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Reducing Toxic Burden: One Bite at a Time with Tabitha McIntosh

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Reducing Toxic Burden: One Bite at a Time

The human body is being bombarded by toxins on a daily basis and what's more overwhelming is: what can we do about it and where do we start?

In the book, One Bite at a Time: Reduce Toxic Exposure and Eat the World you Want, authors Tabitha McIntosh and Dr. Sarah Lantz offer a comprehensive understanding of chemical exposures and their impact on the human body.

Today, we talk to Tabitha McIntosh who shares with us her research into the horrors facing our future generations when it comes to toxins and how their book lays out a path for people to reduce their daily exposures and build their innate resiliency. 

Covered in this episode:

[00:38] Introducing Tabitha McIntosh
[02:06] The beginnings of One Bite at a Time
[05:14] The Silent Spring - awakening
[05:42] Pollution in newborns
[08:03] Raising awareness of toxic exposures
[13:15] A call to our tribe: creating community
[15:34] Regulation of toxic substances and chemicals
[21:26] Maximising resilience is a part of the solution
[23:43] What role do supplements play in maximising kids health?
[26:02] Addressing kids nutritional needs
[28:02] Helping children feel connected to food
[36:45] Four pillars from One Bite at a Time
[39:26] Nurture the microbiome
[42:55] One Bite at a Time a resource: walking the talk

Andrew: This is FX Medicine. I'm Andrew Whitfield-Cook. Joining me in the studio is Tabitha Macintosh

Tabitha is an experienced and respected naturopath, clinical nutritionist, and educator. After attaining her bachelor of medical science degree at University of New South Wales in 2001, she went on to pursue her passion for integrativd health care by completing an advanced diploma in Naturopathy and diploma in nutrition in 2005. 

Absolutely passionate about improving the health of everyone she comes in contact with, Tabitha's impressive resume includes presenting at conferences and professional development seminars around Australia, lecturing in nutrition at both Nature Care College and previously Endeavour College of Natural Health. The international community health work, and contributing to publications and natural medicine textbooks, such as "Clinical Naturopathic Medicine: The Second Edition," on topics such as paediatric nutrition and environmental medicine. 

And, indeed, that's what we'll be talking about today. With her new book, hers and Dr. Sarah Lantz, and that is, One Bite at a Time: Reducing Toxic Exposure and Eat the World you Want. 

Welcome, so warmly to FX Medicine. Tabitha, how are you?

Tabitha: Thank you so much, Andrew. I'm really well and it's really special to be here on this end of the podcast. Usually, I've got the earphones on doing my exercise, listening to all your fabulous interviewees.

Andrew: Look, I've got to say, I'm so thrilled to have you in because I have to tell our listeners about this. This book is unique. This book is something I have yearned to see in the naturopathic community. It is such an incredible publication. You guys have obviously spent a heck lot of a lot of time on this. Tell me about the story about where it began first, I think?

Tabitha: Absolutely. So I remember being at a health retreat. I gifted myself a trip to Gwinganna, when I stopped breastfeeding my second child. So he was about 16-17 months old, and I finally had my body back after goodness knows, how many years? Two kids? All that breastfeeding. 

And I stumbled across Sarah Lantz's first book. She'd published that in 2009, Chemical Free Kids. And couldn't get my eyes off it. Like it just called to me. Had to have it. And it called to me as a mother, obviously. But it called to me, also, as a clinician. And I knew that I would be learning bucketloads from her. And that, I did. And I was so moved by the way that she spoke and the content of her book. And, how I could actually take some of the concepts in that book and apply them immediately. I was so moved that I got in touch with her.

Andrew: Sarah and I have a bit of a link, in that we both did some growing up in Orange, New South Wales.

Tabitha: I heard her podcast. I know. That was fabulous to learn. Good people come from Orange, obviously.

Andrew: Well, yeah, allegedly. 

So you know, you moved on from there and you've done a heck of a lot of research on the environment, yourself, following on from Sarah Lantz. Why?

Tabitha: Well, you know, I guess my post graduate studies were in environmental medicine. And I learned an enormous amount from my lecturers. I studied by correspondence through Swinburne Uni. And that school has now closed down. But it just, you know, I've always been mesmerised by the miraculous workings of the human body. And, obviously, clinical nutrition was my first love. But then, in understanding the impacts that particular environmental exposures could have on, whether it'd be on hormone expression or particularly our development. And, look, the calling for this for me was, I'm sure, was because I was a mother. 

And around the same time as reading Sarah's book…you know, the TED Talks? I stumbled across one of the best TED Talks, called, "My Toxic Baby." And Penelope Jagessar…I'm sure we can include the link at the end of the podcast. Penelope Jagessar said something really outstanding as a quote at the end of her TED Talk. "It really shows how sometimes it's only a parent's awareness that stands between their own children and chemicals."

