Published on August 12th, 2008 | by Stephanie Evans3
Staying Healthy in a Toxic World
These days we’re bombarded with information that tells us our environment is flooded with chemicals that contaminate our air, our water, our food, and our bodies.
Scientists tell us that human fat tissue from U.S. residents has revealed 700 chemical contaminants that are not yet chemically identified. Though the concentration of each of these chemicals is generally rather small, research demonstrates that the combined effects of many toxic chemicals multiplies their individual toxicity.
How are we to know if our bodies are suffering from environmental
toxicity? The question now isn’t if we are toxic but how toxic are
we? Repeated exposure to paint fumes, solvents, cleaning products,
pesticides, and other sources often lays the ground work for further health
Environmental toxins combined with poor nutrition or toxins created
within the body (due to a malfunctioning digestive system) can overtax
the body’s detoxification system, causing serious health issues. The
body has systems designed to eliminate waste and detoxify harmful
substances—one example is how the liver chemically converts toxins to be easily
eliminated by the kidneys.
To maintain good health, every person should undergo an effective detoxification program on a regular basis to purge out pollutants that accumulate in body tissues.
Detoxification is an ongoing process, but this natural process is often hindered by environmental toxicity in the body, which is often associated with the following symptoms and disorders:
- Impaired immune system
- Physical reactivity to chemicals such as perfume, car exhaust, or cleaning products
- Autoimmune disease
- Toxin associated cancers (breast and childhood cancers)
- Neurological disorders
- Chronic fatigue
- Thyroid disorders
- Infertility, stillbirths, and miscarriages
- Poor memory or inability to focus
- Chronic fungal overgrowth
- Chronic digestive problems
Having a variety of physical symptoms combined with a history of
exposure is a good indication that you are suffering from toxic overload.
Mercury is a very prevalent toxin in our environment. Chronic mercury exposure from occupational or environmental settings, dental amalgams, and contaminated fish poses a significant threat to public health, because, as we age, our body stores increasing levels of mercury and toxic metals in our kidneys, liver, fat, and muscle.
While there is some debate about the hazards of eating mercury-laden fish, studies published by the U.S. EPA, the U.S. FDA, and the USDA attest that certain species contain alarmingly high levels of mercury. The EPA and the FDA teamed up and issued a joint warning for pregnant women not to consume these fish more than once a week, as the mercury content is considered sufficient to damage a developing fetus.
Learn more at the U.S. EPA’s Fish Advisories page and the U.S. FDA’s Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish page.
Recent documentation links mercury exposure with arrhythmias and heart muscle disorders, as hair analysis shows mercury levels to be 20,000 times higher in those with these cardiac abnormalities. Those with amalgam fillings exceed all occupational mercury exposure allowances for all European and North American countries (Sweden and and Norway have banned the use of mercury amalgams). Adults with four or more amalgams run a significant risk of toxicity, while in children, as few as two amalgams can contribute to health problems.
The average individual has eight amalgam fillings and could absorb up to 120 micrograms of mercury per day from this source. By way of contrast, compare estimates of the daily absorption of all forms of mercury from:
- Fish and seafood: 2.3 micrograms
- All other foods, air, and water: 0.3 micrograms
Most likely we all have varying levels of heavy metals in our bodies. If our detoxification systems are healthy, our bodies can regularly excrete toxins and metals through our organs of elimination: the liver, bowels, kidneys, lungs, and skin. Those with chronic illness who suspect they have high amounts of mercury can be tested with either DMPS or DMSA, which are substances that attach and remove heavy metals from the body.
- Testing will reveal levels of lead, mercury, aluminum, arsenic, and cadmium.
- Hair analysis or blood tests are not reliable forms of heavy metal testing, as toxins are most often stored in the bone and fat tissue.
To maintain good health, every person should undergo an effective detoxification program on a regular basis to purge out pollutants that accumulate in body tissues. Regular detoxification can improve most health conditions, reduce sensitivity to foods or chemicals, and result in weight loss and improved energy. Detoxification is also one of our best anti-aging medicines.
Glutathione, used by the liver to detoxify many toxins including formaldehyde, acetaminophen, and many other compounds, plays a key role in detoxification reactions. When glutathione levels are reduced, the body is compromised with respect to important functions such as neutralizing free radicals, slowing the aging process, and protecting the body from further toxic exposure.
There are many levels of detoxification. In our fast-paced lives, it is often impossible to undergo a rigorous 7-day cleanse or fast. In fact, detoxifying an overly toxic body can be detrimental to your system, resulting in headaches and extreme fatigue.
A more toxic body burden will require a gradual, slower, and gentler approach to cleansing. It is important to assess your individual health status and lifestyle with a qualified health professional before deciding on the best form of detoxification.
So what can you do to reduce the toxic burden of chemicals and heavy metals in your body?
- Minimize or avoid exposure to chemicals (become aware of what’s in your environment).
- Decrease consumption of fish with high mercury levels, such as tuna and swordfish.
- Replace your mercury fillings with safer alternatives by visiting a dentist who uses safe amalgam removal techniques.
- Avoid—when possible—drugs and addictive substances that overtax your liver detoxification pathways.
- Eat an organic, whole food diet with plenty of green leafy and cruciferous vegetables.
- Eat a high fiber diet to ensure good elimination through the bowels.
- Eat a nutrient dense diet with adequate protein, high in B-vitamins, zinc, selenium, and vitamin C-containing foods.
- Use liver supporting agents such as milk thistle, dandelion root, turmeric, B6, magnesium, whey protein, N-acetylcysteine, vitamin E, vitamin C, zinc, and glycine.
- Take high quality probiotics.
- Exercise regularly, 3-5 times per week.
- Find ways to minimize stress and avoid repression of emotions.
Article Contributors: Elizabeth Large