Curebiome Naturopathic

Environmental Toxins and Detoxification

Common toxins, avoidance and elimination

Metals, plastics, Pesticides, air, consumables

Types of toxins

The first thing to understand is that there are really three different formats of a chemical toxin, or xenobiotic to use the fancy term. Those are the following

Water soluble – these toxins enter the body, stay in the blood and are usually filtered out by the kidneys within a few hours or a day. The problem is that many of these we are receiving constant re-dosing and near daily exposure which creates damage leading to problems long term. These are things like many of the pesticides, some of the plastics and more.

Fat soluble – These chemicals (and metals) tend to migrate towards areas of fat, which are the belly and subcutaneous fat, the visceral fat around our organs – where they can cause inflammation to organs, and the brain which is primarily fat by weight. This can create various problems and increase risk factors of many diseases because of specific toxins effects on organs.

Persistent toxins are those that are typically fat soluble, but may be stored in other tissues, like lead in the bone for example. They take years and decades to be eliminated from the body, so every time you are exposed it will be decades before all of that toxin is removed. An example of this is DDT and it’s metabolites – as most americans show levels of DDT metabolites though it has been outlawed for decades.

Symptoms of toxicity – systems effected

The problem with toxicity symptoms is that they begin general and can be mistaken for anything from allergies to just feeling tired from stress. Each toxin tends to have it’s own unique symptoms, many of which affect multiple functions including hormone, immune , brain function and more.

Heavy Metals

Lead: Sources are the air, polluted soil, water, leaded paint or water pipes, workplace exposure. Effects of lead are cardiovascular damage and disease, increase lead in the blood is associated with decreased IQ and brain functions and more. Lead is stored in the bone, so pregnancy, osteoporosis and broken bones tend to dramatically increase the release of lead into the blood from bone and create many health problems.

Mercury: Sources are fish, dental amalgams, broken thermometers, polluted waters and more. Effects of mercury are various, the most common being immune system depression (chronic illness or infections) and nervous system dysfunction ranging from mental emotional symptoms like mood swings, depression, brain fog, poor coordination (clumsiness), and more. Google miyamata disease, or google Mad Hatter disease. Mercury is fat soluble and tends to be stored in the brain, leading to the nervous system issues mentioned.

Aluminum: Sources are cookware, cigarrette smoke, baking powder/certain foods, prescription drugs, vaccines, cosmetics, deodorants, cooking food in aluminum foil, workplace (mining/factory). Aluminum is associated with formation of plaques in the brain, similar to those associated with alzheimers. This is the most concerning long term effect, though muscle weakness, bone pain and poor healing bone fractures are also connected to aluminum toxicity. It’s the most common metal in the earths crust and elevated levels increase the risk for dementia later in life.

Others metals people are being exposed to are arsenic, cadmium, uranium and more. Each and every one of these has numerous negative health implications, and they are mostly going to be address a similar way – first eliminate and reduce exposures as much as possible, second support glutathione (keep reading) and last is to consider chelation with a qualified healthcare provider.

 

Endocrine disruptors “Obesogens”

 

There are a number of different chemicals that have been officially labeled “obesogens” for their ability to disrupt hormones and lead to weight gain. With an ability to disrupt hormone function and production these chemicals are more likely to lead to serious diseases down the road from PMS and menopause problems, to diabetes and even increasing certain cancer risks. Below is a list and where they come from, followed by steps and ways to avoid them.

Atrazine is a very common pesticide that has been found in many major waterways across North America.

BPA is found in many plastics, including water bottles. Be careful of plastics marked “BPA Free” as they are most likely using BPS and BPF which are very similar and just as concerning (possibly more) than BPA. BPA acts as an artificial estrogen and can interfere with male and female hormones as well as weight issues.

Pthalates are mostly found in volatile plastics like those in shower curtains. You’ll notice a very strong plastic smell with new shower curtains, this is the off-gassing of the pthalates which disrupt hormone function among other concerns.

PFOA is the chemical in non-stick pans, which has implications in disrupting hormone function as well and leading to weight gain. It’s important to be very aware that if a non-stick pan is scratched it will release a much higher amount of the PFOA’s into foods – in the end it’s cheaper and safer to use ceramic, cast iron and stainless steel pots and pans.

PCBs have been outlawed for decades but were so widely used they have infiltrated the food chain. Many animals bioaccumulate and PCBs can be found in animal, fish and dairy products. Farm raised salmon are notoriously high in PCB’s and a research study found that men who ate farm raised salmon regularly were at higher risk of diabetes. Choose wild caught, organic, ethically raised animal products as much as possible for this reason.

High Fructose Corn Syrup is something we may think as harmless, it’s not. The high levels of fructose are forced through the liver since our cells cannot recognize and absorb fructose without an equal presence of glucose. This leads to fat building and inflammation in and around the liver, increasing the long term risk of liver damage and cancer.

The most common exposures to obesogens are through our water, food, plastics and cookware. The good news is that you can tackle each and every one of these to dramatically reduce your overall exposure, while at the same time supporting your ability to manage and detoxify any chemicals present through supporting liver function and glutathione production.

