The Autoimmune Solution Pillar III: Tame the Toxins

March 6th, 2015

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Pillar III: Tame the Toxins

 

The Autoimmune Solution Pillar III: Tame the Toxins

In The Autoimmune Solution, I walk you through the four pillars of my protocol for preventing and reversing autoimmune disease. This is part three of a four-part series on each pillar. Read the other parts here:

Pillar I: Heal your gut.

Pillar II: Get rid of gluten, grains, and legumes.

Pillar III: Tame the toxins.

Pillar IV: Heal your infections and relieve your stress.

 

For many people, 80% of healing occurs while simultaneously addressing Pillar I (Heal Your Gut) and Pillar II (Get Rid of Gluten, Grains, & Legumes). If you haven’t seen full reversal of your symptoms, we need to dig deeper. Pillar III is all about addressing and reducing your exposure to toxins.

As I do in my book, I want to give you some powerful information, and I don’t want you to get overwhelmed or freaked out. The point of this article is to give you enough information for you to know toxins are a serious issue for all of us and especially those with autoimmunity and other chronic illnesses, and then I want to focus on the solution. It’s the solution that really matters here, and it’s what you need to take away from this article. My intention is to give you actionable steps to help you to reverse and prevent autoimmunity. Ok, here we go!

 

What is a “toxin”?

A toxin is a poison–any substance that’s dangerous to the human body. That includes things you know are a problem such as heavy metals like lead, mercury, and cadmium, industrial chemicals and pollutants, and pesticides. But it can also include common products you may not think of as being toxic, such as home cleaning products, body products, and even makeup.  Then there is a category many have never even heard of –mycotoxins (the volatile-organic compounds released by certain types of mold).

 

How do toxins get into your body?

You might be thinking you aren’t exposed to many toxins because you live a very “clean” lifestyle. In reality, you are exposed to thousands of toxins every day, even if you don’t live in a polluted area or work in an industrial job. They’re found in the air you breathe, the water you drink, the food you eat, and in the cosmetics, cleaning products, and cookware you use every day–and in fact our government has approved them and said they are safe. As of right now, about 80,000 chemicals are registered for use in the US, and every year about 1,700 more are quickly approved in less than a month and with little to no testing. Our government leaves it up to the company itself to do the testing and tell us it’s safe. And if a product is made up of five ingredients they test each one separately for safety–not all five together. And yes, these chemicals do wind up inside your body.

So how do these toxins end up in our bodies?  We breathe them in through the air, we eat and drink them, and our skin absorbs them.

 

We breathe them in: People spend an estimated 90% of their time indoors. Considering that indoor air can be up to five times more polluted than outdoor air, it’s no surprise that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranks indoor air pollution as one of the top 5 environmental risks to public health. Of course, there’s pollution outside your home too, and toxins can easily build up in your body when you are constantly breathing them in.

 

We eat and drink them: A conventional diet is full of pesticide-treated produce and animals who have been given artificial growth hormones and antibiotics. The National Research Council claims that, in children especially, dietary intake of pesticides accounts for most pesticide exposure.

Since more than half of your body is comprised of water, the quality of your water is tied directly to your health. Heavy metals, chemicals from plastic, and other pollutants can get into your body through your drinking water, or through your skin when you bathe. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) discovered in a 3-year study that 85% of the population in the US consumes water with about 316 contaminants, most of which are completely unregulated.

 

We absorb them through our skin: Your skin is your largest organ and your main barrier to the outside world. Substances ranging from the beneficial to the bad come into contact with your skin and can be absorbed into your bloodstream. That includes the chemicals in soap, makeup, lotions, and cleaning products, and even heavy metals and pollutants in water.

The average person uses 10-15 personal care products per day, each with 125 different ingredients, and many of these chemicals are approved for use by the FDA with little or no safety testing.

 

It may seem like just a little exposure here–to pesticides when you eat conventionally grown produce–or a little exposure there–to mercury in your dental fillings. But each exposure adds to your body’s toxic burden. Think of your body like a cup, and toxins like drops of water: if your cup is already full because you have a leaky gut, a poor diet, infections, and stress, those small, cumulative toxic exposures cause that cup to overflow. When it does, you’re pushed down the autoimmune spectrum into full-fledged autoimmune disease.

 

Toxic Triggers: How Toxins Cause Autoimmunity

The effects of toxins on our bodies is complex. After all, there are thousands of chemicals out there, and we’re just beginning to understand how they work on the body–not to mention, how they work in conjunction with one another. What we do know is that a heavy toxic burden puts you at greater risk for developing an autoimmune disease, and there are a few theories as to why.

