Part II | Living In a Chemical Soup World
Dr. Sarah LoBisco, ND
How to Deal With the Toxic World
In my previous article, I discussed some pretty scary statistics regarding the toxicity of our world and how our health is negatively impacted by various chemicals. Furthermore, I reported on what appears to be a critical window of development prenatally in which children are more at risk to these detrimental effects, making this information imperative for mothers-to-be. (1-4)
In 2010, the Endocrine Society issued a statement on the health threat of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), with a hope to promote awareness on what research indicated on the toxic exposure of chemicals. This was also in order to invoke the precautionary principle and to seek to advocate changes in public policy. Their review stated:
There is growing interest in the possible health threat posed by endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which are substances in our environment, food, and consumer products that interfere with hormone biosynthesis, metabolism, or action resulting in a deviation from normal homeostatic control or reproduction. In this first Scientific Statement of The Endocrine Society, we present the evidence that endocrine disruptors have effects on male and female reproduction, breast development and cancer, prostate cancer, neuroendocrinology, thyroid, metabolism and obesity, and cardiovascular endocrinology. Results from animal models, human clinical observations, and epidemiological studies converge to implicate EDCs as a significant concern to public health. (4)
Recent studies have supported the health risks associated with specific chemical exposures including thyroid disruptions, (5) endocrine disorders,(6) obesity, (6-7) cancer, (8-9) Parkinson’s, (10) depression, (11) and autism. (12)
Thankfully, we don’t have to be paralyzed with hopelessness at these dire stats. In fact, this information can be used to empower ourselves to make wiser choices to either avoid the exposures we can control or to support our bodies in dealing with them when it’s inevitable.
Factors That Affect How We Deal with Toxic Exposure
Looking at the Individual
In order to effectively mitigate the deleterious effects of toxins, we need to consider how various factors affect how our body copes with them. These include:
- Previous and current history and nature of exposures.
- Total amount of toxic and chemical exposures accumulated over time.
- Nutrient availability to clear the toxins and deficiencies. Nutritionals status can be negatively impacted by drugs, processed foods, and other stressors on the body.
- Current health status, including liver health, immune issues, and digestive capacity.
- One’s genetic ability to clear the toxins via enzymatic pathways in the body. Various enzymes’ functions can be impacted by a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), which is a sequence variation in a nucleotide that makes up the DNA code.
- One our more SNPs can be present in an individual that impacts environmental clearance of chemicals and these include the following: MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase), MS (methionine synthase), COMT (catechol-O-methyltransferase), Methyl-transferases, STM1, GSTP1 (glutathione transferases), Apo E 4 (apolipoprotein E 4), and impaired Metallothionein.
- These SNPs can be evaluated by specialized testing.
Reviewing these factors with a knowledgeable naturopathic or functional medicine practitioner will assist with individualized supplement protocols to help support the body with current or past exposure, genetic predispositions to health risks, and various enzyme vulnerabilities from SNPs.
Generalized Support in a Toxic World
Furthermore, there are some general measures everyone can do to protect themselves in a toxic world. These include the following:
- Eat an organic, clean, and nutrient dense diet.
Eating more organic foods as much as possible will reduce your pesticide and herbicide exposure. Although many studies conclude that organic produce may be more nutritious, (13) some experts disagree; (14) however, many confirm that eating foods with less pesticide exposure is a good health measure. In fact, a 2010 study in Pediatricsshowed a positive association between children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and urinary metabolites of organophosphate pesticides.(15)
A good resource for reducing pesticide exposure is the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. (16) It provides a list of conventional produce with the highest and lowest amount of pesticide content. Furthermore, another measure to reduce chemicals on your fruits and vegetables is to wash them and soak them in vinegar or lemon oil prior to consuming.
- Balance stress with mind-body techniques and proper diet to support and protect our immune system from chronic toxic exposure. (17) We can also incorporate nurturing healthy herbals, nutrients for adrenal gland and hormonal balance, and probiotics.
- Diffuse and use essential oils to assist with neutralizing environmental exposure, decreasing inflammation, supporting the immune system, and modulating detoxifying enzymatic pathways. (18-19)
- Use personal care products that are organic.
Your skin is the largest organ of absorption and can very easily carry toxic chemicals into your bloodstream and system. The environmental working group has a database online available at www.ewg.org/skindeep that provides a list of safe vs. toxic products.
It may take some effort to change over to more organic and safer foods and products, but decreasing your exposure is imperative to stay healthy in today’s world.
