There are two kinds of toxins: internally-sourced (endogenous) and externally-sourced (exogenous). Internal or endogenous, toxins are byproducts from bodily functions such as metabolism, examples of which are uric acid, urea, and carbon dioxide. The digestive process is a typical source of excess acidity as a result of an acidic diet.
External, or exogenous, toxins enter the body from the outside world; typical examples are cigarettes, medications, packaged foods, or polluted air and water. Heavy metals, a major source of toxicity, will always be introduced in this way.
External or exogenous, toxins enter the body by:
Ingesting a toxic substance into the body through the mouth
Absorbing substances that come in contact with the skin
Inhaling substances into the body – very tiny blood vessels in the lungs are in constant contact with the air we breathe. As a result, airborne contaminants can be easily absorbed through this tissue.
Medications can be toxic?
You may have noted we referred to “medications” as an example of an external toxin. That may surprise you, but there have been reported examples of several “over the counter” (OTC) and prescription pharmaceuticals that may be toxic, particularly for sick and older people who have weakened gland and organ functions already.
Harm resulting from the side effects of over-the-counter and prescription pharmaceuticals has been growing at an alarming rate over the past decade. In the US, it has been estimated that 7% of hospital admissions are due to adverse drug reactions.
In fact, some estimates have shown that there may be as many as 100,000 deaths related to the adverse effect of medications in the U.S. per year. For more reading on this, see more.
Note – At times, toxicity problems may seem fairly remote – something affecting other people, but not you. So, we have periodically included “Reality Check” questions to help you reflect on your own condition.
How do we deal with toxicity naturally?
Reality Check! – Do you think that what we eat, drink, and breathe can adversely affect our bodies?
The body has several ways of dealing with toxicity. For example, fully functioning and healthy immune, lymphatic, and digestive systems, protect us against infections, keep the blood clean, and break down food and drink into macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) for fuel and raw materials for the cells, tissues, and structure.
In much the same way as we unwrap packaged food, discard the various bags, boxes, containers, and wrappers, separating them for recycling and trash, the body will break down food and drink, sorting and discarding the components.
Each of the body’s systems creates its own toxic trash and will endeavour to dispose of it by eliminating it through the bowels and the bladder, through the skin with perspiration, and into the air from the lungs.
The only issue is, the body can’t always take out its trash, and the waste builds up.
What happens if we don’t eliminate toxicity?
If the body can’t expel the toxins as it should, or there are too many toxins for it to deal with, they will accumulate. This accumulation is referred to as the “body burden.”
Understandably, you may ask: What is my own body burden of toxic substances? How many chemicals and heavy metals are present inside my body? More important, what adverse effects are they creating?
It is difficult to say with any certainty because each day we absorb more and more chemicals and heavy metals into our bodies. Nevertheless, there is a point where the body can no longer cope – the tipping point.
How do we know we’ve reached the tipping point?
Reality Check! – Do you have health issues now, that you didn’t have in the past, where the onset is unexplainable?
Symptoms are often quiet and mild at first, but as the person becomes progressively more toxic, their body’s reactions become more extreme and debilitating. This is their body’s way of getting their attention – it is a call for help.
What’s even more worrisome about toxicity?
To this point, we have looked at toxins from a “cause and effect” perspective. We have described how toxins appear, internally or externally. We have referred to individual heavy metals, excess acids, other toxic substances, and even medications. We have described how a fully-functioning, healthy body deals with toxins and if it is unable to, how toxic accumulation becomes a “body burden.”
This is sobering information in itself but what is particularly disturbing, especially when we take into account the pace at which we live and the complexity of our environments, is the fact that we cannot view any toxic substances in isolation. We are now being alerted to a phenomenon referred to by toxicologists as “synergism.”
What is “synergism”?
Toxin accumulation can no longer be thought of as simple. In reality, there is a compounding effect that occurs when a cocktail of substances is combined, even apparently non-toxic ones. This is the “synergistic” effect.
Synergism has been generally overlooked by science and medicine, until now. In the past, individual chemicals were only studied in isolation to see if they had a toxic effect. Now that there are more studies of multiple substances combined, we are coming to realize that they can become poisonous and harmful to the body.
Dr. Hal Huggins explains the synergistic effect of heavy metals:
“Combination of substances in toxicology can be greater than the sum of the parts: with lead and mercury, for instances, a toxicity rating of 1 for each mercury and lead equals not 2, but 60 – when combined.”
Dr. Mercola comments on the synergistic effect of chemicals:
“By acting on various pathways, organs and organ systems, cells, and tissues, the cumulative effects of non-carcinogenic chemicals can also act in concert to synergistically produce carcinogenic activity.”
Is synergism preventing effective treatment?
Reality Check! – Have you ever had a health problem identified, yet the treatment provided no relief?
When multiple toxins are present in the body, and the synergistic effect arises, the symptoms can often be misdiagnosed, leading to ineffective treatment.
“The problem is, if an underlying cause of your pain or illness is heavy metal toxicity and your treatment plan does not include a detoxification regimen, your overall recovery is very likely to be incomplete and far slower than it needs to be.” Dr. Gary Kaplan of McLean, Virginia.
Not only are people being treated for a disease they may not have, but the treatment program they’re following may be making matters worse.
Are medications adding to the problem?
You may have taken many pharmaceuticals in your life, some that worked for your condition, and some that didn’t. Whether they made you feel better or not, is it possible that the medications were actually adding to your “body burden”?
Unfortunately, many people ingesting pharmaceuticals do not fully understand the harm that conventional medications may do to their body. Adding more toxic chemicals into your body may only add further to your “body burden” and increase the likelihood of a synergistic effect, precipitating a domino effect on your health.
Can we stop the domino effect?
“If the problem is toxicity, then by definition the solution is detoxification.” Lyn Hanshew, M.D.
Much of this blog has talked about toxins and the buildup of toxicity, where the sources can be many and varied. But how about removing toxins? We haven’t said much about that.
It is unrealistic to try and identify all of the individual toxins that are creating the synergistic effect. What is best, is to immediately start dealing with the underlying toxicity issue through detoxification.
What is the solution?
The path to follow is to cleanse your body and reduce its burden of toxins, as well as avoid the accumulation of further toxins. This relief for the body allows it to get back to its normal methods of detoxification and recover a state of good health.
For more information about the synergistic effect of toxins, see “Why clearing toxicity matters so much.”
To learn more about toxicity and misdiagnosis, see our blog “Chronic pain – is more diagnosis needed?”