What Are Toxins?
A toxin is any substance that is foreign to the body, or cannot be safely eliminated without causing potential harm. Toxins can have potentially damaging effects to our bodies, including DNA damage to the genes.
Some toxins may be relatively harmless, passing harmlessly through the digestive tract, for example, being eliminated as waste. Other toxins may enter the bloodstream, where they may be carried to various parts of the body. If the body is unable to eliminate a toxic substance, it is stored in the cells of various organs. One function of the liver is to attempt to remove toxins from the blood, and release them into the digestive tract, where they can be emilinated as waste. In some cases, these toxins are trapped in the liver instead. Also, toxins that are released from the liver into the digestive tract may later be re-absorbed into the bloodstream.
Our bodies are designed to handle plant and animal foods, and most natural substances are generally not toxic to the body. But artificial substances are often toxic. Artificial vitamins are foreign substances and should be considered toxins, as well.
A conservative approach to health is to avoid toxins, as much as possible.
How Toxins Can Enter the Body
Toxins can enter the body through the following means:
- The mouth - generally what we eat and drink
- The nose - absorbed by the lungs from air we breathe
- Mucous membranes - around the eyes, as well as the nose and mouth
- The skin - absorption (yypically from products applied to our skin and hair)
- Injection into the blood - needles, puncture wounds, open sores
- Produced inside the body - by undesirable bacterias, viruses, parasites and fungi (such as Candida)
Sources of Toxins
Here is a partial list of toxins that are commonly found in foods:
- Artificial colors
- Artificial flavors, including sweeteners
- Artificial preservatives
- Artificial vitamins (foods are often labeled as "fortified" with them)
Government Toxicity Testing
The US government does some toxicity testing, and reports the findings in various ways. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is primarily concerned with artificial chemicals used in the production, handling and preparation of foods, and pharmaceutical drugs. The Environmental Protection Administration (?) (EPA) is primarily concerned with chemicals used in industrial and commercial applications. (More...).
The EPA publishes "Permissible Exposure Levels" (PEL) for each type of chemical tested. This is the level they have decided is safe for workers to be exposed to in the performance of their jobs, or in the work environment. Some people may prefer to avoid the chemicals altogether, by choosing other types of work (...)
When the FDA or EPA tests a chemical for toxicity, there are two types of tests:
1) Acute toxicity testing determines the amount of the substance that can be handled by the body without measurable harmful effects. This type of testing is done with much larger doses than a person would normally be exposed to.
2) Long term toxicity attempts to determine the effects of smaller doses over longer periods of time.
Some chemicals have been identified by the government as toxic, either acutely, as a result of an overdose, or over time, as a result of lower exposure levels.
Classifications of Toxins
- Carcinogen - meaning associated with a higher risk of cancer,
- Teratogen - increases the risk of birth defects when a pregnant woman is exposed to them.
- Endocrine disrupters - interfere with hormones
- Hepatotoxin - causes liver damage
- Mutagen - causes DNA damage and increases the chances of cell mutation
- Neurotoxin - causes nerve and brain damage
- Nephrotoxin - causes kidney damage
- Ototoxin - causes damage to inner ear, auditory canal and possibly balance
- Reproductive toxin - may cause sterility or affect the reproductive system
From a wellness standpoint, it is wise to avoid allowing toxins to enter your body, rather than to decide which artificial chemicals are ok to consume. Small amounts of toxins probably remain in the body, even if the majority is eliminated. The accumulation of multiple toxins is suspected as a possible cause of disease, even if the substances have not clearly identified by the government as harmful. These toxins can cause irritation, inflammation and other forms of damage over time.
it takes diligent effort to minimize the level of toxins we are exposed to. We have the most control over what we eat, and the chemicals we use on our bodies. Reading product labels can help us choose the safest foods and personal grooming product. Shampoos, deodorants, hair sprays, cosmetics, lotions, soaps, and dental care products are all potentially toxic, over time. The fluoride that is added to tap water in most US cities is considered a toxin by many health authorities. Cleaning products, laundry products, dishwashing products and other household products are often toxic, also. When you do use these products, you can use gloves, adequate ventilation and wash your hands and clothing to reduce your exposure and absorption of toxins.
Also pay attention to what you are breathing. Some toxins are odorless, but if not, and you can smell it, that means there are molecules in the air you are breathing. At home, you can use exhaust fans to pull toxic air out, and open windows or doors to allow fresh air to enter the house. It's a good idea to let fresh air into your home regularly, especially when using cleaners, sprays or other chemicals, and during and after cooking.
A conservative approach to toxins is "if you don't know what something is, and that it's totally safe and natural, assume that you shouldn't breathe it into your lungs, and thus absorb it into your bloodstream". Any foreign substance, whether it's a known toxin or not, can probably accumulate in your body, and give your immune system extra problems to overcome.
Since it's impossible to avid all toxins in modern insudtrial societies, using a detoxification program once or twice a year can help your body get rid of toxins.