Not a fan of fear tactics? Neither am I. But I am also not a fan of sticking my head in the sand (most days). So, let’s lay out the bad news and then learn what action we can take.
The Bad News
Approximately 90,000 compounds are approved for commercial use in the United States and most have never been tested for safety. Each year, over 1,000 new chemicals are put into use, again, most are not tested for safety. In the United States, unfortunately, industry gets priority over human health and products are considered safe until there is clear evidence that they are causing harm. Proving harm takes time and money and banning or restricting chemicals is a rare occurrence.
For example, the Food and Drug Administration in the US has only banned or restricted eleven chemicals for use in the cosmetic industry. On the contrary, the European Union bans over 1,300 chemicals.
There are hazardous or questionable chemicals added to our food, clothing, furniture, bedding, children’s toys, make-up, personal care products, food containers, cooking products…and on and on.
We are exposed to hundreds, if not thousands, of synthetic chemicals every day.
Toxins are not just made in a lab. Some naturally occurring toxins are lingering in our home, air, food, and water. The heavy metals mercury, lead, arsenic, and cadmium, are all known toxicants found readily in our environment.
We are exposed to mercury in dental amalgams and large fish (e.g. swordfish, tuna). Lead is in soil, pipes, paint, and lipstick and is stored in the bones of people who were exposed to leaded gasoline. (Did you know that leaded gasoline was not completely phased out until 1996 in the US?) We are exposed to arsenic from rice, chicken, and groundwater. Cadmium is found in coal and mineral fertilizer and is used in many products, including batteries, pigments, metal coatings, and plastics, and it is also found in cigarette smoke.
Of the thousands of molds that exist naturally the most toxic, often found in water-damaged homes, are Cladosporium, Penicilium, Fusarium, Aspergillus, and Stachybotrys. These molds produce mycotoxins, or microscopic toxic compounds, that enter the body readily through inhalation.
Never had a flood in your house? Great, but you are not exempt. Mold grows where water or moisture lingers–leaky roof, leaky sink, in the HVAC system, where you spilled coffee in your car…
Those sensitive to these molds (about 25% of the population) may have a host of seemingly unrelated symptoms that can all be tied back to mold toxicity.
Toxins Can Lead To Dementia
A decline in cognitive function: trouble organizing, concentrating, completing tasks, recognizing objects, a decline in language skills or word-finding issues have all been seen in people with toxic overload from some of the above toxins.
Professor Bruce Ames developed the Ames test to detect carcinogens–agents in our food, beauty products, and water that causes cancer. Dr. Dale Bredesen has coined the term “dementogens” to bring attention to agents that can contribute to an increased risk of dementia. We don’t yet have a single test to identify these agents in our products but we are exposed to them daily. Perhaps the greatest concern is that the effects of these dementogens can aggregate and accumulate over time.
So while a single, or even multiple exposures, to toxins such as toluene or benzene in your nail polish or paraffin candles may not be problematic, exposure after exposure, week after week and year after year can lead to the type of cognitive decline shared above.
Our bodies are designed to detoxify–from the exogenous toxins, that come from outside the body, and the endogenous toxins, that come from inside the body. Our kidneys, liver, GI tract, lungs and skin are part of this system that performs “biotransformation” by transforming a toxic substance and getting it out of the body. We all have a different genetic ability to detoxify (some better than others) and here is the kicker…inflammation blocks detoxification. So, for many of us that have chronic inflammation, this is a double whammy.
The Good News- What we can DO about it!
There have been patients with the above symptoms of cognitive decline that improved once toxins were removed and healing was implemented. So reversal is often possible…but prevention is a better course of action! You can use the checklist below as a great starting point to reduce the risk of toxic overload.
- Minimize exposure to dementogens (as found in The End of Alzheimer’s Program by Dr. Dale Bredesen)
- Use a HEPA filter in the home to clean the air
- Avoid smoking, second and third-hand smoke
- Avoid air pollution (e.g. burning trash, car exhaust, burning candles, air fresheners)
- Check your home, car and workplace for mold
- Use a water filter and avoid contaminated water
- Eat organic, especially the Dirty Dozen
- Avoid toxins in personal care and beauty products (EWG)
- Avoid dental amalgams (if you already have them, see a biological dentist specially trained in safe removal)
- Eat a high fiber, clean diet low in sugar, & low in simple carbohydrates, with safe protein sources (e.g. grass-fed, pastured, wild)
- Avoid high-temperature cooking (e.g. deep fried, blackened or charred)
- Store (and buy when possible) food/drink in glass instead of plastic
- Avoid handling receipts (covered with BPA that enters body via skin when touched)
- Avoid lead (in old paint and in old plumbing)
- Optimize Detoxification (through urine, stool, breath and sweat)
- Drink filtered water (approximately 1/2 body weight in ounces)
- Eat fiber! 30 grams, or more, daily (Lots of veggies and some fruit too)
- If the above doesn’t take care of constipation, seek help–some supplements (magnesium citrate, vitamin C, Bowel Mover by Cell Core) can be extremely helpful if you are not having 1-2 well-formed stools daily.
- Sweat: Exercise (extra benefits!), sauna, hot showers. Wash sweat off with non-toxic soap.
- Spend time outside in nature
- Optimize GI, kidney and liver function (may need support from a professional)
- Eat cruciferous veggies which are high in sulforaphane (especially broccoli sprouts) and help with detoxification (If you don’t tolerate or get bloated from cauliflower & Brussel sprouts, seek assistance for gut repair.)
- Minimize and manage stress (massage, meditation, yoga, exercise, optimal sleep, etc)
- Seek Assistance to Treat Specific Dementogens.
There are practitioners that specialize in the treatment of heavy metal toxicity, mold toxicity and organic toxicity (high levels of glyphosate, toluene, and pesticides). Detoxifying too quickly from any of these can make matters worse so working with a skilled practitioner is highly recommended. Apollo Health is one resource to help you find a practitioner. Practitioners from Apollo Health also have additional training in the reversal and prevention of cognitive decline.
The above list can seem like a lot, but it is manageable.
One step at a time.
If you are looking for ways to calm the overwhelm, check out some suggestions here.