Dr. Harris discusses toxins and impaired clearance of toxins and the impact on our health. There are a surprising amount of toxins we encounter in our everyday life that can injure our health; Learn what the common sources are and how you can protect yourself from those toxins!!!
Lifestyle Medicine with Dr. Harris
Hello, and welcome to Strive for Great Health podcast episode number three. And today’s episode, we’re going to talk about toxins and toxin exposure, toxin elimination, and how that can link to chronic disease. So let’s just go ahead and jump on in. I hope you enjoyed the other discussions on the six roots of chronic disease. And so what do I mean by a toxin? So toxin is anything that gets into our system that’s not meant to be there that can cause harm. And so this could be something that we eat. This could be something that we breathe. It could be something that we put on our skin. There’s multiple different ways, and unfortunately, multiple different toxins that modern life has brought into us that cause health issues.
So what are some common sources of toxins? Again, skincare is a big one. We see this all the time, especially in the news lately. These endocrine disruptors, these hormone disruptors that can lead to chronic disease. And a lot of these are coming from skincare products. You know, there was that study came out recently about sunscreen that the components in sunscreen get much higher levels in the blood than we thought before. And so that’s very concerning because we don’t have the safety data on this yet. So what we put in our skin does get absorbed into the bloodstream. It’s very important to check what you’re actually putting on your body. One of the things I typically recommend to people is check out EWG, Environmental Working Group. They do studies and they look at these products and they look at the components in them and link it to what does the data show the health issues or possible concerns, or are the products safe. EWG is not perfect, but it’s a great place to start to look at what am I actually doing to myself by using certain products?
Another source, very common, is plastics. We all think about BPA, and we’ve heard of BPA, and BPA being that endocrine disruptor, that hormone disruptor, it alters hormone levels. But that’s just one component of plastics, right? There’s so many other different man-made chemicals that go into plastic. It’s kind of funny. If you look at margarine, right? We know that margarine’s very unhealthy. It’s not safe for you. And margarine is actually chemically very, very closely related to plastic. So one of the main sources of plastic for us today is containers, right? We use plastic containers a lot. Unfortunately we microwave those containers. And so when you heat the plastic, what happens is that plastic actually leaches into the food. So you’re getting plastic particles and plastic components in the food that we eat.
Another very common source, actually the most common source of plastic is water bottles. That’s right. Plastic water bottles. So you actually ingesting what they call microplastics. It’s small plastic particles. As far as I know, there aren’t any human studies yet, but in animal studies, it shows that these plastics do accumulate and they deposit into certain organs. So this likely causes inflammation, sets off the immune system. And I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t want plastic particles depositing in my organs.
So another common source of toxins is processed foods, right? The processing of these foods can create toxins that disrupt our GI system. We talked about this in dysbiosis. Also there’s other chemicals and they can cause other reactions. Again, the US is very lax in protecting consumers on what we put into our bodies, and food is one of those areas. There’s a lot of food additives, a lot of things in processed food here in the US that are not legal anywhere else in the world.
Another common source… And I live in Houston. Houston has very, very bad air pollution. We have very bad air quality because of the plants. We have very high benzene levels. Benzene is a known cancer-inducing agent. And so air pollution has been associated with numerous chronic diseases. Asthma of course, COPD. There’s studies that have linked higher air pollution to worse maternal and fetal outcomes, especially some things like autism. So air pollution is another source of toxin exposure. And we inhale these toxins.
So what do we mean by impaired detoxification or problems eliminating toxins? So the body, of course, doesn’t want these toxins there. And over the years, several thousand millennia, we’ve developed ways to detoxify. And so we have a couple of ways that we do this. One is through the skin, right? The skin is actually a very large detox organ. So when we sweat, we emit certain toxins and molecules out of the body through sweat. Another way we do that is through our lungs. When we breathe out, we are able to breathe out certain toxins, certain things that are in our bodies that are not supposed to be there.
