Read an Excerpt
From Chapter 6 - The Toxin Pathway
"[O]ur health is threatened not only by individual chemicals deadly or toxic-but even more by the overall chemical load that the human organism now has to sustain."
Joseph D. Beasley, M.D., Ph.D., The Kellogg Report
Our bodies are under attack every day-from without and from within. We face more toxic chemicals and man-made poisons in our lives than ever before. We are weakened by chronic stress, lack of exercise, allergies and eating the wrong foods in the wrong ways. In these ways, we often sabotage our own defense systems and invite the toxic enemy inside. If the enemy overpowers us, we fall-often without recognizing our attackers.
Toxicity-from toxins taken into our bodies from the outside or those created inside our bodies-is one of two reasons that cells malfunction; remember, toxicity is one of the two causes of disease. To prevent or to reverse disease, we must limit our exposure to toxins and we must give our bodies what they need to detoxify themselves. Fortunately, most of this process is within our control. Unfortunately, the invaders are everywhere-especially in our own homes-and often they are hard to find.
Clean Up an Unrecognized Toxic Site: Your Pantry
The hard part is to obtain accurate information about what is good for you and what is not. A woman who had studied extensively in the fields of health and nutrition reminded me of this fact in a startling way. Even with her background, she had little understanding of how to select a nontoxic diet.
I met Cynthia at one of my all-day seminars. By the end of the day she was motivated to make major changes in her life and asked if she could purchase a day of my time so that I could teach her how to shop for healthful foods. Despite all of her previous study, she felt overwhelmed with information and confused about how to make healthy choices.
My day with Cynthia and her husband, Tom, serves as a general guide for you to start on a path toward a life-sustaining, nontoxic diet. The first thing I did with the couple was to clean out all toxic foods from their refrigerator and pantry. We ended up with several boxes filled with foods to be discarded; a lot of it was toxin-loaded breakfast cereal that her children would have eaten.
Then we headed to the local health food store. We went down each aisle and examined foods, read labels and discussed how to select foods that are either nontoxic or at least less toxic than supermarket alternatives. For example, a healthy substitute for the boxed cereals was found in the grain section of the health food store. We purchased a variety of organic, whole grains that could be cooked like rice and fed to the children. (By the way, the kids loved it.)
As Cynthia, Tom and I walked through the store, I began to explain principles that would help them in the future. Almost any type of food that has been packaged-in a box, jar, can or bottle-has been processed and is likely to contain toxic chemicals. These toxic chemicals either can be deliberately added to the foods (food additives), or they can result from food production practices (chemical residues). Whatever the source of these chemicals, processed foods (such as breakfast cereal, bread, canned foods, frozen foods, oils and vegetable shortenings, soft drinks, ice cream, cookies, cake and candy) are loaded with them. In addition to their lack of nutrition, the high toxic content in processed foods makes them a poor choice.
A variety of food additives are used to enhance flavor, color and texture; to help foods process better; and to extend their shelf life. In all, more than three thousand FDA-approved additives are in use today, and the average American ingests more than ten pounds of them per year. Imagining someone eating ten pounds of toxic, synthetic chemicals a year is difficult, but we do it-a little at a time, without realizing how it adds up. Although food additives must be approved for safety, frequently they are initially determined to be safe, only to be removed later from the market due to unanticipated harmful effects. Do not assume that food additives are safe just because the FDA has approved them.
Furthermore, researchers usually test one additive at a time, even though we eat them in combination. Almost no research goes into studying the safety of food additive combinations. Our modern exposure to many different combinations of food additives is a gigantic and dangerous chemistry experiment. The combined toxic effects of food additives were reported in a study conducted by B. H. Ershoff (published in a 1976 Journal of Food Science) that examined three different FDA-approved food additives: an artificial color, an artificial sweetener and an emulsifier (a substance that keeps oil and water from separating). When fed one at a time, these food additives caused no readily observable side effects in experimental animals. But, when two of the additives were consumed at the same time, the animals became sick. When all three were combined, the test animals died in less than two weeks! Bearing this in mind, pick up an average box of breakfast cereal (or just about any other highly processed food) and count how many additives are in the product. Obviously, you are eating these additives in combination. After examining the labels on boxes of breakfast cereal in Cynthia and Tom's pantry, we discarded all of them because the labels showed that they contained artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and hydrogenated oils. Read the labels on the foods that you buy. When a food contains artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or other additives, do not buy it.
