There are many toxins out there and we make a fair share internally as well. The body is designed to cope with all that we throw at it but its a balancing act between the good stuff we bring in from our diet versus the bad stuff that’s out there adding to our toxic load. The more toxins you add to your system the more pressure on your diet to keep up to speed.
Some of us have poor genes for detoxification, that can impact your bodies ability to make your master antioxidant, glutathione, you can struggle to breakdown your oestrogen hormones. Maybe you don’t always eat organic food. The balance of bacteria you have in your large intestine can result in your body struggling to break toxins down. All these can add up to a challenge on your body to be as efficient at detoxing as it needs to be. Depending on our own daily toxin exposures that can tip the balance to being more toxin than is ideal. Symptoms such as headaches, rashes, fatigue, aching joints and even weigh gain can all be clues.
In my opinion one of the main challenges our bodies face and that requires a constant focus to maximise the resources we need to cope is toxicity and the need to detoxify.
This image shows the complexity of energy or metabolic processes that go on inside our cells. Each cycle shown requires a delicate balance of vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and carbohydrates to keep it ticking over. A lack of nutrients and an excess of toxins can alter that balance resulting in symptoms.
In previous articles I have discussed many of the aspects to detoxification and the nature of environmental and internal toxins. However in 2020 there was a further challenge on toxicity that for some was avoidable (they may have been exempt) and for others persistent, possibly daily and exposure could be in the order of minutes or hours. I am referring to the use of face masks used in the course of the coronavirus pandemic. This is not a political point nor am I referring to the benefits or lack of for mask wearing in non-clinical settings, for all of us going about our daily business. I am just highlighting the importance of detoxification and a current toxic threat many of us face and now that we are a year on will be more and more impacting our overall daily toxic load.
The total amount of toxins we have to deal with will further stress our ability to detox. When it comes to masks so much of the conversation has centred on the prevention of spread of virus particles on one side and on the other the impact of the restriction on breathing as well as hygiene and development of bacterial build up on the masks and the bacteria or fungus infection spread to the user, psychological effects are also cited against.
However, an issue I know is seldom being talked about or addressed and fits with more of the kind of clinical investigation you sometimes have to do to get to the bottom of someone’s health challenges, is looking at all the possible stressors. In the case of masks, more specifically surgical masks or home-made cloth masks, there is the potential for toxicity due to the inhalation of the fibres of the masks.
Some of these masks are made from petrol based plastics or the microfibres are coated with PTFE, polytetrafluoroethylene more commonly known as Teflon or perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) chemical, like C8 and its replacement, Gen-X have been used in their manufacture and are already demonstrating toxicity.
Per and polyfluorinated alkyl substances to give them their proper name are also known as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), sometimes known as “forever chemicals” are organic compounds that are resistant to environmental degradation through chemical, biological, and photolytic process. Studies show most of them are at low levels in our water supply and therefore our blood. As a result of how hard it is to break them down they persist within our environment and our bodies hence “forever chemicals”.
Masks can also be made of polypropylene, polystyrene, polycarbonate, polyethylene, or polyester. Some of these fibres have be shown from prolonged use to lead to the beginning of a pro-inflammatory process through the identification of markers involved in the bodies cytokine storm. Some of these chemicals as well as being endocrine or hormone disruptors affecting testosterone and oestrogen can also cause the release of other chemicals by evaporation, more so in heat, through a process called ‘off-gassing” creating volatile organic chemicals, (VOCs) that can lead to symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, allergies, skin/eye/nose/throat irritations, and asthma.
We can look at the impact of wearing masks in changing the balance of the good to the bad bacteria in our digestive systems using a stool test especially when we have digestive symptoms. We can also investigate the effects of these mask toxins by looking at the amount of what’s called organic acids, metabolism breakdown products released in our urine when running an organic acids test. Specifically you would want to see how well your detoxification metabolisms was working as shown in this following image. This would help identify the impact on the bodies ability to eliminate these chemicals, which if you repeatedly have to wear a mask can be an additional source, and then be clearer on a strategy to support the body increasing their detoxification.
If we then decided to run an Environmental Pollutants Panel we could see a variety of toxic chemicals and depending on what levels were elevated in the urine begin to build up a picture of what toxins were challenging your body and how well your body was managing to detoxify them. Then we will have a strategy of what to avoid and what to take to reverse this situation. These can be combined in the simple urine Toxins Test.
As more research is done it seems prudent to be aware of a potential risk and challenge to our breathing in mask wearing as the debris may cause stress or inflammation in the respiratory system, specifically the lungs and then exacerbate vulnerability to viral infection. More study also needs done as there maybe differences in the duration masks are worn or repeatedly wearing the same mask that may increase the amount of debris or microfibres breathed in, in terms of amounts and size of these fibres which in turn impact the challenge to break them down.
In most toxic exposures for example plastics and you drink a lot of water in a plastic you can swap to glass bottles or by a filter, mask wearing currently is unique exposure and it’s not as simple as me saying avoid it. If your history, symptoms and any associated tests showing loss of detoxification function are taken alongside your urine toxin test results we make a case for detoxification strategies including more sweating and water intake, shifting your diet to include foods higher in fibre and more supportive of the gut and liver function such as broccoli, probiotics, rooibos tea. The things you can do to help are varied which is positive but I am always a fan of knowing how your body is coping and identifying what the challenges are, cuts down the worry about what is going on and narrows down what you can do to help return your health to optimal, sooner than later.
At the moment mask wearing is such an emotional and politically charged subject I thought I would provide references for those that want to read further however I deliberately kept the links relating to toxicity and the physiological effects and not pros and cons of virus transmission and masks wearing.
Image: Anush A