Toxins 101: Top 10 Toxins Compromising Your Health & Wellbeing

Sometimes when you’ve tried everything and looked everywhere to help with your weight gain, insulin resistance, hormone imbalances, fertility issues, autoimmune conditions, and even cancer, the often overlooked culprit to you getting better is your toxic load.

There is overwhelming evidence that exposure to toxins in our environment contributes to nearly all chronic health issues. From arsenic to asbestos, pesticides to phthalates the list of toxins that have been found in our homes, in our bodies and in the environment is endless.  It is important for us to know what toxic chemicals are present in our food, water and everyday products.

I urge you to get the information you need on toxins, know what they are and why these toxins are so harmful. We are being exposed to an unprecedented number of chemicals every single day from the air we breathe, to the water we drink, the foods we eat, the packaging and storing of these foods, to our furniture, walls, personal care products and so much more. It can be so overwhelming and terrifying but I recommend focusing on the things we have direct control over first and take it one step at a time.

3 Primary Ways Toxins Enter Our Bodies

1. Lungs: Toxins enter our bodies through our lungs such as scents, perfumes, exhausts, smog, dust, talc aerosols, VOCs, etc. VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) are chemicals that are released into the air as gases, off-gassing. VOCs have been linked to reproductive, respiratory, neurological and developmental problems. Exposure to VOCs in pregnancy led to lower birth weights and lower IQ in infants. Found in air fresheners, hair spray, perfumes, cleaning products, paints, carpets, furniture. Most scents and odours are made of VOCs and commonly include benzene, acetone and formaldehyde.  

2. Gut: Toxins also enter our digestive system so through ingestion of food additives and agricultural toxins, toothpaste, mouthwash, residue from dish soap, particles of plasticizing agents, cosmetics.

3. Skin: Toxins enter our bodies through skin absorption with our cosmetics, body care products, oral hygiene products, deodorant and antiperspirant, hair products, cleaning products, residue of laundry detergent.  

Current Landscape of Toxins

Our bodies are full of toxins. Loaded with them. Toxins are harmful chemicals that our bodies absorb through our environment or the food we eat. In today’s modern society these compounds are practically unavoidable.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) examined the cord blood of newborns and found that:

  • They began life exposed to as many as 287 of the 413 toxic chemicals in the study
  • An average of 200 toxins were found per baby
  • 180 chemicals found are known to cause cancer

So there is a clear connection to mom’s toxicity and the toxins babies are born with. The placenta can guard against natural invaders, such as viruses and bacteria, but it isn’t designed to protect against man-made chemicals and heavy metals. Those things pass straight through to the developing baby. This is one of the reasons kids are getting sicker and sicker.

Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) takes an innocent until proven guilty system where chemicals are not required to undergo safety testing prior to going to market. We have policies written in such a way that we have our federal government has to prove that a chemical is harmful after it was already in commerce.

In 2016 this toothless policy has been updated and it’s slightly better but it also took 40 years to get updated.  Bottom line: We have untested unsafe chemicals freely being circulated in commerce.

Why are toxins so harmful? 

Let me provide you with an analogy to better understand why toxins may be harmful for one person, and deadly for another.  The analogy often made to explain one’s tolerance for toxins is a picturing a bucket. Everyone’s bucket size is unique to them based on their individual’s past and present exposure to physical, chemical and biological and toxins (via food, water, air, etc). Another factor that plays a role in their bucket size is their genetic predispositions, social support networks, psychological and emotional resilience. All of this becomes a cumulative representation of an individual’s capacity to maintain health. Typically when a person’s bucket begins to overflow the person begins to experience illness, and even diseases. This is why it’s so personal and unique because everyone’s bucket size and rate it overflows is unique to them. So this is why someone living in the same area, exposed to the same chemicals may live to 100 and the other person may develop cancer. However, the bottom line is that toxins are harmful for everyone, no one is immune!

Over time, chronic and daily exposure to toxins add up like tiny drops in our bucket contributing to our body’s toxic load, eventually interfering with its ability to function optimally and subsequently leading to harmful effects on our health.

