There are plenty of articles on the internet about this subject but you have to dig deep to find information that is relevant to our condition. This has taken me far longer than I had hoped it would when I issued my blog on " Natural Toxins " in food. This is mainly due to going through one of those difficult stages where I feel like I'm sleeping more than being awake. So here goes...
There are thousands of toxins in the enviroment and many more are being added on a daily basis. Below is a list of the ten most prevalent in our water, air and or food supply.
- PCBs ( polychorinated biphenyls), the name sounds relatively harmless, and although it has been banned for decades yet still it's a persistent organic pollutant in our enviroment which causes cancer and impaired fetal brain development.
- Pesticides 60% of herbicides, 90% of fungicides and 30% of insecticides are known to be carcinogenic ( more later )
- Mould and other fungal toxins- Mycotoxins ( fungal toxins ) can cause a range of health problems with only small exposure.
- Phthalates- chemicals used to lenghten the life of fragrances and soften plastics, these are a risk to the Endocrine system by chemically mimicing hormones ( more later )
- VOCs ( Volatile Organic compounds ) are a major contributing factor to ozone , an air pollutant,the levels are two to five times higher in indoor air than outdoor air because they are present in so many household products ( more later )
- Dioxins- chemical compounds formed as a result of combustion processes such as burning wood, coal or oil. Often linked with reproductive and developmental disorders and skin deseases. Major source animal fats. Over 95% of exposure comes from eating commercial animal fats.
- Asbestos- We all know and have heard of the risks associated with asbestos which was commonly found in older buildings built between 1950s to 1970s.
- Heavy Metals- metals like arsenic, mercury, lead, aluminium and cadmium, which are prevalent in many areas of our enviroment and can accumulate in soft tissues of the body( more later).
- Chloroform- A colourless liquid with a non irritatating odour and slightly sweet taste which is used to make other chemicals. It's also formed when chloride is added to water. Risks associated with chloroform includes dizziness, fatigue headache, liver and kidney damage. Air, drinking water and food can contain chloroform.
- Chlorine- Highly toxic yellow green gas is one of the most heavily used chemical agents and linked to many symptoms lungs, eye and skin burns and ( RADS ) a type of asthma. Found in many hosehold cleaners, drinking water ( in small amounts) and in the air when living near an Industry that uses chlorine in its processes.
Lets take a closer look at some of the above which many of us are likely to come into contact with on a regular basis.
- Pesticides- Pesticides are used to protect food from pests such as insects, rodents, weeds, mould and bacteria. The following are some of the products that come into contact with our food. Insecticides to control insects, rodenticides to control rodents, herbicides to control weeds, fungicide to control mold and fungus and antimicrobials to control bacteria. What a potent mix of chemicals, all within safe limits so they say, therefore make sure you peel and wash everything really well before you cook or eat fruit and vegetables.
- Phthalates- Phthalates are a class of widely used industrial compounds know technically as dialkyl or alkyl aryl esters of 1,2-benzenedicarboxylic acid, now you tell me does that sound like a harmless sustance. There are many phthalates with many uses and just as many toxicological properties which have crept into widespread use over the last several decades. Common uses of phthalates includes softeners of plastics, plastic bottles, shrink wrap and plastic containers which can leach out into food when they come into contact. Also found in additives to hairsprays, lubricants the oily substance in perfumes they are everywhere you can't get away from them. The new car smell you guessed it , the odour of phthalates volatilizing from the dashboard which condenses on the windscreen.
Worringly recent studies have shown that even low dosage levels have been linked to dramatic changes in birth defects in males exposed to phthalates while still in the womb. These same defects can be repeatly produced in laboratory experiments by exposure to several endocrine disrupting chemicals found in phthalates. This is what interests me the Endocrine system is a system of glands each of which secretes a type of hormone into the bloodstream to regulate the body. It's disruption of the endocrine system that produces many of the CFS /ME symptoms we experience. Coincidence ? I think not.
