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The effect of toxins on the immune system.  

A basic premise of the immune system is that it can recognise the difference between a cell which is part of the body, or ‘self’ and a cell or organism which is not from our own body, or ‘non self’.  When the immune system gets this wrong, it can start to attack different tissues in our bodies, leading to a group of diseases called autoimmune diseases.  These include diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome to name but a few.   Diseases or syndromes such as Chronic fatigue syndrome, Fibromyalgia and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity all have a dysfunctional immune system as part of the problem. 

Autoimmune diseases can be triggered by issues such as toxins in the body, genetic susceptibility and viruses or bacteria.  Often it is a mix of the three.  Diabetes, both type one and type 2 appears to be triggered in some cases by a virus called enterovirus, particularly in those genetically vulnerable to diabetes.  If the immune system is both suppressed and overreactive from the effect of chemical and metal toxins too and the body is under stress from extra weight or poor sugar handling ability– is it any wonder that the rate of diabetes has shot up so drastically? 

Toxins that are associated with an increased risk of autoimmune disease: v    
  • Mercury – kidney damage. v   
  •  Hormone Replacement therapy – Lupus, Scleroderma, Raynaud’s disease. v    
  • Solvent exposure – Scleroderma. v    
  • Medical drugs – more than 80 can cause lupus. v   
  •  Gold- used to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis raises the risk of other autoimmune diseases. v    
  • Cigarette smoke-  increased risk of Rheumatoid arthritis. v   
  •  Formaldehyde – increased risk of motor neurone disease.   

 Some of the substances linked to or implicated in developing autoimmune disease:

  •  v    Toxic metals such as mercury (dental fillings, some fish), Aluminium (vaccines, water, deodorant), gold, palladium (rat poison, dental amalgams, jewellery). v    
  • Drugs. v   
  •  Pesticides such as carbamates, organophosphates and organochlorines. v   
  •  Persistant organic pollutants in the environment such as PCB’s, dioxins etc. v    
  • Silica / silicone. v    
  • Solvent exposure. v    
  • Hair dyes. v   
  •  UV radiation.  

Some people are predisposed to allergies as they have high levels of antibodies called IgE.  This is usually inherited.  The explosion in the amount of allergy seen in people over the last 20-30 years may well be due to environmental pollutants amongst other causes. Chemicals that damage the immune system long term and make it more sensitive to allergens: v    
  • Mercury and other toxic metals v    
  • Pesticides v    
  • Volatile organic compounds (from paint, new carpets, fibreboard, indoor air pollution etc) v   
  •  Chlorine and fluorine  
Cancer rates are increasing.  Partly this is because we are living longer and are less likely to die of other traditional killers.  Part of the increase is lifestyle, and the range of toxins and body stresses we subject ourselves to.  Environmental and occupational toxin exposure is also contributing to rising cancer rates.  The growth in cancer incidence shadows that of the growing industrialisation and production of artificial chemicals.  The higher the per capita income of a country, the higher its cancer level.  These are just some of the toxins and issues increasing the risk of cancer:
v    
  • Cigarette smoking. v    
  • Alcohol consumption. v    
  • Excess weight. v    
  • Nitrates in foods such as cured meats and bacon. v    
  • Medications containing artificial hormones such as HRT and the contraceptive pill. v    
  • Hormone disrupting artificial chemicals –30,000 are in use in packaging, cosmetics, household products, industry and toiletries. v   
  •  Infections – such as hepatitis increasing the risk of liver cancer and certain herpes viruses linked to cervical cancer. v    
  • Poor ability to methylate, leading to high homocysteine and increased cell damage. v    
  • Immunosupressive drugs. v    
  • Heavy use of cell phones. v    
  • Hair dyes. v    
  • UV light. v    
  • Air pollution from traffic. v    
  • Toxic metals – Cadmium, lead acetate, chromium, Tributyl tin.. v    
  • Pesticides – the usual suspects, organochlorines and phosphates. v    
  • Bisphenol A – makes plastics bendy. v    
  • Chlorine containing chemicals. v    
  • Poor nutrition. 
 By eating the right diet, we can lower our risk of cancer by 40%.  3 out of 4 cancers are thought to be preventable if people make changes at a young enough age.  