And, to me, that was like a penny dropping ever so loudly that I thought…it was so motivating to me and I just…I'd already been doing a great deal of work in preconception care and pregnancy care and had even done some national lecture series on topics such as that. But hadn't really delved into the way that the environment can impact development. All the way, you know, all the way throughout gestation and, obviously, postpartum as well.

Andrew: Now, look, way back in…what is it? Was it the '70s? I think it was the late '60s where there was…what was it? The Silent Spring

That was the first awakening to holly hell, what are we doing to our earth, to this planet? And then there was a lot of shuffling under the carpet. There was a lot of no…this. “Of course, there no problem. We're fine. We have the EPA. You know, we have the government looking after you. And we're being nice to you. And it's okay, everybody. There's not a problem.” 

Then, around 10 years ago there was all of these papers springing up, even on PubMed, going, "Hey guys, there's a bit of a canary here. There's a problem brewing." How did we get here?

Tabitha: The pollution in newborns that was published by Environmental Working Group, July 2005 was astonishing. And it showed not only…well, it was just proof, really, that infants and babies are so intimately connected with their environment. Whether their environment be, initially, their mother as they're developing. And then their immediate environment. But this paper showed that newborns were born with over 200 different chemicals coursing through their veins. Actually, before they'd even taken their first breath. So that sort of astonished…that's just extremely motivating, really.

Andrew: I've got to ask the sort of devil's advocate question. Because there would be those out there that would say, so? So, what? We know our liver cells actually respond to poisons and indeed, sometimes that induces initiation of detoxification and that's necessarily a good thing. For instance, my tequila intake. 

You know, so I guess where I flow on from there is, well, that might be relevant for somebody who's perfectly healthy and has no disease process. But we're talking about newborns here. That are undergoing rapid neurodevelopment. Tell me about the effects. Tell me about what are some of the issues that we're seeing, now?

Tabitha: Well, this is a really big one of our challenges. So the developmental, the exquisite paediatric vulnerability because of the fact that they are developmentally vulnerable. You know, the complexity of brain development and brain cell migration and even just new brain cell growth in that, that occurs all the way through gestation but, particularly, in that first trimester. Sometimes even before a woman knows she's pregnant, these processes are absolutely in process already. And when we look at an infant baby boy in utero, you know, to think that his testes structurally are formed by 14 weeks gestation. And to then, logically, just put together the facts that that mum may be being exposed to environmental contaminants that are endocrine disrupting chemicals, in particular, oestrogen-mimicking chemicals, is a real concern.

Andrew: How do you then shake the tree. How do you then wake people up. You know, these people that are just burying their head in the sand, saying, there isn't an issue. When I remember reading or hearing about…was it frogs? I think, it was in the Daintree. Now, this is the Daintree for God-sake. We're not talking about Mount Isa. Yet, we're seeing toxic issues there. 

How then do you try and wake them up, we're doing this to our kids in Sydney, in Melbourne and even in Mount Isa, for instance?

Tabitha: It's a really real daily issue. So not only do we have these environmental chemicals that are in our environment and they've been there for years. And we measure their, you know, half-life in decades. We've also got, like you said, tequila or our ‘toxins of choice’. And then, the toxins that we're exposed to daily, without thinking critically about it. And, yes, you know chemicals like atrazine and insecticides like chlorpyrifos are in the water. And they are having impacts on, you know, the gene expression on phenotype, and all the way from our wildlife through to humans.

Andrew: So I've got to ask the next question there. Is that, you know, when you start to look, you know, you think, oh, well, the Australian government will have data on just how toxic the place is…. crickets. 

Very little work. And you have to look on more sort of building guidelines. You know, building codes, for instance, on how to avoid pesticides. Where the appropriate use of, you know, termicides are, for instance, and how you're supposed to handle them. Farming, agricultural sites, and journals with regards to handling of pesticides and herbicides. Herbicides for the farmers. But don't worry about how that grain gets into bread and, therefore is eaten by children. So there's all of this sort of, oh, it's not over there. It's only over here.

Tabitha: There's so many ways that we can talk about this topic. And when we talk about this topic with fear, you know, mongering, it does encourage people to remain blissfully ignorant and they keep their head in the sand. 

So you know, the One Bite at a Time, heading for the book is because this topic is so enormous. And almost too big for the day-to-day clinician out there seeing her patients or seeing his patients. Because there's so many things to cover in that initial case-taking session where you're gathering as much information as you can. And I think there was a case for me many, many years ago. It would be a decade ago.

