Seriously… How the heck have we survived for so long? Between War, Famine, Terrorism, Ebola, Mad Cow Disease, H1N1, The Non-Vaxxers… aaaggghhhh! How have we managed to survive? Because our body is amazing. Because it’s a collection of self-regulating cells that all work harmoniously together to ensure survival. Of course we have survived. What we are not doing however is THRIVING. For millions of years the human species survived just fine. And up until approximately 10,000 years ago, our bodies seemed to be doing just fine as well. In fact, fossil records do not show significant amounts of disease prior to that.

Yet the media sounds alarms night and day! Critical health issues such as the Zika virus and the recent mumps outbreak in Arkansas (which was the result of vaccinated children) are shared over social media platforms, news outlets and even coffee shop mom conversations. In fact, just this morning as I stood at my neighborhood cafe, I couldn’t help but chime in on one such conversation. What’s interesting is that while they chatted up their fears of dangerous viruses and health threats- they sat there, eating from their processed packaged “health” food products, sipping on their nutrient depleted sugar loaded fruit juices – oblivious to the harm they were causing themselves.

While the media sounds alarms that catch our attention, the environmental toxins that we are exposed to on a daily basis are a much bigger threat to our health (including children) than terrorist attacks, Zika, the Hilarly-Trump show and even illicit drug use combined.

Your Health is Not Determined By Genetics 

Over the last 15 years, I’ve written extensively about improving movement and spine biomechanics, the importance of nutrition, exercise, recovery and sleep and even cultivating a sense of purpose and happiness. These are all factors required for optimal health and healing. Doing all of these will not guarantee a life of health, but not doing them will certainly result in disease and dysfunction.

The primary drivers of chronic disease (Heart Disease, Cancer and Respiratory Infections) are largely due to environmental factors and not genetics. This is a fact.

In 2009, a paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported on a study of 1,034 complete pairs of twins from Denmark and Finland. The objective of the study was to examine the genetic variation of body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and percentage body fat in relation to physical activity and protein intake.

The results of this study suggests what we eat and what we do, how we move, eat and think; can help us determine our health. It’s not just a matter of genetics. In short, regardless of whether or not a condition “runs in your family”, your personal physical activity and diet do have a noticeable and significant effect on your weight and ability to heal.

Since 2009, several studies have come out in support of the understanding that lifestyle and diet are more detrimental to your health then the genes you inherited.

This is exactly why addressing toxicity is so important. All current understanding of our genes and how they turn on to express disease or health come down to the environment.

Your Body is Full of Toxins

In a recent article CNN Health pointed out to a family living in Chicago that some parts of their yard had lead levels up to 66 times above the lead limit and 55 times above the arsenic limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

In 2009, The New York Times, broke a story pointing out that we’re exposed to hundreds of toxins on a daily basis, most of which are completely invisible – and flat out ignored by most media outlets and conventional medical professionals.

Scientists have identified more than 200 industrial chemicals—from pesticides, flame retardants, jet fuel—as well as neurotoxins like lead in the blood or breast milk of Americans, indeed, in people all over our planet.

These have been linked to cancer, genital deformities, lower sperm count, obesity, and diminished I.Q. Medical organizations from the President’s Cancer Panel to the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics have demanded tougher regulations or warned people to avoid them, and the cancer panel has warned that “to a disturbing extent, babies are born ‘pre-polluted.’”

They have all been drowned out by chemical industry lobbyists.

Lobbyists are so effective that they have changed the laws to permit companies to introduce chemicals into our environment (which do get into our air, food and water) without any testing to show they’re safe.

So unless there’s a massive die off from acute poisoning- these chemicals are “Generally Regarded As Safe” and considered innocent until proven guilty.

Americans have over 200 toxic chemicals in their blood. The BPA, pesticides, flame retardants, and other chemicals that are commonly found in our food, food packaging, clothing, furniture, and household materials have been linked to numerous diseases in adults, and most disturbingly, lifelong developmental changes in children.

My point here is that every day you are exposing yourself, your children and family members to compounds that will cause more damage to your body than the mosquito-borne Zika or Mumps virus! Lead, mercury, PCBs, flame retardants and pesticides cause prenatal brain damage to tens of thousands of children in this country every year!

