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The Best Solutions to Limit Toxin Accumulation: How to Limit Everyday Toxin Exposure (Part 1)

Introduction

Toxins surround us all day, every day. Whether it’s your car fumes you inhale, frozen dinner you eat, or the negative thoughts you have at work, toxins are everywhere.

This post is not meant to drive you crazy. It’s not meant to turn your life upside down and be paranoid about everything you and your family are exposed to.

In fact, most of the toxins discussed in the article don’t harm you unless you are exposed to extremely high levels on a consistent basis, or if your body is unable to process them safely. History has shown us that everything is toxic and it is only the dose that separates the toxic from the nontoxic.

Merriam Webster’s definition of “toxin” is:

“A poisonous substance that is a specific product of the metabolic activities of a living organism and is usually very unstable, notably toxic when introduced into the tissues, and typically capable of inducing antibody formation.”

By this definition, many typical toxins (e.g. car fumes, additives, synthetic chemicals) are not poisonous, life-threatening, or created by a living organism.

For simplicity’s sake, this article will refer to a “toxin” as a synthetic or nonsynthetic molecule or state of mind that has the potential to negatively affect the body in moderate amounts over the course of a person’s life. This may be a vague definition, but it is the accumulation and toxic burden that negatively affect people the most. It’s not often one singular exposure.

Our bodies are designed to handle daily toxic exposures: in fact, it can be healthy to challenge your immune system and detoxification pathways. Living in a sterile environment has its dangers, especially with children.

The body needs to maintain a balance between Th1 and Th2:

Th1 is your “cellular immunity” that fights viruses and other intracellular pathogens, eliminates cancerous cells, and stimulates allergic skin reactions.

Th2 drives your “humoral immunity” and upregulates antibody production to fight extracellular organisms.

It has been hypothesized that the decrease of infections (Th2) in Western countries—and, more recently, in developing countries—is at the origin of the increasing incidence of both autoimmune and allergic diseases (Th1). This is called the “hygiene hypothesis.”[1] It is based upon epidemiological data, particularly migration studies, showing that subjects migrating from a low-incidence to a high-incidence country acquire the immune disorders, especially with first generation.

More simply:

Th2 > Th1: If a child grows up in a clean, semisterile environment (low Th1), studies have seen an increase in autoimmune, asthma, and allergic conditions (high Th2).

Th2 < Th1: Alternatively, if a person is exposed to many microorganisms, such as bacteria and parasite infections (high Th1), it has been shown to reduce humoral allergic incidences (low Th2).

Ideally, we should aim to have balanced Th1 and Th2 systems (Th1 = Th2).

Therefore, I say “limit toxin accumulation” in the title of this article, and not “avoid toxins.” Some exposure to toxins, microorganisms, and substances that challenge our immune system is crucial to find optimal health.

So far, we’ve learned that everything is toxic, and it is only the dose that separates the toxic from the nontoxic, and that a moderate number of toxins are required for a healthy immune system. There are, however, natural toxins that could have deleterious effects even at small doses (e.g. food poisoning, heavy metals), but for the most part, it is the accumulation that stresses our bodies and have them working suboptimally.

We take in toxins in a variety of ways, including external and internal processes. My recommendation is not to make all these changes. And if you have already, I would question if your “healthy lifestyle” is more of an obsession. There are dangers in going too far: it’s called orthorexia. Limiting some of these toxic exposures and accumulations one step at a time will bring you closer to optimal health and vitality.

Limiting External Toxin Accumulation

External toxins or extrinsic factors are the most common factors that people think of when it comes to their health. It is anything from the things we consume, absorb, inhale, observe, or hear.

The list in the next page consists of common toxins we are exposed to daily, and excludes major infections such as E. coli and C. difficile, or side effects of vaccinations and specific medications.

Consumption

Problem and Solution

Processed foods, preservatives, and additives

Give your body a break from heavy chemicals and irritants in many of the foods we eat by:

  • Washing your produce with more than just water (learn an easy DIY produce wash recipe).
  • Buying organic, local, and seasonal produce (especially the “Dirty Dozen”).
  • Avoiding detrimental additives such as artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, MSG, trans fats, olestra, food dyes, sodium chloride / sulfite / nitrate / nitrite, BHA/BHT/propyl gallate, sulfur dioxide, potassium bromate, and parabens.

Excessive amounts of sugars and soda

Avoid candy, concentrated juices, and soda pops by replacing them with healthier options.

  • Raw fruits and veggies (e.g. apples, avocados, oranges, peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, celery).
  • High-protein snacks to help with satiation and blood-sugar regulation (e.g. nuts, protein shakes, beans, meat).
  • Drink more water and fresh juice.

Poor water quality

Limit bottled water and drink purified, remineralized, and alkaline water to avoid water contaminants but maintain beneficial mineral content.

  • Distillation, gravity-fed filtration systems, reverse osmosis, and carbon filter may be potential options depending of your current quality of water.

Heavy metals in seafood

Avoid seafood and fish at the top of the food chain, which contain high levels of mercury.

  • Avoid shark, tuna, swordfish, and king mackerel, which are predator fish with higher amounts of mercury.
  • Stick to shrimp, sardines, anchovies, salmon, pollock, catfish, and smaller fish (even in your fish oil).
  • Eat up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury.

Packaging coated with PFCs and heated plastics

Avoid food wrappers, pizza boxes, microwaveable popcorn, and other PFC (perfluorinated compounds) products, especially when reheating.

  • Purchase responsible prepackaged goods without PFC.
  • Transfer microwaveable foods to glass, ceramic, or other safe-to-heat containers.
  • Reheat your food on the stove or in the oven when possible.
  • Try to cook and eat fresh foods whenever possible.

Rancid oils

Oil-containing foods such as nuts, avocados, seeds, fish, and olive oil spoil with different temperatures and environmental factors. To be on the safe side, practice the following tips:

  • Keep oils refrigerated, sealed air-tight, and in a dark room (e.g. fridge)
  • Consume within 3 months.

Not cooking or washing foods properly

Especially when it comes to pork, chicken, turkey, fish, and seafood, make sure they are cooked appropriately to limit the number of bacteria and parasite infections. Similarly, little critters can live among leafy greens and produces with a high surface area, such as broccoli.

  • Use a meat thermometer to estimate how cooked a thick piece of meat.
  • Soak your produce for 10 minutes in a solution of water, salt, vinegar, and grapefruit seed extract.

Charcoal grilling

Summer often means BBQ, but it also means volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The burnt crust on your steaks and veggies is carcinogenic in large quantities.

  • Limit your consumption of charcoal-crispy bits of fatty meats and high-oil vegetables, from the BBQ but also skillet and oven.
  • Try eating raw, steamed, or poached foods more often.

Misused Teflon cookware

The Teflon of nonstick pans contains the toxic compound polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which can cause flu-like symptoms when consumed.

  • Avoid metal and use plastic or wooden utensils on nonstick Teflon pans.
  • Throw out misused Teflon pans that have scratches or pieces of Teflon flaking off.
  • Switch to stainless-steel or cast-iron pots and pans.

Part 2 of this two-part article will be published on this blog on June 1, 2017.

For references and other great articles, visit NaturopathicCurrents.com