The fact of the matter is when it comes to toxicity we mostly understand when it's acute – when it causes sudden and definitive symptoms. However, most toxin exposures are chronic, involve more than one toxin, and happen after years, even decades of accumulation. This accumulation overloads the body's detox mechanisms and causes symptoms such as:
- Memory disturbance
- Sleep issues
Over time, if the environmental toxicity and detox pathways aren’t addressed, the toxic burden can lead to conditions like:
- Autoimmune disease
- Neurodegenerative diseases
In a 2015 review in the prestigious journal Carcinogenesis, researchers found that lifestyle factors are responsible for a considerable portion of cancers worldwide. Concluding that 7-19% of all cancers are attributable to toxic environmental exposures. On top of this, they examined 85 chemicals and found 59% of them exerted low-dose effects.
In my personal practice, I've seen the devastating effects of environmental toxin exposure. Because the symptoms are chronic and multi-system it can lead to a perplexing situation for both the patient and the practitioner. I found the best method for helping a patient with a chronic condition is to reduce their levels of toxin exposure and improve detoxification to bring down their toxic burden.
So today I want to talk about different types of toxins, other factors that add to your burden, symptoms and conditions of suspected environmental toxicity, and detoxification.
17 Possible Environmental Toxins
Toxins can either be introduced to the body through external exposure or internal exposure. I break different exposures down into exotoxins (external) and endotoxins (internal). A huge part of reducing your toxic burden is being aware of different sources of toxins so that you can avoid potential exposures. With that in mind the list below is meant to be a resource for different areas of your life that should be considered when you work to reduce your toxic burden.
What Else Can Add to Your Total Toxic Burden?
Besides toxins there are other things that can contribute to your total toxic burden that you might not have considered. This is because your total toxic burden includes all stressors on the body, which means things like emotional and psychological stress.
I mentioned stress and emotions above but it's worth taking the time to dig a little deeper on each because they are all too commonly overlooked. They don't fit our traditional idea of a toxin. A few potential stressors that are outright “toxins” include:
> Financial stress
> Sedentary lifestyle
> Career stress
> Toxic personal relationships
> Significant life events, such as a death in the family or divorce
> Unresolved emotional trauma
In my next article, I'll share some of the environmental factors that can contribute to toxicity.
Jill Carnahan, MD, ABFM, ABIHM, IFMCP is a board certified physician in both Family Medicine and Integrative Holistic Medicine. She founded the Methodist Center for Integrative Medicine and is currently the Functional Medicine Consultant at Flatiron Functional Medicine in Louisville, CO.