Understanding your Health Picture
Consider the following 3 points when attempting to understand the health and the development of disease in one person and not another, especially when on the surface it would appear that we are all living the same lives.
- Studies recommend safe levels of chemicals and toxins in our environment, from chemicals present in pharmaceutical medicines to levels of pesticides in gardening products. However, the cumulative effect of toxin exposure remains unknown.
- If an individual’s metabolic processes are compromised, such as poor gut health and microbiota imbalance, or liver or kidney dysfunction, then the physiologic response and resulting pathology to toxin exposure is unknown.
- Our individual health picture also includes our unique DNA and gene expression. This is in the field of genomics and researchers have discovered single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) which are variations in the building blocks of our DNA. Some SNPs have been shown to affect an individual’s response to certain drugs, susceptibility to environmental factors such as toxins, and the risk of developing diseases.1
Toxins of Our Environment
The last century has seen our world inundated with the discovery, development, and introduction of thousands of chemicals as we strive for convenience and a 'better' world.
The Air we Breathe - breathing is essential to life and it is not only outdoor air pollution but also our indoor environment that is becoming increasing toxic. Leaching of chemicals from floor coverings, building materials, furniture and foam, printers and cleaning products all affect air quality.
Pesticides - these are insecticides, herbicides and fungicides and have been found to affect the nervous system, mental and emotional functioning, and the reproductive system.2
POPs - persistent organic pollutants are chemicals such as polychlorinated bimphenys (PCBs), polybrominated biphenyl esters (fireretardants), plastic residues and dioxins which can bioaccumulate in animals and humans. The accumulation of these compounds are known to be endocrine hormone disruptors.
Plastics - the most researched are bisphenol A (BPA) and phthlates, with associations between BPA exposure and adverse perinatal, childhood, and adult health outcomes, including reproductive and developmental effects and metabolic disease. It is important to consider that although these compounds are degraded quickly, it is that we are constantly exposed that the effect of plastic exposure become similar to POPs with adverse affects implicated.3
Heavy Metals - lead, mercury, arsenic and cadium are the most common heavy metals that we are exposed to, and although acute heavy metal poisoning is rare, it is chronic low-grade metal toxicity that may be one of the most pervasive causes contributing to chronic disease.
A Closer look at the Detoxification Process
An enormous amount of energy at the metabolic level is used to detoxify toxins to prevent oxidative damage to intracellular proteins, DNA, and lipid membranes. The metabolic activity requires energy, cofactors, and enzymes.
There are 3 phases of detoxification:
1. the rendering of the toxin to be more available for conjugation with substrates
2. the conjugation of the toxin with a substrate
3. the elimination or excretion of the toxin
Natural antioxidant substances exist to prevent cellular damage occuring during these processes.
Each person has a unique biochemistry to carry out detoxification processes and is dependent on individual genetic makeup, the load of the environment or endogenous toxins, and the availability of the substrates to accomplish the task.4
There are many likely processes and factors that ultimately result in an altered cellular physiology and the development of malignancies. Detoxification and biotransformation or metabolism play critical roles as a link to make a person more or less susceptible to the environmental mediators of cancer development. Specific whole foods or nutritional supplements prescribed may optimise the function of these processes. Diet can have either positive or negative effect in this cascade of nutrigenomic-influenced events.
Check out the N&B blog post on Why You Should Do a Cleanse
Recommended Further Reading
Slow Death by the Rubber Duck by Rick Smith & Bruce Lourie
Have a look at this website, Healthy Home Expert providing further information on plastics and their far reaching effects.
1. Obtained from National Centre of Biotechnology Information on 16 Nov 2015. http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/genomicresearch/snp
2. Cohen, M. (2007) Environmental toxins and health - the impact of pesticides. Australian Family Physician 36(12):1002-4.
3. Rochester, J.R. (2013) Bisphenol A and Human Health: a review of literature. Reproductive Toxicology. 42:132-155.
4. Croom, E. (2012) Metabolism of xenobiotics of human environments. Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science. 112:31-88.