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Toxins are harmful substances that are either produced within the body during metabolic processes or ingested, inhaled, and contracted through the skin on a daily basis.
The human body has built-in mechanisms to eliminate these toxins. The liver and kidneys are the primary detoxifying organs that filter out toxins from the blood, which are then excreted or released through sweat.
If the body fails to flush out these toxins properly, they can build up over time and turn poisonous. These chemicals are known to inhibit certain enzymes that are required for essential body functions. Moreover, the toxic overload can damage your tissues, compromise organ functioning, and thereby give rise to a wide range of health problems.
Types of Toxins
Toxins are essentially chemicals that are produced biologically or artificially.
Natural toxins are normally present in plant and animal foods, whereas synthetic toxins are present in industrial gases, medicines, environmental pollutants, and chemical pesticides, which can enter the body directly or through contaminated food chains.
Metabolic toxins are the by-products of the various metabolic activities inside the body.
How Can Toxins Enter the Body?
Toxins either are produced inside the body or enter it through the following routes:
- Toxins may enter the bloodstream via numerous routes: inhalation, ingestion, injection, and exposure to the skin and eyes.
- Toxins may also build up and develop over time from increased production or decreased excretion within the body.
- Diseases such as chronic kidney disease and liver disease can cause toxin buildup, which can disrupt body systems.
- Immunosuppression and certain genetic enzymatic deficiencies may also increase susceptibility to toxin accumulation within the body or decreased toxin excretion.
- Dysregulated use of pharmacological agents may also result in toxicity; hence, these agents should regularly be administered under the guidance of a health professional.
- Illicit drug use is also a significant determinant of toxins entering the bloodstream.
Warning Signs of Toxin Overload
The buildup of toxins inside the body can give rise to the following problems:
Toxins and adverse effects of pharmacological agents may cause constipation. The notable toxins and agents that may cause constipation include lead, anticholinergics, narcotics, antidepressants, psychiatric medications, anticonvulsants, and excessive vitamin D. (1)
2. Weight gain
Many environmental toxins can affect metabolism and hormones, leading to weight gain.
When the body is exposed to excessive toxins and cannot excrete them efficiently, the toxins may be stored as fat to prevent them from circulating in the bloodstream. This may lead to various adverse health complications, such as diabetes. (2)
The toxins that can cause weight gain include:
- Flame retardants
- Bisphenol A (BPA)
- Heavy metals (lead, mercury, arsenic)
- Chemical cleaners and solvents
- Air pollution from factories
3. Constant fatigue
Environmental toxins may disrupt muscle metabolism, which may lead to muscle pain and constant fatigue. (2)
Most individuals experiencing constant fatigue due to chemical toxins may recall triggers such as recreational drug use, pesticide exposure, and remodeling or moving into a new home.
Fatigue may also be a result of toxin-induced insomnia and lack of restful sleep. (3) The toxins that can cause constant fatigue include:
- Methylene chloride
4. Skin problems
Toxins can be absorbed through the skin, causing irritation and skin damage.
Occupational exposure to chemicals is a significant determinant of skin conditions such as irritant contact dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis, skin cancers, skin infections, and skin injuries. (4)
The toxins that can cause skin problems include:
- Epoxy and acrylic resins
- Rubber additives
- Chemical intermediates
- Agrochemicals (pesticides and fertilizers)
- Commercial chemicals
- Acids, bases, oxidizing/reducing agents
- Weak cleaning agents
5. Headaches and migraines
Agents causing dilation of the vasculature such as nitroglycerin may also increase blood flow to the brain, resulting in headaches. Other causes include methylene chloride, pesticides, chemicals, hormone imbalances, and withdrawals.
6. Mood swings
Certain toxins may affect the nervous and endocrine systems, causing psychological issues, such as depression, anxiety, mood swings, and sleep disturbances.
Alcohol, illicit drug use, and pharmacological agents are also psychological and emotional determinants of mood. Carbon monoxide and pesticides can also cause neuronal cell death from decreased oxygen supply, impairing cognition, and leading to dementia. (7)
Long-term exposure to neurotoxins may lead to irreversible effects and degenerative brain disorders. The toxins that can cause mood swings include: (7)
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
- Formaldehyde outgasses
- Synthetic fragrances
- Styrene and xylene (paints and solvents)
- Toluene (automotive)
- Phthalates and benzenes (hygiene care products)
- Phthalates (air fresheners, candles, and plastic)
7. Bad breath
Halitosis, also known as bad breath, may indicate an underlying process rather than due to eating the wrong food or forgetting to brush.
A fruity breath may result from a buildup of ketones, mainly acetone, within the body, which occurs during diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), an unregulated control of blood sugars within the body of diabetics and is a medical emergency. (8)
Arsenic toxicity may also cause alterations in breath smell, giving a garlic-type odor to the breath. (9) Cyanide toxicity may also disrupt a person’s breath, giving a “bitter almond” odor, but this may be hard to detect. (5)
8. Muscle pains and spasms
Alcohol, electrolyte imbalances, and adverse pharmacological effects are etiologies that can result in myopathies. (10)
Toxic myopathies can manifest as muscle pain, muscle cramps, and severe muscle weakness with rhabdomyolysis (the death of muscle fibers, releasing toxic contents into circulation), causing renal failure and possible death. (10)
Insomnia may ensue from various etiologies: environmental, hereditary, psychological, and behavioral. (11)
Consuming caffeine and alcohol and smoking close to bedtime may result in sleep disturbances and insomnia. (11) These causes of insomnia are usually short term and reversible and may be improved with sleep hygiene. (11)
10. Overheating of the body and sweating
Certain substances and toxins such as caffeine, organophosphates, MDMA, and ecstasy may increase sympathomimetic effects within the body, increasing thermoregulation and resulting in overheating of the body and sweating. (12)
Cholinergic toxicity caused by organophosphates, which are found in pesticides and insecticides, can increase sweating alongside other systemic effects. (13)
Hormones Normally Affected by Toxic Overload
Plenty of toxins can, over time, impair hormonal function. It has been found that overconsumption of dairy products can disrupt hormone function due to the presence of growth hormones. (14)
A wide array of edible packaged goods contain xenoestrogens (components of BPA), leading to exposure and hormone imbalance. Toxic overload would present as weight gain, brain fog, fatigue, insomnia, muscle aches, pains, and mood swings. (14)
Useful Tips and Methods to Detoxify the Body
Here are some simple guidelines to minimize toxic buildup inside your body:
- Whole-food organic detoxification diets and weight loss have been implemented to eliminate excess toxins, potentially leading to better lifestyle habits, thus enhancing well-being.
- Switching to phthalate and paraben-free products such as moisturizers, soaps, body wash, shampoos, hair dyes, and makeup will minimize toxins exposure.
- Consuming organic produce can also limit exposure to toxins used in farming, such as pesticides.
- Studies show that vitamins C and E and garlic extract can help remove various toxins, primarily lead, from the body. (15) Garlic decreases the absorption of toxins in the bones and soft tissues. Vitamins C and E were found to reduce oxidative damage due to their antioxidant properties, allowing the body to recover from lead and toxin-induced injury.
- Installing water filters and air purifiers at home can help decrease toxin exposure.
- Physical activity and exercise are other excellent ways to detoxify as toxins are continually released through sweat.
- Supplemental support to detoxify organs such as the liver and kidney can also be utilized in individuals who may require it as those with altered immunity may lack the ability to clear toxins adequately.
- A strong and healthy nutritional and immune system status and proper intake of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids play a crucial role in detoxing foreign toxins and chemicals.
Can High Levels of Toxins Cause Diabetes?
As discussed earlier, certain toxins may be stored as fat, causing weight gain, which can further alter metabolism and insulin function. This can lead to failure to maintain proper blood sugar levels and consequently diabetes. (16)
Can High Levels of Toxins in the Air Also Lead to Skin Cancer?
In addition to UVA rays, heavy metals such as arsenic, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), VOCs, oxides, particulate matter (PM), ozone (O3), and cigarette smoke are environmental air pollutants that can also lead to skin cancer due to skin cell injury.
The skin has a natural protective barrier to prevent extensive oxidative damage. However, long-term exposure to these environmental toxins can put one at risk for developing skin cancer. Minor dermatologic skin effects can occur following exposure to toxins, leading to aging, inflammation, psoriasis, and eczema. (17)
Toxin overload within the body can manifest many signs and symptoms. Although the body is constantly clearing out toxins, poor lifestyle choices and a weakened immune system can compromise its eliminatory function, leading to ailments.