Four Toxins Causing Damage to Your Body 

While there are countless toxins that exist in our environment and within our bodies, there are 4 that most people need to be aware of: Glyphosate, Heavy Metals, Molds & Biotoxins and Gut Infections.

1.Glyphosate

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Common Sources of Glyphosate: It’s everywhere. Really.

In a unique public testing project carried out by a laboratory at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), glyphosate was discovered in 93 percent of urine samples during the early phase of the testing in 2015.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide (recently purchased by Bayer), is the most heavily-used agricultural chemical of all time. In fact, an analysis showed that farmers sprayed enough glyphosate in 2014 to apply 0.8 pounds of the chemical to every acre of cultivated cropland in the U.S., and nearly 0.5 a pound of glyphosate to all cropland worldwide. It should be obvious that when you use this much of a chemical, it doesn’t simply stay on the fields. Laboratory testing has revealed that glyphosate is now showing up virtually everywhere.  Urine samples of U.S. women had maximum glyphosate levels that were more than eight times higher than levels found in urine of Europeans. On top of that, we don’t know exactly how much glyphosate may be in your food because the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not test for it.

For now, the analysis suggests that eating non-organic, genetically engineered (GE) foods (the prime candidates for Roundup spraying) is associated with higher glyphosate levels in your body. Studies recently confirmed that Glyphosate levels are significantly higher in urine of humans who ate non-organic food, compared with those who ate mostly organic food. Chronically ill people showed significantly higher glyphosate residues in their urine than healthy people.

Although glyphosate is used in the production of a very wide range of crops including non-organic fruit and vegetables, the foods in which the most glyphosate residue is permitted include GMO crops (corn, cotton, soybean, potatos, commercial animal foods, cereal grain and oil seeds). Roundup Ready GMO crops currently include soy, corn, canola, alfalfa, cotton, and sorghum, with wheat ‘under development’. Perhaps the main reason that grains, seeds and pulses are at the top of the list is because these are the types of crops that receive a dose of Roundup immediately prior to harvest — a process know as desiccation. The justification for this is that the destruction of the plant around the seeds makes harvesting the crop easier for farmers, and water loss enables farmers to gain a better price for the crop.

The symptoms of glyphosate toxicity include: GI disturbance or Gastrointestinal corrosive effects, with mouth, throat and stomach pains being the most common. Kidney and Liver impairment are also frequent and usually reflect reduced organ perfusion or function. Respiratory distress, impaired consciousness, pulmonary edema, arrythmias and skin rashes are also common.

Dr. Stephanie Seneff, an MIT scientist, has determined that Glyphosate causes nutritional deficiencies leading to diseases such as autism, alzheimer’s, chron’s, parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, muscle wasting, irritable bowel disease and leaky gut syndrome.

2.Heavy Metals (Aluminum, Arsenic, Mercury, Lead)

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Common sources of Aluminum include: aluminum cookware, flatware and especially coffee pots; aluminum hydroxide anti-acid formulations; cosmetics including lipstick and nail polish, especially deodorants; and some herbs or herbal products. In the body aluminum follows a path of plasma to cell plasma to cell nucleus. Once in the nucleus, it adversely affects protein formation. Long lived cells such as neurons are susceptible to long-term accumulation. Aluminum is considered neurotoxic and is implicated as a stabilizing agent (via aluminum phosphate bonds) in neurofibrillary tangles in Alzheimer’s disease. Without intervention, Aluminum accumulates continually in the body with the highest concentration occurring at old age or death.

Common Symptoms of Aluminum: Fatigue, hypophosphatemia, increased prothrombin time, and porphyria are consistent with Aluminum excess.

