1) Exogenous toxins: metals/chemicals/particulate matter/moulds/microbial and radiation
2) Endogenous toxins: gut-derived toxins/non-end product metabolites/poorly detoxified hormones and catecholamines
3) Toxins of choice: alcohol/food constituents/high fructose corn syrup/wheat/salt (and acid-forming diet)
It is this latter category that I want to focus on in this blog. What are our common toxins of choice, how do they harm us and what can be done about it?
Alcohol: Wine and beer frequently contain additives such as sulphites which can result in asthma attacks, wheezing, tight chest and a cough. Wine, being a fermented product, also contains high amounts of histamine which can be associated with a huge number of symptoms varying from nettle rash, runny nose, headache and asthma-like symptoms to GI discomfort and a racing heart. To improve sulphite sensitivity, enjoy molybdenum-rich foods like cashews, almonds, peanuts (all raw and unsalted) as well as edamame, split peas, lentils and kidney beans or simply avoid or reduce sulphite containing alcohol (check your wine labels before you buy!).
Food Constituents: Other problematic food additives include monosodium glutamate (MSG), tartrazine and aspartame. MSG or E261, is found in Chinese food as well as shop bought soups and stews and can induce asthma, facial flushing, sweating, dizziness and headaches. To limit the damage done by dietary MSG drink lots of water and avoid any further salt either in, or added to, your food. Tartrazine, a synthetic food dye otherwise known as E102, is commonly found in jams, some butters, cheddar cheese (that is dyed to look yellow-yuck!) sweets and cakes and can bring on asthma or urticaria (a nettle-like rash). Aspartame is found in artificially sweetened foods (beware low fat varieties of yoghurts and ice creams) and can also bring on urticaria as well as oedema (fluid retention in joints). Tartrazine affects the metabolism of vitamin B6 so is to be avoided at all costs if you want to have a good immune system and maintain high energy levels.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS in US) or Glucose Fructose Syrup in the UK: The consumption of this cheap and ubiquitous sweetener made from maize (corn) starch, via biscuits, cakes and ice-cream can lead to all components of metabolic syndrome, that is inflammation, hypertension and insulin resistance. The International Journal of Obesity goes as far as to say “Excessive fructose intake could have a causal role in the current epidemics of hypertension, lipogenesis, obesity and diabetes”. It is metabolised in the liver like ethanol (alcohol!) not glucose (a simple sugar). High fructose diet is metabolically similar to a high fat diet. Some scientists have even proposed that the fructose index is more relevant to cardiovascular disease (CVD) and insulin resistance than the glycemic index. Whilst fresh fruit does of course contain naturally occurring fructose, it is helpfully bound in cell walls and in much lower levels than in HFCS. Many cultures consume way more HFCS in terms of quantity than they do fresh fruit, as it is present in so many pre-prepared products.
Salt and an acid-forming diet: We evolved on a very alkaline diet but today our Western diet is frequently associated with low-grade, chronic, metabolic acidosis (not to be confused with acidemia). Metabolic acidosis is where our blood pH is constantly at the lower end of normal range. Blood pH influences all manner of bodily functions including structure and function of proteins, permeability of cell membranes, distribution of electrolytes and structure of connective tissue to name a few. Even small fluctuations in hydrogen concentrations (which determines how acid something is) affect cellular enzyme activity. Essentially our daily nutrition intake influences acid-alkali (or base) balance in humans. Most western diets contain acid precursors in excess of base precursors, yielding a daily net acid load. Our skeleton, muscles, kidney and endocrine systems adapt to limit the damage caused by this dietary acidosis but at a cost of cumulative organ damage that the body pays out over decades of adult life. For example, it takes 3g of bone to neutralize 1g of acid. Where dietary salt, that is sodium chloride, comes into this is that dietary salt intake independently predicts the degree of hyperchloremic metabolic acidosis in healthy humans consuming a net acid-producing diet. And how are we all ingesting this salt? Via grains which are the number one way we get salt into the body eaten as pizza, pasta, breads, cereals, crackers etc.
Wheat: Wheat, rye and barley are the commonly known gluten-containing grains. Gliadin, a component of gluten, causes the release of a substance known as zonulin. Zonulin is relevant here because it acts to open the normally closed ‘tight junctions’ between the intestinal cells. Only humans produce zonulin and each individuals zonulin release response to wheat is genetically determined. So for some people, the consumption of wheat could lead to ‘leaky gut’ where toxins seep through these open junctions between intestinal cells, which plays a role in many chronic inflammatory and immune conditions. Best tactic? Avoidance. Instead enjoy gluten-free grains and seeds such as chia, quinoa, buckwheat, bulgar wheat, millet, amaranth and oats and watch your energy levels soar.
So overall, what can be done? In short, embrace a diet high in organically grown fruits and vegetables, low in animal protein , wheat and salt and consider potassium and magnesium supplementation in the form of citrates, carbonates, acetates or hydroxides. You can find these alkaline supplements and more in our Platinum Healing detox shop now.
Blog post written by Rachel Boon – Platinum Healing’s Naturopath and Medical Herbalist.