The liver is the main one that people think about when they think of detox or eliminating harmful products. So the liver does this through certain enzymes. They can chop up the toxins, they can attach them to certain things, for the other body systems to get rid of them. They can make them into things that aren’t toxic anymore. So the liver is very heavily involved in detoxification and regulating what is in our bloodstream and what is in our bodies. Also, the kidneys filter out some of these particles. Some of them are eliminated actually through the stool and then in the feces. So that is a way for the body to detoxify as well.
And so impaired detoxification, how does that happen? Well, one of the ways that we can impair detoxification is through nutrient deficiencies. And we’ll talk about this a little bit later, in the supplements that I recommend that can help with detox. But if you don’t have the right nutrients on board, your body can’t detoxify it. We need certain nutrients for our body systems to work efficiently and to remove these pollutants, remove these toxins from our system. So if you don’t have those nutrients, you’re not going to detoxify as well. And as we’ve discussed, 10% of Americans, a recent study showed, have nutrient deficiencies. And one of the key causes of nutrient deficiencies is the processed food intake, or not intaking real fruits or vegetables, good sources of meat and protein. So we’re getting nutrient deficiencies, which hamper our body’s normal functioning systems.
Another reason for impaired detoxification is simply, there’s just too many toxins that we’re exposed to. You know, if you’re smoking, if you’re drinking, if you’re eating processed food, if you have a city that has poor air quality, if you’re microwaving your food in plastics, if you’re using these skincare products that are loaded with all these toxins, you can see how this can quickly build up. And the body can only handle so much at once. One of our major detoxifiers called glutathione, that we only make a certain amount of it per day, because there’s only so much around of this stuff that we use to make it, right? And so if the body gets overwhelmed, if there’s too many toxins, if they’re coming from all different sides, we can’t remove all of the toxins that we are exposed to.
Another common thing is genetic abnormalities. And when I did my genetic testing, I had multiple mutations in detoxification pathways. And so some people are going to be able to better handle the toxin load just at the genetic level. Their enzymes and their systems are just better functioning. That’s unfortunate, thanks mom and dad for giving me a bad genes in that regard. But if you have these genetic abnormalities, if you have a lot of diseases in the family that look like they’re coming from impaired detoxification, then you really need to make sure that you limit your toxin exposure and also that you prime your detoxification pathways.
Okay. So toxins, scary. Well, what do we do about it? So what are the holistic principles that we can use to treat toxins? How do we prime our bodies to remove toxins? How do we prevent toxic exposure? Again, as I talked about with the skincare products, cleaning products, I didn’t mention cleaning products, but that’s another one. Household cleaners is a big, big source of toxin exposure. What can we do? Limit that exposure, of course. Always, always, always the first thing in toxicology is limit or remove the exposure. So check out EWG, look at the products that you’re putting on your skin, the products that you’re using to clean your house, clean your laundry. All of those products can cause issues with toxin overload and toxin exposure. So become that informed health consumer.
I mentioned in the first episode that my goal, I feel like my God-given purpose on this earth is to try and create informed health consumers, is try to get as much information as I can out there about what is actually healthy, what to do. And then the research and the science behind it, through the perspective of my medical degree, through the perspective of my pharmaceutical degree, and through the perspective of someone who’s actually doing this with you. Everything I say, everything that you hear is things that I actually do. I’m walking this journey along with you. I want to be healthy, right? I look at family members and people older than me, and I see what they’re going through. And I just don’t want to do that. And I’m not going to be a slave to my genes. We’ll talk about epigenetics some other time, but I’m here with you. I’m going through this with you. I’m learning with you. And I’m continuing to modify what I do in order to protect myself and arm myself with as much information as possible.
Okay. So holistic principles. Now I told you, I’d go on tangents. I did warn you that there would be tangents, so thanks for coming on these tangents with me. But holistic principles. Number one, nutrition. Always, always, always, always nutrition. That’s why I call pillar one of my five-pillar system. Nutrition, it’s always about nutrition. It’s the most important thing.
