Chemicals and heavy metals when you have autoimmunity
At Cranbourne Family Chiropractic and Wellness Centre, our Naturopath talks about Heavy Metal Poisoning.
Science has well and truly proven that environmental pollutants, chemicals, and toxins can trigger autoimmunity. These chemicals include mercury, lead, benzene, solvents, and other compounds found in our everyday environment — carpets, mattresses, plastic utensils, plastic water bottles, fire retardants found in furniture and children’s pajamas, etc.
Many people mistakenly believe the best thing to do in the face of so many toxic burdens is to undergo chelation, a process that pulls metals and chemicals out of the body, that is dangerous! especially if you have autoimmunity, chemical sensitivities, or symptoms of compromised brain function. Chelation often makes people much worse, and it is not due to a “detox reaction” as many may say.
Why toxins trigger autoimmunity in some and not others
It is impossible to completely avoid environmental toxins no matter where you live. These toxins are now in our oceans, rivers, lakes, groundwater, rainwater, and air. They are found in our soil throughout the world, including in the soil that grows organic foods. Chemicals in produce cannot be washed or peeled away as they bind to proteins in the plant while it’s growing.
Research indicates most of us have elevated levels of chemicals and heavy metals in our bodies these days. Studies are showing increasing levels of chemicals in fetal tissue, human milk, and other bodily tissues.
So if we’re all carrying around a toxic burden, why do environmental chemicals triggers multiple chemical sensitivities, autoimmunity, and other chronic health issues in some people and not others?
The issue is not how many chemicals or heavy metals a test shows are in your body but whether your immune system is reacting to these environmental compounds. You can react to a toxin the same way you can react to a food, such as gluten or dairy.
Symptoms of loss of Immune-Chemical Tolerance:
- Intolerance to smells
- Intolerance to jewelry
- Intolerance to shampoo, lotions, detergents, etc.
- Multiple food sensitivities
- Constant skin outbreaks
The loss of chemical tolerance is a phenomenon both researchers and clinicians have identified in more than a dozen countries and across diverse groups of people. These are the people for whom gas fumes, scented body products, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, new carpeting, new construction, new car smell, and so on trigger such symptoms and conditions, including asthma, migraines, depression, fibromyalgia, fatigue, brain fog, memory loss, incontinence, neurological dysfunction, rashes, their particular autoimmune symptoms, and so on.
A variety of factors can contribute to loss of chemical tolerance:
- Regulatory T-cell integrity. Regulatory T-cells are immune cells that regulate and balance the immune system and prevent autoimmunity or loss of chemical tolerance. They are key in preventing a TH-1 or TH-2 dominance. Glutathione depletion causes loss of regulatory T-cell function, as do deficiencies in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acid.
- Antioxidant reserves. Depletion of glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant, is a primary cause of loss of chemical intolerance. Everyday levels of environmental compounds do not become an immune trigger unless the body’s glutathione levels are depleted. Glutathione depletion is also a major contributing factor to leaky gut, a leaky blood-brain barrier, and even leaky lungs.
- Barrier system integrity. Do you have a leaky gut or a leaky blood-brain barrier? Many dietary and lifestyle factors can break down these immune barriers, increasing the risk for both losses of chemical intolerance and autoimmunity.
- The integrity of hepatic biotransformation pathways. Are your liver detox pathways functioning properly? Although the liver can’t break down many environmental compounds, proper liver function is still vital. If the liver detox pathways are not working properly it can add to the toxic burden.
Some common complaints can compromise these systems and lead to a loss of chemical tolerance. For example, chronic inflammation is a major predisposing factor in a loss of chemical tolerance. It contributes to glutathione depletion, loss of immune barrier integrity, and poor regulatory T-cell function. Some common symptoms of chronic inflammation include bloating, skin rashes or eruptions, joint pain, brain fog, depression and anxiety, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, and autoimmune flare-ups.
Dr. Andrew Arnold adds, ‘Chronic stress is another contributing factor as it can break down the gut and brain barriers and create an insufficiency of immune regulatory T-cells.’
And, of course, chemicals themselves can lead to loss of chemical tolerance by contributing to the breakdown of the body’s self-defense mechanisms. For instance, low concentrations of mercury have been shown to disrupt immune function and influence the risk of autoimmunity. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been banned but are still found in the environment and have been shown to break down the blood-brain barrier and gut barrier. Chronic exposure to arsenic in drinking water breaks down the lung barrier. Chronic toxic exposure can deplete the glutathione system. These are just a few examples of the ways environmental chemicals attack our self-defense systems, making us more vulnerable to loss of chemical tolerance
If you have symptoms of loss of chemical tolerance you should be very cautious of chelation therapy. For the best outcomes, you may need to work with a practitioner who understands the concepts to improve your chemical tolerance.