- Volatile Organic Compounds ( VOCs ) VOCs are organic chemicals that easily vaporize at room temperature,VOCs have no colour, smell or taste and are difficult to detect. VOCs include a wide range of individual substances such as hydrocarbons ( e.g. benzene and toluene ) halocarbons and oxygenates many linked to global warming. Some VOCs are linked to increasing the susceptability to leukaemia , headaches, dizziness, visual disorders and memory impairment. Commonly found in drinking water, carpets, paints, deodorants, cleaning fluids, varnishes, cosmetics, dry cleaned clothing and air freshners, it's everywhere.
- Heavy Metals Most commonly encountered-Arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, iron and aluminium. Heavy metals become toxic when they are not metabolized by the body and accumulate in the soft tissues. Heavy metals may enter the human body through food, water, air or absorption through the skin. The most likely heavy metals that the majority of us come into contact with are...
- Lead - Old lead pipes, lead based paint and batteries.
- Symptoms of exposure include abdominal pain, convulsions, hypertension, renal dysfunction, fatigue, headaches and numbness.
- Mercury - Commonly found in thermometers, thermostats and of course dental amalgams, which I have blogged about previously and is of concern to myself because I have so many. Some physicians suggest that amalgam fillings could be part of the explanation of learning problems and autism in recent years. Symptoms of acute exsposure, sore throat, shortness of breadth, metallic taste in the mouth, abdominal pain, vomiting, headaches, weakness , permanent damage to the central nervous system and kidneys, anxiety, forgetfulness, emotional instability, fatigue, cognitive and motor dysfunction. Well I can certainly tick off a few of those symptoms.
- Aluminium - Although aluminium is not a heavy metal, enviromental exposure is frequently leading to concerns about accumulative effects and possible links to Alzheimers desease. In the home we are in contact with aluminium in foods and in water, from cookware ( see previous article on Waterless Cooking ) and soft drink cans; from consuming items with high levels of aluminium e.g. antacids, buffered aspirin, nasal sprays, toothpaste and antiperspirants. Symptoms of aluminium toxity include memory loss, learning difficulties, mental confusion and loss of coordination.
Under normal circumstances the body is able to eliminate toxins via feces, exhalation, perspiration and urine. The major organs involved in this elimination are the kidneys, lungs, colon, liver and skin. In addition the white blood cells of the immune system are designed to neutralize microbial toxins. The liver is the organ primarily responsible for breaking toxins into harmless byproducts, which are eliminated into the stool or through the kidneys into the urine.
This process can be hampered for one reason or another, in my case years of constipation has meant years of toxins building up in my system . When a particular toxin overwhelms the normal excretion mechanisms, the body produces inflammation in the area of the toxin trying to rid itself of the problem, in my case bloated painful stomach.
So what can be done? As you can see we are surrounded on a daily basis with enviromental toxins and toxins in our food. It's impossible to avoid all the risks invovled, but there are a few things we can do to limit our exposure.
- Buy and eat as much as possible organic produce and free range ,organic foods ( more expensive but a price worth paying)
- Avoid processed foods, remember they are processed with chemicals.
- Rather than eating fish which are frequently contaminated with PCBs and mercury, consume quality purified fish or cod liver oil.
- Only use natural cleaning products in your home.
- If you can find them switch over to natural brands of toiletries, including shampoo,toothpaste and cosmetics.
- Think seriously about removing amalgam fillings, but only use registered qualified dentists who specialise in this procedure.
- Avoid using artificial air freshners, fabric conditioners or other synthetic fragrances as they pollute the air you breath.
- Use filtered drinking water ( see usefull links page)
- Avoid artificial food additives of all kinds, including artificial sweetners and MSG.
- Get plenty of safe sun exposure to boost your vitamin D levels your immune system will appreciate it.
I hope you found the above blog of some help in the things to look out for and avoid and maybe, just maybe, if you can carry out some of the recommendations it may assist you on your own road to recovery.
For all who read my blog, It would be amazing if you could forward my link http://dld.bz/mBZq to as many people as you know (twitter/facebook/your email list etc). You will then be doing your own bit for ME/CFS awareness and spreading the word to people who one day might just need it! x