Examples of toxins to avoid whenever possible:
Pollution, smoke exposure
BPA containing plastics
Drug residues in food or water (antibiotics, hormones)
Chemical exposures including phthalates and parabens
Viruses, bacteria, & yeast
Food additives such as artificial coloring and flavor, artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated fats
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Toxins and Disease
Almost without exception, our daily exposure to environmental toxins is greater today than at any other point in history. Our bodies naturally create endotoxins, the by-products of metabolism and other natural bodily processes. When our body's natural detoxification pathways attempt to handle our natural toxin load, combined with exogenous toxins from our environment, we overtax our system. Our "body burden," the idea of this cumulative load of endo- and exo- toxins, can be thought of as a bucket. Each individual's "bucket" is a different size, explaining why some are able to handle detoxification more adeptly than others. As the bucket becomes overloaded with toxic exposure, it will figuratively "spill" into inflammation, malignancy, and disease.
Individuals with autism are often more sensitive to toxic exposures-- their "bucket" might be thought of as smaller--but we are all vulnerable to the deleterious effects of toxins in our everyday lives, and working to reduce exposure is an important step in our health.
Toxicity in Relation to the Brain
Toxicity overtaxes the reparative processes of the brain, changing the function not only of neurons and neuronal connectivity, but also of critical supporting cells and structures. For example, historically overlooked glial cells, are non-neuronal cells that provide nutriton, protection, and support for neurons. They have been increasingly studied for their critical role in neurotransmission and disease processes. Humans have about 86 billion neurons in their brain, but it might surprise you to know that glial cells outnumber neurons on the order of between 4-10 glia per neuron! Research indicates that toxins and infection activate glia and microglia, and lead to glia playing destructive roles mediated by direct and indirect inflammatory attack.
The good news is that avoidance of toxins and adequate nutrition can supplement and augment the brain's natural detoxification processes. For example, astrocytes, the natural "trash collectors" of the brain can be nutritionally stimulated.
This occurs when highly unstable molecules interact quickly and aggressively with other molecules to create abnormal cells. Free radicals steal electrons from RNA and DNA which causes cellular mutation and immune compromise. Oxidative stress destroys cells, proteins, and essential fats. Oxidative stress in the gastrointestinal tract destroys digestive enzymes needed to break down casein and gluten, promotes yeast growth, decreases zinc and stomach acid, produces inflammation and creates an inefficient gut barrier to toxins.
Certain foods contain free radicals: Processed foods, commercially baked goods, chemically altered fats, vegetable shortening, all oils heated to very high temperatures, dyes, preservatives, sugar.
The body’s ability to make its major antioxidant, glutathione, and to “clean up” damage and inflammation caused by toxins and oxidative stress is affected by processes called methylation and transsulfonation. Are weak alleles (genes) present for glutathione-related genes that impairs detoxification and immunity?
Some foods tax the glutathione system. For example: cereals, bread, dairy. Certain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) also deplete our body's glutathione.
Methylation builds and repairs every cell in the body. It also silences viral genes, produces glutathione (the body’s main antioxidant), activates Dopamine receptors and is essential for myelination of the nervous system.
What can we do?
We all have a different tipping point for our "toxic bucket" determined by our body's current resources, minus the total allostatic toxic load we demand of it. The key is to maintain our cell's ability to repair and detoxify themselves. So, how can we do this?
Build our body's resiliency by improving whole-body health
Emphasize nutrient-dense and nutrient-rich foods
Avoid exposures to toxins whenever possible
Determine our individual sensitivities to environmental and food toxins, and avoid these
Access individual genetic suseptibilities (such as MTHFR gene mutation, and others) that may make us more vulnerable, and address these