We live in a toxic world. We are exposed to toxins from the moment we are conceived until the time we die and we are being exposed to more pollution today than any other period in human history. During the past 100 years, approximately 75,000 new chemicals have been released into our environment. In the year 2000 alone, major US industries reported dumping 7.1 billion pounds of 650 industrial chemical into our air and water.(22) Over 7 billion pounds of industrial toxins dumped into our air and water, and we have government regulations controlling pollution – you can imagine how much more other countries with less strict environmental protection laws contribute to our toxic load.
Here is just a partial list of environmental toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis:
|Exhaust fumes||Industrial chemicals||Solvents (paint & cleaning products)|
|Drug residues||Manufactured wood products||Chemicals in drinking water|
|Radiation||Food packaging||Pesticides, herbicides & insecticides|
|Heavy metals||Personal care products||Household cleaning products|
|Inhalants||Mold and mildew||Combustion by-products|
How much they affect each of us is dependent upon a number of factors including amount and length of exposure, our nutritional state, genetics, overall stress and the total toxic load we are subjected to over time.
However, we are exposed to many other toxins that also impact our toxic burden.
Toxins we consume
It often comes as a surprise to most people that our greatest toxin exposure usually comes from what we put in our mouths on a daily basis. Foods, drugs, drinks and even water often contain toxic substances. Drugs enter our body from more sources than just those we intend to consume; they are considered one of the main contaminants of food, including growth hormones and antimicrobials used in meat production, and they find their way into the water we drink and bathe in.
Another large source of ingested toxins comes in the form of pesticides, herbicides and insecticides applied to the foods we eat. Most consumers are oblivious to the fact that thousands of chemicals find their way into our bodies every year on the foods that we eat. Most people think they are being protected by our laws about what can be used on crops and what cannot, but our laws do not govern pesticide levels used on food grown in other countries; much of the food on your table or at your local fast food restaurant comes from these countries.
Even within the US, certain types of meats contain hormones (used to fatten up cattle and poultry) as well as antibiotics, both of which can cause hormonal and immune disruption in your body. To make matters worse, some people turn to addictive substances such as caffeine and other stimulants, sedatives, alcohol, tobacco and/or illegal drugs to cope with our ever-increasing levels of stress. All of these substances add to our toxic burden and have to be filtered out of the body through the liver and kidneys.
Here is a partial list of the lifestyle-related toxins that can affect your neurotransmitter balance:
|Recreational drugs||Prescription drugs||Over-the-counter drugs|
|Artificial food additives, colorings and preservatives||Meats that contain hormones and antibiotics||Refined foods and sugars|
|Fast foods||Fried foods||Contaminated water|
|Trans fats||Food sensitivities and allergies||Constant or ‘yo-yo’ dieting|
Toxins produced in the body
In addition to toxic exposure from our environment and our lifestyle choices, there are several toxins that are produced within the body itself. These usually result from two main sources: metabolic reactions and dysbiosis.
There are millions of metabolic reactions occurring in your body every moment of every day. These reactions help you break down the foods you consume into useable energy during digestion, ward off infections and foreign invaders, keep you functioning, maintain hormone balance and help you eliminate waste products. However, each of these reactions also creates waste products (such as carbon dioxide, ammonia, and reactive oxygen species) that must be eliminated from the body.
The intestinal tract is full of millions and millions of bacteria and yeasts, often referred to as ‘gut flora’ or ‘intestinal microbes’. Most of these organisms play a beneficial role in our bodies by assisting in digestion and assimilation of nutrients, and they play a vital role in our immune response. However, overgrowth of certain strains of bacteria or yeast can be harmful to our health; this is often referred to as ‘dysbiosis’. These harmful microbes steal nutrients from our bodies and produce waste products that can dramatically alter neurotransmitter imbalance. In addition, dysbiosis can dramatically slow the transit time of food through our digestive system. When this happens, we absorb toxins from our own waste products which then must be detoxified and eliminated from the body.
Problems with detoxification
All of these toxins must be neutralized and eliminated from the body. The liver and kidneys take on much of the burden of detoxification, with secondary roles played by the lungs and the skin.
Most of the toxins metabolized by the liver must then be eliminated through the gastrointestinal tract. However, toxins can accumulate in the body when elimination and detoxification mechanisms don’t receive the nutrients they need to function properly due to poor nutrient intake or improper absorption. It is the combination of excess toxin formation and exposure along with improper toxin elimination that leads to a toxic burden for most people.
Neurotoxicity – the result of toxic overload
Long-term exposure to any of these toxins can lead to what is called ‘neurotoxicity’, which is permanent nerve damage or cell death. This leads to decreased neurotransmitter levels and function; if neurotoxicity is substantial enough, many of the symptoms and disorders listed above can result. Neurotoxicity is a permanent condition that requires ongoing amino acid therapy to correct; however, it can be corrected.