“It’s a jungle out there
Poison in the very air we breathe
Do you know what’s in the water that you drink?
Well I do, and it’s amazing.”
Theme song from Monk, written by Randy Newman
Intended as an amusing introduction to the TV show’s title character, the obsessive-compulsive detective Adrian Monk, there’s certainly some truth to the alarmist lyrics of Monk’s opening sequence. Although being paranoid, about the environment or any other aspect of life, isn’t advisable or beneficial, having a healthy concern of the toxins that exist in the foods you eat and the cleaning agents or hygienic products you use every day is a good thing. When it comes to what you put in your mouth or on your skin, what you don’t know can kill you.
Why Are Toxins So Harmful?
Toxins can and do negatively affect every part of the body. Toxic effects on the brain include poor memory and concentration, erratic behavior, word confusion, mood issues, headaches, vertigo, and cravings. Toxic brain exposures, as from alcohol abuse, are also linked to accelerated mental decline.
Common toxins can be absorbed through the skin (when you rub in a cream, for example), ingested (when you eat or drink), or inhaled (when you breathe). Use these lists to see if you’ve possibly been exposed to any toxic substances:
Toxins that can be absorbed when ingested or applied to the skin:
- Polluted or tainted water (including lead and arsenic)
- BPA (bisphenol A, found in plastics, food and drink containers, dental sealants, and the coating of cash register receipts)
- PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) found in paints, plastics, and rubber products
- Heavy metals, such as:
- Mercury: in “silver” dental fillings (which are 50 percent mercury), contaminated fish, and distributed ubiquitously in the environment
- Lead: in contaminated drinking water, soils previously exposed to environmental contaminants, old and peeling paint, paint, lead pipes, aviation fuel
- Cadmium: in soils treated with synthetic fertilizers and industrial waste sites
- Excessive alcohol, marijuana, “lifestyle” and various illegal drugs, some prescription drugs
- Many pain medications, notably prescription opioids and other narcotics, or benzodiazepines commonly prescribed for anxiety or insomnia
- Chemotherapy can cause a long-term “brain fog” or “chemobrain”
- General anesthesia can result in long-term memory loss in some patients
- Artificial food dyes and preservatives, including bromates, nitrates or nitrites (processed meats), tartrazine dye (linked to asthma), MSG, red dye #40 and other “#” dyes. The artificial sweeteners aspartame (blue packets) saccharin (pink), and sucralose (yellow) all are linked to toxic effects on the body. The body’s detoxification systems often cannot process artificial chemicals that don’t occur in nature
- Herbicides such as glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup weed killer, with residue present in genetically modified crops)
- Pesticides including organochlorines and organophosphates, many of them powerful neurotoxins
- Apples sprayed with diphenylamine (used to prevent the browning of fruit skin)
- Foods manufactured with plastic equipment, leaking plasticizers
Toxins that can reach the tissues when inhaled:
- Air pollutants, whether industrial or associated with lifestyle
- Smoke from cigarettes, other tobacco, or marijuana; “vaping” of inhalants, secondhand smoke from being around smokers. All hot gases entering the lungs can be toxic.
- Automobile exhaust—carbon dioxide and monoxide, but also numerous categories of small particulate matter that come out the tailpipe
- Cleaning chemicals
- Welding, soldering fumes
- Fireplace/campfire smoke
- Paint and solvent fumes
Harmful Toxins That You Are Exposed to Everyday
These and other toxins may affect you without you even knowing it. In addition to those listed above, here’s a closer look at three everyday toxins people may encounter.
The average American woman uses about 12 personal care and cosmetic products daily. The average man uses about 6. The chemicals in these products are easily absorbed into your skin and transported to every organ in your body. That means that while you’re trying to look good on the outside, you may be poisoning yourself on the inside. Try to use natural products without “fragrance” and free from acrylates, aluminum, formaldehyde, oxybenzone, parabens, triclosan, polyethylene glycols, and phthalates hidden in the walls of plastic containers (go for glass wherever possible). Never reheat food in plastic containers.
Products containing lead are also a major cause for concern. Surprisingly, there are no regulations that require lead be removed from one of the most widely used cosmetics: lipstick. When 30 of the top lipstick brands were tested, lead was found in 60 percent of them. To learn more about how to avoid buying and ingesting lead-contaminated lip products, visit Safe Cosmetics.