Where I was working with a lovely couple and they already had a four-year-old. But they'd been trying for the last two and a half years to conceive their second child. And I caught them, at that time where they were feeling sub-fertile and they'd been running into all of these challenges. And I took a really comprehensive case history. And something had changed. And they had moved onto the family's orange farm. 

He had taken over his father's property and he was spraying the oranges. And his, you know, boots were getting left at the front door and his clothes were going through the same wash cycle as the family's, you know, dirty washing. And it sparked my interest after the reading that I'd been doing. And sure enough, on doing the semen analysis, there was 0% normal, morphologically normal sperm. And the DNA fragmentation was extremely high. And to be able to show him those numbers. And to then, you know, three/four months later to repeat the semen analysis and see the significant change and to know, now, that they have a second child -- a daughter who's three, four, five -- is just so empowering.

Andrew: Yeah. So that to me is the proof in the pudding. That to me is, it really is where it meets the road, sort of thing. It's like okay, you changed this. And then the naysayers will say, “Well, big deal, what are you going to do about it?” 

You did something about it. And you got a result. Within what time period?

Tabitha: Well, we did the repeat, semen analysis, four months later. And it wasn't long after that, that she was expecting second child. And you know, a successful pregnancy. Beautiful little family. And they…you know, that was a real eye-opener for them, too. There are a lot of clients that love seeing the numbers. And it can often feel like hard work, doing…putting their effort in and doing the preconception work. But when you see the black-and-white difference like that, it's extremely empowering.

Andrew: So I've got to say then, you spoke about clinicians using this book. Is it for clinicians only?

Tabitha: Absolutely, not. Essentially, we wrote it for the public. But I am finding that the book has been so well-received by clinicians and health food stores. And there are quite a number of clinics that have decided to stock it themselves because…and we just want our message to get far and wide. Because clinicians are our advocates. 

And the way that Sarah and I wrote this book was with the intention of, you know, using it as a resource ourselves. And we approached it from the perspective of, what do we wish was out there already? And you know, there's so much…only so much you can cover in an appointment. And we've got all of our handouts. But how can we pull this together to be a really comprehensive and entertaining read at the same time that gives you, the strategies?

And in one of the last chapters, I think it's chapter nine, we've called it, "A Call to Our Tribe." And we don't…our tribe doesn't just have to be clinicians and our fellow clinicians. You know, we're speaking on behalf of other clinicians who have some good insight into a lot of these topics already. But a call to our tribe because we feel that when you are making these decisions to maybe go against some dominant societal expectations and habits, you have to have the courage and you have to feel supported by your community around you. So…

Andrew: You know, I'm so glad you mentioned that because one of the things that my father-in-law did. He lives with us. And one of the things that he did last year was, he thought, hang on. He can't go up the hill now. He is getting on in his years. 

But he thought, hang on, I'm not going up the hill. I am going to make a garden out on the nature strip. And it was a little bit of belligerence on his part. But what he said was, well if it can't be for us, let it be for the community.

And so there's this little community garden in the front of our place, now. That we get some neighbours coming out and you know they sort of a little bit of tending. Probably a little bit more pilfering than tending. But the thing is that there's now these awesome tomatoes. Or, like we had chilis. Oh my goodness, we couldn't get rid of them fast enough, they were so hot ,but just a few vegetables.

Now you know, at the moment, it's going through a little bit of a hiatus in readiness for the next sort of crop but. But the thing is that he, actually, he gets real joy out of tending that for the community and the community are appreciative, even our immediate neighbours are appreciative. Because they're getting these fresh vegetables that are properly organically soil grown. You know, isolated from whatever we can. Obviously, it's near a road and we’d love it out, you know, 100 miles away from any road but that's just not practical in our environment. But it's something about this calling as you say, to our tribe. I think it's really important. I think every family should have some garden.

Tabitha: And it calls to that word, connection, again. So when we can be connected to you know, the season and to our own soil and to our own gardens and to our neighbours and to what we're putting in our body, it is…it's actually extremely empowering.

Andrew: So we've podcasted Sarah Lantz on the Australian toxic foods. And they appear to differ from other countries. So what is it, the clean 15?

Tabitha: The dirty dozen and the clean fifteen?

Andrew: That's right. And they tend to differ a little bit. So can you take us through what you learned in writing and researching for the book, with regards to us versus other countries like the U.S.?

Tabitha: Well, absolutely. Well, you know, probably the most sophisticated protective policies, you know, are within the EU. So obviously they discussed the precautionary principle at length in sort of around 2000. And then, in 2005, the reach regulation was implemented, where the onus was on industry to make sure that any chemicals allowed into the market had been approved safe for both, human consumption and also residues in food and also for the environment. 

