Each one of us is unique, and even small amounts of toxins in combination with other toxins may cause substantial damage to those who are more susceptible. This grouping certainly includes fetuses, infants, and small children. Also included are the elderly, whose detoxification equipment is not working as well as it was when they were younger, and individuals who have genetic weaknesses that compromise their ability to detoxify environmental chemicals normally. But in fact, all of us are susceptible. Since we entered the “Age of Better Living through Chemistry,” we are simply exposed to many more varied chemicals than our ancestors were. And just like with taking more than one medication at a time, no one knows how all of these different chemicals interact when combined.
Fortunately, the average daily dose of various toxins is small, and they don’t cause immediate sickness in most circumstances. Unfortunately, a day doesn’t go by that we are not exposed on some level—and we don’t feel it happening until we reach a tipping point. The body works hard to maintain a healthy balance as long as it possibly can until, at some point, it becomes overwhelmed by one more stressor. The stressor may be an office disagreement, another dose of glyphosate, Roundup® in a slice of sandwich bread (see my article in last month’s Natural Triad), or overexposure to electromagnetic frequencies coming from the cell phone, the microwave or poorly designed kitchen wiring, all at the same time. By the time someone begins to notice symptoms from exposure to any one of these types of toxins, the body has already experienced an extensive underlying imbalance due to toxicity.
Earliest symptoms may be similar to allergies. Runny nose, sinusitis, and asthma are common. Gut symptoms and joint pain are also common. Later, a tremor, memory issues, depression, poor coordination, infertility, fibrocystic breast disease, and low testosterone (in young men) may develop. If you have a symptom, there is a toxin that can cause it.
Some of us can re-equilibrate when we go on vacation. Others can do a cleanse and get better, but the sickest of the sick, once they have crossed that line, cannot get well without substantial help—usually from professionals.
The Real Question
As stated above, the question is not whether we have toxins in us. We do. The real question is whether these toxins are sufficiently damaging our bodies to cause symptoms and disease. Over 90,000 new chemicals have been introduced since 1900. About 62,000 of these are small enough to penetrate our cells and get into our organelles (the cell “machinery”). With nanotechnology, even more toxins will be able to penetrate our cell machinery. Fewer than 5,000 have been tested for safety and none of them have been tested in combinations with others for safety. In the United States, corporations are considered innocent until proven guilty. In the European Union, they apply the Cautionary Principle: corporations must prove new compounds are safe before introduction to the marketplace.
In this country, the CDC in the NHANES studies and the EPA in their human fat biopsy and other studies have both shown that nearly 100 percent of Americans contain numerous different toxins, including leftovers from DDT and other persistent organic pollutants (POPS). Other hormone disruptors include BPA and phthalates, which either magnify or block the effect of numerous hormones in our bodies; and flame retardants, solvents, and other toxins, which can cause cancer, brain damage, birth defects, and immune system dysfunction.
And it's not just recognized environmental pollutants like glyphosate, solvents, PCBs and dioxin. It’s preservatives like sulfites and nitrites, and additives like NutraSweet® and Splenda®. Its drugs, medications, high fructose corn syrup, and trans fats. Even foods, like gluten in wheat and casein in milk, can be toxic to some. All of these substances may have a detrimental effect on the body.
According to Dr. Sydney Baker, 5 percent of the energy the body makes on a daily basis goes to maintaining the immune system, 5 percent of the energy goes to maintaining the physical structure, 10 percent of the energy goes to the brain functioning optimally, and 80 percent (EIGHTY PERCENT) of the energy the body generates every single day goes to detoxification and elimination. This is not a trivial or part-time process. The body and all of its parts and pieces on every level are constantly detoxifying and eliminating substances to optimize their function and health.
So What Exactly Is Detoxification?
Detoxification is the process of taking fat-soluble toxins and metabolic wastes and transforming them into water-soluble compounds so that they can be eliminated from the body in the stool and urine. It is also a process whereby the body combines compounds with heavy metals to make them less reactive so that they can be eliminated from the body. The liver, kidneys, and gut are all working in concert in this process.
