Your Practical Guide to Dodging Environmental Toxins [Podcast with Dr. Aly Cohen] - PCOS Diva
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Your Practical Guide to Dodging Environmental Toxins [Podcast with Dr. Aly Cohen]

PCOS podcast 151- Dodging Environmental Toxins “If you can fix your lifestyle to some degree and move in a cleaner direction across the board, sleep, stress, clean eating, clean drinking water, that kind of thing, you have a good opportunity to help keep harmful diseases quiet through epigenetics. The chemicals have been shown to affect the epigenome in a negative way, and they can affect not only our own health, but also perhaps the health of our future generations.” – Dr. Aly Cohen

 

We are not certain why, but people with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) are found to have higher levels of BPA and other chemicals in their blood than those without PCOS, and it negatively impacts our hormones. We know there are unregulated man-made chemicals all around us, in our food, water, air, cosmetics, furniture, the list goes on. It can easily make you anxious and overwhelmed. We need practical advice on what to do and where to begin. Enter Dr. Aly Cohen. She is a board-certified rheumatologist and integrated medicine specialist, as well as an environmental health expert. Her new book makes the confusing understandable and the overwhelming easy. Listen in or read the transcript as we discuss:

  • Endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and their impact on PCOS, especially insulin resistance
  • Practical (often free or inexpensive) tips on how to live healthy in the chemical world
  • Foods which help our body detoxify
  • Effect of toxins on epigenetics and PCOS
  • Nutrients you need to offset some exposures
  • Safer use of cell phones, tech toys, and gadgets

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Mentioned in this podcast:

Sparkle cleanse

Complete Transcript:

Amy Medling:

Today’s PCOS Diva podcast guest is Dr. Aly Cohen. She’s a board-certified rheumatologist and integrated medicine specialist, as well as an environmental health expert. She lies in Princeton, New Jersey. She has been educating the general community, medical colleagues, and high school students about the health effects of environmental, chemicals and radiation for years now. She is also the author of a brand-new book, called Non-Toxic Guide to Healthy Living in a Chemical World, which was co-written by the renowned PhD professor and neuro and reproductive biology, who’s a pioneer in BPA research. His name is Frederick vom Saal.

Thank you for coming on the podcast, Dr. Cohen.

Dr. Aly Cohen:

Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Amy Medling:

I think that your story is really fascinating. I read your book last night. Your story about how a rheumatologist became one of the leading experts in environmental health. I would love for you to kick off our podcast together with sharing your story.

Dr. Aly Cohen:

Sure. This is a real story of how I fell into the world of environmental chemicals and also environmental health, which is the overhanging title for anything that affects the human body from the outside world, be it radiation, or air pollution, or food chemicals. What happened was, about nine or ten years ago, I had a golden retriever dog. It was my baby, my first born, named Truxton. I was a young mom. I had two young kids. I think they were one and three at the time. He was just four a half at the time. He got sick. He seemed to have gotten sick. I took him to the vet and it turned out, on that visit, that he had jaundice, which means that something was wrong with his liver. He was eventually diagnosed, pretty quickly actually by ultrasound, with auto-immune hepatitis, which meant that his immune system had really been triggered and started to attack his liver. So, he didn’t really have much of a liver at the time he was diagnosed. Subsequently he did not live that much longer after that initial diagnosis. I was pretty heartbroken. Here I am, an auto-immune disease specialist for humans no less, and my dog ironically is sick with an auto-immune disease.

I didn’t know how he got it. We live in New Jersey, central New Jersey, lots of farming, lots of pesticides spraying. I was also concerned whether his water was contaminated, whether or not his food might have been contaminated or treats. I thought about the pesticides on his dog collar, flea and tick collars. I wondered whether or not the toy in his mouth that he was always sucking on, this red plastic toy, might have triggered his immune system against himself. Really, out of heartbreak, I kept on researching all of this, and I started to unravel this entire mess of lack of regulation or no regulation for human products in the United States. I just couldn’t believe it. The more I read, the more I was sitting in my kitchen, looking at my cat going, “Are you kidding me?” I really had never heard that there was so limited or no regulations on cosmetics, on personal care products, on even food chemicals, and that none of them are tested, the vast majority for safety, before they go into all the products that we love.