One thought is that certain toxins, especially heavy metals, physically damage your tissues. Your immune system no longer recognizes these damaged cells as part of your own body, and attacks them, thinking they’re foreign invaders.

Another theory is that the damage inflicted by toxins elicits an inflammatory response from the immune system. The constant assault of chronic exposure puts the immune system on high alert. It begins attacking everything–including your own tissues.

All of this may seem overwhelming, but there is a solution. My goal is to give you enough information so you are informed and want to take action. I don’t want you to feel hopeless and paralyzed, because there’s so much you can do. Yes, you will always be exposed to toxins in your environment, but you can use these prevention and detoxification strategies to lighten your toxic burden, and help get your immune system back on track.

 

What is the Solution?

I like to break it into two main toxin-taming strategies: prevention and detoxification. You can of course read about these in more detail in my book.

 

Prevention

The best thing you can do to lighten your toxic burden is to prevent the toxins from getting into your system in the first place. You may not have control over everything, but you do have control over your own home. I myself focus my efforts on keeping my own home environment as clean as possible: I eat only organic food and I use nontoxic cookware (see my guide to healthy cookware here).

If your home is toxin-free, you’ll have a little bit more leeway when you go out into the environment. Here are four ways to make your home as toxin-free as possible:

  1. Clean your air. You may not be able to clean the air outside, but you can keep the air inside your home as toxin-free as possible. I recommend getting a HEPA filter for your home and office.
  2. Clean your water. You absorb toxins in the water you drink, and you also absorb them through your skin when you bathe. I recommend installing water filters on your sinks and shower taps. I myself have a full-house filtration system. Avoid drinking out of plastic bottles (yes, even BPA-free plastics!).
  3. Buy clean food. Eat organic whenever possible. It can be expensive, so when you can only buy some things organic, buy organic meats. Animals are at the top of the food chain, and if they’re consuming pesticides in their feed, you are too, but in a magnified dose. In The Autoimmune Solution, I help you prioritize your grocery list by explaining which foods have the highest and lowest concentrations of toxins.
  4. Buy clean body products. You’ve heard the saying, “you are what you eat.” I like to add to that and say, “you are what you apply.” Many personal care products are made with hormone-mimicking chemicals that can be absorbed through your skin. If you find it overwhelming to replace your body products with cleaner options all at once, try replacing one item at a time over the next few months. Every replacement you make takes away from your toxic burden. In The Autoimmune Solution, I give you a list of common toxins found in body products and resources to help you avoid them.

Some of my patients face additional toxic burdens. When someone isn’t getting any better after going through The Myers Way®, I suspect that significant heavy metal exposure or mycotoxin exposure could be to blame. Treatment for heavy metal or toxic mold exposure may require prescription medications and should be done under the care of a functional medicine practitioner. I go into much greater detail on both of these topics in The Autoimmune Solution.

 

Detoxification

Prevention is key, because once you do have toxins in your body, you need to get them out. Your body is constantly working to excrete toxins on its own, and those of us with autoimmune diseases often have a harder time detoxing than others. A key part of The Myers Way® is supporting your body’s own natural detoxification.

Drink lots of water, and do something that will make you sweat. One of my favorite strategies is to use an infrared sauna to help detoxify. Infrared saunas are especially useful for those who are limited in their ability to exercise.

Most of your detoxing is done through your liver, so the goal is to support your liver during this process. The nutrients you’ll be eating while on The Myers Way® will help your liver mobilize the toxins that are in your tissues. Your body’s biggest detoxifier is glutathione, so I recommend supplementing with extra glutathione or N-Acetyl-Cysteine (which is a precursor to glutathione) while your body is trying to excrete toxins, especially if you are anywhere on the autoimmune spectrum.

 

Reverse Chronic Illnesses So You Can Take Back Your Health!

Are you ready to beat your symptoms, regain your energy, and feel like yourself again? Whether you have Hashimoto’s, Graves’, or any of the hundreds of other autoimmune diseases, I want you to know you CAN reverse your condition!

Tens of thousands of people around the world have already taken back their health using my New York Times Bestsellers, The Autoimmune Solution and The Thyroid Connection. Are you ready to join them?

In each book you’ll learn how to address the true underlying causes of your symptoms using simple yet proven dietary and lifestyle changes. Best of all, you’ll get step-by-step, four-week plans to put all of the principles into practice and truly make optimal health a way of life!

