Why You Must Detox All The Time, Part 1/3: Our World Is Toxic and So Are We
It’s really straightforward — the reason you must detox all the time is because we live in a toxic world, and therefore constantly are ingesting, inhaling and absorbing toxins that will make us sick if not properly detoxified and excreted. Part 1 sets the stage. Part 2 reveals the play.
MY FIRST “detox” of any note was in 1991. It took five weeks. I followed a protocol called Arise & Shine that was introduced to me by a naturopath named Mick Hall. Since then I’ve done at least one detox cleanse of some complexity and duration every year.
In recent years, I’ve guided friends through a simpler detox that somehow got the name Chinese Cleanse even though there’s nothing Chinese about it that I can discern. I’ve written about it and other detox cleanses, such as Joe Cross’ Reboot Juice Cleanse, Jon Barron’s Three Phase Detox Plan, Dr. Yu’s niacin-based Heavy Metal Detox as well as Dr. Chris Shade’s glutathione-based Heavy Metal Detox.
Why should you care?
Because I’ve learned a few things along the way that might be of value to you, the most important being that proper detoxification is all about getting the right nutrition in you all the time.
Your body is always detoxifying, not just when and if you do some detox program. It’s extremely important that this innate detoxification capacity that we all have is functional. It’s so important for robust health, that I made it one of my 12 anti-aging biohacks.
Many people respond to the idea that they should detoxify. People get that we live in a toxic world and toxins get inside us and can make us sick. What they don’t realize is that most detox programs are not effective. And that, in fact, the best detox program isn’t a program at all, but a lifestyle choice that is practiced every day.
To optimize health, you must detox all the time.
In What You Absolutely Must Know About Detox Cleanses (But Don’t), I wrote that:
- Drinking lemon water mixed with cayenne pepper and maple syrup will not detox you;
- Pooping more from taking herbs is not necessarily indicative of detoxing;
- Eliminating protein does not help with detoxification (potentially, just the opposite); and
- Although you absolutely have some level of toxic load inside your body, depending on how effective your natural detoxification capacity is, you may be handling it just fine without ill effects.
Well, in the above-referenced article, I also wrote:
- For many of us in the industrialized world, pesticides, heavy metals, toxic chemicals, fungi and parasites (especially in the” third world”) are sufficiently ubiquitous that they can overwhelm our capacity to evacuate them from the body, particularly as we age; moreover…
- Your level of toxicity is only a burden (that affects your health) if it’s too big for your detoxification system to clear out of your body, which can vary substantially from person to person; and…
- There are three specific detoxification pathways that must work well, and work in concert with one another, to bind to toxins, mobilize them and evacuate them from our bodies; otherwise our health will gradually fail, and we’ll be sensitive to a whole host of chronic diseases, such as hypo/hyperthyroidism, adrenal fatigue, type-2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and cancer.
That last bullet nicely segues to the gist of the rest of this article – how toxicity affects your health by instigating chronic diseases, particularly those related to aging.
In this article you'll discover:
- Why it makes no sense to detox on an irregular basis – you must detox all the time because toxins do not take a break.
- How toxins make you fat.
- Which chronic diseases are either caused or amplified by toxins.
Next week in Part 2, I’ll dig into the three phases of detoxification and the nutrients that are required to make them work.
Just so you get a sense of what I’m up to, I’m going to liberally excerpt material from the detox chapter I’m writing for The Ageproof Method.
Click to see six other chapter excerpts, each focused on an anti-aging “biohack'.
Why You Must Detox All The Time
The reason you must detox all the time is that your organs of elimination are designed to do just that unless completely overwhelmed by toxins, which would result in chronic illness and, eventually death.
That’s because we live in a very toxic world.
The pertinent question is:
Given that your detox mechanisms are always “on”, are they able to do the job adequately?
Cross your fingers that they can.
According to Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, authors of Slow Death by Rubber Duck, the Environmental Working Group found 553 different industrial chemicals, pollutants, and pesticides in 149 Americans they tested in 27 different states.1
In its Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, the Center for Disease Control (“CDC”) reported that the people they studied had, on average, 212 chemicals in the blood or urine, 75 of which were never before measured in the U.S. Population, including:2
- Acrylamide — formed when foods are baked or fried at high temperatures, and as a byproduct of cigarette smoke.
- Arsenic — found in many home-building products.
- Environmental phenols — including bisphenol A (found in plastics, food packaging and epoxy resins) and triclosan (used as an antibacterial agent in personal care products such as toothpaste and hand soap).
- Perchlorate — used in airplane fuel, explosives, and fireworks.
- Perfluorinated chemicals — used to create non-stick cookware.