It’s began my journey of trying to see whether this was really true, starting at conferences and webinars and meeting with specialists in the field. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that, here I was a practicing physician of about probably ten years at that point, and I had never heard about any of this during med school, during residency, fellowship, nothing for any mailers that I get for continuing medical education. It was really a shocking time in my life, but really started out of love for my dog and the fact that he got ill so young.

Amy Medling:

I think having these two young children too, thinking, oh my gosh.

Dr. Aly Cohen:

Yeah.

Amy Medling:

Is there something in our water? There are so many chemicals in our environment. I know when I was developing my Sparkle Cleanse program that is something that I was researching. I know that women with PCOS are found to have higher levels of BPA in their blood, and other chemicals, than women without PCOS. Whether that’s an issue that we have wonky detoxification. Our livers can be somewhat compromised with non-alcoholic fatty liver disorder. Whether our nutrient deficiencies that we tend to have come into play. I do that think that this is a great topic to cover on the PCOS Diva podcast because women with PCOS really need to be aware of the role that toxins and detoxification need to play in their lives.

Dr. Aly Cohen:

Yeah, and it’s interesting that you pointed that out. The mechanism of how many chemicals work. This really gets to the point of PCOS and other hormone sensitive illnesses, even cancers of course, is that many of these chemicals were discovered, along with my co-author, Fred vom Saal, was one of the leading researchers twenty years ago. He began this work with his colleagues, that many of these chemicals work as endocrine disrupting chemicals. They’re called EDCs, which means they have this unique and uncanny ability and troublesome ability to be able to mimic hormones, particularly estrogen and estrogen derivatives, also androgens, which are male hormones, but also thyroid hormones, fertility hormones, insulin is a hormone so it affects with, as with PCOS, insulin resistance can be created. There’s a lot of chemical exposure implications and that we’re now seeing with the 90,000 chemicals that are now in and around us all the time at this point, between our products, our food chemicals, our water contaminants, cosmetics that we willingly put on our skin, tampons that we put inside our bodies, and even air pollution. All these almost 90,000 industrial, commercial chemicals do get into the human body. They can be measured by blood levels, urine levels, breast milk levels.

It’s really worth thinking about because we now see a mechanism by which these chemicals work on the human body. They’re low levels. This is not like if you go out and you put some makeup on that’s junky or that you’ve seen has chemicals in it, that next day you’re going to have some immediate reaction. These are low levels of exposures over time. Since hormones are so vulnerable and sensitive, it doesn’t take very much to really start to affect those pathways.

Amy Medling:

I think what I really loved about your book and your approach is that you help us take the overwhelm out of it. Just listening to you, it kind of makes me anxious. There are chemicals that are disrupting my hormones everywhere and it puts you in this place of almost paralysis. There’s so much to deal with that I don’t know where to begin. You talk about the serenity prayer which is, I accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. You talk about approaching detoxifying your body and your home, using that serenity prayer as a paradigm.

Dr. Aly Cohen:

Yeah, and here’s the thing. I would have loved this book to have been available to me when I was panicking eight or nine years ago with my dog and thinking, is this for real? To have something like this book would have been really helpful to me to talk me off the ledge so to speak. It is overwhelming. It’s a very big topic, which is probably why it took me a few years to even believe that it was true. I really had to test, look at all of the medical literature, which is so robust. We have position papers from The Endocrine Society, The World Health Organization, The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Academy of Reproductive Medicine, all have come out with position statements. There are thousands of medical journals that write about these chemicals and their effects on various hormones. I had to read them all. I had to understand that this was real and not wacky science. It turns out that it’s just so robust and so believable that I had to convey it in a way to everyday people. I was an everyday person back then. I was a doctor but since I had never experienced this kind of information, I was an everyday person.