So what are some things that you can eat that actually help your body detoxify? Asparagus. Your urine may smell a little funny if you’re one of the people who can genetically smell it, but asparagus is great for detoxification. The chlorophyll in asparagus actually helps bind up the toxins. Every time I say chlorophyll, I think of chlorophyll, you mean [bore-phyll 00:11:10]? Anyway, I’ll be here all week, ladies and gentlemen. But anyway, asparagus. Chlorophyll helps bind up some of these toxins. Asparagus also increases those liver enzymes I talked about. Those things that chew up the toxins, or make them safe, or bind them to something else to get them eliminated. Asparagus helps increase those liver enzymes. Cilantro. I absolutely love cilantro. It’s one of my favorite things. I’m a cilantro fiend. Cilantro is a binder. It helps bind up those toxins in the GI tract so they don’t get absorbed. So cilantro is a great nutritional aid to help your body detoxify.
One of the things that I hated as a kid, but now I absolutely love cruciferous vegetables. Your Brussels sprouts, your broccoli, your cauliflower. I mean, I crave Brussels sprouts now. I used to hate Brussels sprouts as a kid. But now they’re one of my favorite things to eat. And I’m glad that they’re one of my favorite things to eat for a couple of reasons. One, these cruciferous veggies have something called sulforaphane. And sulforaphane is a molecule that helps increase our body’s own natural antioxidant response, our body’s own toxin fighters. This is through something called Nrf2. Nrf2 is a gene that, when it gets turned on, tells our body, “Hey, we need to make more toxin fighting substances.” So of course, you want your own body to take part in detoxification. You want your own body to be like, “Hey, you know what? I’m going to take steps to make sure that I’m safe and that I have enough to fight off all these toxins.” And that’s what Nrf2 is. So cruciferous veg, this very important for that.
They also help with heavy metal detoxification. There’s a enzyme called metallothionein. Some of the cruciferous veggies help with that as well. And the metallothionein just basically binds up those heavy metals. Heavy metals are everywhere, right? That’s why we have mechanisms to get rid of heavy metals because they’re in the soil, right? They’re in the earth. And so we, evolutionarily, have always been exposed to low levels of heavy metals. So of course, our bodies were going to make systems to get rid of heavy metals. And then everyone’s favorite unless, you’re Vlad the Impaler, better known as a Dracula, garlic. Garlic also helps the body detoxify through that Nrf2 pathway that I talked about.
So as you can see, a lot of things that are nutritious and delicious also help our bodies do what they’re supposed to do. And that’s the essence of nutrition and lifestyle. Medicine is not hurting your body with what you’re doing. It’s helping your body with what you’re doing. I always like to tell people, it costs money to be unhealthy. It costs money to have bad habits. It costs money to have good habits. It costs money to be healthy. But really, what’s your reward? What are you getting out of those bad habits? What are you getting out of spending money to make yourself unhealthy? Well, all you’re doing is causing yourself to spend more money to make yourself healthy, right? So why not just spend the money up front to make yourself healthy? And then there’s no double hit. Then you have extra money on the backend to do whatever you want to do with. So I will never ever, ever cut my spending on my health, on investing in myself. You know, I always, always, always will always invest in myself.
So glassware, next thing. I always tell people don’t microwave the plastic. It leaches the plastics into your food. Get glass containers. Store everything you can in glass containers. And do a little experiment at home. Take some fruit and put it in a glass container and put equal amount in a plastic container and see which one spoils faster. Surprise surprise, the fruit in the glass container will last a whole lot longer. The reason for that is all those antioxidants, all the good molecules in those fruits are fighting off the bad stuff in the plastic. But they don’t have to worry about that with the glass. So those nutrients maintain themselves in the fruit and it’s better for you to eat and they’re not spoiling as quickly.
