Do you strive to live a low-tox lifestyle, but concerned about your (or little ones) exposure to chlorine in swimming pools?
As your skin is your largest organ, it therefore absorbs much of what you apply topically and expose it to- the chlorine in your water supply and swimming pools included.
Chlorine is antibacterial, so if you're inhaling and ingesting the fumes and water, it will effect your microbiome such as the beneficial bacteria on your skin and within your gut. We know our good bugs play a major role in detoxification, digestion of your foods, building your immunity, supporting your brain and hormone health among much more. When your levels are under attack, this can contribute to health conditions throughout your body.
The gases released from chlorine are also lung irritants and if the experience of many Naturopathic patients is to go by, chlorine is an eye and skin irritant and also contributes to topical skin conditions such as eczema.
Chlorine competes with iodine uptake - a critical mineral needed for neurological development and function, thyroid and breast health. Our soils are already very deficient in iodine and despite iodine fortified foods, alarmingly the iodine intake of 65% of pregnant women and 85% of lactating women is below the estimated average requirement for these critical life stages. (1) Studies in Australia and New Zealand also indicate mild to moderate deficiencies in both general populations. (2,3)
Iodine is stored in the breast in higher amounts than the thyroid gland, playing a pivotal role in the integrity of your breast tissue. Inadequate levels of iodine can contribute to increased breast cell damage (4) and higher oestrogen circulating in the breasts, (5) driving the development of fibrocystic breasts.
Too little iodine can also cause an underactive thyroid function and when an expecting Mums' iodine status is even mild to moderately deficient, the thyroid health of baby is affected and this low iodine may also contribute to neurological development and cognitive performance issues. (6)
As we head into the warmer months, the temptation to cool off in a pool is hard to resist. I know I certainly let my usual avoidance of chlorine pools slide on our recent trip to Lake Arglye. If you or your little ones will be jumping in the pool, there are simple actions you can take pre, during and post swim to minimise the effects chlorine may have on your health.
If you have the option, select an outdoor pool to reduce the lung irritant effect chlorine can have.
Before you jump in, create a protective barrier to reduce your absorption of chlorine through your skin. This can be through massaging coconut oil onto your body followed by wetting your skin and hair. Clothing can also add protection, so encouraging children to wear long sleeve rashies and using goggles for their pool swims will also help.
Take a shower to physically wash off chlorine from your body and use low temperatures to avoid your pores from opening (and absorbing chlorine).
Taking an epsom salt bath or foot bath is also a gentle and safe way to help detox the chlorine the night of your swim.
Consume plenty of foods to improve the health of your beneficial gut bacteria. Prebiotic rich foods will feed your good bugs, such as tiger nuts, cooked and cooled white potato or rice, artichokes and green bananas. Probiotic and enzyme rich foods include sauerkraut, coconut water kefir and yoghurt.
Increase your intake of iodine through foods, to help crowd out chlorine (the two compete for absorption). As our Australian soils are so deplete of iodine, the best source are seaweeds and one of my favourite ways to incorporate seaweed into my day is through seaweed salt.
Foods containing specific amino acids (Taurine and Cysteine) can help to enhance liver detoxification and safe removal of chlorine from your body. Animal protein sources such as organ meats, eggs and seafood are rich in Taurine and Cysteine is found is beans, beef, brewers yeast, chicken, cottage cheese, eggs, seafood, garlic, liver and whey protein.
If you are a regular chlorine pool swimmer, consider taking the following supplements.
Both ascorbic acid and sodium ascorbate forms of Vitamin C successfully neutralize chlorine. To avoid loose bowel movements, go low and spread it out over the day for yourself and it is safest for bubs to see a practitioner for dosage guidance.
Amino acids Taurine and Cysteine as well as the tri-peptide antioxidant Glutathione can all help to detoxify chlorine through the liver. Learn about glutathione here and consider either Riboceine™, ASEA or N-Acetyl Cysteine to boost your levels effectively.
Iodine supplementation is important to nourish your thyroid and breast tissue, due to its ability to displace chlorine in the body. Stick with maintenance doses for yourself unless you’ve had your levels checked or have a thyroid condition. Seaweed rich snacks and seaweed salt are safest to use for bubs.
Taking a probiotic and rotating overtime between different strains can further help to encourage healthy gut flora and enhance your natural detoxification pathways. This is also something you can do for the whole family’s protection- just ensure you are giving bubs a baby friendly strain/s of good bacteria.
If you don’t have the luxury of taking a dip in the ocean or a chlorine free pool, there are ways you can minimise the effects chlorine has on the health of you and your loved ones. Use these diet, lifestyle and supplemental steps listed to avoid chlorine absorption, support natural detoxification and boost your beneficial nutrient levels, so you can keep cool safely this summer.
Has this brought up questions for you Mumma? As I type this, the beginnings of my baby health project has begun. I can't wait to bring you specific dietary and lifestyle support, together with supplementation guidelines to nourish and protect the health of you and your little one/s. You can register your interest here.
(1) Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council. The effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of mandatory folic acid and iodine fortification (Internet). Australia: Council of Australian Governments (COAG); 2017. (Updated 2017 Jun 2; cited 2017 Oct 30). Available from:http://www.coaghealthcouncil.gov.au/Publications/Reports
(2) Charlton K, Probst Y, Kiene G. Dietary iodine intake of the Australian population after introduction of a mandatory iodine fortification programme. Nutrients. 2016 Nov 4;8(11).pii:E701.PubMed PMID: 27827915
(3) Li M, Eastman CJ, Waite KV, Ma G, Zacharin MR, Topliss DJ, et al. Are Australian children iodine deficient? Results of the Australian national iodine nutrition study. Aust Med J. 2006;184(4):165-169. PMID:1648990.
(4) Patrick L. Iodine: deficiency and therapeutic considerations. Med Rev. 2008. Jun. 13(2);116-27.
(5) Stadel BV. Dietary iodine and risk of breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancer. Lancet. 1976 Apr 24;1(7965):890-1.
(6) Alexander EK, Pearce EN, Brent GA, Brown RS, Chen H, Dosiou C. 2017 Guidelines of the American Thyroid Association for the diagnosis and management of thyroid disease during pregnancy and the postpartum. Thyroid. 2017 Mar;27(3):315-389.doi:10.1089/thy.2016.0457.