That’s how I wanted to put this book together. I wanted to make this book with my co-author so easy to understand, so practical, so usable, so non-judgmental, and also so empowering. I wanted people to have all the vetted resources that are legitimate, that are not back hand deals between endorsements and branding. I wanted really legitimate resources that were evergreen, that would be websites and apps that actually manage their content in a very responsible way, so that even if a product is bought, a company buys another company, that they would still be able to manage those quality and purity issues in terms of testing.

I wanted people to have the tools to be able to look up their makeup. This is what I do actually with high school students. I teach high school and college. There’s apps in this book that you download and you can look up your lipstick or your shampoo or your conditioner or your skin cream and really see whether it has harmful chemicals and you can choose a different brand. It will give you those different levels of zero to ten, zero being the best and ten being the worst. I wanted people to be able to choose couches without flame retardants. Here’s the link. I wanted people to be able to do it yourself. Deodorants and certain personal care products, we give all the recipes. I wanted people do it yourself cleaning products. If you don’t want to go out and buy clean versions you can also just make them yourself much cheaper, we have those recipes plus food recipes.

I wanted it to give everybody a shot, anyone with no money, with lots of money, with no medical background, with lots of medical background, to really be able to take on this topic in a way that was reasonable and on their journey.

Amy Medling:

You really do just that. There’s a ton of citations. You’re not just pulling this stuff out of a hat. It’s all medically sound information that you’re giving us. I’m hoping that for the time that we have left together that you can give PCOS Divas some real practical tips on how to live healthy in the chemical world. You have a great tear off refrigerator sheet in your appendix of things that you can do on a daily basis. I was hoping that you could go through some of those to do’s with us.

Dr. Aly Cohen:

Sure. There’s a lot of them so I try to make it so reasonable. Of course, there are certain priorities that I would argue a little bit more important than others. Say, the food you eat, since we eat so much of it, we feed so much of it to our kids and even to our pets, maybe that’s a good place to start cutting back on those chemicals by reducing processed foods. Processed foods in general tend to have all those chemicals or many chemicals that have not been tested for safety or toxicity. There are over 1,100 food chemicals right now, allowable in our food products that are processed. If you stick to cleaner foods, meaning less processed whole foods that have been washed off for pesticides, which are endocrine disrupters, you can do that. You can either use Environmental Working Group’s list of Dirty Dozen Clean 15, which is in the book. You can get that online. Or you can just use baking soda and white vinegar with water, either one of them with water can really take off quite a load of pesticides off of produce.

Frozen organics are also a wonderful way to cut back on costs, but organics don’t allow for many of the harmful pesticides and genetically modified ingredients that are in non-organic, USDA organic products.

Some of the other recommendations are drinking water. I hope people will consider perhaps even buying a carbon filter, a pitcher filter, a Brita or a Zero Water, or one of those, to clean their water from tap water or well water. If they want to get more aggressive, we certainly give all that information. If they want to go more aggressive, the kind I have is a reverse osmosis water filter, which runs about $300 and about $150 for a plumber to put it in. Those are the most aggressive types of water filters that you can buy.

Again, it’s a personal journey. It’s a choice of finances, of where you’re living, whether it’s in a home versus a rental apartment. There’s lots of different reasons why people make the choices that we offer them. I would also argue trying to reduce the use of plastics by not cooking in plastics or heating in plastics or carrying water or food in plastics because those chemicals often are in those containers and eventually can leach into the food and water, including especially dyed foods, which a lot of these chemicals like fatty foods. I recommend trying to avoid plastics. You can get glass containers now almost anywhere. You can get glass water bottles or stainless steel water bottles, which I recommend for drinking and carrying liquids. I would say get rid of nonstick pans because of the PFOS chemicals, there’s a collection of chemicals that we now know are endocrine disrupters that are on those smooth dark coatings of nonstick pans. Going back to stainless steel is a great option. It takes a little bit more elbow grease to clean off your food off the pan but it certainly is worth it because again, those chemicals can migrate into the foods that you’re cooking.