 

Pesticides

 

There are a number of different pesticides used today, many of the modern forms are water soluble (good news) and can be eliminated from the system quickly. The problem comes when we are exposed repeatedly multiple times a day for months and years on end – which most of us are if we’re not choosing more local, organic foods. Some of the more common pesticides are listed below, each have their own unique health problems they create but across the board they all have common effects of decreasing immune function (more infections, or longer lasting colds and flus) and having a negative impact on the brain and nervous system (brain fog, lack or coordination, difficulty concentrating and more) alongside many potential hormone disrupting effects. The most common way we are exposed through pesticides are through our foods we eat, if you or a neighbor use pesticides in and around our home and if you live near an agricultural area or your local city which sprays the area for pest control.

Glyphosphate(roundup)

atrazine

chlorpyrifos

metolachlor

metam sodium

 

Solvents (VOC’s)

 

Solvents, which we can also call Volatile Organic Compounds are used for many things which we can come in contact with every day. They are used as gasoline additives, in dry cleaning, paint, nail polish removers, glues, spot removers, detergents, perfumes and many many more products. They are more fat soluble and can build up and store within our body over time, which means we’ll feel their effects for a long time. They most commonly have negative effects on our brain and nervous system, certain organs (especially the liver and lungs) and immune system which they tend to inhibit and suppress. Those dealing with chemical sensitivities usually are very intolerant of all of these things for good reason, they are very harsh and can create reactions easily for that reason. Another concern with these fat soluble toxins is during weight loss, and laser lipo or cool sculpting and even pregnancy where more fat is broken down and these stored toxins are released which leads to a high dose and a risk of feeling terrible and causing major damage if not prepared for and addressed properly.

Air pollution

The final class of toxins I want to discuss is air pollution, which is another common issue we forget about. Sources are diesel and standard automotive exhaust, any gasoline engines (lawnmower, etc), there are also indoor air pollutants in the form of solvents and more and finally lead which is common in the dust we breathe in every day. These air pollutants cause many problems, specifically in the respiratory tract in the form of allergies and asthma, but also cardiovascular disease, the brain and nervous system and more.

While difficult to eliminate exposure to car exhaust we can take action to reduce by choosing to live away from roadways, increasing your following distance from the car ahead by 3 car lengths can reduce the amount of exhaust in your car by large amounts, choosing less plastic, synthetic and particle board based furniture in your home and having hardwood floors and good circulation.

The final thing we can do for indoor air quality is having a high quality air purifier, having central air checked, filters changes and ducts cleaned regularly and indoor plants. Indoor plants were studied by NASA for their ability to eliminate many VOC’s from the air (important for astronauts in space where you can’t really open a window).

There are many many more toxins but these are the major classes that knowing about you can limit reduction, increase your health and decrease your risk of many problems down the road.

Detoxification

Now that we know about many of the culprit chemicals and metals and can work to reduce exposure, we can talk about getting stored toxins out. If you understand nothing else – understand this. If we’re taking in toxins everyday and not putting them out, we are building up and our health will deteriorate overtime. On the other hand if we are reducing and limiting exposure enough that we can detox and eliminate stored toxins we will be getting healthier over time.

To understand detoxification we really need to understand the systems and organs responsible for packaging and removing toxins.

Liver: by far the most important (though all are necessary for optimal detoxification), because it actually filters chemicals and metals from the blood, packages them to that they can be excreted through the GI tract or the urinary tract. It does this through Phase 1 and 2 detox and the production of glutathione.

Glutathione is our primary anti-oxidant which helps support the detoxification of chemicals and reducing the amount of damage they inflict on our tissues and cells. It is supportive in the process of making many toxins more water soluble so that they can be excreted by the kidneys or GI tract. Think of glutathione as necessary to support healthy levels to survive in todays world. 

Kidneys and Bladder are the main organs of the urinary tract which is a primary route of excretion. Once the liver undergoes phase 1 and 2 detox we now much get that inert and packaged chemical out of the body, otherwise if some of the detoxification “packaging” we performed may break down and send these chemicals back into circulation. Important for support of the kidneys and bladder are drinking plenty of clean, filtered water. We recommend an optimal reverse osmosis or at minimum a carbon block water filter. 

GI tract helps eliminate solid waste, including fiber which helps to bind and retain many of the compounds that have gone through phase 1 and 2 detoxification from the liver. Also important here are healthy gut bacteria as certain unhealthy bacteria in the GI tract have been shown to destroy the detox packaging done by the liver, sending the toxin back into circulation to cause more damage. GI health is both important and absolutely necessary for detoxification.

Skin is another route of excretion, primarily through sweat. Anytime you exercise and raise body temperature you are able to mobilize some of the solvents and toxins within the tissues and release through the skin as sweat. Another fantastic way to support this is through the use of sauna, which can help to release more toxins through sweat as well as support cardiovascular health.

Lungs are a more minor, but still important route of elimination. Specifically for VOC’s and any compound that when heated has a gaseous state – this can be further supported by sauna and increasing temperature. The lungs are also the second major site of glutathione in the body after the liver.