We know that toxins are harmful to our bodies.
They stress our nervous system, raise inflammation (4) and cortisol in the body, mess up our hormones (5), damage or kill cells, contribute to many diseases including cancer, and even cause trouble for our unborn children, disrupting the process by which both their nervous systems and immune systems form (6).
In short, they cause our bodies a great deal of stress.
As of 2022 there were an estimated 350,000 chemicals used in the world (1), most of which get into our water supply.
And according to the CDC, less than 100 of them are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act.
That’s a fifty-fold increase since 1950 (3).
But how do toxins stress the body?
How do they raise inflammation?
And how can we prevent this?
HOW TOXINS AFFECT OUR BODIES
Toxins enter the body in many ways: through our food, water and air, but also through personal care products we use and even through our clothes (7).
Now, inflammation is a natural part of our immune system’s response to toxins, injury and illness (8).
When toxins enter, or we’re injured or ill, our body’s immune system responds to remove or kill the intruders, and/or heal the area affected. Inflammation is a natural part of this process (8).
But let’s look at exactly what happens when toxins enter, and how they affect us, as they can harm us in a number of ways:
They can directly damage cells and tissue, triggering an inflammatory response from the immune system to both repair the damaged cells and tissue, but also to address any toxins released by dying cells (9).
They can also activate our immune system by binding to specific receptors on immune cells or directly stimulating the production of inflammatory molecules called cytokines (10).
But if that wasn’t enough, these cytokines then recruit and activate other immune cells, keeping the inflammatory response going.
As this isn’t specific to one part of the body, this can affect our whole body, raising inflammation throughout it (10).
Some toxins cause the break down of cell tissue, nerve cells and even our DNA through something called oxidative stress (11).
Oxidative stress normally occurs when too many free radicals (unstable molecules) have built up in cells and there are not enough anti-oxidants (substances that protect cells from free radicals) to address them (11).
But in this case the toxins themselves are generating the free radicals. And due to the volume of free radicals created, and the low amount of nutrition in our foods these days, our bodies usually do not have enough anti-oxidants to address them fully and protect the cells (11).
This then results in inflammation (11).
There is also something called cell signaling, where cells receive “communications” from other substances such as nutrients or hormones. This is necessary for the proper operation and health of the cell (12).
But toxins can interfere with cell signaling, not only slowing or stopping the cell’s ability to “communicate,” but also leading to the release of inflammatory molecules. This in turn, when carried on daily, can lead to chronic inflammation in the body (12).
And then, of course, there is the gut. We’re constantly exposed to bacteria through our food and water, and many of these can be harmful (13).
When our stomach is not acidic enough, as is the case with many people today, causing heartburn, indigestion and GERD, these bacteria are not killed off in our stomach. The acid is too weak to do so (13).
They then get into our small intestine, where they can take root, and release bio-toxins which harm the cells in the lining of our intestine (13).
Most people today have many or all of the above situations in their body to one degree or another. And to the degree that they do, there may be some levels of inflammation (14).
Even more, these toxins can build up in the body, accumulating in the cells and intestinal bacteria, and causing trouble over time.
And we know that inflammation raises cortisol levels which can stress not only our mind, but our body through our nervous system (15), lowering our ability to lose fat and build muscle, keeping us feeling stressed during the day and making sleep much harder.
As the amount of chemicals coming in today is so much more than just a few decades ago, we need to take proper actions to prevent as much of it coming into our bodies as possible (16).
STEPS TO LOWER TOXINS ENTERING OUR BODIES
One of the very first things to do is stop eating processed foods.
Many of the ingredients in these foods are hormone disrupters, which can also raise inflammation.
Some of these foods even require us to heat them in the microwave with the plastic wrapping still on them. This allows these chemicals to leach from the plastic into the food itself.
Don’t drink from cheap, plastic water bottles. Look for BPA-free plastic water bottles.
Get a reverse-osmosis water filter for your kitchen and only drink from that.
These are the best water filters when it comes to removing these chemicals from our water, something that no city filtration system comes close to doing.
Do your best to eat only organic foods and meats that are 100% grass-fed, or, if not organic, then at least keep away from the Dirty Dozen and look into the Clean 15, fruits and vegetables where chemicals are very minimal.
Look for organic or EWG-approved personal care products that don’t contain harmful toxins. This is a wide area where these chemicals have been given many different names, so keep your eyes open here, looking into each product.
Beyond this, study up on the subject as you can. It may seem overwhelming at first, but there are a surprising number of affordable options to live a chemical-free life.
I hope this helps.
7. Schug, T. T., et al. (2011). Endocrine disrupting chemicals and disease susceptibility. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 127(3-5), 204-215.
8. Medzhitov, R. (2008). Origin and physiological roles of inflammation. Nature, 454(7203), 428-435.
9. Di Meo, S., et al. (2016). Oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction in skeletal muscle: Role of mitochondria-targeted antioxidants. European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, 124, 1151-1162.
10.Takeuchi, O., & Akira, S. (2010). Pattern recognition receptors and inflammation. Cell, 140(6), 805-820.
11.Lobo, V., et al. (2010). Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health. Pharmacognosy Reviews, 4(8), 118-126.
12.Berridge, M. J. (2014). Cell Signalling Biology: Module 1 - Overview. Portland Press Ltd.
13.Sekirov, I., et al. (2010). Gut microbiota in health and disease. Physiological Reviews, 90(3), 859-904.
14.Coussens, L. M., & Werb, Z. (2002). Inflammation and cancer. Nature, 420(6917), 860-867.
15.Chrousos, G. P. (2009). Stress and disorders of the stress system. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 5(7), 374-381.
16.Landrigan, P. J., et al. (2018). The Lancet Commission on pollution and health. The Lancet, 391(10119), 462-512.