You know, essentially, a huge number of pesticides were withdrawn from the market. And in order to be able to be allowed back on, they had to meet a number of different requirements.

And that, the implementation of that reach regulation really highlights the differences between the EU policies and what we have here. Because there's a very reactive approach to chemical regulation in Australia and when it comes to pesticides. Because I deal mostly with food. Sarah is an absolute genius when it comes to policy on all other things. And I find some of her writing brilliant because she talks about trespass, intergenerational trespass of those chemicals into our bodies. And then, impacting the next generation. 

But when it comes to pesticides, it's the AVPMA in Australia that regulates pesticides. And there are, you know, I'm sure most of your listeners are aware that the AVPMA is predominantly funded by the pesticide industry in the first instance, which certainly gives us a number of roadblocks. But you know, even just in April this year, chlorpyrifos, which is an insecticide that is…has endocrine disrupting properties, was reviewed again, by the AVPMA, and the April 2017 Supplementary Toxicology Assessment Report, you know, found no evidence to indicate potential neurodevelopment effects to occur at the doses of chlorpyrifos that are used in that adequate exposure.

Andrew: Really? But it's supposed to cumulative, isn't it?

Tabitha: The adequate daily intakes are, you know…that raises questions in itself. You know, what is an adequate daily intake? 

Because how we measure our chemicals and the study of toxicology is really just looking at a single chemical, in an adult…healthy adult physiology, in isolation. Not taking into account you know the cocktails of exposures and the way that we all have individual variation as to how we handle these chemicals. Whether it be you know with a variability in methylation and the production of our enzymes that breakdown some of these pesticides. 

But chlorpyrifos only has a half-life of six to eight hours in our body. So this is not one of the chemicals that's really fat soluble that does build up and bioaccumulate in the tissue. It's something that when we're exposed to large amounts of it, we have impeded clearance of it, at particular vulnerable windows of our development, it can have all sorts of derailing effects with our neurodevelopment and, also, with our endocrine system.

Andrew: Well, indeed, not necessarily blaming chlorpyrifos. But I remember a case decades ago now. This is before the PPI’s, the proton pump inhibitors. This is back in the old days of H2 antagonists. So I think it was Cimetidine. There was a guy who was using pesticides who was concurrently taking Cimetidine. That has, the trade name was Tagamet. And he basically turned himself into an insect for want of a better term. So that is a little bit glib but in the end he died of testicular cancer or something, I think. 

During. his life, though, he ended up with neuronal damage and all sorts of issues. And the judge, I remember, not only did he successfully sue the pharmaceutical company because they knew about the issue, the CYP interaction with the pesticides. Not only was that an issue but I think he was awarded one million extra dollars for, basically, a shove it in-your-face because you knew what it was about. So it wasn't just the actual lawsuit. But it was like an extra million dollars because of your arrogance in not doing…it was sort of that flavour. Forgive me, the terminology. 

So not withstanding that that might be an issue of the days of old, where we had very strong you know CYP inhibitors and things like that. Some of those are still available.

Tabitha: And there are just so many gaps in our knowledge. This is the thing and when you're delving through the research, it is an area of research that is absolutely exploding. And I guess one of the other reasons that I haven't swayed from learning about it and doing as much as I can is because it's continually updating. You never have a day when you're bored.

Andrew: Well, look, even to the point of looking at you know, copper logs in Australia. We call them copper logs, you know, and that's the chromium copper arsenic -- CCA. So we're finding that building material is now going out. Now, they're blue so it's a different termicide. It's a different pesticide in there. Do we know the long-term effects of this one? I don't know.

Tabitha: Absolutely not. It reminds me of the BPA switching to Bisphenol-S, and that having really similar toxicology profile and not necessarily being a better option.

Andrew: Okay. So I have to ask. It's at a devil's advocate…it's more of teasing out a question, here. 

When we've got such a chronic low-grade issue of thyroid problems in our kids, to the point where we're now supplementing with iodine. And we all think, oh, therefore, it's iodine that's the issue because we have iodine deficient soils and that's one issue. Is that the only issue?

Tabitha: Most definitely not. And you know it's not, Andrew. 

So essentially, there are so many different other halogens that can interfere with the uptake of iodine into the thyroid. And then there's also a huge amount of research on perchlorate impacting one of the sodium iodine channels for thyroid…for iodine into the thyroid. And this example of thyroid health is actually a fantastic example in so far as, it's not just about avoidance.

So when we talk about the solutions and how we can handle such an enormous you know conundrum, really. The chemical's dilemma, we could call it. Certainly, avoidance and that sense of community and information-sharing and opening the conversation with your friends and family is really important. 