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  • kim

    Was wondering what you thought about wheatgrass shots, because I was growing my own in door sprouts and wheatgrass? I was doing the Hippocrates Institute diet for a while and was a raw Vegan for sometime, but my doctor tested me with the big Nitrate Eval test and it showed a lot of amino acid deficiencies, mineral deficiencies, yeast and bacterial overgrowth. So I switched to Paleo strict, but have not had much relief with my Rheumatoid? I need to get retested to see if any changes are happening with the diet change. Anyway still wondering weather I should still do wheatgrass or green juices with Paleo? Is this good too? I do do smoothies some mornings with grass fed beef protein shake mix by Design Health. Also, I have Hashimoto. Any, suggestions your book doesn’t talk about wheatgrass or sprouts, and on the food chain I know they are 30 times more nutritious than other veggies. Can you shed some light on this?

    • Michelle Crone Naturopathy

      You may be also having too many goitrogens in your green smoothies especially if using spinach and kale daily.. They will worsen the hashimotos

      • kim

        Thanks, yes I switched to spinach and only eat Kale if I cook it. I didn’t know spinach was a goitrogen. Yes, I have read that goitrogen foods had to be cooked to eat them if you have Hashimoto. Am I correct on this?

        • kim

          The sad thing is I was juicing for 9 wks. with Kale mainly and lettuce, and also carrot juice and thats it. It didn’t help at all was so inflammed. Then I couldn’t stand not moving and my pain was so intense with no meds, I then went into a 38 water fast on distilled water and literly nothing else. Within the 3 day, I could actually move and my swelling was going down. Problem was then no muscle tone, it was gone, and I was only 84 lbs. Was willing to do anything, try anything to stop this horrible disease. I am still trying, currently, I am on Paleo, but still inflammed, frustrated, and had to go back on Orencia because I am getting deformed and attacked still. Can’t believe it as I am Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, and don’t eat processed foods. Go Figure! I even went to Hippocrates Institute for three wks, but still felt inflammed.

    • Christina Russell

      Wheat grass can be inflammatory. You can read about foods with amino acids and take L Glutamine for muscle tissue. Ha shim Otis can be caused by Lyme. Read about it. Feel free to message me.

    • Hi Kim, no, I don’t recommend wheatgrass. It is still wheat, and many of my patients are still sensitive to it. If you can add it back in later, it may be fine. But for now while you are healing I say avoid it. Some sprouts can also be a problem for people with autoimmunity (like alfalfa). And you’re right–heal your gut before you chelate!!

      • kim

        What do you think about Chorella and spirlina, and algae.. I stopped using these because I thought maybe these would raise my immune system. One thing I find interesting is that I read your boik and Sarah Ballentyne book and no one addresses sprouts or home grown wheatgrass. Hippocrates Institute claims if it is sprouted everyone can eat it. But your saying that’s not true. One thing I do know sometimes the little seed might still be on the end of the grass and that does have me concerned that I might have contaminated my self. I did notice today looking at my past three ALCAT tests that the one went up after juicing wheatgrass to the gluten. Interesting, huh. I will continue to stay away from it from what you are saying. I just wish more could be said on the topic. Hippocrates claims it is the cure all for everything. However, something while I was there still kept giving me flair ups. It surprised me when they served brown rice wraps, organic corn chips, and sprouted wheat wraps, and they made cooked sprouted bean soup, and nut ice cream and banana ice cream. All of these are from the grain family, bean and nuts, all of which you tell us to eliminate. Is this really true for everyone. Maybe this is why I continued to have upsetting flair ups. Also, another ALCAT and it revealed Almonds as severe, since I made homemade nut milk all the time. I have a hard time giving them up, and end up eating them sometimes. Probably not a good thing, huh.

        • kim

          Does anyone know why I crave potato chips so much? I think I dream about them, they literally haunt me, and I cave. I try to only eat the kettle ones and avocado or olive oil ones. I know from reading a lot about n ightshades I shouldn’t have them. It is so frustrating, to be able to eat only veggies and protein. My only bad cheats are 85 or higher with no sugar choc, popcorn, corn chips, and potato chips. I can only give them up for so long then I collapse. Any suggestions, I try to eat coconut cream and berries but I swear it might be making me fat, avocado coc. mouce. I was only 108 lbs and now I am 115, after eating paleo 3 meals and a snack after dinner time. What am I doing wrong all of a sudden. I am starting to get love handles and more around the middle. I also thought eating coconut oil was good for you so I make coconut oil, organic cocoa, and stevia frozen treats for me and sometimes I add a little cacao butter for a more creamer flavor. Can anyone shed some light on this, my integrative medicine dr doesn’t help at all. She just wants to measure my body fat and then tell me to go on her metagenics shakes. It is so hard to see myself gain any weight after fasting so much and eating raw vegan and only weighing 102-105lbs, this was good for me as I’m only 5’2″. Getting depressed seeing the fat not sure what to do, I don’t like it at all. My dr calls me skinnyfat. So I have been trying to eat more protein and fat, but I’m getting fat.As a Rheumatoid patient its hard sometimes for me to exercise. I have therapeutic trampoline I use sometimes. Any ideas?

