An article by Ben Greenfield…
If your pool, like my local health club pool where I swim, doesn’t have a saline, ozone or a structured water filter, then you’re going to be stuck swimming in chlorine. Chlorine is utilized because it kills bacteria and germs, oxidizes organic debris from perspiration and body oils, and fights algae. But you may have noticed that it has some side effects, such as red eyes, dry skin and hair (ever seen the wrinkled face of an Olympic swimmer up close?), and a strong odor.
Unfortunately, the risks of chlorine exposure go way beyond these annoying aesthetic issues.
Research has shown that kids who swim frequently in chlorinated pools have increased risks of developing allergies or asthma, and among adults, exposure to chlorine in pools has been linked to bladder and rectal cancer, increased risk for coronary heart disease.
If your pool is indoors, things can get even more dangerous. Indoor pools have high levels of toxic gases such as nitrogen trichloride, which can cause significant long-term damage to the lining of your lungs, leading to respiratory problems or asthma.
Smart Lifestyle Habits
Fact is, you don’t have to be drinking the water to increase your risk of damage from chlorine, since chlorine absorbs directly into your skin. And for those of us who swim frequently, this is a significant issue, because we can’t follow the general health recommendations to swim in chlorinated pools on occasion only.
Of course, there are little lifestyle habits you can take if you’re a regular swimmer, such as:
-Shower immediately before and after with a natural, chemical free soap like Dr. Bronner’s (use a natural soap, because when chemicals used to disinfect the pool react with organic matter like sweat, hair, urine or nitrogen-rich substances commonly found in consumer products it can create a more toxic agent called chloramines)
-Drink plenty of non-chlorinated, filtered water before you swim so that you’re as hydrated as possible
-Get fresh air into your lungs as soon as possible after you swim in an indoor pool.
Smart Nutrition Habits
But you can also take nutritional measures to protect yourself. In the study “Antioxidant Administration Reduces Lung Injury from Chlorine Exposure”, a research team exposed laboratory rats to chlorine gas, and administration of a mixture of antioxidants, which included ascorbic acid (vitamin C), deferoxamine, and N-acetyl-L-cysteine dramatically reduced the respiratory damaging effects.
Several months ago, on my podcast, I interviewed well-known naturopathic physician David Getoff about what he would do to mitigate the damage from swimming in chlorinated pools. You can listen to the entire audio interview by clicking here, but the basics of Dr. Getoff’s recommendations were to:
1) See how well-equipped your body is with anti-oxidants by doing a test such as the Metametrix ION Panel at DirectLabs
2) Listen to the following resources on Vitamin C antioxidants: Vitamin C Lecture Part 1 & Vitamin C Lecture Part 2
3) Take anti-oxidants to equip your body to fight the damage, especially including the following:
-Regular intake of dark fruits and vegetables such as pomegranate and kale.
-Vitamin E (David recommended one called Unique E)
-Alpha lipoic acid (such as NutraRev) or a full spectrum antioxidant (many are out there, I personally use a packet of Lifeshotz)
By combining smart lifestyle choices such as showering, avoiding chemical-rich personal care products, and staying adequately hydrated with targeted micronutrients rich in antioxidants, you can mitigate the damage from swimming in chlorinated pools – a necessary “evil” for most of us who are preparing for a swim event or triathlon.
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