But then, also, we have to be making sure that we're maximising resilience. So when we're looking at thyroid function in infancy, we don't just want to be making sure that we're…there's not too much fluoride coming in. And there's not too much byproduct from some of the disinfectants in our tap water. Potentially looking at a filter on tap water, etc.. No swallowing of toothpaste and careful with pesticides because some of the halogen residues in pesticide-laden foods. 

But it's also about maximising resilience by making sure iodine is coming in and all of those other hormone supportive building-blocks are coming in so that children are getting enough zinc. And that they're not selenium deficient as well. And that they've got protein in their diet and enough of the clean fats. So there's so much you can do to maximise resilience. And, really, the concepts there are at the core of naturopathic philosophy in the first place. It's usually something the body's always trying to do its utmost to be its healthiest and to develop well. But it's usually something too much of or not quite enough of that throws us off track.

Andrew: We know that foods are obviously much more bioavailable to the human body rather than a supplement. What do you think the place of supplements is with regards to kids. And, particularly, with regards to the current environment of these lollies…supplements being promoted to kids?

Tabitha: You mean like gummy vitamins and things like that? Yeah. Well, again, you know, a lot of those on the market may be artificially covered and sweetened and I don't really see a huge place for multivitamins for children. That's just the way that I practice. 

I think that developmentally, requirements for children as they grow, they've got to be getting enough iron to satiate their blood volume that's expanding so rapidly. And that is something that I do see in clinic quite regularly. I see kids with empty iron stores, anaemic children. I'd say three out of every five kids…maybe it's a biased population that's coming to me because they’re unwell. But three out of every five kids I see is low in iron. And iron, again, is relevant as a cofactor for a number of our detox enzymes.

Andrew: I don't know the prevalence of iron deficiency anaemia in the community. I've only heard of like women is like 12%. But they're menstruating. What about kids?

Tabitha: Well, if we divert just for a moment. So you know, kids from the ages of one to three, both genders, have a recommended daily intake of 11 milligrams of iron. Now, I guess you have a look a fully grown man or even your own son, Andrew, who's 18. Iron recommended intake of 8 milligrams a day. And that is because, you know, in the adult, they're fully grown. But the young children, every single day, their blood volume is expanding. And this is very lay terms, but, really, if an infant is iron store deficient or has iron deficiency anaemia, they are more spongey. And the way that they tolerate their body burden, because there is no question about it, we all have a body burden of toxins. 

But, really, the concept of toxicity is how well we are handling that body burden. And if a child is really low with their iron and, also, is not getting enough iodine daily, to protect their own thyroid, they are going to be at increased risk of detrimental outcomes.

Andrew: So then, how do you then address that, particularly in kids. Diet is so important. Bad dietary habits are so easily taken onboard particularly with our marketing. How do we get kids back? How do we do this?

Tabitha: It's a perfect storm. So there's the industrialisation of the food industry. There's the quick 10-second grab, the convenience of everything. Parents are overloaded. 

You know, when we look at some of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, you know, data on Australian spending, we spend something like $13 a week on fruits and vegetables, per household. And something like $32 a week on take-home…take-out food. So it's a perfect storm. 

But how do…you know, how do we reach those families, really? I see myself as an educator. And on teaching, how do you get enough fruit? How do you get enough vegetables? How can you prioritise your organic dollar if you have an organic dollar…

Andrew: That's a good term.

Tabitha: Yeah, how can your organic dollar? And you know, obviously, newsletters, handout, recipes. I've actually got a phytochemicals chemicals checklist that I use in my clinic so it's a rainbow, essentially. And the kids can put their name at the top of the page and they can tick every day of the week that they've eaten something red, pink, purple, green, orange, yellow, and tan. And they get a little reward at the end of the week like an extra book or some more time with one of the parents or whatever.

And then, obviously, we've got the book as a resource. We think this book should be in every school. We think it should be in every women's health centre, in every library, in every clinic. And it really does just extend to that.

Andrew: I've got to say, and you're calling for this book to be in every school, every clinic, is not through commercial gain. You guys put your heart into this. It's what you live, love,  and walk and talk. I've got to say, I want to see your kids. Like, they must be the most glowing sort of happy kids. 

So talking about kids and their picky phases. And you know, like we've been through this particularly with our youngest who is now just this incredible young man who cooks his own meal, grabs his own kale, cooks it on the barbecue drizzling lemon over it, blanching asparagus. He's just an amazing young man. But he has chosen to take charge of his own diet, and that's a powerful thing for him.

And, indeed, I have to tell you this. I introduced him to your book. And I pointed towards it and I said to him, Liam, I've never seen a publication like this. I've never seen anything like this. And he went, "Yeah. Yeah." And I put it down. And the next morning, he said, "Dad, where's that book?" And so he's now got that book. Yeah, we'll he's stolen it. It's in his room.

