What is a toxin?

Toxins are products that are potentially harmful to the body. They come from our environment and from our bodies as a natural byproduct of all the metabolic processes of the body. For example, the liver performs over 40,000 metabolic processes, and therefore excretion of toxins is essential for good . If a byproduct of our metabolism begins to accumulate in our system, then it can become a toxin. A classic example is estrogen for women. When a woman does not recycle and excrete her estrogens efficiently, they accumulate in the body and irritate key estrogen receptor sites in the body, principally the breast and uterine tissue, pre-disposing her to the development of estrogen based cancers. Add the challenge of efficient estrogen metabolism to modern society’s use of the birth control pill (synthetic hormones) and the use of synthetic hormones for menopause treatment and you drastically increase a woman’s risk for developing cancer. It is no wonder therefore, that our breast cancer rates have not fallen as the issue of methylation of estrogen is not being addressed!

The purpose of this article is to give the reader an introduction to understanding the nature of our exposure and to give you information to help you start to reduce your toxic exposure now! Future articles will go into great depth regarding specific toxins and conditions associated with toxic exposure.

When does a toxin begin to harm us?

When most of us think of toxic exposure we think of being poisoned by something. We imagine that we should feel an immediate effect, like some type of overdose from exposure. However, environmental toxins are more subtle and slow acting. The damage they cause depends upon the cumulative effect of the toxins over time, where the body stores the toxin, how the toxin interacts with our metabolism, how inefficient or burdened our detoxification pathways are based upon our genetic makeup, the state of our immune health, the state of our digestive system (our barrier to the outside world), our additional toxic lifestyle, the added effect of other toxins backing up our system, the interaction of toxins together and the type of damage the toxin causes over time.

Because our environmental toxic exposure is cumulative, industry is slow to make changes favoring profits over health in this country. Because environmental exposure is cumulative, its effects are not immediate and thus industries and government choose to debate over whether something actually causes a disease rather than choosing to eliminate the chemical because it does not promote health! In the mean time we slowly accumulate ever increasing amounts of toxins and wonder why each generation becomes sicker, with more obesity and inflammatory diseases than the prior generation. The American Medical Association published a statement last year stating that this generation was the first in which we will begin to see parents outliving their young! We as a society need to be greatly alarmed by that. We need to choose health over complacency and not waste time over debate.

Where are these toxins?

We get them from our mother in the womb, from breast milk, from our food, our medications and supplements (dye used to color the pills, preservatives, fillers) our cosmetics, the air we breathe outdoors and indoors and from the clothing we wear. The following environmental “toxins” have been shown “conclusively” to affect the development of the nervous system and contribute to autism, attention deficit disorder (ADD/ADHD), dyslexia, OCD, Asburger’s syndrome, brain fog, visual processing disorders, auditory processing disorders, insomnia, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and aggravate all immune disorders such as Chron’s disease, irritable bowel, arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, acid reflux, eczema, seasonal allergies, food sensitivities, food allergies, and environmental chemical sensitivities.

The most preventable toxin affecting behavioral and learning disabilities is that of alcohol during pregnancy. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is considered part of the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Even low consumption of alcohol during pregnancy can have permanent effects upon a child’s cognitive performance.

Nicotine and environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), and second hand smoke has shown to affect behavior disorders and developmental delays in children and young adults. Cigarette smoke contains over 3500 toxins alone, not to mention the addictive effect to the smoker of nicotine. Some of these toxins are mycotoxins, toxins from fungi used to fuel the addictive cravings.

Pesticides come from agriculture and our own backyards to an estimated 1 billion pounds into our yards a year in the United States alone! Exposure to organophosphates in yards and school playgrounds, parks and such enhance the risk for developmental disorders that include issues with memory and motor performance. Remember the effect is cumulative. Depending upon the genetic make up of the child and their toxic levels, some children will suffer more than others.

Pesticides in our food are a huge problem that is not discussed as openly as it could in the media. A few years ago a local newspaper took samples of common grocery food items (non-organic) and was shocked to find the levels of toxic pesticides exceed FDA guidelines. They published a top ten list of foods not to eat unless they were organic as a result. Potatoes and strawberries hit the top ten list. What should have happened is that these “toxic” foods should have been taken off the shelves and the industry challenged to make drastic changes to protect us from these contaminants. Local news media that could have spread the word to protect the public failed to act. Again, economics over health.

Smog, car exhaust, all polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are know mutagens and carcinogens. They are generated by our cars, trucks and buses, present also in tobacco smoke and coal-fired power plants. For a fetus, it can affect birth weight where the mother to live in a smoggy town and increase the baby’s risk for cognitive and developmental delays.

Solvents from the workplace used for industrial cleaning, janitorial cleaning, from alcohol, turpentine, acetone, tetrachloroethylene and toluene are know to also induce low birth weight and cause developmental delays. More than 50 million metric tons of solvents are used in the United States with declared exposures to over 10 million individuals in the workplace alone!

Arsenic is found to be the first toxin excreted with patients undergoing heavy metal chelation and that is often their discovery that they were high in arsenic! It is one the first metals the body purges before releasing more toxic metals such as lead and mercury. Arsenic is found as a common contaminant in drinking water, and accumulates faster from diets high in shrimp. Arsenic has known neurological effects in the development of children and the slow poisoning of adults.

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are chlorinated compounds used in electrical transforms, the insulation fluids, cooling fluids and other electrical compounds in industry. PCB exposure is cumulative and is known to affect motor skills, learning and memory.

Flame retardants, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are mandatorily used in fabrics for children’s clothing and in all cloth furniture, such as your couch, and bed mattress. Constant contact results in our body absorbing these products which are known to be neurotoxins affecting motor activity and cognitive performance. It’s the best of two evils, either one’s clothing catches fire easily or you take your chances over time in accumulating toxic neurodegenerative chemicals.

Both PCBs and PBDEs, dioxins, flame retardants, organochloride pesticides, DDT, heavy metals, phthalates and perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) disrupt hormonal function in both men and women. Some of these products are legally allowed as food-can liners! Childhood endocrine imbalances from childhood obesity, to early onset of menses in girls to high estrogens in boys accounts for the estrogenic effects of these chemicals.

Mercury from cement plant fumes to amalgam fillings to thimerisol in vaccines is a known potent neurotoxin. Coal plants and coal-burning electric utilities spew mercury vapors in the air.

Fluoride added to drinking water to reduce dental decay has a backlash effect upon those susceptible. It is also found in toothpaste and mouthwashes. Those suffering from hypothyroid conditions, autoimmune thyroid such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Wilson’s disorder are vulnerable. Published studies also show that children’s IQ decreased in areas where fluoride was used in the drinking water. Emerging research also suggests accelerated calcification to the pineal gland in adults contributing to a host of hormonal imbalances.

Lead, still present in the paints at many schools in our country and old homes continues to accumulate in our blood stream. Lead combines with bioavailable calcium in our body to form the plaques that lead to atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis. Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in modern society and lead toxicity stimulates arteriole plaque formation and storage of lead in our bones. Lead from car exhaust is a principal source of environmental exposure.

EDTA is the best known chelator for lead and its removal from the body is one of the slowest, taking years. Therefore, taking minute amounts of EDTA in the form of a gum that even children can chew is helpful in preventing the storage of this toxic metal in the body. The EDTA gum can be purchased online at www.immunematrix.com (EZ Defense Gum – 100 count SKU: SKU16167) and helps to reduce the daily accumulation of lead. Another way of helping to removed lead is EDTA bath salts, safe for children and adults and is a fabulous way to detoxify the skin, over time lightening hyper-pigmentation and clarifying the skin. (Beyond Clean – 567 grams SKU: SKU16161)

Food additives from food colorings, food preservatives, food flavor enhancers, food thickeners, and stabilizers all add toxic stress to our systems. Additives such as colorings, tartrazine, sodium benzoates, msg all are neurotoxins. Some individuals are more sensitive to minute exposures than others. Symptoms can range from headache, chronic migraine, ADD, ADHD, impulsive behaviors, sudden changes in mood or attention, brain fog, chronic fatigue, food allergy symptoms, irritable bowel, nose bleeds, chronic sinus congestion, to cognitive disorders in both children and adults. All children suffering from developmental disorders, cognitive impairment, autism etc. must eliminate food additives from their diet.

In all the descriptions of toxins mentioned above, the toxin was studied alone for its effect upon the body, again as if it were a poison. However, we are exposed to minute amounts of all the toxins listed above and more daily! No one has studied the cumulative effect of mixing all these toxins in a body and increasing their doses over time aside from the emerging correlation that chronic inflammatory diseases, auto-immune diseases and degenerative diseases all have a toxic element to them. The body breaks down over time in its ability to eliminate these toxins and the cascade of immune triggers begins. Future articles will address the interaction of toxicity to specific disorders, but suffice it to say here that increasing toxic load increases your risk for developing a chronic inflammatory condition, an auto-immune condition, and affects your body’s ability to ward of infection allowing it to become chronic in your body. It is also a major reason why we have such an explosion of autism, ADD, ADHD, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, eczema, asthma, and a host of inflammatory driven conditions such as arteriosclerosis, arthritis, irritable bowel, and migraine.

What can you do now to minimize your cumulative toxic exposure?

1)      Eat clean fresh produce, preferably organic. If you are unable to purchase all organic foods, choose organic potatoes, and strawberries, apples and vegetables whose skin you eat.

2)      Use a fruit and vegetable wash designed to eliminate pesticide residue from the surface of produce purchased.

3)      Eliminate any food that requires a preservative. Shop the perimeter of your grocery store only, as the aisles are filled with foods packaged in cans and boxes, full of preservatives. Keep it fresh only.

4)      Eliminate aluminum from your deodorants; use natural crystal deodorants.

5)      Eliminate sodium laural sulfate from your toothpaste, and all products containing fluoride from toothpaste and mouthwash.

6)      Use natural organic cosmetics.

7)      Use natural enzyme based, and green products to clean your home.

8)      Change pesticide usage to natural products. Many pest control companies now will used if asked essential oils to ant and bug proof the perimeter of the home.

9)      Use natural laundry cleaner and dryer sheets.

10)  Eliminate sodas and can drinks from your diet

11)  Stop smoking…anything

12)  Stop or reduce your consumption of alcohol

13)  Stop habitual use of over the counter medications and seek answers to why you are dependent upon them

14)  Become aware of your toxic exposure from your hobbies: stain glass, pottery, paints, photography, gardening etc.

15)  Use face masks to reduce exposure when painting and doing remodel or home repairs and use gloves around solvents when needed.

Future articles will go into more detail the manner in which we need to detoxify specific toxins and how their presence contributes to our chronic health issues. Taking the above mentioned steps will be a significant improvement in what you can do now to reduce the cumulative effects of environmental toxic exposure and help your body to begin to clear the years of accumulated residue hindering your body’s ability to heal.

Please note:
Information on this site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

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Anna Manayan

Anna Manayan