The Sources of Environmental Toxins and How They Affect Health

The truth that our once pristine environment has morphed into a slew of toxins is not debatable.  We have evolved from living in a perfect matrix of health, living in synchrony with the environment, to merely existing in a miasma of toxins. From the air we breathe, to the water we drink, to the food we eat - toxic chemicals lurk everywhere. 

When you think about health hazards, the first thing that likely comes to mind are the most prevalent diseases of our time - autoimmune disease, cancer, cardiovascular, or Alzheimer's Disease. Or maybe, you think of health hazards like car accidents, drug addiction, or poor nutrition. We rarely consider the dangers that are lurking ominously in our environment. Chemicals that prowl ubiquitously throughout our environment come in a variety of forms: articulate matter in the air we breathe, chemicals that encumber the food we eat, endocrine disruptors and neurotoxins in cleaning and body care products, all the way to electromagnetic frequencies that swarm our environment. 

When I first started researching environmental toxins I wondered if it would be possible for anyone to live in the twentieth century without being riddled with toxins. As a person who strives to live a toxic free life, I was determined to figure out how we could exist in the world without ending up as bowls of literal toxic soup. As I continued searching for answers to this problem, I realized that it was not only possible, I discerned that with some simple lifestyle changes, anyone could achieve a very high level of health even living amidst harmful chemicals.  My belief was confirmed - the body is miraculous. When you give the body what it needs to thrive, when you remove assaults that cause harm, beautiful things happen. 

How the Body Detoxifies

Before we hit the ground running, there are some foundational concepts that I am going to cover so you understand how we get exposed to contaminants in the first place. If we don’t know how we get exposed, then it would be impossible to know how to prevent toxins from getting inside us in the first place.

Toxins enter the body through three main exposure routes: dermal, oral, and inhalation. Not all three routes are appraised equal when considering the level of exposure danger. Inhalation is by far the most dangerous route of exposure because when we breathe in chemicals from the air, they immediately enter the bloodstream and distribute to organs and tissues around our bodies. We don’t have much of a standing chance of ridding them before they get stored in places like organs and tissues where they wreak havoc and can cause long term health problems.

Both dermal and oral routes of exposures are also dangerous but these routes of exposure are highly supported by our detoxification pathways. Our liver is our main organ of detoxification - if all our detox pathways are humming along nicely, the liver can quite easily bind toxins and excrete them from the body, relieving us of their toxic burden. We must be careful not to get too over confident and solely rely on the liver to take care of all things detox. Our liver can only keep up with so much. We have evolved to have the ability to take care of toxins but it is essential that we support detoxification pathways optimally. Our responsibility is to mitigate toxic exposures, and support the liver nutritionally to prevent toxic overwhelm. If we can commit to doing these things, we can bet that our liver is going to do a fantastic job of keeping our bodies squeaky clean. 

We use about 25 percent of our metabolic energy each day for detoxification. One way we can add support through diet is by eating more fibre. Historically we ate about 100 -150 grams of fibre each day and today the average is more like 15-20 grams per day. Time restricted feed-ing also improves detoxification by activating our detoxification pathways and mobilizing more energy for detoxification rather than digestion. Research validates this is most effective when the majority of calories are eaten early in the day and fasting is done from late afternoon/early evening until the following morning. I personally recommend fasting from 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm to 7:00 - 8:00 am in the morning.

Environmental Toxins in the Air

The first terrain we are going to cover are the toxins that are found in the air we breathe. Would you believe me if I told you that every time you take a breath, you are inhaling a slew of toxicants referred to as particulate matter? What about if I told you that the air inside your home could be one hundred times more toxic than outdoor air? I know, I know, it’s hard to believe because we can’t see these so-called toxins so it’s easy to pretend that they don’t exist. Particulate matter enters the body like a thief in the night, sabotaging our health one inhalation at a time.

The most hazardous form of particulate matter results from combustion. This particulate matter comes from burning wood, coal, gasoline, and other fossil fuels. These increase in concentration in heavily populated areas where traffic is dense, and where there is heavy industrial pollution. 

The chemicals in the air we breathe outside are unfortunately out of our control, but that is not true about the air inside our home. We can protect the air quality inside our homes by taking a few of these important steps. 