SARAH LOBISCO, ND, is a graduate of the University of Bridgeport’s College of Naturopathic Medicine (UBCNM). She is licensed in Vermont as a naturopathic doctor and holds a Bachelor of Psychology from State University of New York at Geneseo. Dr. LoBisco speaks professionally on integrative medical topics, has several journal publications, and is a candidate for postdoctoral certification in functional medicine. She currently has a private integrative medicine consulting practice located in Ballston Spa, New York, where she incorporates her training in holistic medical practices with conventional medicine.
Note: Her book BreakFree Medicine is due to be released by early next year.
- The JAMA Network Journals. Prenatal BPA exposure associated with diminished lung function in children [Webpage]. Science Daily site. October 6, 2014. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141006174314.htm. Accessed October 6, 2014.
- Spanier, AJ, Kahn, RS, Kunselman, AR, et al. Bisphenol A Exposure and the Development of Wheeze and Lung Function in Children Through Age 5 Years. JAMA Pediatrics. 2014. DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2014.1397
- Harrison E, Partelow J, Grason H. EnvironmentalToxicants and Maternal and Child Health: An Emerging Public Health Challenge. Women’s and Children’s Health Policy Center. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School Public Health. Baltimore, MD. 2009. http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/womens-and-childrens-health-policy-center/publications/Environ_Tox_MCH.pdf
- Diamanti-Kandarakis, E, Bourguignon, J-P, Giudice, LC, et al. Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: An Endocrine Society Scientific Statement. Endocr Rev. 2009; 30(4): 293–342. doi: 10.1210/er.2009-0002.
- Wen L, Lin, L-Y, Su, T-C, et al. Association Between Serum Perfluorinated Chemicals and Thyroid Function in U.S. Adults: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2007–2010. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.2013. http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/jc.2013-1282.
- De Coster, S & van Larebeke, N. Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: Associated Disorders and Mechanisms of Action. Journal of Environmental and Public Health. 2012; 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/713696
- Skinner MK, Manikkam, M, Tracey, R, et al. Ancestral dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) exposure promotes epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of obesity. BMC Medicine. 2013; 11:228. doi:10.1186/1741-7015-11-228
- Sheridan, C. Study lists dangerous chemicals linked to breast cancer. Medical Xpress site. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-05-dangerous-chemicals-linked-breast-cancer.html. Accessed May 12, 2014.
- Schinasi L & Leon, ME. Non-hodgkin lymphoma and occupational exposure to agricultural pesticide chemical groups and active ingredients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014;11(4):4449-527. doi: 10.3390/ijerph110404449.
- Whitman, H. Low-level pesticide exposure linked to Parkinson’s disease. Medical News Today site. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/272097.php. Accessed February 4, 2014.
- Beseler, CL, Stallones, L, Hoppin, J, et al. Depression and Pesticide Exposures among Private Pesticide Applicators Enrolled in the Agricultural Health Study. Environ Health Perspect.2008; 116(12): 1713–1719. doi: 10.1289/ehp.11091
- Rzhetsky, A, Bagley, S, Wang, K, et al. Environmental and State-Level Regulatory Factors Affect the Incidence of Autism and Intellectual Disability. PLOS Computational Biology. 2014.DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003518
- Reganold JP, Andrews PK, Reeve JR, Carpenter-Boggs L, et al. Fruit and Soil Quality of Organic and Conventional Strawberry Agroecosystems. PLoS ONE.2010; 5(9): e12346. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012346.
- Pittaman, G. Organic food no more nutritious than non-organic: study [Webpage]. Reuters site. September 4, 2012. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/04/us-organic-idUSBRE88303620120904. Access Verified October 7, 2014.
- Bouchard, M, Bellinger, DC, WRighte, RO, Weisskopf, MG. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate Pesticides. Pediatrics. 2010. doi: 10.1542/peds.2009-3058.
- Environmental Working Group. EWG’s 2014 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce: Executive Summary [Webpage]. Environmental Working Group site. 2014. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php. Accessed October 9, 2014.
- Segerstrom, SC & Miller, GE. Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry. Psychol Bull. 2004; 130(4): 601–630. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.130.4.601
- Plant phenylpropanoids as emerging anti-inflammatory agents. Mini Rev Med Chem. 2011 Sep;11(10):823-35.
- D-Limonene: a review of its safety and clinical applications. Altern Med Rev. 2007; (3):259-64. PMID: 18072821.