What are toxins?
Toxins are produced inside your body as waste products from your natural metabolic processes, such as carbon dioxide and urea, as well as microbial toxins due to intestinal dysbiosis, or harmful by-products of poorly metabolised oestrogens.
The sheer amount of toxins a person is exposed to in addition to their natural endogenous toxins (the ones the body naturally produces) is staggering, and quite frankly much harder to process.
Toxins are all around us on a daily basis. In one single day you may encounter toxins such as bisphenol A (BPA) from plastics and cans, benzene from petrol fumes, sodium lauryl sulphate, phthalates and parabens from toiletries and cosmetics, growth hormones and antibiotics in meat and dairy products, PCBs and mercury from fish, pesticides on food and poly-flourinated chemicals (PFCs) from non-stick cookware and many more.
Toxins play a role in many diseases
Toxins damage every part of our physiological functions. They are invisible drivers behind a vast array of health issues. Our bodies are simply not designed to process the complex chemical cocktail of toxins that we are exposed to today. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors lived in pristine environments with clean water, wild meat and fish and wild vegetables.
10 ways that toxins cause disease
- Disruption of hormones – Many toxins mimic hormones in our bodies. They can block, induce, inhibit or mimic hormones, interfering with hormone production. Common hormonal disruptors include phthalates from plastics, pesticides, PCBs, dichloro-diphenyl-trichlorethane (DDT) and synthetic steroids in meat and dairy.
- Liver overload – Toxicity can cause disease when the toxic load is greater than the body can comfortably deal with. Detoxification and elimination of toxins is based on an individual’s ability and effectiveness at processing their unique toxic load. If your liver becomes over-burdened with toxins, your ability to detoxify becomes impaired leading to chronic disease and premature ageing. Doctors can recognise acute toxicity like poisoning and heavy metal toxicity, but chronic lower levels of toxicity are harder to detect. These occur from chronic low level exposure to toxins and produce subtler, yet more pervasive, symptoms that can appear over time.
- Damage of gene expression and DNA – Toxins can interfere with the expression of genes in that genes can be “turned on” or “turned off” based on the environment that they are exposed to. This is called Epigenetics. Many toxins in our environment activate or suppress genes in a negative way. Toxins like pesticides, benzene, phthalates and poorly metabolised oestrogens can all damage chromosomal DNA and impair DNA repair, accelerating ageing and increase chronic disease processes.
- Damage of enzymes – Toxins damage enzymes, which are the catalysts for every single chemical reaction in our bodies. Enzymes are crucial to health. Everyday functions like energy production, protection against oxidative stress and manufacture of haemoglobin rely on enzymes and when enzyme function begins to fail, disease and accelerated ageing steps in.
- Essential mineral displacement – Minerals such as calcium in our bodies can be displaced by heavy metals like lead, leading to weak bones and a high level of circulating toxins.
- Damage of cell membranes – Healthy cell membranes are required for effective communication in and out of every cell, as well as transport of all substances, such as nutrients in, and toxins out. Toxins impair cell signalling processes and messages from vital hormones, such as insulin. Impaired cell membrane function can lead to diseases like diabetes due to insulin’s message not being passed on.
- Damage of organs – Toxins can damage vital organs leading to compromised function and poor health.
- Blocking of receptor sites – All cells have hormone receptor sites on their cell membranes and toxins can block these. E.g. arsenic blocks thyroid hormone receptors and can contribute to chronic fatigue.
- Impairment of immune system and damage of bodily tissues – toxicity from microbial organisms, such as fungi and bacteria, promotes disease and infection by directly damaging host tissues and disabling the immune system.
- Accumulation and storage of toxic load – Toxins can accumulate in the bodily tissues, such as lead, which can be stored in the bones, replacing calcium. Toxic metals like mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic and aluminium are widespread in the environment and often accumulate in the body with delayed effects.
How to detoxify your life
It might seem overwhelming reading through the above list, however there are many ways you can minimise your toxic load.
(infographic courtesy of Nutri Advanced)
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