  1. Replacing all regular cleaning products with non toxic cleaning agents. Be very careful of greenwashing - it is common for products to be labelled “natural” or “biodegradable” and contain many harmful chemicals. Some of the chemicals that you want to look out for in-clude phthalates, perchloroethylene, triclosan, quaternary ammonium compounds, butox-yethonol, ammonia, chlorine, and sodium hydroxide. A theme that I like to stick to when choosing cleaning products is if you can’t eat it, don’t put it in your environment. Check out the website for more information on safe cleaning products. 
  2. Investing in a high quality air filtration system inside your home is key. Some of my favorites are Air Doctor, IQ air, Intellipure, and the MoleKule. 
  3. Fill your home with air purifying plants like Barberton Daisy, English Ivy, Snake Plant, Spider Plant, Aloe Vera, Broad Lady Palm, or Dragon Tree. 

Waterborne Environmental Toxins

The next terrain to cover is water - we must talk about why filtering your tap water is such a critical step in reducing your toxic load. Access to clean water seems like it would be a foundational human right wouldn’t you think? This is far from reality in many towns, cities, and rural areas  across North America. Even in the wake of the flint water crisis where 10,000 people were exposed to dangerous levels of lead in their drinking water, it is estimated that tens of millions of people are exposed to contaminated drinking water each year in North America. This problem is most egregious in rural areas but is still a problem in cities as well. 

Lead, arsenic, radioactive substances, elevated levels of cooper, chlorine, perfluorooctanoic acid, (PFOA’s) perchlorate, nitrate, and pharmaceuticals are all toxins that have been found in tap water. There have been studies done that show up to two hundred various pharmaceutical drug residues found in just one eight ounce glass of tap water! Filtering your water is not an option if you want to keep your toxic load to a minimum. 

My favorite water filter is an on the counter, reverse osmosis system called the AquaTru. This system not only purifies water through a reverse osmosis process, it remineralizes it, and prevents bacteria buildup in the tank. A great combo if you want pristine clean water.

Are you an advocate of organic food? If you are not convinced that organic and regenerative food is the way forward then I encourage you to take a seat and buckle yourself up - you are about to be taken for an educational water ride. Toxins in our food supply is the third and final topic we are going to cover. 

Our food system has changed dramatically over the years. We have hybridized food, genetically modified organisms, induced growth with chemicals, force fed antibiotics to animals to speed growth and then proceed to feed animals genetically modified food and food waste. It’s these very animals that end up on our dinner plates, riddled with more toxins than nutrients could ever compete with. We have created fragile plants that rely on chemicals to protect themselves from insects, viruses, and mold - all done under the claim that it’s for our benefit and it will help feed the planet. Instead of that theory panning out, it’s completely backfired. 

We find fire retardants on our food, teflon in food wrappers, and the list goes on to include glyphosate, rocket fuel, pesticides, antibiotics, PCB’s, pharmaceutical residues, herbicides, bisphenol A, arsenic, and cadmium. Isn’t the FDA supposed to protect us from toxins entering our food system? Apparently not.

Toxins Found in Our Food

There are big, big problems with all the toxins that are found in our food. Toxins not only negatively impact our health they also decrease the nutrition in the food we eat. When you combine a high toxic load in the body with nutritional deficiencies, low glutathione, you create the perfect scenario for disease. The more toxic we become, the more nutrients and enzymes we use up to attempt to rid toxins and the more nutritionally depleted we become. It’s a vicious and destructive cycle that leads right to disease. Let’s take flavonoids for example, flavonoid content is much lower in conventionally grown food - flavonoids decrease inflammation, are critical for transporting zinc into the cell, decrease inflammatory pathways, and detoxify free radicals in the brain. This theme is consistent for a variety of antioxidants and nutrients when you compare conventionally grown food to organic food. To say that choosing organically grown food will solve all your problems would be a myth, but choosing organic and regeneratively grown food if possible is definitely your best choice. 

Cleansing Your Body of Toxins

There’s a happy ending to this sad toxic story, and that happy ending begins with our cell membranes. Our beautiful membrane is the first line of defence against environmental toxins. Our cell membranes protect and organize our cells - the membrane is what determines what enters the cell and exits the cell. The functional importance of the cell membrane makes them particularly susceptible to the toxic effects of chemicals - toxic assaults significantly alter membrane function and when membrane function has been altered, everything is compromised. BodyBio’s Phosphatidylcholine (PC) builds the cell membrane to have structure, stability, and integrity. When we have healthy cell membranes nutrients easily enter the cell and wastes effortlessly exit the cell. PC is an essential nutrient that everyone living on the planet today should be including into their dietary regime. 

Now go and get yourself some PC and don’t forget to take it every single day!!