Many think of the stool and urine as being the only routes of exit for toxins, but we also eliminate toxins in our sweat, breath, nails, and hair. What is not generally recognized is that approximately two-thirds of the surface area of the small bowel (2/3 of two tennis courts) transports toxins into the lumen of the gut where they are then moved out of the body in the stool. These completely bypass the liver.
What's the Harm from Toxins?
Toxins damage bodies by increasing the need for nutrients. If one does not increase B vitamins and minerals, which function as co-factors for the detoxification processes, some bodily functions are shortchanged. The sheer amount of toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis also interferes with our ability to detoxify those same toxins by locking up and damaging our enzyme systems. This creates a backlog of toxins that need to be eliminated. This is especially true of the heavy metals.
Furthermore, toxins damage the machinery inside the cells. Toxins damage DNA, endoplasmic reticulum (the “factories” where the cell manufactures proteins), and mitochondria (the “powerhouses” where the cell makes energy).
Toxins damage the cell walls and receptors so that the cells have a difficult time receiving communication from the rest of the body. Thyroid receptors don’t work. Serotonin receptors don’t work. Toxins also trigger inflammation and oxidation, two processes that cause damage to the cells and tissues. They contribute to autoimmune disease, interfere with neurotransmitters, and as mentioned above they can either interfere with or supercharge certain hormones, including estrogen, testosterone, cortisol, insulin, leptin, and thyroid.
What Are the Symptoms of Toxicity?
Many of the common symptoms patients complain of can be caused by toxins—the inability to lose weight, chronic pain, fatigue, memory loss, brain fog, chronically low temperatures, feeling too emotional, unusual responses to medications or supplements, allergic symptoms and asthma, bowel problems, joint pain, and poor sleep, among many others. If not recognized and treated, illnesses like infertility, neurodegenerative disorders, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and others—can all be caused by various toxins in our environment.
What Can You Do?
First of all, reduce your exposure to toxins. Second, use food and nutritional supplementation to protect the body from damaging toxins. Finally, cleanse. Support and enhance the body’s natural ability to mobilize, detoxify, and eliminate the toxins.
To Reduce Exposure, Start at Home
The Environmental Working Group and The Breast Cancer Fund both are very useful websites that identify different sources of everyday toxins that we all may find in our homes. They also share how to make healthier substitutions. Some examples of toxic items include household products like air fresheners, “new car fragrance,” anything else that is scented, fabric softener dryer sheets, flame retardants in upholstered furniture, desktop and laptop computers, and memory foam mattresses that can outgas for years. EWG has sections on choosing safer personal care products like sunscreen, skin care products and makeup, and cleaning products. The Breast Cancer Fund has information on how toxins increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer.
With respect to your sleeping environment, there may be toxins in the mattress or carpeting, or electrosmog (an overabundance of damaging electromagnetic frequencies) present in the bedroom that are interfering with your obtaining restful sleep. If you don’t feel rested, recharged, and raring to go in the morning, try sleeping in a different bed in your house. If you sleep better someplace else, you need to investigate your bedroom further and fix the problem before starting to sleep in your own bedroom again.
Further reduce your exposure to toxins in your home by opening a window in your bedroom to let in fresh air, turn on the master bathroom exhaust fan to pull the fresh air through the room, then close the window (and reheat the room if it's in the middle of winter). According to EPA studies, outside air is almost always cleaner than inside air. If you have allergies, before you do open windows during high pollen season, you will need to install appropriate filters on windows
Do not cook in plastic in the microwave. If the package states it is microwave safe that means it is safe for the microwave, it does not mean that it is safe for humans! Heating food in plastic enhances migration of toxins from the plastic into the food. Use glass or ceramic in the microwave. Do not smoke tobacco indoors. Cook in stainless steel or ceramic on the stovetop. No Teflon or similar products. While making these changes may entail a small investment initially, it will reduce one’s exposure to unwanted toxins for years to come.
Air out dry cleaning for two to three days outside on the porch or in the garage, then store it in a spare bedroom. Do not store it in the primary closet. In the bedroom, do not have any electromagnetic radiation within three feet of your head. That means put the plugged-in alarm clock across the room. Better yet, get a battery-operated alarm clock. Cell phones and electrical devices lower melatonin levels if they are too close to one’s head. Get a Gauss Meter and explore the invisible electrical world. Identify sources of high EMF in the house and reduce exposure to these.
