Archive for the ‘Detoxification’ Category
What is a toxin?
Simply put, a toxin is something that can cause harm to the body. More specifically, toxins are poisons, either foreign chemicals or even substances that are made by living cells or organisms that cause health problems when they are absorbed by the body. Toxins damage the body by increasing oxidative stress, poisoning the body’s enzymes, directly damaging DNA or cellular membranes, and/or disrupting the endocrine system. Certain forms of toxicity, especially environmental toxicity, have been linked to chronic degenerative diseases, including chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, atherosclerosis, as well as too many forms of cancer. Environmental toxicity has also been linked to many clinical symptoms and conditions like headaches, fertility problems, dermatitis, learning disorders, panic attacks, memory loss, mood swings, yeast infections, tinnitus, and muscle weakness, just to name a few!
But what does all this really mean? Well, there is some good news and some bad news. Toxins are all around us: in the air we breathe, in our food, and in the water we drink. This is what we mean by “environmental toxicity.” The good news is that our bodies are marvelous detoxifiers. This is what they were made to do and they do it well, unless our detox mechanisms become overloaded. When this happens, the whole process is slowed down and inefficient detoxification may lead to a whole variety of less desirable symptoms and conditions.
In order to keep our detoxification systems going at full speed there are several things we should know and do. For example, what are the major environmental toxins? How do we avoid them? And what do we do to support the body’s detoxification processes to rid ourselves of the toxins that we are going to encounter, no matter how much we try to avoid them? Like I said, the good news is that there are many things we can do to minimize the risk of toxicity and to avoid the clinical symptoms and conditions associated with environmental toxicity.
Many toxins are found in industrial chemicals and pollutants. These include Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBS), which are nearly impossible to avoid, and volatile organic toxicants (VOC). VOCs are emitted from paints and protective coatings, solvents, cleaning supplies, plastics, resins, among other things. These are worrisome because of their ability to become airborne and their tendency to become trapped inside our homes, offices and public spaces. In fact, some scientists have identified sick building syndrome when a certain level of VOCs are found in elevated amounts. This often results from new furnishings, wall coverings and office equipment.
Another source of toxicity is the pesticides that farmers use and that work their way into our food supply. Similarly, synthetic steroids and elevated levels of hormones are found in much of our meat and dairy products. In fact, the greatest toxin exposure (by far) is through what we put into our mouths. Pesticides and steroids, along with the myriad food additives and preservatives added by food processors are easily transmitted through the intestinal system where they are readily absorbed into the bloodstream.
There has been much ado about metal toxicity in the media as well in recent years. There are well-founded concerns about the levels of heavy metals that are showing up in our bodies. The most common heavy metal toxicity includes elevated amounts of lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic, and these can have significant consequences for health as they are accumulated in the body. For example, elevated levels of mercury alone have been linked to dementia, autism, ADHD, insomnia, depression and anxiety as well as muscle pain and fatigue. Lead toxicity can lead to DNA damage, depressed immune systems, hypertension, kidney disease, and even tooth decay.
So, what do we do? Well, there are many things we can do to avoid toxins in the first place. For example, always choose to eat organic produce whenever available. Similarly, search out organic meat and poultry that has been grass-fed and is hormone free. Fish is wonderful, but it should be wild caught and not farm fed. And, as a general rule, the larger the fish the more likely it is to have higher levels of toxins. For this reason, the smaller fishes (sardines, herring, etc.) are better choices for lowering exposure to toxins. And, I think it goes without saying, everyone should invest in a good water filter.
It also pays to be aware of your surroundings and your environment. Avoid places with lots of fumes in the air. This is a bit tricky for those of us who live in Utah, or other places, with a lot of air pollution, but try to get out of the inversion whenever possible. Pay attention to the cleaning products that you use. Choose products with organic materials. Similarly, many of the chemicals found in sunscreens and cosmetics can be quite toxic–and those products are often not required to list all of their ingredients on their labels. A safer choice is to look for labels on products that guarantee all natural ingredients.
Obviously, we will never be able to avoid all the toxins in our environment, and luckily, our bodies were made so that we don’t have to. However, environmental toxicity is on the rise as toxins are becoming more prevalent in our environment each year. So, let’s help our bodies stay as healthy as possible by doing the things we can to help our bodies avoid the bad stuff in the first place.
Exposer to mercury has increased dramatically over the past 100 years or so. Industrialization has played a major role in the rise of environmental mercury through the operation of coal-fired industrial plants and the use of mercury in the production of plastics and pesticides. Mercury regularly used in dental fillings has also contributed to increased exposure as mercury vapors released by the fillings end up being absorbed in the body. Further, as our oceans become more polluted, we ended up being exposed to organic mercury (methyl-mercury) by eating fish–a healthy diet choice, according to many nutritionists.Ramifications Of Mercury Exposure
What are the? Medical literature has linked mercury toxicity to many chronic diseases such as dementia, ADHD, autism, heart disease, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, Parkinson’s disease, and some types of cancer. As with any toxin, the health effects depend on the dose or amount of exposure. The tricky thing with mercury, however, is that it is lipophilic–which means it is absorbed by and accumulates in fatty tissues. Many of our vital organs are made mostly out of fatty tissues. Thus, mercury can affect nearly all of our organs, but is especially damaging to the brain, heart, kidneys and gut. Not surprisingly, children (including fetuses) and aging populations are especially vulnerable to mercury toxicity.What To Do About Mercury Toxicity
Obviously the best way to avoid mercury toxicity is to avoid mercury! If possible, stay away from living and work environments that have exposure to mercury. Avoid coal heated homes and businesses. Having mercury dental amalgams removed by a biological dentist who has trained in the procedure is important. Avoid eating fish with the highest and most dangerous concentrations of mercury: Tile fish, shark, swordfish, large tuna, Chilean bass, among others. It is safe, however, to consume some of the smaller varieties of wild fish as they have much lower levels of mercury.How To Detoxify
If you suspect you have elevated levels of toxicity, you should go to your doctor and request the medical test that assesses your total body’s load of mercury. This test, typically called a provocation or a challenge, involves taking a prescription medicine (DMPS) and then collecting your urine for at least 6 hours afterwards. This is because mercury is partly excreted through urine, so the DMPS provokes the mercury to bind to it and then is eliminated when you empty your bladder. This test can only be carried out under a doctor’s supervision, but not all doctors are familiar with the protocol, so be sure to check around.
There are many ways to detoxify your body, and many of them are useful in promoting mercury detoxification. These include eating clean and taking probiotics and enzymes to promote gastric health, taking B vitamins and methylators to increase liver detoxification, and using sauna therapy. However, since mercury binds to fatty tissues, it is also necessary to use specific binding agents to pull the mercury out of the body. Again, this can only be done under the supervision of a doctor. Of course, drinking plenty of water and eating lots of fiber will always help in any detoxification effort. And, of course, find a doctor who is familiar with and has experience with heavy metal detoxification.