- Polybrominated diphenyl ethers — used in fire retardants found in consumer products such as mattresses.
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — found in paints, air fresheners, cleaning products, cosmetics, upholstery fabrics, carpets, dry-cleaned clothing, wood preservatives, and paint strippers.
If you skimmed through the bulleted list, look at it again and note the commonly used products that contain those toxins. Throughout our day-to-day lives, we get exposed to toxins in many forms. Chemicals and heavy metals accumulate in our blood, urine and tissues, and will become a toxic burden to the human body if it cannot properly excrete them.
Even some activities deemed healthy can add to your toxic load.
Do you eat canned tuna? It’s likely that it has at least a bit of mercury, a heavy metal that can cause a variety of carcinogenic, nervous system and circulatory damage.
Drink lots of water from plastic bottles? It’s likely that you’re absorbing various potentially carcinogenphthalates, a group of chemicals used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastic and vinyl.
How about gardening — is that something that you enjoy? If it includes the use of weed-killing chemicals, pesticides or artificial fertilizers, you may eventually become sick with some type of chronic disease. All of these activities can be toxic if you don’t make the right choices.
Although there are too many toxins to list, we can at least find some of the most damaging that are also ever-present in our lives, such as these:
Heavy Metals are any relatively dense metal or metalloid (a chemical element made of metal and nonmetals) that is noted for its potential toxicity. Mercury, Lead, Cadmium and Arsenic have been shown to lower IQ in affected people, cause developmental delays, and contribute to behavioral disorders and even cancer. Canned tuna and mercury dental fillings can add to mercury poisoning. Arsenic treated timber used in construction or contaminated drinking water can cause arsenic contamination. Cadmium poisoning could result from pigments in cookware. Lead poisoning can occur from water that passes through lead pipes, children’s toys and exposure to paint and gasoline that still contain it.
Bisphenol A and S (“BPA,” “BPS”) are endocrine disruptors; BPA being the more prevalent of these estrogen-mimicking chemicals, given its widespread use in plastic containers and as a liner in aluminum cans. BPA will leach into your food and drink and cause hormonal disruptions. If you heat up food in a microwave in plastic containers, BPA will become infused in the food. Breast and prostate cancers have been implicated due to exposure to this damaging chemical. Urine analysis of American women found that 95 percent of those studied had bisphenol A, the plastic stabilizer linked to cancer.3
Parabens are synthetic chemicals, which are commonly used as preservatives in processed foods, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Long-term exposure has been implicated in breast cancer and can potentially be damaging to the male hormonal and reproductive systems.
Perfluorochemicals are used in non-stick cookware, fast food containers, and stain resistant or slippery fabrics. These chemicals have been shown to be carcinogenic.
Phthalates are a group of industrial chemicals called “plasticizers” used to produce plastics such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC). They’re found in children’s toys, food packaging, garden hoses, vinyl flooring, shower curtains, shampoo and hair spray. Like that new car smell? It’s the odor of phthalates off gassing from the plastic dashboard.
Polybrominated biphenyl ethers are flame-retardant chemicals present in furniture, mattresses, electronics and many other products.
You don’t have to be working in a coal mine or pesticide plant to absorb enough toxins to get sick. Sometimes, just working on a farm will suffice. In his e-book, Cleanse, Dr. Gaetano Morello recounts the strange and unusual occurrence of various illnesses to his wife and her family:
My wife comes from a great farming community with families who have lived in the area for generations. They farm over 5,000 acres of land where they grow barley, lentils, wheat, and durum and use thousands of pounds of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers yearly.
The consequences of such practices [are] sad, to say the least: my wife’s father died of bladder cancer at the age of 42, her mother has fibromyalgia, her sister has asthma, and her brother, who is only 27, has rheumatoid arthritis. My wife has been able to control her autoimmune condition since she moved away from the farm more than 13 years ago. 4
Farmers throughout the world commonly use the chemicals Dr. Morello mentions. They — and various other substances such as the already mentioned heavy metals, parabens, perfluorochemicals, phatalets, bisphenols and polybrominated biphenyl ethers — are exposed to nearly every human being on a daily basis, even if you don’t live on a farm growing crops non-organically.