Reduce Exposure to Toxic Foods
Most junk food is exactly that: junk. It is genetically modified and is saturated with Roundup and other toxins. It also has trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, and is devoid of nutrients. That is why people continue to be hungry after eating a whole bag of potato or corn chips or cheese thingies. Their bodies do not get the nutrients that they need and they still hunger for more food. They are never satisfied. Cut junk food out.
Next, reduce processed food in the diet. Cut back on caffeine and alcohol, and increase intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, avoiding those that have high pesticide levels. Find out at EWG how many pesticides are in conventionally raised fruits and vegetables. Buy organic versions of those that have the higher pesticide levels.
Buy organic as much as possible; try to buy local and ask the farmers how long have they been growing organic? The soil from older organic farms is much richer than farms that just converted over to being organic a few years ago. There is no question that organic foods have more nutrients and fewer pesticides than conventional foods. Older more established organic farms will have produce with even more nutrients than produce from recently converted organic farms.
There may be certain foods, even organic ones that you may be sensitive to. Pay attention to how you feel after a meal and also notice whether you gain a lot of weight overnight. Sudden weight gain indicates that something you ate caused inflammation which caused fluid retention. You need to do a two week elimination diet to identify the culprits.
Avoid large carnivorous fish, including swordfish, shark, albacore tuna, halibut, and Spanish mackerel. These all contain larger amounts of toxic mercury. Yes, this means big tuna steaks and sushi. One in four people cannot eliminate mercury from their bodies because of genetic weaknesses. And for everyone, the mercury from one tuna sandwich will take close to one year to be non-detectable in the blood. The half-life of mercury in the brain is 20 years. Mercury, whether from tuna or silver (amalgam) fillings, causes dementia and autoimmune diseases.
Eat Healthy Food
Only eat beef and dairy that are organic and grass fed, otherwise they are full of toxins including PCBs, dioxins, and Roundup.
Eat a rainbow of colorful produce in order to enhance daily detoxification. Enjoy different cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, kale, and collards. Drink green tea. Eat greens. Eat artichokes. Eat foods that contain sulfur, including garlic, onions, egg yolks, ginger, and cruciferous vegetables. Eat dark (greater than 70 percent) chocolate; it is great for your mitochondria.
Take fiber every day to enhance daily detox and use a combination of different fibers, like Psyllium, chia seeds, ground flax seed, and oatmeal to bind toxins in the gut. These binders must be present when you start a formal more intense cleanse. Otherwise, toxins that are released into the gut via the bile from the liver or simply through the walls of the small intestine will be reabsorbed in the small intestine and recycled through the liver.
Drink enough water: divide your weight in pounds by two and drink that many ounces of clean, filtered water each and every single day. In the best of all worlds, drink distilled or reverse osmosis water to eliminate all fluoride, which is a toxin to our bodies. If you are not able to do that, at least filter your water with a dense carbon filter to remove most other toxins. Either filter your cooking, drinking, and bathing water, or your body becomes the filter.
Supplements to a Great Diet
Supplements that will enhance everyday detoxing include a multiple vitamin and mineral supplement. Vitamins and minerals are the cofactors for every single enzymatic reaction in your body. If you do not have enough of these basic nutrients, your metabolic machinery will grind to a halt. Not only will you not be able to detox environmental toxins, you will not be able to make sex hormones, cholesterol, thyroid hormones or neurotransmitters. Many toxins require your body to use up these vitamins and minerals in the process of detoxing them—leaving you deficient. So, in this polluted world, we must take even more B vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals than one would expect to. In addition to this, take a minimum of 3000 mg of vitamin C a day and a probiotic that contains at least 25 billion CFU, or colony-forming units, daily. Roundup damages your healthy germs and you have to replace them on a daily basis. Take fish oil (EPA and DHA) a total of 2000 mg per day as a minimum. Make certain that you have enough stomach acid and enzymes to digest your food so that it can be absorbed and take either Whey Protein Powder (two tablespoons) or NAC (600 to 900 mg) each day to enhance production of glutathione, which is the body’s most plentiful antioxidant and detoxifying molecule. In addition to these, many people are deficient in amino acids and may benefit from amino acid supplements.