When our cumulative toxic burden is left unaddressed, it may lead to health challenges. Chronic toxic exposure can be indicated by numerous symptoms such as:

  • Digestive issues like bloating, gas, diarrhoea or constipation
  • Mood issues, anxiety or depression
  • Brain fog or memory loss, attention disorders
  • Asthma or other respiratory issues
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Unexplained pain and soreness
  • Infertility
  • Hair Loss
  • Seizures
  • Tingling in extremities
  • Chemical sensitivity
  • Insomnia
  • Memory Loss
  • Anxiety
  • Allergies

I like to classify toxins under the following:  

  • Hormone Disrupting Toxins
    • Interfere, block or mimic natural hormones (estrogen, testosterone and thyroid hormones).
    • An example how toxins can be harmful can be seen in perimenopausal women. Women with elevated levels of common types of flame retardant chemicals in their blood may be at a higher risk for thyroid disease and the risk may be significantly higher among menopausal women, according to a new study from researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
    • Also as women age their bones release stored lead, which may lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, and weight gain.
  • Carcinogens (Cancer-Causing)
    • Research is now showing us that toxins play much more of a driving role in creating disease than we realize. According to the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences data, environmental factors cause between 80-90% of all cancers. Dr. Joseph Pizzorno, one of the world’s leading authorities on science-based natural medicine calls “Toxicity is the primary driver of disease.”
  • Respiratory Toxins
    • Affect the respiratory system, may cause bronchitis, emphysema and other breathing problems.
  • Developmental Toxins
    • Affect normal development and growth in children. There is definitely a link
  • Neurotoxins
    • Toxic to the brain, children more susceptible, may cause developmental and learning difficulties.
  • Immune Suppressants
    • Exactly what the name suggests, these toxins suppress your immune system.

Toxicity is a generational epidemic – What’s happening to you, will happen to your children, and your grandchildren, and their children!

Anyone above the age of 40 grew up in the leaded generation. Most of us have heard about the problem with lead in the water in Flint, Michigan. But, Flint is just the tip of the iceberg. Lead is in a majority of water supplies. And, that’s just one heavy metal. One toxin. There are lots more. Public drinking water is just one source of exposure out of countless sources. Ladies, if you were lipstick, chances are you’re exposing yourself to lead, especially in red lipstick. Many other personal care products are toxic as well.

That lead, along with other toxins, passes from mom to baby. If we could remove all sources of lead from our environment, it would take 4 generations to get all the lead out of our bodies. All these toxins also turn on bad genetic expression, including the obesity gene. And, the bad epigenetic expression is passed on to our children. The good news is, it can also be reversed through detox, methylation and of course avoiding and reducing further exposure.