Common Sources of Arsenic include: Arsenic and its compounds are mainly used in the production of pesticides, herbicides and insecticides as well as in semiconductor manufacturing to strengthen copper and lead alloys during batteries manufacturing process. Arsenic is still added to animal food (mainly in US grown industrial poultry and swine production) as a method of growth stimulation and disease prevention. In addition, an estimated 70% of the world’s Arsenic production is being utilized every year in the preservation of timber used for outdoor products such as residential decks, play structures, fence enclosures or picnic tables. If these products were built before 2004 and have a greenish tinge, there is a great chance that they were treated with Arsenic to prevent decay or insect damage. Research has shown that when raining, this Arsenic-based wood preservative leaches from wood and it can be rubbed off from the treated surfaces when in contact with the skin. Children who play on structures or other treated surfaces pick up Arsenic on their hands and later on ingest it when they put their hands in their mouth, rub their eyes or eat. According to Environmental Working Group (EWG) the amount of Arsenic in treated wood can be quite large. For example, a standard 12 foot long 2×6 contains as much as 1 oz. of pure Arsenic that could kill 250 adults. It has been estimated that children ingest 630 µg of Arsenic per playground visit and only 5 minutes hand contact with Arsenic treated wood can add up to 1,260 µg to the current Arsenic load. Even though the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently lowered the Arsenic standard in drinking water from 50 ppm (50 µg/liter) to 10 ppm (10 µg/liter), there is still a risk of cancer or other illnesses as the total levels of previous, current and future exposure compound when it comes to one’s body burden.

Common Symptoms of Arsenic: No levels of Arsenic are considered safe when it comes to exposure to children. Signs of Arsenic poisoning include loss of speech, seizures, rashes, brain damage, even cancer of the lung, skin or bladder.

Common Sources of Mercury: According to foremost expert in mercury toxicity, Dr. Chris Shade states the two primary sources of mercury exposure are:

  1. Inorganic mercury from dental amalgam and vaccines
  2. Organic mercury from fish consumption

“Vaccines would come underneath that, though they’re slowly removing the mercury from the vaccines. So, it depends if you get a lot of vaccines or not. Now if you’re going in for flu shots routinely, you might be exposed to a fair amount of mercury,” he says. “Research on spreading out doses versus punctuated doses show that punctuated or periodic high doses have more ability to penetrate the brain than distributed doses do. That’s one of the worst things about getting it from vaccines.”

Common Symptoms of Mercury: decreased senses of touch, hearing, vision and taste, metallic taste in mouth, fatigue or lack of physical endurance, and increased salivation.

Symptoms may progress with moderate or chronic exposure to include: anorexia, numbness and paresthesias, headaches, hypertension, irritability and excitability, and immune suppression, possibly immune dysregulation.

Advanced disease processes from Mercury toxicity include: tremors and incoordination, anemia, psychoses, manic behaviors, possibly autoimmune disorders, renal dysfunction or failure.

NOTE: Mercury testing is not as simple as getting a blood test. Most blood tests will only test the amount of mercury in your blood, and they are not differentiating between Inorganic and Organic Mercury. So it’s very important that you talk to a doctor who understands proper heavy metal testing!

Common Sources of Lead: old lead-pigment paints,batteries, industrial smelting and alloying, some types of solders, ayruvedic herbs, some toys and products from China, glazes on (foreign) ceramics,leaded (antiknock compound) fuels, bullets and fishing sinkers, artist paints with lead pigments, and leaded joints in some municipal water systems. Most Lead contamination occurs via oral ingestion of contaminated food or water or by children mouthing or eating Lead- containing substances.

Common Symptoms of Lead: This stuff is just bad news. Lead has physiological and pathological effects on body tissues that may be manifested from relatively low Lead levels up to acutely toxic levels. In children, developmental disorders and behavior problems may occur at relatively low levels to include loss of IQ, hearing loss, poor growth. In order of occurrence with increasing lead concentration, the following can occur: impaired vitamin D metabolism, anemia and various blood disorders, headache, decreased nerve conduction velocity, loss of appetite, constipation, colic, tremors, kidney function, nerve pain and brain swelling.

3. Molds & Biotoxins

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Biotoxins are chemicals produced by many organisms that cause a toxic response in humans if ingested, inhaled, or if contact is made with the skin. They can include heavy metals, Botox, xenobiotics, food preservatives, and toxins from stress, Staph, parasites, Lyme, fungal, and viral infections as well as some algae, recluse spiders, and certain types of molds.