Immune system damage-  Heavy metals (mercury, cadmium, lead, arsenic etc.) v    

  • Cadmium, lead and mercury chlorides can all increase allergic and hypersensitivity reactions to other environmental antigens.  One such example could be pollen.  v     Heavy metals cause specific and general immunosupression and immuno-enhancement, upsetting the balance of the immune system.  Some metals have been implicated in the development of autoimmune disease and increased susceptibility to infections.  Mercury is particularly well known for its role in both hypersensitivity and autoimmune reactions. v    
  • Lead and arsenic damage and can kill macrophages – important immune cells that gobble up bacteria and other foreign substances.  Poor macrophage function leaves us open to disease.   v   
- from Tobacco smoke
  •  Raises the risk of rheumatoid arthritis in adults, and also raises the risk of a child who is exposed to tobacco smoke in pregnancy 2-fold. v   
  •  Increases the risk of cancer, particularly of the lung.   v    

 -How to boost your immune system
  • Echinacea – take for 2 weeks, then stop for 2 weeks.  Take as advised on the bottle.  It increases the activity of the immune system, is antiviral and acts as an antioxidant.  It also relieves pain and reduces inflammation. v   
  •  Probiotics – Probiotics boost the immune system and improve gut function. v   
  •  If you have a mucus related infection, avoid dairy foods, many people produce more mucus when they eat dairy foods (milk, butter, cream, yogurt, cheese etc) . v    
  • Heal the gut – a damaged gut, lacking the correct gut flora and becoming ‘leaky to food particles and bacteria can seriously weaken the immune system.  Restoring the correct bacterial balance, dealing with heavy metal toxicity, candida and parasites may all be necessary in order for the gut to repair.
  •    Elderberry extract – Sambucol.  Stimulates the immune system.  It is useful in cases of flu and for the immuno-supressed. v   
  •  Zinc – the most important mineral for the immune system, it is better as a long-term immune booster than a short term infection treatment.  For maintenance of health, 15-20mg per day, 25-50mg/ day when under severe prolonged stress/ fighting an infection. v    
  • Get enough sleep – sleep deprivation lowers the level of important immune system cells called natural killer cells, that rid the body of bacteria. v   
  •  Give your body the nutrients it needs to cope with stress, use meditation or other techniques that lower stress.  Do what you can to reduce serious stressful events for children as it can affect their immune system into adulthood. 
 Toxins in the environment can cause damage to every system in the body, from the gut to the liver, brain to reproductive system, muscles and kidneys to name but a few.

References

Richardson, S.J., Willcox, A., Bone, A.J., Foulis, A.K., Morgan, N.G.  The prevelance of enteroviral capsid protein vp1 inmmunostaining in pancreatic islets in human type 1 diabetes.  Diabetologia, 06/03/2009 Epub.  PMID 19266182 Baillie-Hamilton, P.  Stop the 21 Century Killing You.  pp 96-115.  Vermillion, 2005 Baillie-Hamilton, P.  Stop the 21 Century Killing You.  pp 96-115.  Vermillion, 2005 Baillie-Hamilton, P.  Stop the 21 Century Killing You.  pp 96-115.  Vermillion, 2005 Holford, P., New Optimum Nutrition Bible.  pp 275-286.  Piatkus, UK, 2005 Baillie-Hamilton, P.  Stop the 21 Century Killing You.  pp 96-115.  Vermillion, 2005 Holford, P., New Optimum Nutrition Bible.  pp 275-286.  Piatkus, UK, 2005 Holford, P., New Optimum Nutrition Bible.  pp 275-286.  Piatkus, UK, 2005 World Cancer Research Fund. ‘Food, nutrition and the prevention of cancer:  A global perspective’.  1997 Holford, P., New Optimum Nutrition Bible.  pp 275-286.  Piatkus, UK, 2005 Sengupta, M., Bishayi, B.  Effect of lead and arsenic on murine macrophage response.  Drug Chem Toxicol.  25 (4):  459-72.  2002 Jaakkola, J.J.K. and Gissler, M.  Maternal smoking in pregnancy as a determinant of rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory neuropathies during the first 7 years of life.  International Journal of Epidemiology, 34: 664-671.  2005 Wang, J.Y., Wicklund, B.H., Gustilo, R.B., Tsukayama, D.T.  Prosthetic metals impair murine immune response and cytokine release in vivo and in vitro.  Jounal of orthopoedic Research, 15 (5):  688-699.  1997 Forte, G., Petrucci, F.,Bocca, B.  Metal allergens of growing significance:  Epidemiology, immunotoxicology, strategies for testing and prevention.  Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets, 7(3):  145-62.  2008 Hallab, N.J., Caicedo, M., Finnegan, A., Jacobs, J.J.  Th1 type lymphocyte reactivity to metals in patients with total hip arthroplasty.  Journal of orthopoedic surgery, 13; 3:6.  2008 Granchi, D., Cenni, E., Tigani, D., Trisolino, G., