What are toxins and are they impacting your health?

women wondering if toxins are contributing to her health

Are you interested in getting substances that are toxic to your body out of your life?

 

Have you heard the word toxin, but do not know exactly what that means?

 

Do you want to know how toxins could be negatively affecting your health?

 

Physical toxins are substances that are harmful to the body.  Most of us have some products around the house that we know to be harmful when ingested.  Generally the labels clearly state that emergency action should be taken if accidentally consumed.

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Even generally healthy substances, including water, can be toxic in excessive quantities. Water intoxication (also called dilutional hyponatremia) is potentially fatal, though very rare because it takes extreme quantities of water to cause problems.  Most people would benefit from drinking significantly more water.  In fact, drinking adequate amounts of purified water can assist with detoxification.

 

Where do you find these toxins?

 

Together with the busy-ness of life, we are living in a toxic world:

  • Non-organic foods are sprayed with pesticides, fungicides, and insecticides
  • Water in first world countries is fairly well-treated for bacteria, but often contains chlorine, fluoride, other chemicals, and sometimes metals
  • Hundreds of toxic chemicals are used in the construction of homes and office buildings, and many of us spend most of our time indoors
  • Fossil fuel emissions contribute to increasing levels of air pollution, especially in larger cities

 

Though we are exposed to a large number of toxins in today’s world, our bodies have an incredible capacity to handle and remove toxins from our systems.  This is called detoxification.

 

So we can see that toxins are a very real part of our modern world…

 

Luckily, we have fantastic detoxification systems in our body to keep us healthy in the face of chemicals, pollutants, and metals!

 

Is there scientific support for detoxification?

 

Have you heard any rumors that detoxification is bad for you or unscientific? I would like to explain why.

 

Because there are several proponents of cleanses that make unsupported claims about fasting or certain diets, detoxification has gotten a bit of a bad reputation in certain scientifically-oriented circles.  However, physiological mechanisms behind detoxification have been well documented and researched extensively.

 

Are you curious about how your body handles toxins?

 

The main organ of detoxification is the liver.  Part of the liver detoxification system is called the cytochrome P450. This enzyme system has been deeply investigated and shown to detoxify chemicals and hormones (1).

 

Toxins, after having moved through the liver detoxification system, will be released into the bloodstream.  They are then excreted from the body through the kidneys and urinary system.

 

Research has found trace minerals in human sweat.  This makes a lot of sense since you may already know that if you sweat a lot, you need to take in more electrolytes.

 

Some minerals found in sweat, like cadmium, are known to be toxic (2). Thus, we also have some evidence that the skin is another organ of detoxification of certain toxins through sweating. It is for this reason that far infrared saunas have a reputation for promoting detoxification.

 

Can toxins make you sick?

 

Normally, we are able to purge from the body that which is harmful to us. 

 

However, there is the possibility of being over-burdened by toxins to an extent that causes illness.

 

Have you heard of the expression “mad as a hatter”?

 

This originated from the 18th and 19th century when mercury was used in the production of felt for hats.  Some workers in factories developed dementia that was caused by mercury poisoning.

 

There is a whole class of chemicals that are called endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC’s).  There is a large body of research linking exposure to high concentrations of EDC’s with a variety of health concerns, including infertility, asthma, immune suppression, inflammation, and more (3) (4) (5).  Many of these chemicals have been banned by most of the first world countries, but more and more chemicals are being gradually shown to have endocrine disrupting properties.

 

Our world today presents toxins that we’ve never before experienced.  We are undergoing a sort of experiment to see how our bodies can handle this exposure.  Researchers are just beginning to scratch the surface of what some of the thousands of chemicals we are surrounded by are doing to our health.

 

Is this cause for concern?  What can we do about it?

 

Our modern-day culture tends to worry too much already.  We have so much to think about and manage in our busy lives.  We already have to prioritize and focus our attention in order not to get overwhelmed by how much is going on in our lives.

 

Instead of continual concern with all the toxins we are exposed to, we can take some practical steps to reduce our ongoing burden.  While doing this, we can accept what we cannot control.  You can focus instead on cultivating gratitude and love, which are practices that promote health and happiness.

 

Practical Steps to Reduce Ongoing Toxic Burden

  • Choose organic produce when possible, especially for foods that are on the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen list
  • Drink purified water from glass or stainless steel bottles. It is the most cost-effective in the long run to purchase a filter for the home that removes chlorine and fluoride.
  • Learn to read labels and identify endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Avoid products with these chemicals. Choose natural and organic cleaning and skin care products.
  • Spend time outdoors away from buildings. Getting out in nature regularly can be healing and help us get adequate exercise.
  • Limit your indulgence in things that you know are unhealthy, and practice moderation. If you like, you can pick one day a week to enjoy moderate indulgences. Choose healthy food, drinks and activities the rest of the week.

References:

1. Schuetz, E G. "Induction Of Cytochromes P450." Current Drug Metabolism 2.2 (2001): 139-147. [Link]

2. Sears, Margaret E, Kathleen J Kerr, and Riina I Bray. "Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, And Mercury In Sweat: A Systematic Review." Journal Of Environmental And Public Health 2012.(2012): 184745. [Link]

3. Caserta, Donatella, et al. "The Influence Of Endocrine Disruptors In A Selected Population Of Infertile Women." Gynecological Endocrinology: The Official Journal Of The International Society Of Gynecological Endocrinology 29.5 (2013): 444-447. [Link]

4. Bornehag, C G, and E Nanberg. "Phthalate Exposure And Asthma In Children." International Journal Of Andrology 33.2 (2010): 333-345. [Link]

 

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Why is it important to reset the body and mind with a yearly cleanse and a daily mindfulness practice?

Most of us recognize the value in a yearly vacation or retreat. We have a sense that we need a bit of time away from work, and want to focus on family, friends, and relaxation. Most countries have yearly vacation time as standard practices. We could say this is like detoxification for the mind.

How about for your body? What do you do on a yearly basis for your physical vehicle? On average, Americans tend to gain between 0.5 – 1.75 pounds per year, and most of this happens during holiday time (1). A National Nutrition and Examination Survey found that American adults between 25-44 years old gain weight at a yearly average of 3.4% in men and 5.2% in women (2).

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