The concept of toxins in our bodies isn’t really new to most of us. It’s what’s keeping the detox market in business.
But it’s likely that most of us aren’t truly grasping how toxic our bodies can actually get.
“Imagine that your body is this complex building with a lot of doors and you’ve got to get into and out of the doors. Maybe you’ve got a janitor with his whole key rack, the retractable ones with like 90 keys on it,” says Alan Christianson, a naturopathic medical doctor specializing in natural endocrinology with a focus on thyroid and adrenal disorders. “Imagine that somebody just stuck gum in all of the keyholes. That’s what’s happening.”
It’s the chemicals and heavy metals that have become a regular part of our environment. The solvents, plastics and pesticides that we can’t seem to get away from.
“The things that are most harmful are the things that really get stuck, the things that stay in our bodies and don’t leave readily,” he says.
What’s worse is that because these toxins have similar chemical properties to important minerals our bodies use, they can fool our bodies into thinking they’re actually necessary. So, for instance, lead looks like calcium to the body – and so, it ends up in bone tissue.
“These metals, they’re the gum in the keyhole,” says Christianson. “They fit where the mineral would fit but they don’t block and turn. All of our reactions, our nerve conduction at a basic molecular level just gets shut down because these things are gumming up the works.”
And when things start getting stuck, things just keep getting more stuck. So your body’s natural detoxification channels are not working the way they should and everything gets sluggish, and your body starts to feel it.
“We’re estimating there’s more than three million new chemicals that were released since 1900,” he says. “Less than a percent have had detailed safety studies done and we’re just barely learning how these things work in conjunction with one another when there’s multiple agents. Some people have had just weird exposure. They had pesticide spray they grew up around or lead-based paint around the home, but everyone is exposed. Human breast milk, you could not sell it as a commercial product because of the DDT levels found in it commonly.”
In terms of the thyroid, which serves an extremely important regulatory function in the body, these toxins can really wreak havoc.
“Our thyroid, that’s our thermostat, that’s how much your body is burning fuel and burning fuel means making energy and having fun, power for your muscles and your brain,” says Christianson. “It also means warming your body, and it means burning calories, so maintaining your body weight. When that’s not right, all those things go awry. The thyroid, I mention how … lead’s kind of like calcium, so there’s a lot of things that are kind of like iodine. Mercury’s one of those, so the thyroid is not only letting in things, like your bones let in calcium, well your thyroid’s concentrating iodine. It’s actually looking for it, pulling it in and concentrating it.”
So what can we do? First of all, find out what your levels of toxicity are.
“It helps to measure,” he says. “I always think that there’s so many variables you can take, it’s nice to know which ones are meaningful, and where you are and where you’re heading. I’m a fan of tests, don’t guess. In the sense of building your own health team, educate yourself … Build your knowledge base and create your health care team.”