Amy Medling:

What are you… Just let me interrupt there for a second. With the cookware, I know that cast iron is good or an enameled cast iron, like Creuset or Lodge. I’m wondering what your thoughts are on ceramic pans because that seems to be the hot cookware right now.

Dr. Aly Cohen:

I can’t vouch for ceramic and I’ll tell you why. Ceramics are often… They come from different countries like China. They may have lead in ceramic. That’s one of the downsides to ceramic as an overall scenario. Corningware, I’m aware of, tests for lead. These are some of the more reputable brands. Le Creuset from France, so those might be more reputable. You always have to call the manufacturer and make sure. Not always do they know, especially the person picking up the phone. When you do stainless steel, food grade stainless steel, which we talk about in the book, is stamped on the bottom with an 18/8 underneath it, which is typical with most pans that you get at local stores. You know for sure that it’s not going, for the most part, not for sure, but for the most part, it doesn’t have the lead ceramic issues. Same with Pyrex or glass. The ceramic ones, I really can’t vouch for all of them.

Certainly, cast iron is an interesting little secret, especially if you have anemia, iron deficiency anemia, because there’s iron that comes from the cast iron that’s actually helpful to people who have iron deficiency anemia. It’s one of the recommendations I make to my patients. You want to make sure that your doctor tells you that you have iron deficiency. Maybe you need some more iron, that’s a great way to get it into your food, is by curing and preparing a good cast iron pan for your food.

Yeah, it’s tricky because there’s so many green labeling of products and that’s again, why we wanted to have the right vetted resources in this book so that people could really look up vetted groups that look at these carefully for chemicals.

Amy Medling:

That’s a great point. I think the term is green washing. You see that a lot, I think, in personal care.

Dr. Aly Cohen:

Right.

Amy Medling:

It looks like it might be… I don’t know, I’m thinking a lot of shampoo brands that look like they’re herbal based.

Dr. Aly Cohen:

There’s absolutely no regulation in cosmetics. That’s shocking in and of itself. Cleaning products and personal care products have no requirement for testing of their ingredients before going onto our store shelves. One of the key issues, also to break that down even further, is the fragrance. The fragrance in cleaning and personal care products, for instance, is highly unregulated, completely unregulated. It’s proprietary, which means that the combination of chemicals in the word fragrance on a label or a perfume on a label, actually requires no testing and can really contain up to 300 plus chemicals. Proprietary meaning it’s trade secret. In this country, in the US, manufacturing is protected over consumer health. They don’t have to reveal what are the individual chemicals within the word fragrance or perfume. When I recommend patients getting cosmetics, of course I certainly tell them to go the websites, like EWG.org and we have those correct cosmetic websites that people can look up to look up their products. Trying to avoid things with fragrance is a good way to start. Fragrant or perfume free often means that you’re not getting a load of chemicals that are basically undisclosed for issues in terms of their data.

Amy Medling:

I think about the mall stores that you walk by and there’s so many young women in them, when you see them squirting on the bottle, testing the body sprays and creams. That’s the stuff, especially women who suspect they might have PCOS, they really don’t want to be putting on their skin.

Dr. Aly Cohen:

Right, and even in your home, you don’t want to be bringing those fragrances into your home through air fresheners, through plug ins, through untested, scented candles, incense, carpet powder, laundry detergents. These are, especially with cleaning products, these are some of the areas that if you just don’t bring it into your home, you don’t buy it in the first place, then it won’t get into your bodies. It’s also cheaper. If you just use… and we have all the do it yourself cleaning products, which are basically three ingredients more less, four ingredients. You can make really, really effective cleaning products and surface cleaners, and even for COVID, just using very, very simple ingredients and avoiding all those fragrances and colors and all these horrible chemicals that are in most cleaning products.

