On the Healthy by Nature radio show, guests and I often point out that health declines when our nutrient levels drop, and/or our toxin levels increase. That is true, but we should note that like the illustration*, there is also an important 3rd factor or leg—the mental / emotional / spiritual. That leg is dependent on the other two. In fact, if any one of the three is weak, the other two can suffer and the stool (like health) becomes wobbly.
The 3rd Leg
The brain can make us sick directly. It can do that directly because it sends hormones and other regulatory substances to other parts of the body (maybe to all of them) where they have effects, both good and bad. Take for example, a tension headache (i.e. mental stress = physical pain).
The brain also affects health indirectly. For example, someone with a negative / defeatist attitude, may not invest in exercise, good nutrition, or avoidance of toxins.
No leg stands alone. Toxins can mess with your attitude and mental health. Around and around, it goes—all connected. As you will see below, an undernourished body cannot properly detoxify.
With Earth Day coming up in a few days (April 22) this seems a good time to focus a bit on the toxic leg of the stool. There are 2 main types.
Toxins acquired from the outside:
These are called xenotoxins. As an industrialized “civilization”, we have created a toxic soup in the environment that is resulting in increases in cancer, arthritis, weakened immune systems, autism, fibromyalgia, cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, infertility and many more conditions. This scientific article points out that tens of thousands of “pesticides, pharmaceuticals and plasticisers enter the environment and the food chain.” And, they say it is only getting worse. “The number of new chemicals registered is rapidly rising: from 20 million to 156 million between 2002 and 2019.” These chemicals are not thoroughly tested individually and certainly not in combinations for their effects on humans or the environment.
Here is perhaps the fundamental problem: If a tanker truck of chemicals overturns on the freeway, a chemical plant explodes, or an industrial chemical is accidentally dumped into food, the authorities (government and professionals) get very excited and do something. However, perhaps because of industry’s financial pressure on the regulatory system, the same experts show little interest in the gradual exposure to chemicals from the air, food, water and commercial products that we encounter every day in foods like breakfast cereal. The amounts of toxins may be small, but they accumulate in our cells and wreak havoc on normal cellular processes over time. I encourage readers to not only learn about and use the safest products they can find, but to also support organizations that research, educate and lobby for health and a cleaner environment. The Environmental Working Group is a good example and they offer helpful consumer guides. There is more information and other resources on this linked page.
Toxins generated inside the body:
To review, as noted above, our brain and emotions generate chemicals that affect our physical bodies. Sometimes, the well-known mind/body connection is good—like when positive thoughts create pain-killing and immune-stimulating substances. On the other hand, panic or even a type-A aggressive personality may send signals to increase blood pressure. For someone at risk for cardiovascular disease, that can be a lethally toxic message.
Our metabolic pathways routinely create toxins. Ideally, a chemical chain reaction in our system continues step by step to the needed outcome. That end point might be the creation of energy or the detoxification of something dangerous (such as an excess hormone). We are supposed to end up with something chemically harmless that can be excreted through one of our waste systems. Unfortunately, the typical two-stage detox system can get bogged down at step one and not finish the job. For example, that might happen if the body lacks the b-vitamins required to go on to phase 2 of detoxification. Oops. What is left after step one may be even more harmful than the original toxin and a buildup at this stage can cause trouble. We have to be careful because some detox products rev up only stage 1. Detoxification should be done carefully (ideally with professional help) and include not only good nutrition, but also adequate water and fiber to finish the job. Sulfur compounds found in the cruciferous family of vegetables help with the required transformations at certain steps. This article has some useful detox ideas.
Our gut critters create poisons. The zoo that lives in you (hmm, maybe a good title for a kid’s book on digestion?) is very busy. A gigantic number (bigger than the digits in government rescue proposals) of organisms of various kinds digest food, break down harmful substances, create beneficial substances and fight off pathogens. Most of these “critters” are helpful or at least not harmful bacteria. When their numbers are reduced (e.g. by toxic chemicals, medicines, or just a sudden proliferation of their enemies, bad things happen because the good guys’ work is not being done. A common example of this type of problem is when an antibiotic kills off so many good guy bugs, that yeast in the system can overtake and become aggressive. Eating their favorite food (carbohydrates) makes it worse. Yeasts make poisonous substances called mycotoxins. As that name implies, they are troublemakers that can cause or at least worsen heartburn, gas, headaches, sore joints, depression, rashes, asthma, carb cravings, obesity, generalized inflammation, chronic sinus congestion and perhaps cancer, diabetes and heart disease. To read more about yeast; how to know if you have a problem; and what to do about it, LINK HERE.
*I thought this was a handsome children’s stool from Designpublic.com, but I would have to swallow hard to pay $305 for it!