A Whole9 guest post by Dr Sult, medical doctor, medical educator, inspirational speaker & the author of Just Be Well: A Book For Seekers of Vibrant Health.
It’s not easy being savvy about your health. As a functional medicine doctor, I encourage my patients to be partners in creating the path to good health. This means being educated on what treatment, techniques and exercises are effective and why.
But that’s not always easy to do, especially when so much misinformation exists. Even those with the best intentions of understanding their health can be confused by the vast amount of conflicting opinions that exists on the best ways to be well.
Let’s take a look at environmental detox for example. People have to wade through articles like one I read recently, which said that, despite tons of scientific evidence to the contrary, helping the body rid itself of environmental toxins was unnecessary. This type of advice assumes people will ignore their instincts for the comfort of an easy answer. But the savvy health-seeker won’t.
Have You Had Your Arsenic Today?
It’s hard to imagine that the earth could be more polluted now than it was fifty years ago. And in many ways, it’s not. In the last forty years, the emphasis on protecting the environment has helped decrease pollution in the air and water. But since World War II, the production of industrial chemicals has increased. According to an article in Time Magazine, the U.S. generates or imports 42 billion pounds of industrial chemicals each day.
These chemicals leak into the environment and, ultimately into us. Think about industrial plants that spill wastewater into the rivers that ultimately affect our food sources. Or the chemicals used to make products we use or ingest every day, such as plastic water and baby bottles, sunscreens, moisturizers, detergent, even chewing gum.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found traces of 212 environmental chemicals in Americans, including, arsenic, cadmium, pesticides, and flame retardant. According to an article in The Textbook of Functional Medicine, at least 25% of the United States population has some degree of heavy metal poisoning.
Not only is this information abundantly available in the scientific literature, many popular books clearly illustrate environmental toxins in their link to chronic disease. First published more than fifty years ago, Silent Spring by Rachel Carson illustrated many of the toxic effects of environmental contamination with various agricultural and industrial chemicals. Less than ten years ago, Sandra Steingraber wrote Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment, chronicling her own family medical history, correlating those problems with the various agricultural chemicals she and her family have been exposed to.
As just a small sample, let’s look at just a few of the common toxins we are exposed to, and their effects. Experience Life magazine takes a look at toxins in household cleaning products.
- Phthalates—the fragrance in dish soap, air fresheners and other products including toilet tissue, interfere with hormone production. Men with higher phthalates in their system had lower sperm counts.
- Triclosan—used in antibacterial liquid dishwashing detergents, this chemical can help drug-resistant bacteria grow, and is a possible carcinogen.
- Quats—known as quaternary ammonium compounds, these are found in antibacterial cleaners as well as fabric softener sheets. They can cause skin irritation and are suspected to cause asthma.
It’s been documented that the cost of asthma care can be directly linked to the degree of air pollution. Cancer risk is associated with total environmental chemical load. Cardiovascular disease risk has been linked to lead levels in the body. And the list goes on.
Doesn’t The Body Detoxify Itself?
The body has an amazing ability to protect itself to remain healthy. The liver is one of the main organs that eliminates toxins from the body. When toxins that are absorbed or ingested travel through the body, they eventually enter the liver. Most of these toxins are fat-soluble and the liver converts them into water-soluble substances that can then be excreted.
Keep in mind, however, that the toxins the body was designed to excrete bear little resemblance to the caustic, chemical poisons that the body encounters on a regular basis now. We were certainly not meant to have to clean traces of rocket fuel or flame retardant from our systems!
When toxin levels overwhelm the liver’s ability to excrete them, they remain in the blood, circulating through the body, eventually causing inflammation and illness. People have used strategies that increase excretion by taking actions that make them sweat more, such as taking hot baths, sitting in a sauna, eating spicy foods, or even using healthy oils such as clarified butter, olive oil, and coconut oil to get rid of more fat-soluble toxins.
But detoxification isn’t as simple as sitting in a steamy room or eating some oil. Detoxification isn’t just a matter of cutting out contaminants. It’s a matter of understanding your body’s pathways of detoxification, which are complex and energy-dependent. They cannot function properly without an intact energy production pathway.
In addition, the detoxification pathways require a number of nutrients. Antioxidants, B vitamins, and minerals are all required for the first phase of detoxification. Other nutrients are required for the next phase.
If you’re experiencing chronic illnesses or fatigue and believe that the very real presence of toxins in your environment is affecting you, it’s time to make some changes.
The next post will discuss specific strategies for an effective detoxification; one that expels the poisons while providing the nutrients your body needs for recovery and future wellness.
Tom Sult is a medical doctor, medical educator, inspirational speaker & the author of Just Be Well: A Book For Seekers of Vibrant Health. Board-certified in family medicine & integrative holistic medicine, Tom is on faculty with the Institute for Functional Medicine and maintains a private practice in Willmar, MN. Join Tom’s crusade to change the way doctors treat their patients at www.justbewell.info. For more information on Tom’s practice please visit the 3rd Opinion website.
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