I am halfway through teaching a two-week course on facilitating physiological detoxification. I am humbly teaching a small group of incredible health professionals who will be acting in the future as Health and Wellness Consultants, who may then instruct many people in the benefits of assisting our body's ability to detoxify.
Detoxification is not something I have a history of caring much about. In the past, I've seen it mainly as a gimmick to sell outrageously harsh "alternative treatments," herbal products, and supplements of questionable quality.
But over time, I have had a chance to see the physiology I have spent endless classroom hours studying as it functions in the real world. And now I understand the impacts of a toxic burden.
Detoxification is a natural function of our liver organ. It processes many naturally-occurring substances like excess hormones, uric acid, etc, so that we can rid our body of waste. It also filters out any harmful or non-functioning substances that we receive from our external environment.
Modern society = convenience at the price of toxic poisons:
Chemical additives in shampoo, lotion, toothpaste, etc
Metal and plastic drinking water storage
Pesticides and herbicides
Genetically modified foods
Electromagnetic radiation from cellphones, laptops, wifi signals
Airborne chemicals form new paint, new carpet, new furniture
Chemically-treated building materials
Food dyes, flavorings, stabilizers, preservatives
I could add to this list all day, but I assume you get the point.
We cannot dispute the fact that these toxins exist in our world.
But are they in...us?
According to the Human Toxome Project by the Environmental Working Group, these environmental pollutants are found in us as we go about our daily-lives, ignorant to how these chemicals may be affecting our health. For example, Pthalates (a group of chemicals used to make plastics soft) were found in 100% of the people tested.
Ok, so what? So what if there are chemicals in our bodies that shouldn't normally be there? Is that really a problem?
Most of us are naturally going to be disconcerted by the idea that there are environmental pollutants in our bodies regardless of proof that they are causing harm. But the proof is available. The Human Toxome Project's site is a great place to find well-referenced sources and links to original research regarding the effects of toxicity on our bodies.
For those who don't have hours to sift through laboratory studies, here's a summary of the primary effects of environmental toxin build-up on our bodies:
1) Liver function.
Our liver has to process all of this crap we take in. So it loses its ability to balance other things like our cholesterol levels, blood sugar, steroid hormone balance, and sex hormone levels. Think high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, the effects of chronic stress, and imbalanced hormones like with menopausal syndrome.
When the liver breaks down a toxic substance, it makes free radicals. This happens naturally. Free radicals can damage cellular DNA, to the point of causing cell death or cancer growth if the process is allowed to continue. A well-functioning liver also has the ability to neutralize free radicals through antioxidants. Antioxidants come to us through healthy nutrition...which most of us are lacking. Combine a nutrient-deficient diet with a high level of toxins and a tired liver, and you have an easy recipe for cancer.
3) Reproductive disorders.
Some aquatic species are suffering genital malformation and species decline because of the levels of estrogenic toxins in waterways. This comes mainly from plastic chemicals, oral birth control, and hormones used to speed animal growth for human consumption.
This is also affecting humans. Lower numbers of boys are being born as a result of miscarriage. The levels of estrogenic chemicals are too high for testosterone to contribute to the development of the baby boy like it should, resulting in fetal maldevelopment. So the body naturally aborts the malformed fetus.
Young boys are increasingly being born with malformed genitalia, and even genitalia that are smaller than average. And there are increasing numbers of cases of infertility in adults due to poorly-functioning sperm. All of these are results of higher-than-normal levels of estrogen (and estrogen-mimickers) in the male body.
Estrogenic compounds are also directly connected to cancerous tumor development, particularly in rapidly-reproducing body tissues like skin, breast, and the reproductive organs.
4) Immune system problems.
Environmental pollution has been found not only to worsen existing allergies and asthma, but to induce allergies and asthma into existence. If the liver cannot process all of the toxic chemicals out of our circulation, the immune system will attempt to finish the job.
The immune system is not meant to be "on" at all times, instead alternating with periods of high activity during times of infection, and low to no activity after an infection is combated. Yet pollution is an incoming foe that constantly sends in reinforcements. This can create a hyper-active immune system that is constantly battling relatively benign substances. This leads to respiratory allergies, skin problems, asthma, and food intolerance.
This list could continue as well, but I'll stop here.
This is a frustrating subject, and one that affects us all.
But at the greatest risk are the most defenseless: our children.
We are conducting the most wide-spread, global experiment with human health (not to mention the impact on the other living organisms of our planet).
Obviously, as I type on my plastic keyboard, receiving EM radiation from my laptop, I'm not suggesting radical avoidance. I'm not actually recommending any solution to the problem in this blog post. (Perhaps I will in my next post.)
The only thing I am recommending at this point is to become empowered with knowledge. If you are unaware of the problem, you risk ignorantly degrading your health and the health of those you love.
Better to at least consciously degrade your health to a slightly lesser degree as you become more well-informed.
Here is a list of documentary films I HIGHLY recommend. They are free and available online (unless otherwise stated). Documentary films are an easy way to educate yourself and your family with an easy and entertaining medium. And then easy to pass on to others.
Educate yourself. Share with everyone you know.
The Story of Cosmetics.
A very brief, and very easy to understand short film produced by The Story of Stuff Project about the use of toxic chemical products in all personal care products that most of us use on a daily basis. Well-suited for educational purposes as well as for our own viewing.
A documentary by Horizon, aired originally on BBC, but available in five parts on You tube. Allergy Planet chronicles the presence of allergies and asthma world-wide, showing the complexity behind the many causes that all seem to originate from societal modernization.
Dying to Have Known.
A full-length film about an alternative cancer (and other chronic disease) treatment called Gerson Therapy. A very simple nutrition- and detox-based treatment that makes bold claims in its ability to cure chronic illness. The film-maker sets out to discover the evidence and learn more about Gerson therapy, taking us along for the ride. Highly recommended!
Although this one is not available for free online, I am still putting it on the list because its topic is unique. We are accustomed to the concept of environmental pollution in food, water, air, maybe even in cosmetics, but the idea of radiation from cell phones, computers, and other electronic devices is foreign to most people. Full Signal does a great job of covering the pervasiveness of this technology and the risks it poses to our health. I highly recommend watching this film. If you cannot afford to purchase it, it is also available for rental on Itunes.
The World According to Monsanto.
This documentary film covers the story of the global rise of the Monsanto corporation and their development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). If you have ever wondered what the controversy is behind GMO crops, this is the film for you. If you already understand the implications of GMOs, but haven't yet seen this film, it will just give some more fuel to the fire and inspire you to share this film with others. Enjoy!
An excellent documentary on the healing power of food and optimal nutrition. And some insight into the potential benefits for the pharmaceutical industry in suppressing research and development in the field of nutrition therapy. Entertaining and easy to watch.
The Disappearing Male.
This is a very interesting 45-minute documentary on a subject I have not seen any coverage of before. This film clearly documents and presents the threat that estrogenic pollution has on us not only as individuals, but as an entire species. I HIGHLY recommend this film, and VERY HIGHLY recommend this information be shared with any pregnant women you know so they can avoid this type of pollution during gestation. (And hopefully beyond.)