Amy Medling:

I’m a big fan of castile soap. I know that you are too because it’s listed in a lot of your recipes for cleaning products.

Dr. Aly Cohen:

Borax can be used. Certainly sea salt for scrubbing, white vinegar is super cheap and available in jugs. Essential, real 100% essential organic oils. I would be very leery of just junk oils. Again, you can combine these that is super inexpensive. Even for COVID, I’m recommending isopropyl alcohol, which is just rubbing alcohol, things that kill a virus but don’t also bring with it a host of horrible chemicals and untested chemicals.

Amy Medling:

I wanted to back up a little bit, we were talking about foods and avoiding the processed foods that have a lot of colorings, dyes. What about the foods that we want to add into our diet to help our body detoxify? You talk about that in your book and I’d love for you to share more.

Dr. Aly Cohen:

Sure, we wanted to have a whole chapter on the detox processes of the body so you can understand the physiology and how amazing the human body is in clearing many chemicals, even the ones that it didn’t evolve to necessarily see or know, which are the modern day chemicals, after 1950. All these chemicals, the 90,000 I mentioned, have really only been introduced into the human experience for the past 200 years. That’s it. We’ve been evolving for millions of years. Many of the chemicals, I should say many of the foods that we eat or have eaten during evolution, have really been whole foods, nuts, berries, greens, real wild caught fish, really high-quality proteins. One of the interesting groups of greens that have been shown to have a really wonderful detoxification properties are cruciferous vegetables. I even put in a whole chart of cruciferous vegetables. Most of them, I don’t cook very much believe it or not, I don’t love cooking, but I do it. Most of the cruciferous vegetables that are listed I had never even heard of but they’re in supermarkets. You can really have fun trying out a couple cruciferous vegetables a month, a year, and seeing whether they’re really yummy and can be introduced into your diet. Then they’re also in recipes that we have, as well, in the back of the book, that are super simple.

The idea is that cruciferous vegetables harness, they use some of the very cool compounds, such as sulforaphane and glucosinolates and murenase. Basically, these are the compounds that were discovered that help to break down certain chemicals that we now see in modern day, but also to rev up the liver’s stage two conjugation, which is the stage of liver activity that breaks down these chemicals. It’s not only what you eat, you want it certainly pesticide free if you’re going to have greens and leafy vegetables, but it’s also exercise, sweating, sauna. It’s also drinking really clean water. Getting really great sleep, because sleep is a time when we actually rinse out our brain fluid. It’s actually been shown in great studies to be a time when we clear out a lot of harmful chemicals from our daytime exposure.

Amy Medling:

I love that you’re bringing up all of these lifestyle factors that we hear about constantly, about helping to mitigate PCOS symptoms. Sometimes it’s hard to break bad habits, staying up late. You talk about fasting can be really helpful. Eating late at night and you don’t give your body a chance to fast and detoxify. We can see that these type of lifestyle factors, it helps on so many different levels. Before we got on the call, I was sharing that I just did a podcast with Dr. Shayna Peter, who is an acne specialist. She was talking about the importance of sleep and fasting and nutrients for managing acne. I just hope that listeners realize that these type of lifestyle changes that you make help on so many different levels.

Dr. Aly Cohen:

Absolutely. I studied anthropology in my younger years in college and beyond. I like to think about anthropology as having a huge influence on the way I practice medicine. We didn’t just plop here out of nowhere. We’ve evolved for many, many, many years to really be able to eat the foods that we eat that are nutrient rich and to not do so well with foods that don’t really have nutritional benefits to us and can be even irritating, like glutens to some people as well. I think, when you start to think about where we come from as a species, we really did used to have clean drinking water and clean air quality. We used to sleep more, and it was better quality. We used to not really have so many abundant calories everywhere, especially processed foods that are packaged that had a shelf life that we have now. We’re a little over-inundated by calories, accessible calories. Some of that fasting, the concept, is really related to letting your body catch up and then burn off even calories that we don’t need to store if it’s not wintertime for instance, from an anthropology perspective.

