By Jo Hayes
THE “low-tox life” is capturing the attention of many a millenia-mind of late.
Trademarked by Aussie health campaigner Alexx Stuart, it promotes lifestyle changes that reduce the “toxic load” in our daily lives – like, swapping chemical cleaning products for natural options like essential oils.
While enjoying a resurgence, it’s not, of course, a new idea.
Our mums were onboard with this way before it was trendy to have oil diffusers on our office desks, and relaxing bedtime remedies for our temples and pillows.
Growing up in the late ’80s/early ’90s, the first sign of a cold, Mum would have us sniffing eucalyptus oil from our hankies and consuming all manner of disgusting, extraordinarily effective natural remedies.
In the home, she scrubbed every surface with hot water and white vinegar.
And the natural treatments worked.
My five siblings and I were hardly ever sick – no major illnesses, no nut/dairy/egg/gluten allergies.
We had constitutions of steel; and our home was squeaky clean.
And before our revered mums, for thousands of years, nations and cultures around the world have embraced the natural “low-tox” life for all the wonders that it offers.
Nature knows how to heal.
But in the midst of the low-toxin, natural living resurgence, many are overlooking something crucial.
What goes IN to our bodies is only part (and a small part) of the journey to achieving overall health and wellbeing.
Science, history and myriad religious traditions prove that it is what goes on in our heart and mind that largely determines our overall health.
In her best-selling book Who Switched Off My Brain, cognitive neuroscientist Dr Caroline Leaf describes thoughts as either “toxic” (fear-based) or “healthy” (love-based).
Leaf, who is also a Christian, goes on to say that because we are “wired for love”, letting fear-based thoughts drive and guide us, disrupts the healthy circuitry in our brains.
That’s why uncontrolled stress and anxiety are so damaging – they weaken our immune system and making us feel exhausted, giving sickness a foothold.
Brain scans show that “positive” and “negative” thoughts actually look physically different.
The toxic thoughts looked like thick black, gnarley branches, while the positive thoughts look thinner, leaner and, yes, just healthier.
Leaf explains that all thoughts produce chemicals.
Love-based thoughts produce chemicals that are good for us, and make us feel good.
With these chemicals, more is more – for example, the oxytocin that floods our body when we fall in love, or when a new mother bonds with her baby.
This, and other chemicals, give us that amazing natural high.
Likewise, fear-based thoughts, like anxiety, also produce chemicals.
In the short term, they’re necessary. For example, adrenaline is essential in the “fight or flight” response.
A good burst of this chemical can kick us into action – and in turn, save our life.
However, long-term stress and anxiety allow adrenalin, and other chemicals, to build up to harmful levels, eventually becoming toxic to the body, making us sick.
We were never supposed to live in a perpetual state of flight or flight, yet so many do.
Leaf is one of a growing number of medical experts who believe that up to 95 per cent of all physical and mental health issues are a result of a toxic thought life.
That includes thoughts like “unforgiveness”, long-term anger, resentment and hate.
Chief of surgery at the Cancer Treatment Centres of America Dr Steven Standiford believes “unforgiveness”, especially, is a major health – including cancer – risk.
He now uses “forgiveness therapy” to help treat a range of diseases like cancer.
Other United States research by Duke University, the University of Tennessee, and Stanford University have found that stress from hateful thoughts lowered the immune system.
They found that people who were able to forgive, can modify their heart rate, lower their blood pressure, decrease physical pain and even relieve depression.
This is powerful stuff.
And the medical evidence is underpinned by the holy scriptures, which Christians hold up as the inspired Word of God, and ultimate truth.
The Bible is overflowing with warnings, advice – and evidence – that “toxic thoughts” harm the body.
Proverbs 14:30 reminds us that, “a heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones”.
In Deuteronomy 28:21, for those who do not obey the laws of love/the laws of God, “you will be plagued with all kinds of disease, fever and inflammation”.
And of course, there’s the wisdom of Jesus, who stated in Mark 7: 18-23, “It is not what goes in to the body that destroys a person. It is the toxic issues of the heart that destroy a person”.
So, as we begin this new year, with our ambitious health and lifestyle goals, let’s remember the impact of the “inner toxic load” and work at boosting our health from the inside out.
Jo Hayes is a Brisbane radio and television journalist.