Supplements. Of course, there’s always things that you can supplement to help with detoxification. And one of those things is B vitamins. You know, B vitamin deficiencies aren’t that rare anymore for numerous reasons. One of them is toxin overload. Another is certain prescription medications. Oral contraceptives are one that deplete B vitamins. Metformin is another that depletes B vitamins. So there’s a lot of medications out there that can deplete B vitamins. And these B vitamins are necessary for a couple of reasons. One, they increase the glutathione I talked about, which I’ll talk about next. And two, they’re necessary for those liver detoxification enzymes that I mentioned. So your liver really needs these B vitamins, and what these B vitamins do to help clean up their environment.
Glutathione. Again, major, major antioxidant. Major, major detoxifier in the body. So how does this work? Glutathione, basically what will happen is, it’ll take these heavy metals and these toxins and get them away from cells, sequester them, and then the body can eliminate them. Glutathione is also very important because it helps recycle vitamin E and vitamin C. We all know vitamin E and vitamin C are antioxidants. And so there are also supplements that can help with detoxification, with eliminating toxins, the vitamin E, vitamin C.
As mentioned before, zinc, magnesium, very, very important. And zinc and magnesium deficiencies are not uncommon these days. One study I read said they estimated that 80% of people are deficient in magnesium. The reason for this is again, soil depletion. There’s only a certain amount of matter in the universe. In the laws of thermodynamics, matter cannot not be destroyed or created, right? So you had all these nutrients in the soil, where is it now? In all of us, right? In the seven plus billion, I don’t even know how many people are on the planet anymore. That’s where a lot of these soil nutrients are. So you’re getting soil depletion. So magnesium is one of these things that deficiencies are not uncommon anymore. If you’re going to supplement zinc and magnesium, I recommend the glycinate forms. They’re bound to amino acids. They’re much higher absorbed, and they’re better tolerated.
Of course, all of these supplements I talk about, they are available in our e-store. Store.theghwellness.com. All of the companies in our e-store are GMP, good manufacturing practice. These companies are independently third-party tested. They are tested for heavy metals, are tested for contamination. They’re tested for accuracy to make sure they have on the label what they say they have on the label. If you ever hear me talk, I never ever, ever tell people, go to GNC or Walgreens or whatever to get your supplements. I don’t even care if you get your supplements from me, just make sure your supplements are GMP. But if you do get them from me, I have marked up, off in the e-store up to 20% off, just because I don’t think that supplements should break the bank. I try to give people a good discount and an access to high quality supplements.
So zinc is very important for those metallothioneins I talked about. Those enzymes that help bind up the heavy metals. And then magnesium is responsible for 300+ reactions in the body. It does a lot in the body. Magnesium is very, very important. Magnesium deficiency is really hard to diagnose because most magnesium is actually in our bones. So even if your magnesium levels are normal on your blood work, they could still be low. So a magnesium level of around two is ideally where you want to be. It’s less likely that you have a magnesium deficiency. I do take magnesium. At the end, I’ll tell you which of these supplements I do take. Spoiler alert, I take a lot of supplements.
Spirulina and chlorella. Two items that are very important in detoxification. You’ll see spirulina supplements, you’ll see chlorella supplements out there. I actually get mine from GT’s kombucha. I take about a shot or two shots of that a day. I just love the way it tastes and they’re organic and they are pretty stringent on their testing. So these molecules, because they have chlorophyll in them, so they’ll bind and eliminate the toxins. Spirulina’s from a plant. Chlorella’s a organism that… So these are also things that also help with detoxification, either binding the toxins or helping eliminate the toxins directly.
As we talked about earlier, that Nrf2, that gene that turns on our own body’s antioxidants. So a lot of things that actually activate Nrf2 are what we call pro-oxidants, meaning that they cause a little bit of oxidative stress. And so that causes the gene to turn on. So how do you activate Nrf2? A bunch of different things. Like I said, those cruciferous veggies. Turmeric is one thing. Resveratrol, alpha lipoic acid. These are all supplements that actually help activate that Nrf2. Of course, turmeric, resveratrol have a lot of other benefits as well. Amino acids. It’s very, very important to have amino acids on board, to help with the enzymes that detoxify. Also to help with making glutathione and detoxification. Glycine, taurine, ornithine, and arginine are very important amino acids for detoxification. How do you get amino acids if… Of course, eating protein. And if you’re, a meat head like me, you’ll take some aminos in protein.
