We’ve all heard the saying you are what you eat… but how often do we consider that we’re also what we breathe, touch, and think?
Without a doubt, doing a “dry January” and committing to more green smoothies or weekly workouts after the holidays are great ways to reset after 3 months of over-indulging in sugar, alcohol, and rich foods. However, our bodies are subjected to many more toxins throughout the year than simply what’s on our holiday dinner table.
Clinicians and scientists call this our Total Toxic Load (aka, “body burden”) – the cumulative burden put on our bodies from exposure to environmental chemicals, pollution, radiation, heavy metals, mycotoxins, and mold, in addition to lifestyle factors, such as diet, drugs, and even stress (yes, stress can be a toxin!).
All humans are now exposed to synthetic pollutants in drinking water, air, and the food supply, as well as in consumer products and home pesticides. Some of these chemicals resist metabolism and excretion and therefore accumulate in body tissues. The quantity of an exogenous substance or its metabolites that accumulates in an individual or a population is defined as a ‘body burden.’Biomonitoring of Industrial Pollutants
Not surprisingly, toxins can have long-term, detrimental effects on our health and well-being. In fact, numerous scientific studies have linked toxic substances and behaviors to various neurocognitive, metabolic, autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases. Specifically, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes, autism, allergies, ADHD, depression, IBD, and cancer (amongst other things) have been tied to toxins in our environment, homes, and lifestyle.
However, the negative effects from toxins can also be insidious and subtle. Common early signs and symptoms may be hard to discern from other health issues. They include fatigue, muscle & joint pain, migraines, GI upset, skin issues (rash, acne, eczema etc), hormone imbalances, anxiety/depression, insomnia, bad breath, and brain fog.
Furthermore, diseases rarely stem from one causal agent alone. The vast majority of health experts agree that genetics play a role in predisposing individuals to the effects of toxins. It’s now a well-established motto in medicine that “genetics loads the gun, but environment pulls the trigger”.
One of the major genetic factors related to toxic burden is our ability to produce and utilize Glutathione – a compound naturally found in the liver that is widely considered the most important antioxidant produced by our bodies.
Another, perhaps less obvious, factor that can increase your susceptibility to toxins and disease is gut health. As mentioned in our recent blog post on gut health, when our gut is in a state of dysbiosis (imbalance) our whole body is affected. Toxins can not only contribute to dysbiosis, but dysbiosis can exacerbate the effects of toxins.
While we can’t change our genetics or eliminate all toxic influences from our life (nor should you drive yourself crazy trying to), there are some relatively easy and affordable ways to reduce our toxic load. Consider it the holiday gift to yourself and loved ones that keeps on giving!
Read “Reducing Your Toxic Load – Part II” to learn more!