In 2002, there were appoximately 100,000 chemicals in commercial use in the United States, according to an April 2002 report from the EPA. That number grows annually as thousands of new chemicals are registered for use in foods, medications, household products and lawn-care products. It is therefore becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to avoid toxic exposure. Indeed, in a report published in 2005, the Environmental Working Group found “an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood from 10 babies born in August and September of 2004 in U.S. hospitals”; humans today are exposed to toxins even before birth. A buildup of toxins in the body can compromise physical and mental health. With the reality of exposure as a backdrop, a review of some of the signs and symptoms of toxicity in the human body is in order.
Toxins can cause or contribute to chronic fatigue, body odor, insomnia, food or chemical sensitivities and headaches. If you are suffering from these symptoms and your doctor can’t find a cause, toxins may be a factor.
Because toxins are foreign substances, they can provoke an inflammatory response as the body attempts to deal with them. Inflammation is implicated in the development of conditions such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, psoriasis, asthma and arthritis, among others. Toxins in the body may initiate or exacerbate inflammatory conditions like these.
The gastrointestinal (GI) tract provides one of several routes of toxin elimination. GI problems can both cause and result from toxins. People with a heavy toxic burden may experience poor digestion, constipation, ulcers, hemorrhoids and diverticulitis.
The skin is another means of toxin elimination, and skin problems such as acne, eczema and psoriasis are common in those who have excessive amounts of toxins in their bodies.
Compromised cognitive ability often results from systemic toxic overload. Memory loss, foggy thinking and mood changes can occur due to toxic overload. Symptoms mimicking dementia–even in young adults–are sometimes observed in those with heavy metal toxicity.
Xenoestrogens are a type of toxin that is becoming more prevalent in the environment; these are synthetic agents that act like estrogen in the body. Xenoestrogens can cause hormone imbalances in women, leading to symptoms of PMS and endometriosis, and in men, leading to elevated levels of estrogen and lower sperm counts.
- EPA Report on Chemical Contaminants
- "The Seven Pillars of Health"; Dan Colbert, MD; 2007.
Veronica Porterfield lives and works in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. As a licensed nutritionist with a passion for demystifying dietary dogma, she helps others invest in their long-term health by making better food choices via her writing. She received her master's degree in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport.