The Link Between Environmental Toxins and Diabetes
In America, over 30 million people are diabetic while 84 million are prediabetic according to the latest National Diabetes Statistics Report. Diabetes was considered the seventh leading cause of death in the US in 2017. Well established causes such as a sedentary lifestyle, caloric-dense diet, and genetic susceptibility are not the only targets for preventing this disease. Exposure to certain environmental toxins known as diabetogens has been correlated to blood sugar dysregulation leading to diabetes.
What is a Diabetogen?
The term diabetogen was coined by CD Campbell in 1961 to describe his observations of food contaminants as a cause of diabetes. Diabetogens impair the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar appropriately by many mechanisms including impairing insulin production and decreasing insulin sensitivity. The most common toxins contributing to the development of diabetes include arsenic, bisphenol A (BPA), dioxins, organochlorine pesticides (OCP), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), phthalates, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). A study by the Environmental Working Group found an average of 200 industrial compounds including OCP, PCB, and PAH in the umbilical cord blood of newborns. With the ever-increasing toxic burden of our environment and developing knowledge of the corresponding health implications, it is essential to mitigate your exposure to these toxins when treating or preventing diabetes.
How Am I Exposed to These Toxins?
Below are the most common ways you are likely to be exposed to each of the seven identified diabetogens.
- Arsenic exposure occurs mostly through food sources like seafood, rice, poultry, and mushrooms as well as drinking water.
- BPA is found in several plastic materials like consumables packaging and implantable medical devices.
- Dioxins are highly toxic byproducts of many industrial processes and can be identified as persistent organic pollutants (POP).
- Everyone who eats conventionally grown foods are exposed to OCPs. Individuals living near farms with conventional growing practices are at an increased risk to exposure to OCPs.
- PCB was banned in 1977 due to its resilience against breakdown in the environment and living organisms. Prior to the ban, PCB was used extensively for industrial and commercial purposes and toxins persist today, decades later.
- Phthalates are utilized for flexibility and transparency in plastic products as well as increasing solubility and stability of many fragrances and cosmetics. Purchasing fatty foods like butter, milk, and meat sold in plastic containers can also expose you to phthalates. As a fat-soluble toxin, phthalates can leach from the container into the fatty constituents of the food and contaminate them.
- PAH is primarily manufactured through the burning of fossil fuels and is the main carcinogen in cigarette smoke. PAH is also found in charbroiled and smoked meats.
Tips for Limiting Your Exposure To Diabetogens
- Avoidance: Conscientiously avoid diabetogens by reducing or eliminating exposure through food, water, or chemicals in your home. Be sure to have your water tested for arsenic. Avoid drinking water out of plastic bottles and try a stainless-steel bottle as an alternative. Investigate the cleanliness of your favorite cosmetics on a free database like Skin Deep® by the Environmental Working Group.
- Evaluate your body burden: Available lab tests like gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), complete blood count (CBC), high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), homocysteine, bilirubin, and alanine transferase can provide your doctor with valuable information about your toxic load and how effectively your body is eliminating diabetogens. Specific industrial toxin tests are also available.
- Eat more vegetables: When your liver has completed its natural detoxification process and tagged a toxin for elimination, binding and excreting that toxin is key. You can help facilitate this process by consuming more vegetables and naturally increasing your fiber intake to ensure you are eliminating waste effectively. It is imperative that you remain adequately hydrated when increasing your fiber intake to ensure optimal elimination.
- Exercise regularly: Another mechanism the body uses to eliminate toxins is through our breath and sweat. Encouraging this process through regular exercise will support your body in eliminating toxins, regulating blood sugar, and maintaining a healthy weight. Furthermore, it has significant benefits on your cardiovascular health.
- Take a probiotic: Supporting a healthy and diverse microbiome can also help eliminate diabetogens.
- Support glutathione production: Glutathione is critical in protecting against oxidative stress and completing the liver detoxification process. Testing gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) is one way to assess the health of your glutathione levels. GGT is responsible for recycling glutathione thereby making it accessible for the body to use again. GGT will increase in proportion to the amount of exposure to persistent organic pollutants your body experiences. Interestingly, in diabetics GGT is very strongly correlated with hemoglobin A1C.
Boosting your production of glutathione can be accomplished by exercising, adequate sleep, consuming foods rich in cysteine such as eggs, red pepper, broccoli, and sprouted lentils, and enjoying more foods high in Vitamin C like guava, kiwi, and oranges.
Dr. Gomes has a family practice in Manchester and West Hartford at Collaborative Natural Health Partners. All of the physicians at the clinic are in network providers for most insurance companies and are accepting new patients. For more information or questions, please call (860) 533-0179 or visit: ctnaturalhealth.com.