I think thinking about us as a species as opposed to an individual is also helpful in terms of perspective of how to move towards a healthier lifestyle.

Amy Medling:

Yeah, that’s a great point. The other thing that I had in my notes to chat with you about, you talk early on in the book about diet and epigenetic changes. I did a podcast last year with Dr. Fiona McCullough. She’s a PCOS expert. She was talking about epigenetics and PCOS and how toxins is one of those factors that can perhaps turn the genes on for PCOS. You had a nice list of, you called them substances that create positive epigenetic effects that can counter negative epigenetic effects of toxic chemicals on gene function. I know it sounds a little complex maybe.

Dr. Aly Cohen:

I can break it down.

Amy Medling:

Yeah, can you talk about that? Maybe just mention some of the things on the list.

Dr. Aly Cohen:

Basically, epigenetics is just a fancy word for saying that we have these stock proteins in our genes. We have our genes. We get some from our mom and our dad. I guess most of them, or all of them, are from mom and dad, for that matter. Then we have these proteins that determine our epigenetics, which means whether or not those genes that we’re handed, whether they get expressed or not, or whether they just sit quiet and never get expressed, meaning a cancer that never comes out or some type of other disease or illness that doesn’t come out because those proteins quieted them down. Those proteins, or your epigenome, are actually affected by lifestyle. If you can fix your lifestyle to some degree and move into a cleaner direction across the board, sleep, stress, clean eating, clean drinking water, that kind of thing, you have a good opportunity to help keep those harmful diseases quiet through epigenetics, where the proteins keep them in check. The chemicals have been shown to affect the epigenome in a negative way, in a bad way, and it can actually affect not only our own health, but also perhaps even the health of our future generations through exposures.

People don’t realize that when you’re pregnant, you’re not only exposed to everything, be it good stuff or bad, but your fetus is also being exposed at the same time, as well as the fetal germ cells, which are the sperm, the beginning sperm structures as well as the eggs of a female fetus. There are really three generations exposed to any one exposure by a pregnant woman, be it good, bad, or ugly.

When we think about exposures, we really want to think about in the context of also being able to potentially affect our future offspring. Studies have shown that many chemicals, endocrine disrupters, do have this affect and can have this effect on our gene structure. The foods that combated and the lifestyle changes that combated are, as mentioned, green leafy vegetables with folate, which is vitamin B-9. These have been shown to affect exposures to methylmercury, to lead. We know being nutrient efficient and getting a lot of good nutrients like vitamin C and iron appropriately can actually offset exposures to lead in children.

Again, it’s not just what you reduce in terms of exposures, but it’s also being nutrient sufficient and getting the nutrients that you do need and the diet you do need to offset some of these exposures.

Amy Medling:

One of the nutrients in your… Actually, it’s an antioxidant. It’s quercetin that you have on your list. Quercetin has gotten a lot of interest lately in the PCOS community because there’s been studies that show that it helps to reduce levels of testosterone. It helps with insulin resistance, of course, inflammation. In this current climate, it’s helping with immune support. You had cited a study that showed that quercetin has been shown to be protective against PCPs, BPA, and methylmercury exposure in animal studies, which I thought was really interesting as well.

Dr. Aly Cohen:

Yeah, quercetin is an antioxidant, similar to vitamin C or even to melatonin. I don’t recommend taking melatonin as a matter of fact because you want to keep that being produced in your own body. Quercetin comes from the skin of apples and onions for instance. Quercetin is a very harmless supplement. Of course, you don’t want to go nuts, but it’s pretty harmless. It’s also very effective in allergens, in environmental allergens. What it does is it keeps the cells in the human body called mast cells that hold histamine quiet, so it keeps them stable so they don’t pop open and release the histamine during allergy season. It has a number of benefits. It’s also been shown to be helpful in terms of preventing severe response to COVID infection.