Tabitha: I have to throw you another copy, Andrew. But that's unreal. That's outstanding.

Andrew: Okay. Now, so he's now at that stage where he's taken charge. He's now a young man, nearly 18. But he's been through his stage of, you know, the chocolate, biscuits, the overdose of milk. I was actually worried about alkali disease at one stage. He was drinking so much milk. He's been through the sugar. He's been through all of those dietary indiscretion stages. 

How do you encourage patients to manage it without being worrywarts/helicopter parents, that will, you know, embed a paranoia about food in their kids? How do you take charge of this?

Tabitha: The word that comes to mind, again, is connection. And how I want to explain that is, I have my own little expression called body talk. And the way that I like to help children connect to a particular food that might be on their plate that they might think, “Oh, gross. That's green…” or whatever. If we can connect how that food might improve their performance in their chosen favorited sport. Or how it might help them concentrate a little bit better with their NAPLAN exam. NAPLAN, today, actually, for my children.

You know, if you can help a child to feel connected to that food on their plate, it's not all about necessarily, just the mouth feeling of it. And we know, with fussy kids, this term of neophobia. You know, I've got the 10 times rule at my house. If you don't like a food after the 10th time or 11th time that I've served it, I'll go with that. I'll take it for the time being. 

But essentially, if you can help the child to feel connected to food…that food because they've either been at the supermarket or the farmer's market with you, in choosing that. Or, if they're connected to it because they've got their rainbow chart and they're wanting to make sure they check every colour so they'll put a piece of broccoli in their mouth because they haven't had any greens today. Or they're inspired to try some purple carrot or some yellow carrot because of the colour chart. 

Really, if the can…you know, if they be sent out to the garden or even to the windowsill to pick some parsley or some mint to put in their with their peas or their feta etc.. And, certainly, if you've got them up on the kitchen bench, really, you know, we have…this generation has potential to lose so many of the cooking skills. And really, just to be able to get back in the kitchen and be responsible for the majority of your own meals. You know, your own breakfast before you leave the house, to packing a lunch to take with you. Making it as colourful as you can and leading by example, as parents, really.

Andrew: I've got to say, I'm so glad that you mentioned that connection to their food. We've covered this in numerous podcasts with various interviewees. And every single time, it's got to do with this connection with the food. We've seen it on telly with the cooks. And, yet, it's so important and it's not something…you don't need a farm. You know, you don't need to have the organic farm 300K's away from your work. It can just be a herb garden on your bench, on your windowsill. It can be that small, little…as you say, a calling to your tribe. Just that link. You know, you know where a potato is from.

Tabitha: Absolutely. Some of Jamie Oliver's work in this area is just outstanding as well.

Andrew: So that sort of thing, I think is so important. And, I'm remembering, when you were speaking just then about this sort of connection, I'm remembering when my wife and I took our kids down to my sister's place at Orange, outside of Orange. And she has the best garden, like the best. So we were raiding the berries. You know, I've seen asparagus, how it looks in the ground. You know, that sort of…her corn is just beautiful. Like, it's just glowing. So you think of this flea bitten, sort of organic thing. No, that's not how it grows. Like, Pam's stuff is just incredible. But I think the beauty of it is this connection.

I guess I have to go another bit of a jump or leap. Maybe, it's a leap back, though. Let's say, because they live on a farm, they've had to deal with the reality of animals and eating them. And when we're talking about the toxic load, you've also got to talk about the toxic load that the animals intake throughout their lives. And then, we talk about the lovely…because we don't want to talk about nasty things, we just want to talk about a grass-fed steak. Well, that steak was actually an animal. I hope I'm not turning people off.

Tabitha: No. It's the case. It's how the world works.

Andrew: It is the reality of it. So the fact of the matter is, if we're talking about an organic steak, that was fed something. And it wasn't fed one day. It was fed throughout its lifetime, how particular are you? How particular do you have to get with sourcing these ‘clean’ sources of meat?

Tabitha: Look, a lot of the documentaries and things like that out there are American, okay? And I do think we're in a far stronger position when it comes to our livestock in Australia because we've got the space. But having said that, I used an expression before, which I use in clinic with my clients, which is prioritising your organic dollar. And I do think, you know, with budgets in mind, as well, when we can prioritise our organic dollar on our animal products, what we are doing, you know, buying organic eggs, organic grass-fed meats when we can, organic chooks, for the people that eat, like omnivores, like that. 

What we are doing is we are significantly reducing our exposures to some of those persistent pollutants that are fat soluble, you know, really persistent pollutants. These are the ones that are banned from use now. They've been banned for decades. But they're still in the food chain because they're fat soluble and they build up within the tissue of the animals. Including the tissue of our farmed fish, sadly. And that is a whole other podcast. Making a good choice on…

Andrew: A marine fish that eats soy… Really?