My Top 10 Toxins 

  1. Heavy Metals: Like mercury, lead, radon, bismuth and arsenic. These heavy metals are prevalent in drinking water, some seafood, rice, vaccines, pesticides, preserved wood, antiperspirant, building materials, dental amalgams and paints. Even in small amounts, heavy metals can pose significant health threats like increasing the production of free radicals, endocrine disruptors, neurotoxins, immune suppressants, degrading biofilm in the microbiome, leading to altered gut permeability, carcinogens, and reduce your body’s natural ability to detoxify.
  • Bisphenol A : BPA sources include plastics, canned goods, meat packaging, and printed receipts. BPA has been recently replaced in many consumer products with other bisphenols like BPS, which are equally toxic. They do not build up inside the body so reducing exposure and avoidance is important way for dealing with non -persistent chemicals.
  • Phthalates: Phthalates are chemicals used in scented products to lengthen the life of fragrances and used to make plastics soft and flexible. It may be found in toys, plastic bottles, food packaging, shower curtains, blow-up mattresses, perfumes, candles, air fresheners and sprays. Phthalates affect the reproductive system, contribute to obesity, diabetes, and thyroid irregularities. They do not build up inside the body so reducing exposure and avoidance is important way for dealing with non -persistent chemicals.
  • 1,4-Dioxane: This chemical is a carcinogen and respiratory irritant. Created in manufacturing process of Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and Polyethylene glycol (PEG) compounds, so it’s not listed. Often found in foaming agents, shampoo, toothpaste, body wash, and cleaners. It is also, created during bleaching of tampons, pads, liners and diapers.
  1. Triclosan: Triclosan is a chemical added to antimicrobial products, and is an endocrine disruptor that affects thyroid function and liver toxicity. It is commonly used in almost everything like mascara, foundation, concealer, deodorant, shampoo, body washes, antibacterial soap & antibacterial toothpaste, tile and grouts, and toilet seats. Finally, Food and Administration (FDA) has banned it in hand soap effective September 2017.
  1. Mold and Mycotoxins: Mold can cause a range of health problems even with minimal exposure. Mold grows in warm, moist, indoor areas, and thrives on moisture and cellulose. It is most common in showers, behind walls, in crawl spaces and attics. Mold can also be present in foods like nuts and legumes especially peanuts, grains like wheat and corn, and dairy products.
  1. Formaldehyde: Commonly found in composite and manufactured wood products, car exhaust, industrial pollution, insulation, paint and varnishes, adhesives and dry cleaning.  But there are also formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (Bronopol, DMDM hydantoin, Diazolidinyl urea, Imidzaolidinyl urea and Quaternium-15) are widely used to prevent bacterial growth and acts as a preservative and usually act as an immune system toxin, carcinogen and skin irritant. They are found in hair products, shampoo, eye shadow, mascara, blush, nail polish and nail polish remover. As well listed as a human carcinogen under Proposition 65 and by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Not surprisingly they are banned in Japan and restricted by the European Union.  
  1. Pesticides or persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These are the most commonly used pesticides in commercial agriculture, specifically glyphosate. Pesticides generic terms – primary source is food – antimicrobials, fungicide, insecticide, thousands of different and exposures. Lawns, golf courses, parks, etc. Alarmingly, pesticide residues have been detected in 50-95% of U.S. foods.
  1. Food Additives & Preservatives: The average person may be eating up to 5 kgs of artificial food additives per year. There are so many but I don’t want to overwhelm you, so I choose only 4. The firs one is Caramel, which is derived from allergens (corn, soy, wheat, dairy) and source not listed in ingredients list because it is used as a colour and has been linked to lowered immune function. Nitrates and Nitrites – sodium nitrates can convert to nitrites in the gut. Nitrites may be converted to carcinogenic nitrosamine. All cured meats will contain nitrites and nitrates, however organic meats are not allowed to add chemically created nitrates.  Many vegetables (spinach and arugula) contain nitrates, but they have not been linked to cancer development. Sulphites are preservatives found in wine, dried fruit, fruit juice concentrate and many pharmaceuticals to help preserve and prevent browning, reduce levels of important nutrients, such as beta- carotene, B-complex and calcium. They can cause headache, nausea, diarrhea, irritated membranes, abdominal pain, rashes and trigger asthma. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is a flavour enhancer, a sodium salt of glutamic acid found in many proteins, and can be labelled as ‘hydrolyzed protein’, ‘natural flavouring’, or ‘yeast extract’. Acute reactions include: headache, agitation, increased heart rate, numbness, tingling, also linked with obesity, diabetes, ADD, allergies, IBS and depression. According to a 2016 seminar by the Harvard Medical School, our brain can be damaged if we ingest anything other than premium fuel. If substances from “low premium” fuel such as what we get from processed or refined foods get to the brain, it has little ability to get rid of them. So, for example diets high in refined sugars are harmful to the brain. In addition to worsening our body’s regulation of insulin, they also promote inflammation and oxidative stress. Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function and even a worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression. As a holistic nutritionists I fully acknowledge the vital connection between mood and food.
  1. Non-Native Electromagnetic Field (EMFs): Short-term exposure to high levels of EMFs are harmful (ie. radiation, x-rays) what is controversial is long-term exposure to low levels (appliances, cell phones). Animal studies have found weakened blood-brain barrier, decreased brain size in rat pups, DNA damage found after exposure for 15min/day for 7 days. Human studies have found reduced sperm count and motility, tinnitus in dominant ear, and DNA damage.

What can we do about it?

Knowledge is Power. When it comes to toxicity the more you know, the less toxic you are likely to be. Take stock of the toxins in your life. I recommend these actionable steps that you can take to minimize further exposure, detox and create a less toxic lifestyle, ultimately leading to a reduced toxic load and better health!

Action 1: Remove non-essential toxins from your environment, like non-stick cookware, antiperspirants, personal care products, home cleaning products, etc. Replace these items with safer alternatives, like cast iron pans, non-toxic deodorants, and cosmetics.

Action 2: Reduce exposure where removal of toxic exposures is not possible. For example, hardwire internet cables instead of using WIFI, or turning off your WIFI while sleeping or on airplane mode, keeping electronics outside of the room you sleep in.

Action 3: Avoid future exposure by making safer purchasing decisions & detoxing periodically.  

When it comes to natural toxins it is important to note that they can be present in a variety of different crops and foodstuff.  In a nutritionist recommended balanced healthy diet the levels of natural toxins are well below the threshold for acute toxicity. To minimize the health risk from natural toxins in food, I advise you to:

  • not assume if something is natural it is necessarily safe
  • throw away bruised, damaged or discoloured food and particularly mouldy foods
  • throw away any food that does not smell fresh or has an unusual taste
  • Look at safe seafood consumption and choose low mercury sources.