Say, for instance, you live in a house (not a stretch of the imagination): The average U.S. household generates more than 20 pounds of household hazardous waste per year, and as much as 100 pounds accumulates in the home. These hazardous materials include paint, paint thinners, air fresheners, carpet deodorizers, mothballs, oven cleaners, drain-opener chemicals, and pesticides, among many other products. The chemicals in these products are not only hazardous to the environment, but to us.5
For example, household carpets emit more than 200 volatile chemicals that get absorbed into our bodies. Some of these chemicals include formaldehyde, toluene, benzene, acetaldehyde, xylene, phenol, benzaldehyde, chlorobenzenes, styrene, and many more. Styrene alone has been shown to produce neurotoxicity and respiratory illnesses, including asthma, while formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.6
And you can’t hide out in a “sterile” hospital. The National Adipose Survey carried out by the EPA has existed since 1976. Researchers there analyze adipose (fat) tissue from autopsies and patients receiving elective surgeries. In the people tested, researchers found OCDD (a dioxin) and four solvents: styrene, 1,4-Dichlorobenzene, xylene, and ethylphenol in 100% of the cases.7
Nor can you hide out in the womb.
The journal Environmental Health Perspectives featured a report by scientists who analyzed the umbilical cords of newborn infants, testing for 400 toxic chemicals. They found 280 different toxic chemicals in these newborn infants; 187 were cancer causing and over 200 toxic to the brain. Another study, appearing in the American Journal of Public Health in 1989, found that 70 percent of 285 4-year-old children in Michigan carried DDT in their blood, while more than 50 percent had PCB’s. DDT is a well-known pesticide that was banned in the United States in 1972 because of its cancer-causing properties. Yet even after decades, DDT is regularly found in the fatty tissue of animals, birds, fish, and children. In this particular study, the researchers found that nursing was the primary source of exposure. Think about that: a pesticide banned decades ago is still persists — not only in the environment but in our bodies. Source
At this point you must have a headache trying to get your mind around all these obscure-sounding chemical names and facts, perhaps only surmounted by the heartache that sets in when you realize what you’re up against when living in a toxic world. Let these thoughts and feels motivate you to gradually detoxify your body, because as you have learned if the toxins in you are not getting excreted, they are damaging your health and will encumber the prospects of living a long and strong life.
Toxins Can Make You Fat
If you have raised toxin levels because of poor detoxification, a majority of them will be stored in adipose (fat) tissue and cell membranes (which are composed of a type of fat called “lipids”). Once stored in fat, these toxins can stay dormant as long as the composition of the fat itself remains unchanged; however, during periods of weight loss, exercise, stress, and/or fasting, these fat-soluble chemicals are released into the bloodstream and can lead to physiological problems if not eliminated.
A study published in 2012 by Environmental Health Perspectives showed that when a group of overweight people dieted, their reduction in body fat correlated with an increase in circulating pesticides. Pesticides in the body are stored in fat and get “released” when the fat is oxidized (typically called “burned” or “melted”) through diet and exercise.8
Various toxins such as pesticides and heavy metals like mercury can cut circulating active thyroid hormone (T3), and thereby cut the body’s metabolic rate. This could be the reason that people on weight-loss programs often meet various plateaus when weight loss stops, or reverses, and underscores the importance of combining detox and weight loss programs.
If you live in the industrialized world, it’s important and relevant for you to know that in the 34 OECD countries (“Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development”), obese and overweight people are in the majority,9 In the U.S., the number is 68% as measured in 2012.10 Given that:
(a) The ability to avoid exposure to and absorption of toxins is limited;
(b) Toxins are stored in body fat; and
(c) During a detox program, oxidized fat releases toxins into the blood stream that can make you chronically sick — it follows that these toxins must be quickly and consistently excreted from the body.
Toxins Can Create Chronic Disease
All of the biggest, toughest to cure diseases are either caused or worsened by toxins, not to mention hormone dysfunction. If you, or someone you know, suffers from one of the following diseases, it’s likely that improper detoxification and excretion is a contributing factor.
Obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome are lumped into the same chronic disease class simply because they are so inter-related and one commonly leads to the other, or occur simultaneously.
These three chronic conditions are linked in complex ways to diverse Persistent Organic Pollutants (“POPs” — toxic chemicals persistent in the environment that adversely affect human health), including polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins and flame retardants.11 Per definition, exogenously sourced toxins (sometimes called “xenobiotics”) are foreign to the body and, as earlier mentioned, are stored in adipose (fat) tissue and released into the blood stream during weight loss, which then has the effect of undermining efforts to lose more weight. Xenobiotics may also interfere with thyroid function and its significant role in metabolism, and in energy regulation in the body.12 Other toxicants such as arsenic or cadmium that increase oxidative stress in the pancreas may also contribute to diabetes.
