The Low Tox Series – Aluminum

Welcome back everyone! I really didn’t intend to write this post. It wasn’t on the agenda. But the opportunity presented itself when I was cooking dinner and my husband lined the baking sheet with aluminum foil. I plopped the potato, onion and pepper mixture on there and put it in the oven. I didn’t think anything of it until a thought popped into my head,  “Can this aluminum from the foil leach into the food”? I immediately started Googling, which isn’t the best idea when you’re cooking and trying to not burn the food. So I saved my Googling for later, and having researched to my satisfaction, here is what I found.

Can aluminum from foil leach into my food?

Short answer: Yup, it can.

Long answer: Baking food in/on aluminum foil frequently can cause a health risk. This risk is greater for children or people with ailments like kidney disease. Children are smaller and thus what would amount to a small exposure in an adult might be a much larger exposure in child.

Why is this a problem?

Short answer: Aluminum is a neurotoxin.

Long answer: Neurotoxins are poisons that act on the nervous system aka the brain and spinal cord. Aluminum has also been linked to autism, Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions. In research, the aluminum content in the brain tissue of people with autism has been consistently high.

Where the heck is the aluminum coming from?

Short answer: Diet, cookware/food prep materials, cosmetics and certain medications.

Long answer:

1. Within our diet, many foods contain aluminum including teas, herbs and spices, grain products, canned foods and beverages, infant formula, cocoa/chocolate and baking mixes.

2. Of course, aluminum foil, cooking utensils or pots, pans, baking trays can contain aluminum.

3. Aluminum is used as an adjuvant in vaccines. So this means that aluminum is used to trigger the immune system and stimulate a strong response. Children receive many vaccines, and multiple doses of vaccines, when they are very young so I’m forced to ask, what is the compound effect of this aluminum exposure? Professional opinions on this vary which you can read more about here, here and here, if you’re interested.

4. Cosmetics like sunscreens, anti-perspirants and toothpaste can contain aluminum.

5. Antacids can contain aluminum too.

6. For adults, someone’s occupation may expose them to aluminum as well, especially for people that consistently work with metal.

Again, the amounts that we are exposed to may be small but for a child, they can add up and may be potentially harmful in the short or long term. As I mentioned, there is debate on this.

So what can we do to avoid aluminum overload?

Short answer: There are many things we can do! It all depends on how much of a concern you consider aluminum to be.

Long answer:

1. We can reduce our exposure by limiting our use of canned foods. I tend to lean more toward frozen options for produce anyway just because the taste is better and they’re still less expensive than fresh. I also use a lot of canned beans so I plan to try using dried beans in the future. We can also adjust our cookware and avoid cooking on aluminum foil. I’ll be doing a future post all about the best non-toxic cookware so keep an eye out for that. And instead of aluminum foil, try parchment paper! It works great and food won’t stick to it. For cooking things like veggies on the grill, there are cast iron or stainless steel grill baskets. We use this type for camping. For cooking meat, cedar planks or papers/wraps are a nice option.

2. Choosing to vaccinate or not is a personal choice with many factors to consider, namely a person’s genetics and family history. Families are free to make the choice to vaccinate in full or part, to not vaccinate at all, or to space out vaccines. This is a personal choice that I strongly support because every person is unique and deserves the freedom to make unique and personalized medical choices for themselves and their children.

3. We can look at the ingredients on our personal care products and avoid anti-perspirants, and choose products with fewer or no chemicals. I actually did a whole blog about safer sunscreen options which you can find here! I highly recommend using the Environmental Working Group website to search all your personal care products and see how their ingredients rank as far as safety and toxicity. Check out this Instagram video for a quick tutorial on how to do this!

4. If you use antacids, first off, check out the ingredients and see if aluminum hydroxide is on the list. If so, you may want to search for another option. And hey, if you’re looking for a more natural alternative, give this a shot. I swear by it, because it has worked for me 100% of the time. Put 1 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water and drink it. You can also just drink the vinegar straight and then follow it with water but it’s super strong so I wouldn’t recommend it. Give it some time, about 20-30 minutes, and your indigestion or heartburn should fade. I know it sounds crazy but the truth is that for many people with recurring indigestion and heartburn, the issue isn’t too much stomach acid, its too little acid! If our stomach acid isn’t strong enough to breakdown our food correctly or trigger the esophageal sphincter to shut, we can get indigestion and heartburn (check out part 1 and 2 of this article). Here’s a great video explaining this.

5. If you come in contact with aluminum through your job, it may not be feasible to change your occupation but maybe there are precautions or protective equipment that would help limit direct exposure. Don’t be afraid to request these protections!

Let’s wrap this up

When it comes to limiting toxins, we have to weigh the risks against the costs of making changes. If a change is easy to make and helps reduce our exposure, I’m all for it, sign me up! But I totally understand the hesitation when things start to cost a lot of money or when families are already stretched and stressed and adding another thing might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Believe me, I face these same internal debates too. And I love sharing concerns and brainstorming solutions with other parents. I do these blogs to give you a little food for thought and help make your autism journey easier and more clear because there is SO MUCH to consider. So if you have any questions, please reach out.

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