Exposure to potentially harmful chemicals is a reality of life. Our ancestor were faced with naturally occurring toxins and evolved mechanisms to detoxify and expel damaging substances. In the modern world, our bodies are regularly processing chemicals from medicines and food additives to agricultural and industrial chemicals, to protect our tissues from harm. The kidney and liver are organs responsible for metabolizing and excreting toxic chemicals. They bear the maximum brunt of this exposure and are at the highest risk for toxin-induced damage.

Advertisements lead us to believe that we have to kill every germ and have spotless homes. Anti-bacterial products do not distinguish between the good bacteria and the bad, they kill everything – this suppresses our immune system. Over 95% of bacteria are harmless. We should not disinfect unless someone is ill or if an animal poops inside.

If a product has a warning label or skull and crossbones, do you really want to use it?

Very few commercial household cleaners disclose a full ingredient listing. Less than half the chemicals used in normal household products have ever been tested for their effect on human health.  

Natural and homemade cleaners are just as effective as synthetic chemicals. Not only does this make you healthier, it keeps our waterways healthy – Canadians pour 3 million pounds of household cleaners down the drain every day! Here are some healthier alternatives to toxic cleaning products.

Green Cleaning Alternatives

Baking Soda: A fantastic abrasive that won’t scratch surfaces, cuts grease, Washing soda: More alkaline than baking soda for a stronger cleaning agent. Whitens and absorbs bad odours. Great for degreasing, removing tough stains and cleaning grout

White Vinegar: Antibacterial (kills 80% of germs), cuts through grease, adds shine (great for windows and glass) and deodorizes

Hydrogen Peroxide: Water with an added oxygen molecule (H2O2) is a strong germ killer. Wipe with hydrogen peroxide (3%), then follow with vinegar spray and leave it to evaporate for strongest germ-killing

Essential Oils: Disinfect, deodorize and cut grease. Infuse citrus peels into spray cleaners or fill juiced shell with baking soda for a scrubber

Castile Soap: Cuts grease and lifts dirt. Use for dishes, floors, textiles. Is highly concentrated, dilute properly before use. (Avoid palm oil if possible)

You’re What You Eat, Put on Your Skin and Your Hair!

Canadians use an average of 9 personal care products per day containing up to 126 chemical ingredients. Women use an average of 15 products. Up to 60% of what you put on your skin is in your bloodstream within 15 minutes

57% of skin care products contain ‘penetration enhancers’ – chemicals like propylene glycol and sodium lauryl sulfate that bypass the skin and enter the bloodstream

Marketing claims have little meaning. Terms like ‘natural’, ‘unscented’, ‘hypoallergenic’ and ‘dermatologist-tested’ are meaningless

Even products labelled as organic are not necessarily safe. ‘Organic’ products can contain petrochemicals, and even those ‘certified organic’ can contain as little as 10% organic ingredients by weight or volume. Companies are not required to list ingredients that are ‘trade secrets’, fragrance components, or nanomaterials. Fragrance/ parfum can refer to 1000s of chemicals.

So do your homework and explore apps like EWG, Think Dirty, and companies like Thrive Cosmetics, and Beauty Counter for clean non-toxic products.

Reducing EMF Exposure

Here are some tips on reducing your EMG exposure: put your cell on airplane mode when sleeping, use earphones (not blue-tooth) or speaker, text more and talk less, don’t store phone next to your body, avoid using phone when signal is weak, avoid using cell cases that weaken signal. Reduce WIFI (plug computers into direct line), don’t rest electronics on your body, turn WIFI off at night, sleep away from large appliances (including the other side of the wall), fix dirty electricity (wire properly) and move away from large appliances when in use.

In summary:

So, my dear Self-Care Goddesses and Health Seekers,

You are reading this because your health is important to you.

You are reading this because health is more than just a good diet and exercise.

You are reading this because addressing the toxins in our lives is a non-negotiable.

We are getting sicker. We all know this is happening. Reducing exposure to toxins must be on our list of things to do to protect our health, right alongside eating a healthy, nutrient dense diet, reducing stress, and getting a good night’s sleep.

But now more than ever, we need to be proactive about identifying and eliminating the toxins in our lives. I can help you there.

Connect with me and embark upon your much needed detoxification journey today.

References:

www.laraadler.com/health-practitioners-need-talk-about-environmental-toxins/

elemental.medium.com/the-scientific-truth-about-toxins-b913320b3827

www.scanpancookware.com 

www.ewg.org/

www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/natural-toxins-in-food

hms.harvard.edu/news/toxin-response

www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/exposure-to-common-flame-retardant-chemicals-may-increase-thyroid-problems-in-women/

www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-environmental-toxin

drmindypelz.com/