We have introduced more than 80,000 synthetic chemicals into our environment over the last 100 years. That number is increasing by around 2,500 per year. Less than 5% have been tested for toxicity to humans and we know little of their accumulative and combined effects. The numbers make depressing reading. POPs (persistent organic pollutants) take decades, or even hundreds of years, to biodegrade. They accumulate in our world, in our food chain and in us. On average we’ll have about 700 different kinds of toxins stored away in our tissues. A study found 287 chemicals in the umbilical cords of new-born babies, so we’re coming into this world with a toxin body burden. And there’s also our increased exposure to radiation, and the day to day exposure to chemicals in our food, homes and working environments to consider. It’s a potent cocktail and I can’t help feeling that we’re living in some mad Dr. Strangelove experiment. Let’s hope it doesn’t all go Boom!

There is no denying that this is damaging to health. Our toxic load may not kill us outright but it’s slowly and insidiously clogging our cells and their intricate biochemical pathways. We’ve seen a threefold increase in autoimmune disease in the last few decades for example. It would be burying our heads in the sand to not see that our environment has a lot to do with this. Our immune system can produce antibodies to plastics, say, or to heavy metals, that then act as triggers for inflammation and tissue damage. We know that environmental toxins are carcinogenic and we know that many are female hormone mimickers (we’ve all read about the feminization of fish in our rivers).

One of the issues we have to contend is the method by which we determine “safe” levels of toxins. We look at the LD50 – that’s how much measured in milligrams per kilogram of body weight is enough of a lethal dose to kill 50% of the test animals – and then come up with a projected safe level for humans. Molecular toxicology looks at the levels that disrupt our cells. These amounts are miniscule. One nanogram (that’s one billionth of a gram) of BPA (a chemical in plastic bottles, food wrap and even receipt paper) is enough to alter cell function in subtle ways that are carcinogenic and disruptive to our hormonal and immune systems. Glyphosate (Roundup) is harmful in parts per trillion.

It saddens me to think how we have polluted our world but there’s no putting Pandora back in her box. There is much we can be optimistic about. We are remarkably adaptive beings with powerful and sophisticated detoxification systems that allow us to respond to environmental challenges. The better informed we are the better we can clean up our act. The better nourished we are the better we can handle it.

Simply cleaning up the diet and eating well can make a big difference. Apple pectin was used to draw out radioactive caesium in children growing up around Chernobyl. Chlorella was used to significantly reduce dioxins in breast milk. The friendly bacteria in fermented foods can break down and help to remove POPs. Our detoxification systems run smoothly when well nourished. We can’t turn back time and depollute our world but we can influence our small world by knowing how to clean up our act and support our bodies in cleansing and rejuvenation.
I know in my practice that when we decrease the toxic burden and nourish the body, people feel better. To learn more about staying clean in a toxic world and experience a 21 day detox, join me in the Detox Challenge, an online step by step guide through a diet and lifestyle detox.

Sign up here.

Food Chem Toxicol. 2013 Jun 8. Epub 2013 Jun 8. PMID: 23756170 Glyphosate induces human breast cancer cells growth via estrogen receptors. Siriporn Thongprakaisang, Apinya Thiantanawat, Nuchanart Rangkadilok, Tawit Suriyo, Jutamaad Satayavivad

Swiss Med Wkly. 2004 Jan 10;134(1-2):24-7. Reducing the 137Cs-load in the organism of “Chernobyl” children with apple-pectin. Nesterenko VB1, Nesterenko AV, Babenko VI, Yerkovich TV, Babenko IV.

J Med Food. 2007 Mar;10(1):134-42. Chlorella (Chlorella pyrenoidosa) supplementation decreases dioxin and increases immunoglobulin a concentrations in breast milk. Nakano S1, Takekoshi H, Nakano M.

J Agric Food Chem. 2009 Mar 11;57(5):1882-9. Biodegradation of chlorpyrifos by lactic acid bacteria during kimchi fermentation.

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