Understanding the concept of toxic body burden and its unique effect on our bodies and their systems can help us all to heal more efficiently—especially those of us impacted by mold-related illness. I think that examining this topic forces us to look at the whole picture, rather than just one thing, like a mold exposure, to determine what is holding us back from being healthy.
Since this topic is so broad and cannot possibly be covered in one post, I am going to try to explain toxic burden and how all of these things toxins, antigens, pathogens are gaining entrance to your body. In the future, I will address testing for toxins, detox, and specific toxins, like heavy metals.
So first, what’s happening in our lives today to make our bodies so toxic?
Now, more than ever, we are eating commercially farmed, mass produced, genetically engineered or processed foods. Our sugar consumption as a population is higher than it has ever been. Our buildings and homes are designed with energy efficiency in mind. Our homes are built with lower-cost, manmade building materials that contain harmful chemicals and lock air and moisture in, creating the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, viruses and fungi. We are also more sedentary and spend less time outdoors than ever before. It is sort of the perfect storm for our bodies to become sick.
As a result, chronic illness and inflammatory disease is on the rise, while acute illness is less pervasive. More and more children are being born sick or immunocompromised than ever before. And, for the first time in history, life spans are decreasing, meaning our children are not expected to live as long as us. Things are no longer black and white. I mean, the term “mold illness,” wasn’t even part of the vernacular 20 years ago, unless you were talking about farmer’s lung.
When toxins enter our bodies, whether in-vitro, orally, through the nose or through the skin, they can cause inflammation and immune system dysregulation which makes us more susceptible to autoimmune disorders, other chronic diseases and overall sickness such as colds, flus and allergies.
Then, viruses, bacteria, yeasts, parasites, and mold aggravate any previously existing body burden. Research is actually revealing that some microorganisms interact directly with chemicals to boost infection. If you are like me, and have had a battle with something like mold illness, you know that this is true, because you probably first went to the doctor for a sinus infection, or a GI issue, or something else that started your journey to finding out that mold was in your environment and the catalyst to your declining health.
I have learned to liken our bodies to Dr. Jack Thrasher’s presentation of what happens to the ecosystem in an indoor environment with“water-damaged building syndrome.” As Dr. Thrasher explains it, all buildings at their core are constructed with similar materials and tools. Each building, though, because of the builder, design, and materials used has unique strengths and weaknesses. Then, you take into consideration where that building is—its environment, surrounding outdoor climate, and the things it is exposed to, for example, are toxic products made there or used to clean it? Then, maybe something happens to that building, like a water leak or high humidity, that while small at first, if not fixed, incites larger and larger problems as it grows. As a result, the building begins to grow mold. That mold fosters bacteria, microorganisms, and viruses. The molds and bacteria are emitting VOCS in a closed environment where people with their own bacteria and viruses are presiding. So you see, when a building is “sick,” just like when your body gets sick, pinpointing one cause is short sighted. The sickness is actually caused by the sum of what is going on inside. Thus, the more I learn, the more I believe that most people who get sick because of mold exposure, already had a “leak,” or were predisposed to the mold making them sick either because of genetics, their toxic load already being too great, or another infection or issue lowering their immunity.
I definitely buy into the idea that every person walking around has a toxic burden. In fact, a good example of this that involves heavy metal poisoning concerns a real 2 month old baby with high mercury levels in her blood. She was just born, so how was her mercury already high? Well, her mother ate sea bass a few times a week throughout pregnancy. This was before there were established food guidelines for mercury avoidance during pregnancy. Sea bass is notoriously high in mercury and that mercury was passing to the baby in the womb. Scary, but also totally preventable, if the mother is educated about diet and takes the proper precautions when pregnant.
All of the toxins we encounter in our lives, whether they be natural toxins, like mold, lead or mercury, or manmade toxins, like BPAs, phthalates, parabens, formaldehyde, enter our bodies and are usually pretty quickly eliminated by our body’s filtering systems—kidneys, liver, sweating, going to the bathroom. But, sometimes, when the toxic load has built up, our detox pathways become blocked or backed-up, or we get a large toxic hit, those toxins cannot be eliminated fast enough.
This is when toxins begin being stored in the body in fat and tissue. This is when you start feeling off, or getting sick. This is when health problems compound and symptoms become difficult to distinguish. This is the point at which many people seek medical advice or help. Unfortunately, this is also the point where Western medicine fails many people, because, for the most part, it does not consider or look to toxic burden as a cause of any particular sickness and disease. Thus, many patients with chronic illnesses have to seek out naturopathic doctors or environmental illness practitioners for help.
To what extent do I believe toxins influence the course of disease, especially mold-related illness?