Many biotoxins are neurotoxic. They impact our brain and nerves and travel throughout our bodies, causing harm.

Biotoxins are capable of disrupting vital functions of nerve cells, including DNA transcription, transport of nutrients, and mitochondrial respiration, that is, degeneration of energy.They are also capable of dissolving fatty tissue and moving through fatty tissue. They even cross membranes, since membranes are 50% lipid. They can actually disrupt the channels that allow our individual cells to function making them highly toxic. Mycotoxins are chemicals produced by organisms of the fungus kingdom; it is their survival protection. Hundred of mycotoxins exist. They cause a toxic response in humans, affecting the immune system, nervous system, liver, kidneys, blood, and blood clotting. Mold illness is not an allergy.

Mold biotoxin illness is all about INFLAMMATION.

Symptoms of the typical mold patient include fatigue, weakness, malaise, weight gain, bizarre pain, ice pick pain, chemical sensitivity, increased thirst, frequent urination, shock sensation, sweats, appetite swings, easy bleeding or bruising, swelling, rapid pulse, low temperatures, abnormal low or high blood pressure, fevers, chills, and increased tremors.

4. GI & Intestinal Parasites

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A variety of parasites can infect the intestinal tract. Parasitic infections have become more common with international travel over the last few years but an even greater concern is the fact that between 80-90% of Americans have some form of Leaky Gut. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, a leaky gut combined with parasites or bugs in our intestinal tract can cause a variety of symptoms, such as fatigue, constipation,diarrhea, vomiting, hearburn, chills, stomach pain or loss of appetite.

Parasites are generally acquired from consuming contaminated food or water, but people with imbalanced gut flora or leaky guts will have a weakened immune system that makes them more susceptible. This is largely due to the fact that 3/4 of the immune system is located in the digestive tract. And that entire immune system is protected from the external environment  by a thin, fragile lining that is only one cell-thick layer. If that lining is damaged and the barrier becomes penetrated, crazy things begin to happen. You become allergic to foods you normally would have been able to digest just fine, you get sick much more easily, your immune system becomes overactive, and and a result, your body becomes overrun by inflammation.

In short, when there’s inflammation and/or toxin build-up in the GI tract, the movement of toxins from the liver and the GI tract ceases, and everything gets shuttled over to the kidneys. Unless you can open up that liver-GI path, you end up overloading your kidney with toxins. Then, if you try to detox glyphosate, heavy metals such as mercury or lead, it all hits the kidneys and causes even more damage. So part of the solution is to “clear out” the GI path first.

The Process of Detoxification

Of course, before you begin any detoxification program, you need to identify the sources of toxicity and eliminate them. All of them. Next, you need to consider optimizing your body’s filters. To ensure your filters are working properly, begin by supporting your kidneys, liver, and GI tract, and use true binders to capture and eliminate metals and toxins in your GI tract. Classic herbs known to support healthy liver and kidney function include: dandelion, milk thistle, and bitters like gentian and myrrh. For added kidney support, cranberry (a diuretic), solidago (goldenrod), and corn silk can be used. Adding burdock will help clear your blood. Dandelion is a good all-around option as it supports blood, liver, and kidney. Be sure to drink lots of water to flush the toxins out. After that, you should consider addressing detox pathway biochemistry such as increasing glutathione and NrF2.

As a parent and doctor, I’m deeply concerned about the effect of toxins on my children’s health. It’s important to create laws that protect our kids, not corporations. It’s equally important to fund companies that have consumers, not profits as their best interest. If you’re interested in detoxification and want to learn more, stay tuned! 

In the meantime, what can we do as parents to protect our kids (and ourselves) from exposure to these chemicals? Here are the three most important places to start:

  • Eat real, organic food. This means avoiding chemical additives in processed and refined foods, pesticides in conventional produce, and antibiotic residue in conventionally raised animal products.
  • Use natural personal care products. What we put on our skin may be even more important than what we put in our mouth when it comes to toxins.
  • Reduce exposure to toxins in your home. The Environmental Working Group has a great “Healthy Home” checklist, which includes suggestions like storing food in glass or stainless steel instead of plastic, using natural laundry detergent, and avoiding vinyl shower curtains.