Again, there are so many supplements that are helpful across the board in terms of our immune system. I’m an immune system doctor, so I do recommend a handful but you really could go nuts if you followed every one of the appropriate supplements that are out there. It’s also pretty helpful to get it from your food if you organic or wash your produce for pesticides. Again, food does offer many of these natural substances. We just don’t eat them as often or in the abundance we should.

Amy Medling:

The other nutrient that I wanted to draw attention to, because I think it helps PCOS on so many different levels, and you had mentioned Omega-3 fatty acids and that can really help offset toxins. I was hoping that you could discuss that as well.

Dr. Aly Cohen:

I’m sorry, you said, which one was it?

Amy Medling:

Omega-3s.

Dr. Aly Cohen:

Omega-3s, yeah. Omega-3s are really interesting but Omega-3s in the market are pretty… It’s kind of a dirty business because it’s usually junk. There are very good brands out there that I suggest people think about, which are a whole host of them. I’m going to list a few because I don’t have any relationship financially with anything because of my teaching work. Brands like Orthomolecular, Pure Encapsulations, Thorn, Megafood, let me see, New Chapter, Guya. There’s a whole host of really solid companies that you want to stick to when it comes to supplements in general. Fish oil, there’s just so much junk out there. It’s usually very dilute, meaning it has no real value because it’s so filled with fillers. You really need to make sure products like fish oil are checked for heavy metals because they come from fish and fish are around PCBs and metals in the ocean. It’s just something to consider.

Omega-3s have been shown to do a variety of things in terms of taking down inflammation in the body. It really is also very good for mental health, for prolonging sleep. In children it’s been tested. It’s very good for heart disease prevention, stroke prevention. It thins that blood to do so, so you have to be careful if you have any type of bleeding disorders not to take fish oils unless you do consult your doctor. Essentially there’s so much value to clean nutrients. If we could get it all from fish, that would be great. It’s that we have a lot of polluted fish out there. If you’re going to eat fish oil, you want to get it from a substance, twice a week I say of whole fish that’s wild caught, certainly the small fish are safer than large fish because of chemicals that bioaccumulate up the food chain. You don’t want the big fish because they eat the little fish, and they eat the littler fish and that’s all adding all the chemicals together. You want to stick with small fish like herring, mackerel, salmon wild caught, let’s see, anchovies, and try to get products that have been tested at least for heavy metal contamination or PCBs.

Amy Medling:

I wanted to wrap up with a discussion about your chapter 12, Radiation: Safer Use of Cell Phones, Tech Toys and Gadgets. I don’t think that we think about our cell phone as a potential toxin. Maybe you could just comment on that and some things that we can do to protect ourselves.

Dr. Aly Cohen:

We included this chapter, along with the chapter on medications, common medications and talk about how they work on the body. I talked about noise pollution in the book and how that manages to irritate the human body. Stress is certainly an environmental toxin. There’s a lot of things that we don’t really think about but actually do contribute to harm to the human body in terms of health. The chapter is really not about telling everyone, oh my God, you’re done with your cell phone. You can’t use your computer. Forget about it. It’s not that at all, because we all really rely on our technology, especially now with the pandemic. Look at us, we’re communicating through the computer and our technology.

It’s really about how to use these products safely, or safer. We know that there is a reasonable amount of radiation that comes from our cell phones, and our laptops, and our iPads. We really want to not have them close to the body because exponentially as you separate your body from these tech toys, the radiation load goes way down. I really try to give people some very basics. There’s lots of recommendations, but in terms of this conversation, I say distance is your friend with these tech toys. You want to keep them away from your head, your kids’ heads. You want to keep them away from your pregnant belly. You want to make sure that you don’t put these cell phones in your bra and carry them in your bra because they’ve been known benign tumors and cancerous tumors have been discovered underneath the antenna portions of phones that are carried in the bra. You don’t want men and boys to carry cell phones in their front pockets, like my boys. I have two young boys and I’m constantly telling them to manage their phone safely and also not to carry them in their front pockets because as I tell them, I want to be a grandmother one day.