While smoking and drug and alcohol abuse have long been known to increase cancer and heart disease, many people don’t realize that they are also linked to mental conditions including an increased risk of dementia. Recently published research from the Amen Clinic documented that regular marijuana users had decreased blood flow to the hippocampus, a brain region crucially involved in learning and memory.
Alcohol kills brain cells, shrinks brain size, increases the risk for dementia. It lowers blood flow to the brain, is linked to inflammatory bowel disease, nerve pain, liver failure. It is linked to 7 different cancers. Alcohol can impair decision-making, make a gentle person aggressive, is a major cause of incarceration and financial problems.
Mold exposure is toxic to brain function. Signs of mold exposure include sneezing, coughing, watery eyes and skin irritation.
If you suspect that you’ve been exposed to mold, the first step is always to remove yourself from the moldy environment. You can also do a blood test that measures a protein, TGF Beta-1, found throughout the body that plays a role in immune system function and is often high in mold exposure (also called mycotoxin exposure). The normal level is below 2,380; 0 is optimal. Mold exposure can raise this to >15,000.
Mold treatment can consist of binding agents and other medications, such as antifungals, as well as metabolic support supplements.
In many cases mold, carbon monoxide poisoning, or other toxins can damage the brain and result in decreased neurological function including memory loss, noticeable personality changes, difficulty concentrating and other signs that often lead to misdiagnosis. It’s important to realize that toxic exposure and its effects on the internal structure of your brain can trigger both long and short-term effects.
8 Ways to Rid Your Life of Harmful Toxins
There are simple 8 ways to avoid many toxins and, fortunately, the human body is designed to detox itself. It just needs assistance in performing the job. Here are eight ways to reduce your risk of toxic exposure:
1. Detox Your Diet: Buy organic, and always wash your food: neurotoxic pesticide levels are way lower in children who get organic foods. Always read and make sure to understand food labels-ignore natural: aflatoxins, arsenic, cyanide are all natural. Avoid using aluminum and Teflon cookware. Do trial eliminations (2 weeks, one at a time).
2. Clean Up Your Diet: Limit or eliminate non-organic produce (herbicides and pesticides) dairy (hormones and antibiotics), feedlot meats (hormones and antibiotics), and farmed fish (junk-fed and PCBs). Increase your fiber consumption (minimum 21 grams women, 30 grams men).
3. Eliminate Processed Foods: Remove as much as possible of processed foods and sugar from your diet. Cutting out sweet beverages can eliminate hundreds of unhealthy calories and help your pancreas.
4. Eat More Brassicas: Brassicas, like collard greens, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, provide unique nutrients (phytonutrients) that rev up your detoxification system. This system encompasses the liver, kidneys, intestines, skin and to a lesser extent all the other tissues.
5. Drink More Water: Your brain is 80% water, so avoid anything that dehydrates it—such as caffeine or alcohol. Being dehydrated by just 2% impairs performance in tasks that require attention, immediate memory skills, and physical performance. Since water helps flush toxins from your body, it’s recommended that you drink three to four quarts of reverse osmosis or filtered (with charcoal) water every day.
6. Toss Toxic Cleaners: Do a bathroom cleanse and throw out all toxic products. Use the Think Dirty app to help replace harmful products with healthy ones.
7. Take Vitamin C, Curcumins, Other Antioxidants Daily: Vitamin C is a versatile antioxidant and the most dollar-effective antitoxin you can get. The curcumins, which give turmeric and curries their gold color, are also powerful antioxidants but you’ll need to make sure you get a well-absorbed supplement such as Brain Curcumins from BrainMD.
8. Fortify Your Natural Defenses: One of the best ways to protect yourself from harmful agents is to support your natural defenses with supplements. The body’s detoxification systems overlap with the immune system to help process toxic chemicals, avoid allergic and intolerance reactions, and destroy potentially harmful infectious agents. Everyone should be on a core supplement regimen. BrainMD’s comprehensive Brain & Body Power combines our intensive daily multiple NeuroVite Plus with our brain-targeted Brain & Memory Power Boost and is rounded out by Omega-3 Power, our ultrapure, highly concentrated fish oil supplement designed to increase your Omega-3 Index.
Give your brain a fighting chance to thrive in a toxic world. For our full list of supplements, visit BrainMD.
Keith is grateful to have the opportunity to write about supplements since many of them have made a dramatic difference in his life. He is often heard around the office saying, “We have supplements for that.”