We are surrounded by environmental toxins. Substances that may cause distress or disease to our bodies can be found in everything that we eat, in everything that we drink and even in the air we breathe. Some of these compounds are a by-product of an industrialized world. Heavy metals like lead and cadmium are released from factories or are produced as waste substances in the industry. We are also exposed to many naturally-occurring toxic substances.
For example, volcanic eruptions release much of the free mercury that can be found in the environment. Our bodies have a variety of mechanisms for dealing with this toxicity, but the current total load exceeds the body's ability to adapt. When our bodies fail to break down or remove these toxins the only other way to deal with them is through sequestration.
The body will try to deposit these compounds into tissue to minimize their potential damage. For example, lead may be sequestered into bone, displacing calcium and increasing the risk of osteoporosis. The overall load of these toxins is sometimes called our "Body Burden."
A high body burden has been implicated in: Immunotoxicity - leading to asthma, allergies, cancers and chronic disease; Neurotoxicity - leading to cognition impairment, memory loss as well as sensory and motor dysfunction; and Endocrine toxicity - leading to reproductive issues, loss of libido and metabolic impairment. In research published in 2005, New York University School of Medicine researchers provided some of the most compelling evidence yet that long-term exposure to air pollution--even at levels within federal standards--causes heart disease. Previous studies have linked air pollution to cardiovascular disease but until now it was poorly understood how pollution damaged the body's blood vessels.
Environmental toxicity is a global concern. These pollutants don't recognize national or political boundaries. As an example, Japan has experienced a phenomenon known as "yellow sands" over the past several years. This is caused by pollution blowing in from Chinese factories across the Sea of Japan.
In the air.
There are now 1460 metric tons of airborne toxins that travel on the jet stream around the world. Because of this there is no place on the planet that can be considered a pristine environment. Facilities in the United States released 4.7 Billion pounds of toxins into the air in 2005- 72 Million pounds are known carcinogens.In 2005 the city of Chicago experienced 68 days when the air quality was too unhealthy for children, elderly and the ill. Coal-fired power plants spew sulfates, nitrates and mercury into the air. These compounds have been linked to more than 20,000 premature deaths each year.
In the Water.
There are an estimated 7 Million illnesses and 1000 deaths each year in the United States from waterborne microbes. Chlorinated chemicals in drinking water from pesticides, herbicides and refrigerants have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer. Cyanobacterial toxins in municipal water have been linked to illness and disease worldwide. Sewage treatment plant workers are at much higher risk of respiratory illness, skin rashes, headaches and body aches.
What about our food.
Environmental toxins work their way into the food chain. As of late 2005, 47 states have advisories to limit intake of freshwater fish due to mercury contamination. In 2005, the FDA reported finding chlorinated pesticides, like DDE (dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene - a breakdown product of DDT), in 63% of foods surveyed. Pesticides and Herbicides in food have been linked to many cancers.
The most surprising thing about our body burden is that we are at risk even before we are born. A study conducted in 2005 by the Environmental Working Group in cooperation with the American Red Cross examined the umbilical cord blood of newborns. They found that the average newborn has 200 different industrial chemicals, pollutants and pesticides in their blood. These included over 70 known carcinogens (toxins that may cause cancer). Other studies have found high levels of the metals cadmium and mercury in the breast milk of nursing mothers.
As we grow up we are exposed to seemingly benign compounds that are even meant to benefit us but have been shown to have long-term negative consequences. For example, Fluoride in our drinking water has been linked to Osteosarcoma and Hypothyroidism. Additionally, vaccinations which undoubtedly prevent disease may contain the mercury compound Thimerosal which has been linked to the rise of autism in children.
What can be done? We need to look at both prevention of toxicity and dealing with the inherent rise in body burden that has occurred since birth. A healthy diet high in raw foods has been shown to be beneficial. Of course, make sure that you wash these foods to remove pesticides and herbicides that cling to the surface of fruits and vegetables. Air purifiers may remove particulate matter and lower your exposure to some of the airborne toxins. Lastly, avoid seafood which has been shown to have higher mercury levels - like tuna steak, marlin and sea bass.
