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Surviving a toxic soup

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What we can learn from Flint

By now, everyone has heard the news from Flint, Michigan. Disastrous political decisions have led to high lead levels in the public water supply, impacting every citizen. Water from the Flint River caused corrosion of the lead pipes that supply water to businesses and households leading to leaching of lead into the drinking water. This disaster will have long-term impacts on all age groups. Lead poisoning has been associated with cognitive loss, anemia, behavioral delays, and violent behavior in children, as well as reduced fertility, still births, hypertension, kidney and heart disease in adults.

But this disaster has another significant consequence: a loss of confidence in our water supply. The crisis in Flint seems like something that could happen in a developing country, not in the United States. Now we understand – it can happen anywhere.

This puts a number of issues into play. First, we have to be more mindful of the water we drink. The lead in Flint’s water is an extreme example, but monitoring agencies have found arsenic, mercury, aluminum, cadmium, pharmaceuticals and other toxins in a number of water supplies. Bottled water is one solution, but it’s expensive and it doesn’t help with bathing. For those who can afford it, I recommend a household water filtration system.

Water is only part of the big picture. We should be paying close attention to everything we eat, drink or apply to our bodies. In addition to prevention and minimizing our exposure, it is crucial to address the issue of how to get rid of the toxins we’ve already ingested.

Toxin awareness

The first step towards getting rid of toxins is knowing where they come from. Unfortunately, because we are at the top of the food chain, many come from our diets. For example, tuna is high in mercury; chicken and rice are high in arsenic. Surprisingly, even organic food can contain heavy metals. Non-organic fruits and vegetables often contain pesticide residues.

Car exhaust contains heavy metals. Household cleaners, by their very design, are full of caustic chemicals. Then there are personal care products, which have their own strange chemical footprints. Some of these toxins are difficult to avoid. We all have to go out in the world. But there are steps we can take to minimize their impact. The first one is simply being aware of the products we’re using and what’s inside them. Take a little time to research the products you use: deodorant, shampoo, cleaners. Fortunately, less toxic alternatives are widely available.

This is particularly important when purchasing food. There are obvious benefits to limiting or removing meat and large fish from our diets, but not everyone wants to make that jump. Barring that, I strongly recommend switching to organic grass fed meat, eggs and dairy, avoiding farm raised fish and buying organic produce. The more we can minimize exposure, the more we reduce our risk.

Eliminating toxins

After we’ve done everything we can to lessen our exposure to toxins, we need to think about eliminating the ones that are already in the body. Our bodies have a complex network of detoxification systems involving multiple organs, with the liver holding the bulk of responsibility. While the body does quite a good job at removing toxins, there are a number of supplements that can boost those abilities.

My first recommendation is modified citrus pectin (MCP). Made from citrus peels, MCP has a natural ability to cleanse the body of heavy metals. The modification of citrus pectin reduces the size of the pectin molecules, enabling them to be easily absorbed into the circulation, whereas “unmodified” pectin stays in the digestive system as a fiber and is eliminated through the stool. MCP also binds to the inflammatory protein called galectin-3, which has been linked to a wide range of chronic diseases. Research is showing that blocking galectin-3 activity can reduce the progression of such conditions as cardiovascular disease, cancer, kidney, liver and lung fibrosis, arthritis and autoimmune diseases.

Alginates made from brown kelp are known for their ability to remove radioactive isotopes, particularly iodine. In fact, alginates were used successfully to help detoxify exposed residents after the Chernobyl disaster. Alginates have also been shown to remove dioxin compounds and heavy metals. Alginates are a great combination to use with MCP since alginates remain in the digestive system to bind and remove toxins ingested from food and beverages before they have a chance to get absorbed as well as toxins that are secreted into the digestive system in the bile. MCP goes to work in the circulation while alginates take care of the digestive tract.

I also recommend medicinal mushrooms, such as Reishi, Cordyceps, Tremella, Coriolus, Maitake and others. Mushrooms absorb toxins, and they also promote a strong immune system.

There are also a number of supplements that can help support the liver, gallbladder and kidneys. These include N-acetylcysteine (NAC), methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) and alpha lipoic acid, as well as the botanicals dandelion, milk thistle, garlic, cilantro, fenugreek, astragalus and ginseng. These supplements and herbs work in different ways to support the body’s own detoxification systems, protect organs, increase circulation, and bind to toxins.

The ongoing disaster in Flint is a sobering reminder that we cannot always trust our public officials to do the right thing. Like all wakeup calls, this new information can bring many benefits. By taking responsibility, we also assert control. If we adopt an active, mindful approach, we can reduce our exposure to toxins, cleanse our bodies and take the path to better health.

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