Amy Medling:

That’s exactly what I tell my boys.

Dr. Aly Cohen:

Yeah. Again, they’re so sick of hearing me say it that they just don’t do it anymore.

I think it’s being really understanding that even a laptop on your lap is not meant to be on your lap. That heat that’s generated is one indication but there’s also subtler indications of radiation exposure that can affect sperm count, sperm quality, especially in developing children. Young kids, all their parts are developing. Their brains are developing. You want to keep distance as a means of reducing that exposure. Also, at night, keeping phones away from heads, putting on airplane mode, which blocks that cellular connection. We give a whole host of other really reasonable tips that won’t make your kids flip out and will hopefully be something that you can add into your lifestyle as another layer of getting a healthier lifestyle.

Amy Medling:

I wanted to draw attention to the book again. It’s called Non-Toxic Guide to Living Healthy in a Chemical World. It is probably one of the most comprehensive and, as you said, easy to understand for the layperson, book that I’ve read on this topic, and I’ve read a lot.

Tell us where we can find your book and where we can learn more about your work, Dr. Cohen.

Dr. Aly Cohen:

Thank you. The book is available on Amazon. Of course, everything is. It’s also available on Barnes and Noble and also some small book sellers in the books link as well. Really the book page is thesmarthuman.com, thesmarthuman.com, which brings me to thesmarthuman.com, which is my platform for environmental health, disease prevention, really great tips and recommendations on everything from air quality tips and great articles to breast cancer prevention and baby food tips, mental health ideas, and cool videos. The Smart Human is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, The Smart Human for all of it. Again, the website, thesmarthuman.com, has tons of other podcasts. I also have my podcast, The Smart Human podcast where I interview really interesting people in environmental health and medicine and even environmental law. I had a wonderful guest. It’s a really fun way to look at this topic from different perspectives, different specialists, that really know their stuff. It’s warm and conversational and really meant for everyday people. I hope people will check out The Smart Human and invite friends on Facebook.

I also get grants to teach high school and college in part, due to social media followings, so I’m hoping people will know that it’s for a greater cause to get this into schools nationally. I practice in Princeton, New Jersey, so if people want to visit me, or visit, or they want to do a telemedicine visit, I can be reached at alycohenmd.com, alycohenmd.com.

Amy Medling:

Just to let listeners know, your specialty is rheumatology, but you also help people integrative medicine as well.

Dr. Aly Cohen:

I pretty much see everything. There’s nothing I haven’t seen. It’s interesting, I see a lot of environmental health exposures to different environmental chemicals. I see kids. I see adults’ migraines. I see everything, rash, you name it. Interestingly, I’ve been seeing a lot of consults for who should and should not get the COVID vaccine based on their own personal, either auto-immune disease or immune suppression, or other health issues. I didn’t realize that was going to happen and it is. I think people are a little concerned about whether to get it or not, or whether they should or should not get it, and I try to help people through those decisions.

Amy Medling:

That’s a great resource for people. I will make sure that all of that information is in our show notes so that you can come to the podcast page and access all of Dr. Cohen’s resources there, as well as a transcript of our call today.

I just want to thank you for reaching out to me so that I could learn more about your work and share it here on the podcast.

Dr. Aly Cohen:

Thank you for having me. I was thrilled to find you. Kindred spirits, I think we both have the same mission in mind, to keep people healthy and get people healthy and feeling good, because what else is there in life than to feel good with your life?

Amy Medling:

Exactly, so that you can thrive. I always say that this work is helping women get beyond the pain and struggle of PCOS and their health issues so they can go and do the work they were meant to do in the world with vitality and energy. PCOS can really zap you of that.

Thank you for contributing your wisdom and information. Thank you everyone for taking your time to listen today. I look forward to being with you all again very soon. Bye-bye.

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