecting energy balance.
Instead try: Ceramic or cast iron cookware; Invest in a quality water filter such as Berkey or Propur. (Unfortunately, your average Britta filter isn’t properly equipped to pull PFCs out of drinking water).
4. Artificial sweeteners
Now, you might be thinking–I can get these in the grocery store, they’re not toxic! And you’re half right.
In small amounts, negative effects from these artificial sweetening agents may be minimal, but if we’re consuming them on a regular basis, or if you have any other kind of digestive trouble, they can make a bad situation much worse.
Artificial sweeteners can alter your gut microbiome, and we already know that a decrease in healthy gut flora can result in a higher risk of some chronic diseases, including obesity. Anything that makes life harder for our friendly flora isn’t something you want to consume on a regular basis.
As far as high fructose corn syrup goes, this man-made sweetener interferes with our fullness hormone, leptin, in a process called fructose-induced leptin resistance. Basically, HFCS tricks the brain into craving more, and eating more, leading to increased weight gain (6).
Instead try: Increase protein intake to curb cravings, and make sure to eat plenty of healthy fats. Use natural sweeteners such as honey or unrefined cane or coconut sugar in small amounts. Healthier sugar alternatives include monk fruit sweetener or lucuma, both of which can be found in most natural foods stores.
5. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)
VOCs are a large group of chemicals that are found in many household products, from personal care items, to cleaning supplies and home furnishings. Once these chemicals are in our homes, they release particles into the indoor air we breathe. Despite the word ‘organic’ in their name, there’s nothing healthy about them and it’s a good idea to keep your exposure to VOCs as minimal as possible.
Exposure to VOCs has been linked to (7):
- Liver & kidney damage
- Central nervous system damage
- Fertility problems
- Endocrine dysfunction.
VOCs contribute to our overall toxic burden which can promote systemic inflammation and weight gain–plus, this makes it harder to lose weight.
Instead try: Gentler cleaning products like Branch Basics, Grove Collaborative, or Method, which are all affordable and easy to find. When pursuing home furnishings, you can look for low VOC carpets, paint, and others. Invest in quality air filters, and change them according to recommendations.
6. Heavy Metals
Lead, cadmium, and mercury may be lurking in even some of our healthiest foods, and have long been known to contribute to immune dysfunction and inflammation. More recently, scientists think there may be a link to metabolic syndrome, which is the term given to a collection of conditions involving obesity, insulin resistance, and poor cardiovascular health.
In one study, participants with metabolic syndrome had significantly higher concentrations of heavy metals in their blood (8).
What are the worst offenders for heavy metal exposure? Predatory fish like tuna, shark, or swordfish are high in mercury, while fish like mackerel, sardines, and anchovies tend to have much less.
If you live in an older home you should be aware of any lead-based paint present, as this can be a significant point of exposure.
How to Detox to Lose Weight
- Minimize toxins from foods as much as possible: Eat organic when you can, and check out the EWGs “Dirty Dozen” for which produce to prioritize buying organic.
- Use clean skincare and makeup. Products we put on our skin are directly absorbed into the bloodstream. A good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t eat it–don’t put it on your skin!
- Eat more cilantro, garlic, blueberries, spirulina, barley grass, and chlorella. These superfoods support your natural detox pathways and provide many antioxidants for healthy cell function. Belly Fix contains both spirulina and fermented barley grass to cleanse the gut and promote healthy detox function in the digestive system.
- Filter your water. Use a carbon or reverse osmosis filter to get rid of hidden contaminants in water.
To learn more about your body’s detox process, check out 3 detox methods that actually work.
Don’t let toxins and inflammation stand in the way of a healthier you! Check out my 10-Day Jumpstart and be on your way to holistic detox and weight loss for less than $2 per day.