In my opinion, toxic load is one of the most important influences on whether or not and just how sick a person gets from mold exposure. Of course, for mold, the allergic response is different and not as catastrophic as something like a peanut allergy. But, I would argue that if a person lived in a moldy home for 10 years and got incredibly sick, then got out and was able to recover their health, that subsequent, even short encounters with mold could send them to the hospital, if their immune system wasn’t fully recovered and rehabilitated. I have been there. It has happened to me. This is precisely why I believe that mold maintenance to minimize re-exposure, a clean diet, and nutritional/homeopathic supplementation to maximize natural detox pathways are important for prolonged health. I have actually experienced with my own health the benefits of addressing my “toxic burden” as a piece of healing my body from mold. I have also seen many mold patients not be able to fully regain their health until they address this piece of their own recovery.
Toxic burden is determined by two factors: the levels of toxic chemicals and microorganisms that we’re exposed to (e.g., BPA, phthalates, pesticides), heavy metals (e.g., mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium), and biotoxins (toxins produced by living organisms like mold, bacteria, dinoflagellates, and blue-green algae), and the function of our detoxification systems. If our exposure to toxins is high and our detoxification system is compromised—due to genetic predisposition, environmental factors (like a mold exposure), or both—then our toxic burden will be high.
What are some signs and symptoms that your toxic cup runeth over?
Fatigue, brain fog, allergies (the body wants the toxins out, but is unable to let go), endocrine disruption, inability to recover from a workout, holding onto fat, rapid weight loss—the symptoms can be quite broad. At a molecular level, when your body is bombarded by toxins, it experiences increased oxidative stress. Without reprieve, it will begin to break down.
Symptoms of toxic burden could happen fairly quickly (as with food intolerance) or could take decades to appear (as with heavy metals or fluoride). Some people are naturally more sensitive to specific pollutants.
So what can I do about it?
Here is a list of 8 things can you do to immediately lighten your toxic load or to actively prevent toxic exposure:
- Clean up your diet, meaning keeping simple sugars to a minimum and going organic as much as possible. Organic protein and fat sources are the biggest players in helping or hurting your body in terms of food toxins. If you cannot eat a totally organic diet, I recommend making sure you are at least eating the organic for the Dirty Dozen (foods most commonly sprayed with pesticides and containing the highest levels of pesticides) list of foods. The Dirty Dozen includes: Apples, Celery, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Grapes, Nectarines, Peaches, Potatoes, Spinach, Strawberries, Blueberries, Sweet Bell Peppers. Green Beans and Kale are quickly moving up as some of the most sprayed crops, so I would add them as well.
- Properly clean your fresh fruits and vegetables for residual toxins with a CitriDrops Dietary Supplement and purified water soak, or with a 10% white vinegar and purified water soak. This will remove water soluble pesticides that just rinsing leaves behind.
- Only drink and use filtered water. Charcoal filtration tends to be the best for removing toxins. Spring water is also good in glass bottles. Reverse Osmosis filtration is not as good for the body and preventing toxic build up, because it removes vital minerals from the water that your body needs to be healthy. Whole-house filtration is ideal, because toxins also enter through the skin, so bathing and washing with purified water is best.
- Test for mold in your home. Mold testing using gravity plates, TAP tests, or diagnostic plates will tell you if you have issues. I purchase these tests online from MicroBalance Health Products.
- Test for lead in your home. Lead tests can be purchased online or at a hardware store. They are easy to use and can reveal hidden sources of lead exposure–I have found lead in ceramic dishes from China in our home, just FYI. You just swab items, like toys, ceramics, makeup, etc. to see if you are unknowingly being exposed. Then, you can remove the exposure source and consult a naturopathic doctor about whether or not detox is needed for heavy metals.
- Practice mold hygiene and indoor air quality control in your home. The air you breathe is MORE important than your genetics in determining your long-term health.
- Use all natural, non-toxic products, like the EC3 products to wash your clothing, clean your furniture and countertops, and spray or fog your living spaces on a regular basis to prevent mold. Use a HEPA vacuum to control dust. Use HEPA air filtration systems and purifiers, like an IQ Air, to clean the air indoors. Monitor indoor humidity and keep it below 50% to prevent mold growth.
- Use non-toxic, all natural products in your home and on your body. This includes makeup and laundry detergent. Toxins enter through the skin. Many times, women have incredibly high toxic loads simply because the products they use are filled with toxins. A great resource for these products is The American Environmental Health Foundation, and a company I will be featuring on the blog is Earthview. I love their shampoo, body wash, conditioner and lotion.
- Limit your use of plastics. BPAs and phlathates are harmful to the body and are contained in most plastics. Anytime you get food or water from a plastic container, you are also getting trace amounts of whatever is contained in that plastic in your body.
Do you have interest in learning more about detox and toxic burden? I want to bring you the topics you enjoy reading about. Please comment and let me know. This is an area that is incredibly vast and open to exploration. It is also an area that can provide tremendous healing.