Our Toxic Burden

Xenobiotics are synthetic, man-made, chemical toxins created by artificial processes. These toxins are foreign both to human biological systems and to the systems of our planet.

Today there are nearly one hundred thousand new xenobiotics approved for use in our environment. They come from many different sources, including landfills, incinerators, factories, electromagnetic smog, chemical pollution, emissions, food production, and pharmaceuticals. In the air, soil, and water, xenobiotics are everywhere.

In just a morning routine, we can be exposed to over one hundred different synthetic toxic compounds, from soap ingredients to fluoride in shower water, to perfumes, clothing dyes, dioxins in coffee filters, off-gases from new construction materials, preservatives and additives in foods, engine exhaust during a commute, electromagnetic fields from our cell phones—the list is exhausting and endless in modern times. By the time we get to work, most of us have had a xenobiotic-infused morning.

Today, 99 percent of everything we touch—with the exception of each other, our pets, and the earth’s natural dirt—has synthetic compounds involved with its production. As evidenced by the alarming increase in disease rates, our bodies are not responding well. What’s horrifying is that less than 5 percent of these toxins have been studied for safety, and none for their synergistic effects—or how they interact with each other. We don’t know for sure what a combination of, say, the butylated hydroxytoluene in breakfast cereal and the talc in statin medications is doing.

When our bodies encounter these xenobiotics we produce reactive oxygen species (ROS). Our bodies churn out oxidative-stress-inducing toxins by the second, and, when in balance, our bodies are well equipped to neutralize them with antioxidant enzymes. But every bioregulating system has its threshold and can only handle so much before response pathways become blocked, overloaded, dysregulated, and then fail. When there is an over-accumulation of internal or external toxins, this antioxidant enzyme system becomes overwhelmed and dysregulated.

While our bioregulating systems are trying to keep pace with a barrage of synthetic external toxins, we are also faced with a new breed of internal toxins. With the addition of synthetic foods, chemical pesticides, and increased sugar, hormones, and antibiotics into our diets, modern humans are now plagued with dysbiotic gastrointestinal tracts.

Microbial imbalances allow the overgrowth of pathological bacteria, yeasts, and fungi, which then release toxic gases such as ammonia and acetaldehyde into our digestive systems. Once absorbed, these toxins cause significant disruption of body functions. In fact, gut-derived microbial toxins have been implicated in a wide variety of diseases, including digestive tract cancers, liver disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, lupus, allergies, pancreatitis, asthma, and immune disorders. These toxins are a whole new ball game for our physiology.

When the Environmental Protection Agency started the National Human Adipose Tissue Survey back in the 1970s, they were curious about the levels of xenobiotics present in human fat cells. Not surprisingly, five highly toxic chemicals including two known carcinogens, benzene and dioxins, were found in 100 percent of all samples. Today, anywhere from fifteen to five hundred synthetic chemicals can be found in measurable quantities in the body fat of every single living human—chemicals such as pesticides, plastics, phthalates, pharmaceuticals, and POPs, or persistent organic pollutants.

Xenobiotics have detrimental effects on cell structure and function—they cause DNA damage and inflammation, suppress immune function, alter metabolism, disrupt the endocrine system, and cause direct tissue damage.

And while we often can’t see the effects on the outside, on the inside every single one of our bioregulatory systems is hard at work trying to identify, neutralize, and excrete these foreign synthetic toxins. And they’re having a heck of a time trying to keep up.

Consider a few of the signs and symptoms of toxin overload:

  • Frequent, unexplained headaches and back, neck, and joint pain, or arthritis

  • Chronic respiratory problems, allergies, or asthma

  • Abnormal body odor, bad breath, or coated tongue

  • Food allergies, poor digestion, chronic constipation with intestinal bloating or gas

  • Brittle nails and hair, psoriasis, adult acne

  • Unexplained weight gain or inability to lose weight

  • Chronic insomnia

  • Unusually poor memory, depressed mood, irritability, and other neurological symptoms including mental confusion, mental illness

  • Diagnosis of atypical MS, Parkinson’s or ALS

  • Infertility

  • Anxiety, ADD, ADHD

  • Tingling in hands and feet or abnormal nerve reflexes

  • Chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia

  • Hypothyroidism

  • Hormonal imbalance; PCOS

  • Low Testosterone

  • Problems digesting fatty/creamy/oily foods, and they can make you feel unwell or even nauseous

  • Elevated cholesterol, uric acid, or triglycerides

  • Environmental sensitivities, especially to odors such as perfume Intolerance to alcohol

The concern about environmental toxins has been known for years. Since WWII approximately 80,000 new chemicals have been introduced to the environment.

In the 1960s, Rachel Carson’s eye-opening masterpiece book Silent Spring warned the public about the dangers of pesticides and especially DDT and the environment. She meticulously described how DDT entered the food chain and accumulated in the fatty tissues of animals, including human beings, and caused cancer and genetic damage. “Humans,” Carson argued, “should not seek to dominate nature through chemistry, in the name of progress.” In Carson’s view, technological innovation could easily and irrevocably disrupt the natural system. If anything, environmental issues have grown larger — and more urgent — since Carson’s day.

n 1965 the American Academy of Environmental Medicine was formed and accredited by the American Medical Association.

Their mission statement is as follows:

We believe that environmental toxins are the major determinant of almost all chronic complex health issues affecting the majority of the population. These include but are not limited to Alzheimer’s Disease, Cardiovascular Disease, Autoimmune disease, hormonal dysregulation, neurobehavioral and psychiatric disorders, cancer, asthma and allergies, thyroid dysfunction, gut dysbiosis and neurological disorders.

While it’s true that some toxins are unavoidable, you can work on removing as many as possible from your daily life and thus reducing your body burden. It is also important to support your body’s natural detoxification pathways and possibly test to determine your exposure.

Anyone planning to become pregnant absolutely should determine their toxic load and take steps to decrease their body's toxic load. Repeat studies have shown that over 200 toxins are found in the cord blood of new born infants. You do not want your unborn child to be swimming in a toxic soup before they are born.

To become a patient or for more information about diagnosis and treatment, please contact Rebecca our patient coordinator at 276-233-3205.

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