Updated: May 28, 2020
If I were to ask you what all of the following symptoms have in common … chronic headaches, joint pain, cough, sinus congestion, frequent colds, anxiety, depression, dizziness, insomnia, bad breath, constipation, fatigue … would you know the answer?
I see clients all the time that come to me for unexplained symptoms, that no matter how much traditional testing they get done with their doctor, no diagnosis is ever made. They are continually told that there is noting wrong with them, and for some, it has been insinuated that it’s “all in their head.” They leave the doctor’s office discouraged and still sick.
Unfortunately, we live in a very toxic world and believe it or not, all of those symptoms can be linked back to toxicity in the body. Toxicity leads to inflammation, which can be silent for a very long time. You can have inflammation for years before developing a single sign or symptom.
So how do you reduce your exposure to toxins and get your health back?
Currently, there are approximately 85,000 synthetic chemicals registered in the United States, with only 7% of those chemicals having toxicological screening data available. It is estimated that 1000 or more new chemicals are made each year, most of which have not been tested for their effects on human health.
We all know the dangers of pesticides and herbicides, so I have not addressed those here, although please know that they should be avoided whenever possible. My goal with this post is to outline some of the other toxins we may not think about, the signs and symptoms associated with them and what you can do to help prevent exposure.
Heavy Metals – Mercury, Lead, etc.
Heavy metals act as an oxidant (think opposite of anti-oxidant), causing an increase in free radicals in cells, tissues and organs. Symptoms of heavy metal toxicity are headaches, weakness, muscle/joint pains, constipation, feeling tired and brain fog.
The biggest source of metals for most of us is Mercury found in dental fillings and seafood. If you regularly consume fish such as grouper, mackerel, sea bass, swordfish and ahi tuna, your risk is high. Replace those predatory fish with wild caught Pacific salmon, river trout or cod, all of which have very little to no mercury. The silver dental fillings will continually leech small amounts of mercury into the body in the form of gas vapor. Dental decay and teeth grinding increase exposure. It all depends on your body's ability to properly detox as to whether or not this constant exposure to mercury will start to cause harm. Metal fillings can be removed, however, it is import that it is done by a biological dentist with the proper equipment.
Lead is another common heavy metal contaminant found in old paint (think old homes and furniture), brightly colored plastics from China, dust, soil, drinking water, some inks, ceramic glazes, crystal, etc. To reduce exposure, avoid cheap, brightly colored plastic from China, ceramic dishes and cups and boxed wine (yes, believe it or not, the plastic liner can contain lead). Switch your children's toys to US made and/or switch from plastic to silicon. Always wash your children’s hands after playing in the dirt and leave shoes at the door to avoid tracking it into the home.
Petrochemicals – Latex, Solvents, Fluorocarbons, Formaldehydes
Petrochemicals are the most invasive of the toxins as they can be found in numerous household items, and even certain foods. Symptoms from exposure to petrochemicals range from a simple rash, to chronic upper respiratory problems, to cancer to deadly anaphylaxis. For some, the side effect of certain solvents can even be increased cholesterol, especially the HDL or good cholesterol. HDL over 100 mg/dl tends to be toxic driven.
Latex items include gloves, balloons, paint, carpet, pacifiers, teething rings, band-aids, etc. Solvents typically come from tars, waxes or oils and include vinyl fabrics, cleaning products and alcohol. Fluorochemicals can be found in non-stick cookware, flame and heat resistant substances and stain-resistant carpets and fabrics. It can also be found as coatings in food packaging. Formaldehydes are added to many personal care products such as nail polish, shampoo/hair products, tampons, baby soap, eyelash glue and cosmetics.
So how do we reduce our exposure to toxins when they are pretty much found in everyday common, household items? Avoid stain, fire and water resistant clothing, furniture and carpets, and replace the vinyl shower curtain with a fabric one. Do not use non-stick cookware, especially those that have started to flake off and use ceramic, stainless steel or glass. Filter your tap water for both drinking and bathing, and look for products made by companies that are Earth friendly, sustainable, certified organic and GMO free. If possible, use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to help remove any contaminated house dust. Avoid plastic water bottles and switch to a food-grade stainless steel containers.
When purchasing personal care products, be sure to avoid those that contain phthalates and parabens, and use only natural deodorants (no aluminum), natural sunscreens (zinc oxide) and be sure to skip the antiperspirants altogether. Purchase household cleaners containing hydrogen peroxide or vinegar and baking soda instead of bleach. Always read the label and if there is a warning sign with telling you of the dangers of using the product, that is a good sign that it should be put back on the shelf. There are many healthier options available today, at reasonable prices. Lastly, avoid purchasing items with fake fragrances such as candles, body sprays, and dryer sheets, and use non-bleached coffee filters, paper napkins and toilet paper.
So even though we live in a pretty toxic world, there are things you can do in your home to help minimize your risk of exposure. Read the labels on everything you purchase, as the dangers will be fully disclosed. You are always in charge of what comes into your home. Just because it's a brand you've always purchased, doesn't mean it isn't time to explore new options.