Consider juicing vegetables or consume a green drink every day to get everything else that you need to enhance your metabolic equipment. Bioflavonoids and carotenoids protect the body from toxins and enhance detoxification; if you juice every day, then you will get these supplements in the juice.
Other specific supplements may be helpful for certain situations. Alpha-lipoic acid helps to protect you from Roundup in addition to doing many other things for the body. Silymarin, or milk thistle, enhances and protects liver function, di-indole methane (DIM) enhances metabolism of estrogenic compounds, and curcumin helps to detoxify and reduce inflammation.
Taking cilantro soup or tincture daily helps to mobilize and release mercury and aluminum from inside the cells in the body and the brain. But it’s a bad idea to mobilize toxins out of the cells in the body without being able to keep them in the gut once they arrive there. Before using this powerful mobilizer, get binders in the gut to capture the toxins that are released. Micro-silica and chlorella in high doses will bind to and retain these toxic metals in the small bowel. So, get the binders on board first. Let your gut get used to the binders. Low dose chlorella mobilizes toxins, higher dose binds them. You’re aiming for 30-60 pills of chlorella daily if you’re using it as a binder.
It is important to do more intensive cleansing at least once a year and optimally four times a year. Some cleanses last a week, others last a month. Some cleanses are essentially fasting: Master Cleanse (lemon juice, cayenne and maple syrup) or the fast that Dr. David Perlmutter recommends (coconut oil, water and fish oil one day a month) are good places to start. Short (less than 48-hour) fasts using juice or fats are perfectly safe. However, once you go over 48 hours, you have depleted your bodily store of amino acids that are being used up as you push more toxins through your liver and kidneys. That is when people can get into trouble. So do not do liquid cleanses that are devoid of proteins or amino acids for longer than 48 hours.
Any cleanse should focus on eating the absolute healthiest foods you can. There are cleanses that simply have supplements and have you eat only specific organic foods. The emphasis will almost always be on fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. They will also include healthy protein each day. This protein may be from a plant or animal base. Longer cleanses do the same thing, but focus even more on using various protein shakes, which makes food preparation much easier.
If you feel worse as you do a cleanse, stop the cleanse. A bit of fatigue or a low grade headache may be due to mobilization of the toxins. But, there is no reason to get really sick when you do a cleanse.
Severe symptoms, called a healing crisis, are signs that your body has an excessive amount of toxins and the toxins are being mobilized and re-poisoning you. This is not healthy or therapeutic. Stop the cleanse except for the binders. Stay on the sources of fiber and other binding agents like Chlorella or Microsilica that you have chosen to use. Make certain you continue to move your bowels at least twice a day. Regularity can be accomplished with magnesium oxide or a high-dose, powdered, buffered vitamin C.
If you are already sick, get help from someone trained in cleansing before even starting. And get help if you get worse. Go low and slow as you increase the intensity of the cleanse.
Other Cleansing Modalities
In addition to cleansing by cleaning up your diet and taking extra supplements, sauna and sweating can be very useful mechanisms for detoxing the body. Make certain that you take appropriate minerals and nutrients before and after sauna. Both high heat and low heat infrared saunas work well.
Colonics or home enemas whether with organic coffee, as recommended by Dr. Max Gerson, or other preparations are very helpful to enhance cleansing. Dry brushing, massage, and lymphatic massage are also helpful.
Remember, there’s no real separation between the body and emotions. Learning to better manage your stress is a part of cleansing. Dealing with and eliminating toxic emotions regarding various events or people in your life is critically important for emotional healing. Emotional freedom technique, Bach flower essences, homeopathy, acupuncture, and prayer and spiritual work can all be very healing and enhance cleansing.
Toxins are a clear and present danger in our environment today. If you are healthy, reduce your exposure to toxins and take basic supplements to maintain your health. If you are struggling with illness, effective treatment is available. Find a doctor who understands environmental illness. A good book to start with is Clean, Green and Lean by Dr. Walter Crinnion. He is a naturopathic physician who has been helping patients cleanse and recover from severe illness for over 30 years.