What would happen if we eliminated certain food additives from our diet? A study reported in a 1986 issue of the International Journal of Biosocial Research addressed this question. Between 1979 and 1983, the New York City public school system gradually removed foods containing artificial colors and flavors from the school lunches served to more than one million children. During this same period, without any other changes being introduced, the schoolchildren's academic performance skyrocketed. New York City schools experienced the largest four-year gain in academic performance ever measured in any city school district in U.S. history. How was such improvement possible? Food additives are toxic; they poison cells. When you stop poisoning cells, health improves. As the health of brain cells improves, so does the ability to think, learn and remember. A contributing factor to today's poor academic performance is the burden of toxic exposure on the developing minds of our young people. Unfortunately, once the experiment was over, because of political pressure from conventional food suppliers, the New York City schools reverted to "normal" foods, and these extraordinary gains were lost.
Another risk in processed foods you do not find on the label: toxic chemical residues. The manufacturer does not deliberately add these chemicals, but they are present in almost all ordinary commercial foods. If manufacturers do not add it, they do not have to list it. (Recall David's exposure to mercury in tuna fish; obviously, mercury is not listed on the label but it is in there, because it was in the fish.) Chemical residues come from many different sources, including industrial chemical and pesticide residues, herbicides, fungicides, artificial ripening agents, hormones and other veterinary drugs and packaging materials.
On our "tour" of hidden toxic residues, Cynthia, Tom and I took a walk down the frozen foods aisle. According to the 1982-1986 FDA Total Diet Study, frozen french fries contained 70 different pesticide residues. Frozen pizzas had 67 industrial and pesticide residues. Frozen chocolate cake contained 61 toxic residues and milk chocolate had 93. Peanut butter had a whopping 183, including highly carcinogenic aflatoxin, which is produced by a mold that grows on peanuts.
Lurking in all the aisles was another overlooked danger: packaging materials. The toxins in packaging materials (such as plastic wrap, plastic bottles, milk containers, juice boxes, Styrofoam and epoxy can linings) can leach toxins into our foods before we eat them. Foods coming into contact with packaging materials that contain water or oil-soluble toxic chemicals can absorb these chemicals, and then the consumer ingests them. Portions of the polymers, plasticizers, stabilizers, fillers and even colorants in plastic wrap can dissolve into the food. Avoid foods packaged in plastic. Choose foods packaged in more appropriate materials, such as paper and glass. It's ironic that people sometimes spend extra money to buy organic foods, yet the foods may be wrapped in toxic packaging. Why purchase organic meat in a Styrofoam tray topped with plastic shrink-wrap, or organic canned goods in an epoxy-lined can? Unfortunately, these conveniences come at a price, and that price is the bioaccumulation of toxic chemicals in your body and subsequent disease.
Health and Beauty Products That Fail
Your skin provides enormous protection from microorganisms, such as germs, but skin also is designed to be permeable, allowing certain molecules in and out, which is good news when the skin allows antioxidants in to protect against the sun and allows toxins out through the sweat and oil glands. However, easy access also allows environmental toxins to penetrate.
Personal care products are the largest source of toxic absorption through the skin and mucus membranes. One study found that 13 percent of the commonly used cosmetic preservative BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) is absorbed by your skin. Chemicals found in everyday personal products such as perfume, cologne, shaving cream, skin lotions, aftershave, toothpaste, soaps, shampoos, deodorants, nail polish, all types of household cleansers and so forth, can be absorbed quickly and produce effects that are toxic or even carcinogenic, especially when these toxic substances are combined.
When I was suffering from severe chemical sensitivities, I found, much to my surprise, that the brands of toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant and skin lotion that I was using were all quite toxic. Products such as lotions, conditioners and makeup, especially when left on the skin for long periods of time, expose you to significant amounts of toxins, which can bioaccumulate, poison your cells and cause disease. Most common products sold to preserve and protect the skin in fact actually contain chemicals capable of damaging the skin.
Virtually all commonly available cosmetic and personal care products contain ingredients (such as preservatives and colors) that are known to present problems. Many preservatives contain or release formaldehyde, a known toxin and carcinogen. Various parabens (a specific class of preservatives) have been shown to damage deep layers of the skin worse than severe sunburn, which causes the skin to age prematurely and even can cause cancer. Artificial colors have been shown to be carcinogenic, not only when ingested but also when applied to the skin. Yet people voluntarily put these personal care products on their skin daily, unaware that these products contain toxic and potentially carcinogenic ingredients. By using products such as sunscreen and lotion, people are putting cancer-causing chemicals on their skin, then wondering why they developed skin cancer or why their skin is aging so fast.
Choosing safe personal care and cosmetic products means reading labels carefully and learning about the health consequences of ingredients. Effective products are on the market that are high in quality and safety. The overwhelming majority, however, contain a variety of toxins that should be avoided. Some of the common toxins to look for and avoid include artificial fragrances, colors and flavors, formaldehyde, phenol, trichlorethylene, BHT/BHA, EDTA, cresol, detergents, glycols, parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate and nitrates/nitrosamines.
