What is a toxin?

by | Nov 11, 2023 | detoxification

If you look for a definition of a toxin in a dictionary you might see something similar to this:

– a toxin is a poisonous organic compound, meaning a substance of plant or animal origin, that can harm the human body.

While this definition covers those toxins we produce in our bodies all the time, as well as naturally occurring toxins in foods, and even alcohol, in fact, there are many other toxic substances that might make their way into your body. 

Perhaps in any discussion of toxins in the body we should also include the environmental toxins like heavy metals, such as mercury and lead. As well as man made chemicals and pollutants such as pesticides, flame retardants and even pharmaceutical drugs. Many of these can accumulate in the body and affect our health. 

Unfortunately our modern world exposes us to many harmful substances that our ancestors would never have been exposed to. While we can try our best to avoid these pollutants and chemicals it is impossible to avoid them completely. They are found everywhere on Earth, in even the most remote parts of the globe. They occur in our homes and our work environments. So, we are all exposed at some point and we all accumulate toxic chemicals. In fact, even newborn babies are contaminated with poisonous chemicals and heavy metals.

Common sources of toxins include:

  • Personal care products such as lotions, creams, aerosols, hair care products and hair dyes, cosmetics, perfumes
  • Household cleaners and air fresheners
  • Pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers
  • New carpets, curtains, soft furnishings
  • Paints, varnishes and solvents
  • Fuel and exhaust fumes
  • Industrial processes and wastes
  • Dental materials, synthetics and metals, such as amalgam fillings
  • Certain foods, and non-stick or other cookware
  • Second hand smoke
  • Pharmaceutical drugs

In fact, many people would also include electromagnetic fields (EMF) in the list of toxins. We know very little about how safe these EMFs are to our long term health, and yet we are constantly bathed in EMFs. So much so that there are probably very few places on Earth where we can avoid EMF exposure.

Nevertheless our ability to effectively detoxify these environmental contaminants in our body depends not only on having sufficient levels of the vital nutrients that are needed for the reactions to take place. But, our genes determine how well we produce the enzymes or substrates that are required for the transformation to take place. 

Some people just produce less of certain enzymes and so don’t detoxify certain chemicals very well, which can then build up in their body. Which could explain why some people are more sensitive to certain pollutants or products than other people. In actual fact this sensitivity should alert us to the fact that certain substances have the potential for harm and inform the rest of us that these people are in reality the canary in the coal mine!


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