Aside from limiting our exposure we should all be actively aiding our bodies in the elimination of these toxins. Most programs for systemic detoxification begin in the digestive tract with products that act either as laxatives or diuretics. These include the ubiquitous colon cleanse products. By helping our bodies to remove waste quickly, it may aid in lowering body burden over time. There may be issues, though with the long-term use of laxatives and/or diuretics. Some people may become physically dependent on these products and cannot resume normal digestive function without them.
A more direct method for removing harmful compounds is chelation therapy for the removal of heavy metals and other toxins.Classic chelation causes side effects (kidney, bladder, etc..) and may not be well-tolerated in some people. Additionally, most chelating agents may remove beneficial nutrients along with the potentially harmful compounds.
For example, the chelating agent EDTA has a charge of -2. Because of this, it will seek out and bind to any +2 ion in the body. This includes harmful ions like lead, but it also includes calcium and magnesium. When chelating with EDTA you need to constantly add magnesium and calcium back into the system. Eventually, there will be diminishing benefits as the EDTA will only take out the calcium and magnesium that is being added and will fail to remove all of the lead.
The newest research centers on the use of a colloidal suspension of the mineral zeolite 'clinoptilolite' in such products as Natural Cellular Defense. The activated zeolite attracts and traps small, highly-charged particles that fit into the pores and channels of the zeolite cage. This includes heavy metals (Lead, Cadmium, Mercury, etc..), nitrosamines and environmental pollutants. Understand that this is a passive process - when the zeolite is in close proximity to these compounds, they will be drawn to the zeolite and either absorbed into the cage or adsorbed onto the surface of the zeolite.
Once trapped by the zeolite these toxins are easily removed from the body. Because the zeolite has affinity based on both size and charge, it does not remove necessary ions like calcium, magnesium and potassium while it efficiently rids the body of toxic heavy metals. This particular activated zeolite has been the center of several clinical studies that will be published over the next few years.
Do You Need to Detox? Are you overweight or tired all the time? Do you have headaches, other aches and pains, frequent colds and flus, constipation or digestive problems, high blood pressure, PMS, allergies or sensitivities. Do you often drink too much alcohol, drink caffeinated beverages, smoke cigarettes, use over-the-counter or recreational drugs, or eat fast, fried or refined foods?
It may be helpful to think of yourself as standing on the bull's eye in a series of concentric circles. The bull's eye marks the area that lies within your control. Each ring radiating outward means less personal control in areas where you interface -- your home, neighborhood, workplace, and your community.
Do You Smoke Cigarettes? Surely no one has to tell you they're toxic. But unless you're one of the few people who only smoke a couple at parties now and again, you've got an addiction that is not only expensive, but stinky, and truly unhealthy to others. One great way to look at this is if you can kick this habit (and you can) which is detoxifying in itself, other health improvements are going to be easy by comparison.
Detox Method: Fasting For Health Fasting is not as popular as it was in past times, but is an extremely effective measure. Fasting and (sensible) carbohydrate resticted diets have both been scientifically proven to extend life.
Fasting or going 'on a detox' can result in headaches and feeling dreadful as the poisons stored in tissue flood the system, it is essential to drink plenty of pure water. Avoid the more extreme regimes and if symptoms are severe seek medical help. Like dieting actual damage can result from long periods of fasting. Another word of warning - Fasting can be addictive.
Cilantro, a herb that is popular in Mexican and Far -Eastern cuisine is believed to help remove heavy metals, especially mercury. Do a "Google" Web search on Mercury and Cilantro. An infusion made from a small amount of the herb is one way of taking it. Some people recommend Chelation Therapy, which is a treatment where specially shaped molecules bind to the toxic metal and it is then removed from the body by the kidneys. (Do an internet search and see what others say about it). Some medical experts rubbish chelation therapy, but chelation can be very effective in removing specific metals from the body.
Best Detox: Sweating out Toxins Sweating is as essential to our health as eating and breathing. It accomplishes three important things: rids the body of wastes, regulates the critical temperature of the body at 37 degrees C (98.6 degrees F), and helps keep the skin clean and pliant.