Did you know that there are thousands of manufactured chemicals in the United States? These chemicals are found in numerous places; in food, water, cookware, cleaners, pesticides, furniture, cosmetic products, implants and more. We are even exposed to chemicals that are found in the air and in common household dust. Many of these chemicals are non-degradable and persist in the environment, bioaccumulating in people, and consequently impose numerous health consequences.
Results of Toxin Exposure
There are many toxic metals, some of which include cadmium, mercury, manganese, and nickel to name a few. When exposed to heavy metals, free radicals are produced causing oxidative stress. If our bodies are unable to properly bind and detoxify these chemicals, they accumulate throughout the body, the damage worsens, and normal health processes within our cells begin to malfunction. Our intracellular antioxidants become depleted, and damage to lipids, proteins, and DNA occurs.
Almost all heavy metals are endocrine disruptors or carcinogens. The carcinogenic effect is linked to the damage caused to our DNA and chromosomal abnormalities. According to the World Health Organization, there are approximately 800 chemicals capable of disrupting hormone receptors, synthesis or conversion.
The Endocrine System
Let’s do a quick overview of the endocrine system. The endocrine system is comprised of numerous glands, some of which include your adrenal, pituitary, and thyroid glands and the hormones associated with them. Making up your endocrine system are the male and female sex glands, and thus, sex hormones, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Not to mention, there are over 50 hormones and hormone-related molecules, such as neurotransmitters. With all of these complex mechanisms, your endocrine system is responsible for growth and development, metabolism, appetite, the sleep-wake cycle, reproduction and regulating the release of hormones.
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that mimic the hormones our bodies make. To put it simply, they bind to hormone receptors within our bodies and alter hormone synthesis, transport, binding and metabolism. By doing this, they adversely affect development and reproduction. With regard to estrogenic endocrine disruptors, these are of significant health concern due to their ability to increase hormone-dependent cancers.
Not only are there endocrine disruptors, but neuroendocrine disruptors also exist. Because the endocrine system and brain work hand in hand, the neurological system is vulnerable to toxin exposure and damage, leading to negative impacts on the brain. Behavior is altered and problems with attention, memory, cognition and fine motor skills can develop. Knowing the impact toxin exposure and accumulation have, you can understand why it is vital to minimize exposure.
How Do We Know If We Have Toxicity?
A 42-year-old female came to see me complaining of fatigue and muscle aches. Her mood was pretty down and she was feeling unmotivated to do anything, due to the aches and pains she was experiencing. She was also experiencing occasional headaches which she never had before and trouble sleeping. She had everything checked and although her thyroid was slightly imbalanced and being treated conventionally, she was still not experiencing much relief. Later, through heavy metal testing, we discovered that she was experiencing all of these symptoms from nickel toxicity from a metal plate she had implanted.
Toxin exposure does not always cause immediate symptoms. At the same time, symptoms do not necessarily depend on the dose of the exposure. Some people experience fatigue, headaches, pain, and neuropathies. Other symptoms that have been reported to develop due to toxin exposure include behavioral, emotional and intellectual concerns in children, central nervous system disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, insomnia, and mood disorders.
Commonly Known Chemicals and Endocrine Disruptors
The list of chemicals is exceedingly long. Although there are conflicting studies, PCBs, Dioxins and Phthalates have been implicated in endometriosis. PCBs, brominated flame retardants, phthalates, BPA and perfluorinated chemicals, are associated with reduced serum thyroid hormone levels. Babies exposed to PCBs, lead and mercury in utero, have been shown to exhibit reduced cognitive function and impairments in executive functioning, processing speed, verbal ability and visual recognition and memory.
Some of the toxins that are potentially associated with breast cancer include parabens, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, BPA, PCBs, arsenic and cadmium. You can find more information on the National Toxicology Program’s 14th Report on Carcinogens, cancer.gov and ewg.org. The list of toxins and associated ailments are endless. Toxin exposure is a clinically significant medical problem and has an incredible impact on our health and in increasing the morbidity and mortality rate.
How Do We Limit Toxin Exposure?
Here are 8 strategies you can implement today.
- Have your water tested and be sure to use filtered water.
- Consume organic, non-GMO, hormone-free, unprocessed foods free of preservatives.
- Avoid non-stick cookware, plastic containers, and styrofoam.
- Avoid exercising outdoors when air pollution is high.
- Avoid fragrances and use chlorine-free products.
- Use earth friendly, non-toxic cleaning supplies.
- Use a vacuum with a good quality air filter.
- Consider having your home tested for mold and remediate if necessary.
When taking care of your health, you go for your annual check-up, have your heart and lungs examined, and routine blood work to make sure everything is in order. When you don’t feel well, you get checked out again and something may be discovered to be out of balance or not functioning in a healthy manner. Thorough testing is usually performed to give answers and appropriate treatments. Most steps are taken to prevent illnesses from developing. How else are you being pro-active in staying on top of your health? Should toxicity testing be a part of preventative screening? Definitely something to think about.
Dr. Veena Verma-Dzik, ND, FIAMA Naturopathic Doctor for Insight Counseling is board-certified and a certified medical acupuncturist who is highly experienced in treating acute and chronic health conditions. Dr. Verma received her doctorate from the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine. Some of her specialties include women’s health, ADD/ADHD, GI conditions, MTHFR, Lyme disease and co-infections, mood imbalances, allergies, fatigue, and hormonal imbalances. Each patient she sees receives personalized, individual care involving research-based treatments and therapies from her own clinical experience and success. The therapies she prescribes include herbal medicine, nutritional therapeutics, homeopathic medicine, low dose immunotherapy, and acupuncture. When it comes to diagnosing, Dr. Verma uses in-depth functional laboratory testing and analysis and takes the time to listen to her patients.