The protein I use is from company called NutraBio. I use NutraBio because they are GMP. They have the best workout supplements. I absolutely love, love, love, love, NutraBio, get all my workout supplements from NutraBio. I’ll probably do an episode later about workout supplementation and what I take, but I do take their muscle matrix protein. It’s a mix of whey and casein protein. Data shows that that’s actually better for muscle growth than just straight up whey. So that’s what I take after my workouts.
Fiber. The American diet, we don’t get enough fiber, not even close to enough fiber. You want to aim for a bare minimum 20, 25 grams of fiber a day. Fiber has numerous benefits, but how does fiber help with detoxification? Couple of ways. Number one, the gut lining is… Fiber is necessary to help maintain that mucus in the gut lining. I know, kind of gross, but we need that mucus in order to help prevent toxins from getting absorbed. Fiber also has a binding effect, so it takes up the toxins, and therefore they can be eliminated that way.
Okay. So I know I just listed off a lot of supplements here. So what do I take? I do take B vitamins every day because I do have a B vitamin deficiency. I take a B complex. I do take zinc and magnesium. I do the spirulina and the chlorella through the GT’s multi-grain kombucha. And I do resveratrol and turmeric. I take an Nrf2 activator, three times a week. And then four times a week, I take glutathione. No data behind that. It’s just, mechanistically, it makes sense not to take our pro-oxidants and our antioxidants at the same time, right, because they may cancel each other out. So four days of the week, I’m in antioxidant mode. Three days of the week, I’m in a pro-oxidant mode. So I take that resveratrol, that turmeric supplement, that Nrf2 supplement three times a week. And I take the glutathione four times a week.
Okay. So that ends episode three. Toxins and toxin exposure, and toxin elimination, impaired detoxification. So what I want to talk about next is an article, and there’s only one article today because it’s a really fascinating article about creatine and cancer. So these scientists, what they did was they were looking at T cells. T cells are immune cells that are especially important at fighting off things like cancer. And they found that these T cells had really, really high creatine receptors on them, and they asked why. And what they found was that when they made mutations, that they removed the receptors, that those cells couldn’t fight off cancer as effectively. They couldn’t suppress tumors as well. And so then they supplemented, in amounts that typically you’d see for typical bodybuilders, because bodybuilders and athletes, we use this for muscle mass and also for energy, right? It is a energy substrate. It does help provide energy in the muscles when some others sources may not be readily available.
And so they found that in those usual doses, that the T cells were better able to suppress skin and colon cancer cells. And this is in mice, so this is not a human study, so we can’t just automatically extrapolate the results to humans. But then they did another phase where they took the mice and then they used immunotherapy with the creatine, and they found that the immunotherapy worked better when the creatine was there. So this is really, really exciting news because we know that cancer rates are on the rise due to multiple different factors. But people always ask me if I would do chemotherapy if I got cancer. My answer is 120,000% yes. I would do chemotherapy, but I’m also going to take all the lifestyle stuff and all the supplements that have been shown to help the body’s immune system fight off cancer.
So what I recommend is, typically, that we prime the immune system as much as we can to help our bodies fight in this situation. So it could be another tool in our arsenal to fight cancer. The scientists are next going to look at using human tissue and human cancer cells, implanting them in the mice and then seeing if they have similar results. But it’s exciting that we’re finding, we’re looking, and we’re searching for other ways to fight this devastating disease. So again, the article will be posted in our private Facebook group Strive for Great Health. Again, requests for future podcast episodes can be made there. I thank you for listening. I hope it was informative. I’m always open to any questions, critiques, or anything. Just head on to our Strive for Great Health group. Thank you guys. And have a blessed day.