Perfumes and other fragrances also cause problems. Traditionally, these products were made from flowers and herbs. But since World War II, most fragrances and perfumes have been made from synthetic petrochemicals, many of which are officially designated as hazardous materials. In fact, about 95 percent are synthetic, and more than 80 percent of the ingredients used in fragrances have never been tested for human safety. When they have been tested, many are found to be neurotoxic and even carcinogenic. (Meanwhile, because of "trade secrets," manufacturers are not required to list any of these toxic ingredients on their product labels.) Worse, these fragrances are not just in perfumes, but in everything from kitty litter to shampoos, soaps, lotions, shaving creams, household cleaners, laundry detergents and numerous other products. Fragrances now pollute our homes, schools, workplaces, stores, churches and other public places. People who regularly use synthetic perfumes are putting a heavy toxic burden on their bodies. The solution is to use essential oils made from natural ingredients such as flowers and herbs, if tolerable, and to avoid household and personal products made with synthetic fragrances.
I have spent years researching the toxic effects of chemicals used to make products that people consume on a daily basis. I discovered that regular toothpaste, for example, contains numerous toxins, such as fluoride, artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and synthetic detergents, all of which can bioaccumulate in the body and lead to toxic overload. Toothpaste is especially important because the mucous membranes in your mouth are very permeable, so if you expose yourself to toxic toothpaste several times a day, you subject yourself to a lot of toxins. I eventually selected a toothpaste for my personal use that was both safe and effective (see appendix C), but it took eighteen months of research to find it.
Toxic chemicals, used for detergent and foam-generating properties, are present in most toothpastes, as well as in many other personal care and household products. When these toxins-sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium cetyl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate-are placed on the surface of the body, they can cause eye irritations, skin rashes, hair loss, scalp flaking similar to dandruff and allergic reactions. These chemicals are known to be irritating to the skin and are used to irritate the skin in laboratory experiments! Think about what happens when your highly sensitive gum tissue comes into contact with a known irritant, like sodium lauryl sulfate, in your toothpaste. Could this factor be contributing to our epidemic of gum disease?
These man-made detergents pass through the skin and mucous membranes and bioaccumulate in fatty tissue-eye tissue, for example. Is there a possible connection between the sodium lauryl sulfate found in toothpaste and our epidemic of macular degeneration-a disease in which cells in the central part of the retina degenerate, and the leading cause of blindness in people over age fifty-five?
The focus of manufacturers is always on marketability, so they often try to disguise these synthetic and toxic ingredients by making them seem "natural." Labels will often state something like, "sodium lauryl sulfate-derived from coconut." Regardless of derivation they are toxic and can accumulate easily in your tissues to levels that cause cellular malfunction and disease.
People choose antibacterial soaps thinking they will protect them from germs, but the germicide in the soap goes right through the skin and bioaccumulates in tissue. In fact, these toxic chemicals, designed to kill cells, are now showing up in alarming amounts in human breast milk, and infants are much more susceptible to toxins. As always, the solution is to choose safe, natural products, usually available at health food and specialty stores. There are high-quality, certified organic, hair and skin care products available and I recommend you use them. (See appendix C for my personal choices.)
Toxic Cleaning Products
The home can be a toxic place already-do not make it more so with toxic cleaning products, solvents and workplace chemicals. Household cleaning products rank among the most toxic everyday substances to which people are exposed. Unfortunately, the manufacturer of household products is seldom the best source of accurate information about safety. As a practical matter, do not let any chemical come in contact with your skin unless you know it is safe. Most commercial brands are not safe, although safe household products are available at health food and specialty stores. (See appendix C for my choices.)
Some especially toxic household cleaners include ammonia, chlorine bleach, aerosol propellants, detergents, petroleum distillates and toluene. Many of these substances not only harm the skin; they also give off toxic fumes that affect the person using the product and everyone else in the household. If you cannot avoid toxic household products, at least use them sparingly and in well-ventilated areas.
Symptoms from "the flu" to headaches have been associated with products we use to clean our furniture, bathrooms and clothes, as well as air fresheners to keep our bathrooms smelling pleasant. Debra Lynn Dadd, in Nontoxic and Natural, wrote about a fifteen-year study of housewives in Oregon. Women who stayed home all day had a 54 percent higher death rate from cancer than women who worked away from home. The study concluded that the higher rate likely was a consequence of exposure to the chemicals in household products. Dadd's book, along with many others, contains formulas for making your own environmentally safe household products.
¬2002. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Never Be Sick Again by Raymond Francis. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.