The beginners guide to environmental toxins and the effects on health
In modern society, we are exposed to more artificially created compounds than ever before. Unfortunately, these substances can have an incredibly detrimental impact on your health. Let’s look at what you need to know about environmental toxins in your life.
*What is a toxin?
Unfortunately, ‘toxin’ is a misused term, often thrown around by unqualified health gurus who don’t understand how the body works. Toxins are not the imaginary baddie. A toxin is any substance that has a toxic effect on the body.
The sources of toxins
Toxins are not just in the environment. Within the human body, substances are produced that can have a toxic effect. But the human body has always done that – it is the environmental exposures that have changed over recent times.
Some environmental sources of toxins include:
- Skin care
- Body care
- Makeup and nail polish
- Perfumes, deodorants and colognes
- Air fresheners and room sprays
- Plastic containers, wrappers and water bottles
- Candles and incense sticks
- Some additives and sweeteners
- Pesticides and herbicides
Natural substances can have a toxic effect as well. Foods that cause an allergic or intolerance reaction can have toxic effects on an individual.
Sources of toxins...
Include skin care and other personal care items like shampoo, conditioner, sanitary care and perfumes.
Effects on the body
Because there are so many different types out there, toxins can have a variety of effects on the human body. But here are just a few to consider.
One major impact is on gut health. Many toxins can alter the gut microbiome, throwing out the balance of good bacteria. They can also increase the gut permeability, which can allow more pathogens and toxins to enter the bloodstream unchecked.
Toxins can also alter the balance of hormones, including stress hormones, sex hormones and thyroid hormones. There are both direct and indirect effects on the nervous system, affecting how you handle stress, your ability to concentrate and memory.
A toxin can potentially impact on every system of your body. So, if you have any health concerns, there is the possibility that toxins can worsen these issues.
Reducing the effects of toxins
There are two main ways of reducing the effects of toxins on your health. You can reduce your exposure to these substances and you can support your body’s ability to deal with them.
Reducing exposure depends on what you are currently exposed to. You can either stop using products, use them less frequently, or switch them for a less toxic and more natural alternative.
But at the end of the day, we are all exposed to toxins no matter what; there are some that cannot be avoided! That’s why you want to support how your body deals with toxins. For that, you want to look in one place: your liver.
Tips to support optimal liver function
The liver detoxifies any substance that can have negative effects on the body – even natural ones such as hormones. So it’s the key to protecting your body from the environmental toxins you are exposed to.
Eat your greens
Green vegetables have almost all of the micronutrients that the liver needs to optimise detoxification pathways. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli have additional benefits in supporting detoxification pathways. Aim to get at least 2 serves of green vegetables daily.
What many people don’t realise is that many detoxification pathways rely on amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. This is one major criticism of typical ‘detox’ programs. If you don’t get the amino acids you need for these pathways, you cannot detoxify optimally. So make sure you’re getting a few serves of quality protein each day.
If you follow a plant-based diet, include a variety of high-protein options to ensure you’re getting all of your amino acids.
Aim for a rainbow
Antioxidants are powerful nutrients that protect the body from the damage of toxins, as well as assisting with detoxification. We need a variety of antioxidants for a healthy, happy body, and the best way to get that is to consume a variety of brightly coloured plant foods.
Start by including 3 different colours with each meal. And no, Skittles don’t count as the rainbow here! For example, make a side salad with spinach, carrot and beetroot.
How a qualified nutritional medicine practitioner can assist
If you suspect that you could be suffering from the effects of environmental toxins and need help to support the healing process there are a number of functional tests that are available including food intolerance tests, heavy metal testing, urine tests and mycotoxin tests . These tests along with a full personal health history can aid us to pinpoint the underlying cause of dis-ease and illness. Once the cause has been identified a personalised treatment protocol can be developed that includes dietary recommendations, lifestyle adjustments and nutritional supplementation.
Consultations are available at my clinic in Newstead, Brisbane and via my online video consultations.
*In biological terms, a toxin is specific to substances that are produced naturally, with ‘toxicant’ being the umbrella term for any toxic substance. But for ease of understanding, I choose to use ‘toxin’.