Chapter 1 - Introduction: Our Toxic World
Most of us do not realize how toxic a world we live in, or how rapidly our already toxic world is changing for the worse. Each week we hear and read about new sources of toxic exposure and how they can impact our lives. For instance, in 2002, a study was published looking at the levels of toxins found in the stools of newborn babies. The shocking results show significant levels of heavy metals including lead, mercury, and cadmium, as well as a number of insecticides including Lindane, Malathion, Diazinon, Parathion, DDT, Pentachlorphenol, Chlordane, and Chlorpyrifos. In 2005, the US Department of Health and Human Services added 11 more compounds to its list of 246 cancer-causing agents in humans, and in all likelihood this already long list will increase as industry goes on producing new chemicals.
A further serious problem arises from the fact that the toxic effects of such chemicals might go largely undetected until extensive damage has been done to people’s health. This is so because the symptoms of toxicity often mimic symptoms found in other disease processes. We can therefore carry a significant toxic burden without realizing the harm it is doing to us; meanwhile, we attribute our failing health to other causes. During my many years of medical practice I have interviewed thousands of people whose illnesses I have been able to trace back to toxic exposures which had previously gone un-noticed. Only when the underlying toxic influences were discovered, could treatments be initiated, often producing a remarkable improvement in health.
In describing to patients how toxins affect our health, I often find it useful to refer to the “TILT Phenomenon.” As I mention in the Preface, “TILT” is an acronym that stands for “Toxin Induced Loss of Tolerance.” It also suggests a tipping–point which causes a system to tilt, so that a sudden re-distribution of weight occurs. When our cells are exposed to toxic influences they can resist up to a point, but when they lose their tolerance and begin to fail, a shift or “tilt” occurs. Our intricate cellular processes are then thrown out of balance; consequently, cellular dysfunction and even cellular death can occur, depending on the extent of toxic exposure.
The TILT Phenomenon can be imagined as operating in much the same way as does a see-saw or teeter-totter. When two people of equal weight sit on each end of a see-saw, balance is achieved and the see-saw remains horizontal. But if a second person sits on one end, the balance tips and the heavy end hits the ground. If the two people sitting together at the heavy end were then to move closer to the center, the see-saw would gradually regain balance. Most of us have experienced this kind of thing during our playground adventures as children, and I am suggesting that the same process occurs when our cells are exposed to a toxic substance.
For most of us, our toxic burden grows slowly over decades by way of exposure to substances we are used to in our environment, such as herbicides for our lawns, various household cleaning agents, molds in our homes, lead found in multiple products, and even mercury amalgams (silver fillings) in our teeth. When our bodies fail to tolerate the accumulated effect of such ongoing exposure and we reach a tipping point, the resultant imbalance causes a sudden descent into ill health -- as if the heavy end of the see-saw were to come crashing onto the ground. Throughout this book I will introduce you to the stories of a number of patients whom I have been privileged to serve, and whose histories illustrate the TILT Phenomenon in operation. In each case the patient’s health declined precipitously after the crucial tipping point was reached, and the challenge was to find a way to restore the balance upon which good health depends.
- You will read about Josh, a 36-year-old man presenting with severe muscle pain and fatigue. Josh also had a long history of depression with overlying psychosis which was treated with strong medications and required multiple hospital admissions.
- You will read about Kevin, a 58 year old disabled tree faller who presented with rheumatoid-like arthritis, Type II diabetes mellitus, angina, and fatigue.
- You will read about John, a 49-year-old university professor and consultant who presented with severe chronic fatigue, muscle pain, and who felt as if he had the flu constantly.
- You will read about Daniel, a 47-year-old schoolteacher with a 13-year history of chronic fatigue syndrome.
- You will read about Heather, a 35 year old hairstylist who had suffered with severe hives, muscle pain, and fatigue on a daily basis for 22 years.
- You will read about Simon, a 39-year-old aluminum smelter employee who presented with severe eczema and allergies.
- You will read about Tom, a 60-year-old businessman with a long history of fatigue, arthritis and a recent diagnosis of diabetes mellitus.
- You will read about Lori, a 43-year-old businesswoman with severe pain and fatigue, and who had attempted suicide.
- You will read about Richard, a 62-year-old man who had suffered with polymyalgia rheumatica (a chronic inflammatory condition of the muscles), and who was experiencing severe pain despite having taken prednisone (a potent Steroid drug) for years.
- You will read about Dorothy, a 52-year-old nurse who was suffering from fatigue and significant memory disturbances.
- You will read about John, a 58 year old retired heavy equipment operator who presented with stiff and sore lower legs and with numbness in his feet.
These cases will enable us not only to see how the TILT Phenomenon works, but they will help us also to understand the toxic effects of specific substances, the most dangerous of which are dealt with individually in seperate chapters.
Notes – Chapter 1
1Enrique MO, et al. Prevalence of fetal exposure to environmental toxins as determined by meconium analysis. Neurotoxicology. 2002 Sep;23(3):329-39.
2Priority List of Hazardous Substances, US Department of Health and Human Services, www.atsdr.cdc.gov/cercla/05list.html