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We are all concerned about what chemicals and plastics are doing to our health and how they are impacting the environment. In a recent article I discussed how these pollutants act as estrogen mimics (endocrine disruptors), negatively affecting natural hormone balance and other areas of health. This increases the risk of hormone related cancers, particularly for women, and decreases fertility, especially in men.
Even more alarming, estrogen mimics can disrupt the delicate hormone communication systems that are essential for normal development in children during critical growth stages, in the womb and after birth. Animals are also vulnerable to this damage.
But what about toxic heavy metals like lead, mercury, cadmium and nickel? These industrial pollutants are also prevalent in our food, drinking water and in the environment. Research now shows a direct link between these serious contamination issues: One of the ways heavy metals do damage is by acting as estrogen mimics (similar to plastics), but with even more toxicity.
Estrogen Mimics Pick The Locks Of Cellular Receptors
Estrogen, in order to influence how a cell functions, has to bind to a receptor on the cell’s surface. Just as the geometry of a lock and key ensures a tight fit, the receptor and the hormone are structured to latch together to open the gateway into the cell, conveying a signal to the nucleus. The signal alters the DNA activity and changes the function of the cell. Simply put: Estrogen tells cells to grow and reproduce.
An estrogen mimic, whether plastic, pesticide or metal, can bind to the same estrogen receptor and open the cell’s door, mimicking the signal usually sent by the body’s estrogen. But while a complex system of the body’s organs regulates your own estrogen to keep growth and cell reproduction under control, even very small amounts of exposure to metals and pesticides bypasses this estrogenic control. The result is a highly stimulating hormonal effect, in both men and women.
Mascara Metal Madness
Let’s look at some of the research. A 2003 study treated human breast cancer cells with cobalt, nickel, lead, mercury, tin, chromium and other metals. The researchers found that these metals stimulated cell growth and reproduction with a twofold to fivefold increase in cell number. They also negatively altered DNA expression.
Cadmium, which has numerous industrial uses, is a common heavy metal often used as pigment in makeup. Research shows that cadmium binds to estrogen receptors. In a large-scale study, researchers followed more than 55,000 women for almost 12 years, looking at dietary exposure to cadmium. Their analysis showed that women’s chances of breast cancer correlated with increased exposure to this toxin.
Another large-scale study looking at uterine cancer risk found a positive association of cadmium from food and increased risk of endometrial cancer. And other scientists found that cadmium adversely affects pregnancy outcomes with decreased birth weights.
Hidden Sources Of Heavy Metals In Plain Sight
Seafood is a significant source of exposure to organic mercury. Since mercury collects in animals higher up on the food chain, larger fish generally possess higher mercury levels. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon, however, is still lower in mercury, as are smaller fish like sardines.
Tobacco smoke is laden with cadmium, and you can inhale this metal as a smoker or in the form of secondhand smoke.
Produce can serve as another common source of many types of heavy metals if the soil in which the produce was grown is contaminated.
Unfortunately, eating organic does not offer secure protection against cadmium or other metal exposure. In a 2006 review, researchers concluded that although organically grown food can be expected to contain lower levels of agrochemical residues, there are no significant differences in heavy metal content between organic and nonorganic produce. So even though there are many good reasons to eat organic, it doesn’t reduce your intake of heavy metals.
Despite the heavily distressing news about heavy metals, there are effective, proactive measures you can take against these harmful, health-robbing compounds. The expanding body of research demonstrating links between heavy metals and chronic disease makes a compelling case for gentle natural chelation and detoxification. Clinical studies demonstrate that consistent use of modified citrus pectin, alone or in combination with sodium alginates (from kelp seaweed), safely and effectively removes harmful heavy metals, even in children.
In the article “Detox Wisely to Protect Your Brain,” I discussed the importance of preventing redistribution of heavy metals and toxins during the detoxification process and how to protect yourself. This is one of the cornerstones of my approach to detoxification. Although there are many herbs and compounds that pull heavy metals and toxins from organs and tissues, it is essential to have something onboard that traps these toxins in the bloodstream and removes them completely. Modified citrus pectin, or a combination of modified citrus pectin and alginates, can safely do this without depleting healthy minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
As we clean chemicals out of our homes and garden sheds, buy safer products and use the political process to advocate for a cleaner environment, we can make headway in minimizing our risks. But we still need solutions, today, to support our efforts against toxin exposure and accumulation in the body. A health-supporting lifestyle with a focus on natural products, nutrient-dense whole foods, healthy stress relief, good hydration with filtered water and high-quality supplementation can support greater health and wellness. This, in turn, minimizes our exposure to pollutants and boosts our natural defenses and detoxification abilities. That way, when we are inevitably exposed, our systems are much better equipped to protect us from harm.
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