Tabitha: I know, it's pretty devastating. And leftovers from chicken industry and things like that. 

But, essentially, when we are spending that little bit extra on our certified organic animal produce, we can extend it. We can make it last for us. You know, where the rubber hits the road with clients every day, and I've got loads of recipes. And one of those recipes that goes out really commonly, especially to those young children that are low in iron and the women that are low in iron is just a really simple bolognese recipe that gets turned into a shepherd's pie with a sweet potato mash. And the bolognese is just 500 grams of organic grass-fed mince. But it has been extended with loads of lentils and broccoli and parsley and basil from your own garden if you can. And even frozen peas, carrots, zucchinis. And that way, you're getting sort of eight meals out of what was initially expensive grass-fed organic beef. 

But at the same time, all of the phytochemicals that are in those vegetables and that are in those herbs and spices that you might be using, are synergistically working together to protect you DNA from any chemical exposures via your meals.

Andrew: You just said a key point, one which I omitted before, and that was the inclusion of large amounts of plant food. The obvious picture in people's mind is, there's your meat, and over there is your salad or vegetables. It doesn't have to be that way. You know, one of my favourite meals that my wife cooks up. Bless you, Lea. Is this chicken with lentils. 

Oh my God. And talking about vegetables. So what we do is with the recipe, it says for a certain portion of lentils. We double that. And that amount of phytochemicals of fibre that we're getting now, in that meal has just doubled. So it doesn't have to be this separate thing you can include in these diets, these bolognaises, these practical meals.

Tabitha: Absolutely. So it's just about how much plant food can you get in, in a day.

Andrew: So, okay, navigating through this maze. You talk about four pillars in your book. What are they?

Tabitha: Well, the solutions. So this is the final chapter and this is where it all comes together. 

And solution one, we've spent a bit of time on, today. So it's about awareness. It's about opening that conversation. It's about educating and avoiding. Because, really, the most ethical and the cheapest thing to do, really, because we don't really adopt the precautionary principle, here, which is the look before you leap and let's just err on the side of caution. The most ethical and the most cost-effective preventive tool is avoidance. So pillar one is education, awareness and avoidance.

Pillar two is about supporting our most vulnerable. And, really, when we look to the literature, the windows of vulnerability are in that first trimester of pregnancy, all throughout gestation, as a young infant, and then there's more research that's been published recently from New York Uni. I can probably find that paper for you, too. Which is the vulnerability of our teens. So kids from sort of twelve through to late teens, with their exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals. 

So it's not just the high load of things like phthalates that they may be exposing to themselves as they start to explore personal care products. But also perchlorate, which is water and in the food chain and residues on food. And the way that that impacts developmental thyroid function in the teen years. So it's supporting our most vulnerable. 

And really, again, this is very naturopathic. But we're looking at your preconception care. We're making sure that there is an abundance of minerals coming in, an abundance of phytochemicals coming in, again, to work to protect the cells from the oxidation that occurs, the mitochondrial damage that occurs with exposures.

And pillar three, we've got the strategies to support all of the bodies innate detoxification mechanisms. So really, for detoxification to be effective…and we know we all have our unique…you know, we respond uniquely, to our environmental exposures and also our nutrient absorption and things like that. But so many ducks have to be lined up for detox to be working effectively. So whatever we can do to open the channels of elimination, whether that be asking your kids to have a glass of water on waking just to flush their kidneys. And making sure, you know, bartering with them to make sure they finish their water bottle by the end of the day -- their steel water bottle, mind you. 

Also, making sure there's plenty of plant-food fibre coming in. Maybe the use of a probiotic. And doing what we can, again, via our diet and the decisions that we make to nourish our microbiome because of the microbiome's role in detoxification and supporting the liver.

Andrew: So with regards to the microbiota, you know, we keep on thinking about foods for the microbiota. Like, for instance, prebiotics and fermented food. And we, you know, as natural health care practitioners we bang on about these things that you give by mouth. However, there's new data out that says that an effective way to modulate your microbiota, at least to some degree, is actually physical exercise. And then, there's sleep. 

So these things that we put over there, we don't attribute to having an important impact on our microbiota. Sleep and exercise, how do you then start to negotiate that one with regards to kids? Given that we've got this convenience-mentality in our culture.

Tabitha: Well, look, I'm a practical girl, Andrew. And right from a very young age, with my own children and, again, with the clients that I see in clinic, I use something termed "Nature's Seven Doctors." And it does put…and, you know, I'm saying this with my clinical nutrition hat on. It does put nutrition in its place because it's only just one of nature's seven doctors. 

So we talk about access to fresh air, clean water, sunshine every day, the whole foods, feeling socially connected to your community like we've been talking about today. Sleep. Sleep and adequate rest. And then, I think I'm up to seven. Moving your body in a way that inspires you, exercising. You know, these are all really critical components of living well. And living well is a lifestyle. It's not just about what you ate and what you put in your body.

Andrew: I love the way that you said moving your body in a way that inspires you. I'm just giving a call out to both of my sons, here. I don't care about what you think about my dancing.

Tabitha: Exactly. It could be martial arts, yoga. When you take time to check in with your body each day…and this is something, again, I try to teach all of my clients and we talk about in the book. When you take a little moment each day to check-in with your body, your body talks to you and it let's you know how it's going. And it let's you know if that, you know, 5 a.m. really high-intensity gym class this morning with some person yelling at you really worked for you, or if it didn't. And you know, anyway that inspires you. A nature walk. You know, green space exercise, we know the impact that has on mental health.

Andrew: A final word. Our internal ecosystem versus our external ecosystem, what are we talking about, here?

Tabitha: Well, you know, I was at BioCeuticals’ Research Symposium recently, in April, and it was just so magic to hear Christopher Shade speak. I am a huge fan of his, and there were a number of things that he talked about as blocks to effective detoxification. And when we talk about our internal environment, you know, certainly being fight or flight and being sympathetically dominant is a major block to both cellular and whole-body detoxification. So is gut permeability and leaky gut junction. So is dysbiosis, not being well-rested enough, not emptying our bowels well-enough, and not having those elimination channels open, really. 
But when we talk about our internal ecosystem, we are so intricately connected to the external ecosystem as well and I don't think we see that any clearer than in the case of pregnancy.

Andrew: I've got to say as the last sort of wrap up. You know, just looking at your book, I'm so inspired by this. I was so appreciative of the work that you guys have put into this, you and Sarah. Because I've never seen anything so professionally produced before. It is seriously something that should be on your coffee table for every visitor to pick up and glance through, and to go, “Wow.” So I've got to say, hats off. You know, well done to you guys on this.

Tabitha: Thank you. You know, it was a five-year project, Andrew. So we had the time to think about it. And it morphed and it evolved. And originally we thought it would just be a black-and-white book, and we weren't sure…yeah. 

We got to a point where we wanted it to be beautiful. We wanted it to call to people. We actually chose a cover that was moderately confronting. And we went through all of the processes and all of the expenses, to be honest, of having it printed on Forestry Stewardship Approved paper. Soy-based ink. No petroleum. And, you know, we wanted the way that we produced the book to be aligned with the contents of the book. And, really, it is a gift to our fellow clinicians. And we are just one of the voices speaking to this really important topic. And we take our hats off, really, to everyone else that's working and researching in the field. And, you know, whether that is the farmers or the clinicians or the researchers and the academics. 

And, you know, there's some work that Nicole Bijlsma is doing at the moment on chemical assessment. And the paper she published last year with Marc Cohen was just excellent. And it really was an acknowledgment to the clinicians out there that are extending their consulting work into this area because we can't really just work with nutrition and herbs and lifestyle alone without taking into account the ever-increasing impact or our environment, not just on our day-to-day health but on our reproductive timeline and on the health of the planet and on the health of our future generation.

Andrew: So I would urge all of our listeners out there to arm yourselves with this book. It really is an armament. One Bite at a Time: Reduce Toxic Exposure and Eat the World you Want. By Dr. Sarah Lantz and Tabitha Macintosh. 

Tabitha, thank you so much for joining us on FX Medicine and talking through the beauty of this book but also the issues confronting all of our populations, in every country. But, I guess, especially Australia because that's where we are right now.

Tabitha: Such a pleasure speaking with you, Andrew. Thanks for having me.

Andrew: This is FX Medicine. I'm Andrew Whitfield-Cook.

Additional Resources

Tabitha McIntosh
Book: One Bite at a Time
Book: Chemical Free Kids by Dr Sarah Lantz
TED Talk: The Toxic Baby
By: Tyrone Hayes and Penelope Jagessar Chaffer
Environmental Working Group: Pollution in Newborns - July 2005
Nicole Bijlsma | Building Biology
FX Medicine Podcast: Dr Sarah Lantz

Research Explored in this Podcast

McMullen J, Ghassabian A, Kohn B et al. Identifying Subpopulations Vulnerable to the Thyroid-Blocking Effects of Perchlorate and Thiocyanate. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2017 Apr 20;102(7):2637-2645

Bijlsma N, Cohen M. Environmental Chemical Assessment in Clinical Practice: Unveiling the Elephant in the Room. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2016 Feb;13(2):181



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