We are exposed to toxins in all aspects of our environment – including food, air, water, storage containers, cars, furniture, and many others – and they are virtually impossible to avoid completely. In 2005, the Pollution in People project tested ten Washington residents and found each of them had between 26-39 different types of chemicals in their bodies[i]. The toxins we absorb through the mouth, lungs, and skin can be deposited in our tissues and blood. In this blog post we explore reasons and ways to complete a pre-pregnancy detox, as well as options for if you're already pregnant or breastfeeding.
Why should I detox before trying to get pregnant?
Many people chose to go through a detoxification protocol before pregnancy, in order to get their body into healthier shape for conception. Though there is not currently much research on how removing toxins beforehand can affect a pregnancy, it is thought that a detox can decrease inflammation to prime the body for fertility and improve the quality of eggs and sperm.
While the exact cause of many of the conditions that come up during pregnancy is still unknown, from a naturopathic perspective we often suspect the liver. A detox can decrease the toxin load on the liver to give it a boost before pregnancy, which may reduce complications and lead to a healthier birth. Some pregnancy conditions suspected to have liver involvement include nausea, preeclampsia, and skin itching, among others.
Additionally, a study involving children raised by their birth parents and those raised by adoptive parents shows there may be a connection between exposure to environmental toxins and pregnancy complications, toddler behavior, and sleep problems.
Already pregnant and didn’t detox beforehand? Not to worry!
Because a detox will mobilize stored toxins from your tissues, detoxing while pregnant is not advised in order to keep the amount of toxins passing to the baby as low as possible. There are many options to help you feel your best and decrease the amount of toxins passed to your baby.
There are some easy lifestyle considerations that can help you deal with toxins. Make sure you stay well hydrated by drinking half your body weight in ounces daily of water or herbal tea (ie. a 150lb person should drink 75 oz), even if you have to urinate more often. This will help your kidneys flush out toxins in your urine. Ensuring regular bowel movements will help remove toxins through your gut, through eating lots of fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds – anything to increase your fiber intake. Hydration will also help with easy bowel movement as well. Moderate exercise, such as walking, has many benefits, including increasing circulation, which will help move toxins to the organs, which get them out of the body.
Several supplements may help as well. Folate, also known as folic acid, is necessary for your body’s detox pathways, so you may already be supporting your body in detoxification with a prenatal vitamin. There is currently much research revealing common polymorphisms in the gene that converts inactive folate to the active form, which means people without the fully functioning genes won’t be able to use inactive folate as well or at all, depending on the type of mutation. Folate deficiency can play a part in infertility, miscarriage, birth defects, Down’s Syndrome, and possibly even autism, so it is important to look for a prenatal vitamin or separate folate supplement that has the active form of folate, called methylated folate, or 5-MTHF.
Additionally, algae can be very beneficial! In a research study involving Japanese women, taking 2000mg of chlorella after each meal reduced the amount of certain chemicals, including dioxins, furans and PCBs, from maternal blood, cord blood and breastmilk by 25-30%.
If toxins are in breast milk, should I breastfeed?
Yes! Breast is still best! The benefits far outweigh the risks, providing your infant with everything from proper vitamins, minerals and healthy fat, to antibodies for fighting bacteria and viruses, to extra bonding time. And, a preconception detox may decrease the amount of toxins found in breast milk. If toxins are a concern while breastfeeding, following the pregnancy recommendations above (such as continuing with a healthy lifestyle and other supplements such as chlorella) can help.
What type of preconception detox should I do?
There are lots of options available so it’s best to consult with a naturopathic doctor or other wholistic practitioner to collaboratively develop a plan that fits your body well. This usually involves minimizing inflammatory foods in the diet while adding in supplements that support your detox organs (skin, lungs, liver, kidney, digestion, and urine). Again, this approach is only advised while not pregnant or breastfeeding.
 "Pollution In People - Toxic Chemicals in Washington Residents ..." What We Found. Toxic-Free Legacy Coalition, 1 May 2006. Web. 13 Aug. 2014.
 Marceau, K., N. Hajal, L. D. Leve, D. Reiss, D. S. Shaw, J. M. Ganiban, L. C. Mayes, and J. M. Neiderhiser. "Measurement and Associations of Pregnancy Risk Factors with Genetic Influences, Postnatal Environmental Influences, and Toddler Behavior." International Journal of Behavioral Development 37.4 (2013): 366-75.
 For more information on folate polymorphisms and associations to conditions, see mthfr.net
 Nakano, Shiro, Taketoshi Noguchi, Hideo Takekoshi, Go Suzuki, and Masuo Nakano. "Maternal-fetal Distribution and Transfer of Dioxins in Pregnant Women in Japan, and Attempts to Reduce Maternal Transfer with Chlorella (Chlorella Pyrenoidosa) Supplements." Chemosphere 61.9 (2005): 1244-255. Web. 10 Aug. 2014.