Vascular disease includes any condition that affects the circulatory system, ranging from diseases of the arteries, veins, and lymph vessels to blood disorders that affect circulation. Strong connections have been established between continual toxic metal exposure and cardiac, kidney, cerebral and peripheral (nervous system) disorders, with impaired antioxidants metabolism oxidative stress implicated as central mechanisms.13
The potential of various toxins to cause or instigate cancer (“carcinogens”) has been exhaustively studied. There is a consensus that no “risk-free” or threshold dose of genotoxic substances exists. (Genotoxins are chemical agents that damage the genetic information within a cell causing mutations, which may lead to cancer.) Environmental chemicals may contribute to cancer by altering DNA or its expression, by stimulating rapid growth and confounding cell repair mechanisms in hormone-sensitive tissues or via inflammation, or by impairing immune surveillance.14
A neurocognitive deficit (or “impairment”) is a reduction of cognitive function, particularly when physical changes are observed in the brain, such as after neurological illness, mental illness, drug use, or brain injury. Impairments can include reduced IQ and a long list of aberrant behavior, and can be linked to early life exposure to a wide range of environmental toxicants, including heavy metals, various POPs and pesticides.15
The effects of toxins may be immediate (such as problems with learning, attention and aggression) or delayed (such as increased predisposition to Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease). A few common mechanisms include endocrine disruption (for instance, when polyhalogenated biphenyls like PCBs, DDT and various pesticides mimic thyroid hormone), direct inhibition of neuronal growth by toxic metals (often mercury-related), or by pesticides or toxic metal interference with cell signaling — a complex system of communication that governs basic cellular activities and coordinates cell actions.16
Hormones are governed by the endocrine system, the collection of glands that produce and secrete hormones directly into the circulatory system that regulate metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, and mood, among other things. The major endocrine glands include the pineal gland, pituitary gland, pancreas, ovaries, testes, thyroid gland, parathyroid gland, hypothalamus, gastrointestinal tract and adrenal glands. Unfortunately, the entire endocrine system can be compromised by toxins; for many people, this is why their hormones poorly function and are unbalanced.
The aforementioned Environmental Working Group has put out a list of the worst endocrine disrupters referred to as “The Dirty Dozen”. The list includes toxins found in a large assortment of products. These include BPA (“Bisphenol A”) and phthalates in the plastics used for water bottles, food containers, children’s toys; dioxins in animal products; atrazine, arsenic and perchlorate in drinking water; PBDEs (“polybrominated diphenyl ethers”) in foam and carpet padding; PFCs (“perfluorinated chemicals”) in non-stick cookware and water-resistant coatings on clothing, furniture and carpets; mercury in seafood and dental amalgams; glycol ethers in paints, cleaning products and cosmetics; and organophosphates in pesticides.17
Autoimmunity can occur when the immune system does not distinguish “self” from “non-self”. When this happens, the body by responds to invading microorganisms, such as viruses or bacteria, by producing antibodies or sensitized lymphocytes (types of white blood cells), the immune system attack the very cells of one’s own body that they are meant to protect.
Autoimmune processes can slow destruction of a specific type of cells or tissue, stimulate an organ to grow excessively, or interfere in its role. Organs and tissues often affected include the endocrine gland, such as thyroid, pancreas, and adrenal glands; components of the blood, such as red blood cells; and the connective tissues, skin, muscles, and joints.18
The National Institutes of Health (“NIH”) estimates that up to 23.5 million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease, exceeding the numbers for cancer (9 million) and heart disease (22 million); however, the American Autoimmune Related Disease Association (“ARDA”) puts the number at 50 million, as they use a broader list of diseases related to autoimmunity.19
In her book, The Autoimmune Epidemic, Donna Jackson Nakazawa used her prodigious investigative journalistic skills to seek the real causes for autoimmunity. She concludes that environmental toxins she calls “autogens” play a big part in driving the autoimmune epidemic, given that such foreign compounds create an “auto” reaction, a reaction against the self. Confirming her thesis, the author of the book’s forward, Dr. Douglas Kerr, M.D., Ph.D., a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, wrote that:
“…there is no doubt that autoimmune diseases are on the rise and our increasing environmental exposure to toxins and chemicals is fueling the risk. The research is sound. The conclusions, unassailable.”20
Remember these three things:
- Everything from the food we eat to the products we use to clean the house and beautify ourselves are laden with toxins that we ingest, absorb and breathe.
- Although our bodies have able detoxification mechanisms to detoxify and excrete these toxins (which I’ll describe in Part 2), the toxic load has become so heavy that it’s become a burden – meaning, that many of us cannot adequately detoxify the load of toxins in us.
- When the toxic load becomes a burden, our bodies suffer, typically by developing chronic, degenerative diseases – and even obesity.
Next week in Part 2, I’ll tackle how our three-phase detox system works with our natural “organs of elimination”, and why specific nutrients need to be ever-present make this happen.