Why are toxins an issue for us?
The human body is highly intelligent with built-in detoxification pathways in many of the tissues, not just the liver, known as the main organ of detox, but also in the kidneys, lungs, intestines, skin and testes. Toxins can only be excreted via these pathways when they are water soluble however, at which point they are excreted naturally via saliva, tears, urine, feces, sweat, or are exhaled. Fat soluble toxins, on the other hand, tend to accumulate in the body, mainly in fat cells but also in other tissues. Toxic elements such as metals, for example, tend to accumulate in the brain, kidneys, liver and bones. This is one issue.
Another issue can be impaired detoxification abilities within the body. A person’s detox capacity is highly influenced by their diet and lifestyle and will most certainly be impacted if any liver or kidney issues, gastrointestinal health issues or micronutrient deficiencies exist, or if there is toxic overload.
Our bodies, therefore, are not necessarily naturally getting rid of these toxins that we are being exposed to, but the real issue is the resulting health problems including serious disease if toxins are allowed to accumulate. Persistent organic pollutants, for example, have been associated with diabetes, obesity and endocrine disruption. Volatile organic compounds are considered highly neurotoxic. And plastics are known to cause endocrine disruption. Large global organizations such as the World Health Organisation4 and the Endocrine Society are actively studying the real risks of endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
According to the WHO, “just over one third (35%) of ischaemic heart disease, the leading cause of deaths and disability worldwide, and about 42% of stroke, the second largest contributor to global mortality, could be prevented by reducing or removing exposure to chemicals such as from ambient air pollution, household air pollution, second-hand smoke and lead.”5 And approximately 19% of all cancers are estimated to have a direct environmental exposure cause.6 It is now understood that causes of complex diseases like cancer are not solely based on genetics but also the effect of environmental factors such as exposure to chemicals, as well as aspects of lifestyle.
This information helps us understand that toxic exposure is a real issue especially as it’s correlated with serious disease, and that even early life poses risk of exposure, meaning we all most likely already have a burden that needs to taken care of. It might be in our best interest then to ensure we are supporting our bodies in doing its job of excreting that which is not needed.