          • kim

            I forgot to tell you I even did 16 treatments of the versu laser and it did nothing to my dimly legs. It stinks I try very hard to eat clean and I still look skinny fat and now with love handles.

          • julie1939

            Perhaps it is the salt. I haven’t figured out how to get rid of the salt craving, but there are many ways to satisfy the need for salt. I put it on healthy food. I, too, am fighting the weight gain. I know that the adrenal glands need salt. So, perhaps it is the stress level. Julie

    • kim

      Whoops the test I get is the Ion profile by Metametrix not NutraEval. I’m getting this repeated again since going from raw vegan to paleo. I am also having a repeat metals test too. I know I had Murcury moderate toxicity load, and I have had four metal fillings replaced by a qualified dentist who specializes in this. Was wondering though I still have four caps that have some kind of metal underneath. Is it necessary to replace those too? Wonder what the new murcury test will show?

  • kim

    I wondered about a beef sensitivity I have that keeps showing up on reoccurring ALCAT testing. I have been eating some grassfed beef and soup, but it is hard for me to tell if it is the beef inflamming me because I’m already inflamed. I have the Rheumatoid and Hashimoto. What is your take on beef sensitivities since your diet includes this in it?

    • Michelle Crone Naturopathy

      Beef increases methionine which if your homocysteine is high stimulates more homocysteine , a catch 22 situation. Have your Hcy tested. If high look at reducing inflammation.

      • Christina Russell

        Please read about Lyme disease and it’s connection to all three things you mentioned. Find a Lyme Literate MD on ILADS website and get tested by a Lyme Literate MD because it must be clinically diagnosed. General Dr’s do NOT know much if anything about Lyme but claim they do. Please message me for more info. I’ll be glad to help.

      • kim

        Wow, didn’t know this one about methionine, thanks. I am supposed to get tested again soon, as my doctor wanted to see if these were elevated. Does these fluctuate, I am assuming they do, as my test last year was a 7. Fluctuation depending on what your diet is. My doctor told me to try eating more fish 3X a week and back off on the grass fed beef. I thought grass fed beef was supposed to decrees inflammation?

    • I don’t see this often, so usually when something is a problem that eliminates a lot of the foods I recommend in my book, I suggest setting up a consult with my registered dietitian who can make a plan specific for you!

      • kim

        Hello was wondering what was a safe protein powder to take? I noticed yours on your site had pea which is a legume and rice which is a grain, do you still recommend taking these when you are doing the autoimmune protocol diet. Also,would a protein powder from Design for Health with Hydrobeef from Sweden be ok too or better while on your diet protocol? I still deal with inflammation with elimination of just about everything except I noticed I still eat nuts once and a while and I think maybe making me feel bad and I even sprout the nuts and I noticed when I eat nuts it makes me more constipated. Maybe I have to eliminate nuts?

        • I recommend that my autoimmune patients avoid nuts. As for the protein powder it depends, some people choose to avoid it and some people do fine with it. Most that use it find the benefits outweigh any problems.

  • Virginia

    I have a whole house filter installed on the water main, and drink filtered water from the sink. I was wondering since this filter removes heavy metals, do I run the risk of having mineral depletion from the water? The water company who installed said its so strong that it removes minerals as well as pollutants. Do you suggest supplementing with minerals or is this not a concern if we eat a healthy diet? If so, I’ll take any suggestions for what kind of minerals to take.

    • I doubt you’d need to supplement with minerals for that reason alone. If you are concerned I would recommend being tested for vitamin/mineral deficiencies. Of course, if you are deficient in anything, it could be for various reasons!

  • Thank you for this informative post! Do you mind sharing what mycotoxin test you prefer?

  • Celeste Laney

    Hi Amy,I am one of the many poisoned by the ASR faulty metal on metal total hip replacement made by DePuy/Johnson and Johnson.The metal on metal caused Chromium and Cobalt to release in our bloodstream and lodge into our muscle tissue.I will provide your book information on the many sites that I visit daily.

  • Chris

    what digestive enzyme do you recommend for those who have an egg white allergy?

  • Chris

    How do you feel about silicone for baking, spatulas, ice cube trays, that type of thing….I am getting rid of all my plastics and a few things I am needing replacement ideas….stainless steel does not work for all of these so I would love ideas…thanks 🙂

  • Deborah

    Okay- so I am doing the 30 day diet. But what about one frozen yogurt treat per week. Just one? Is that a big deal?

    • Yes, avoid dairy completely for the first 30 days until you reintroduce it. There are some great coconut milk alternatives!

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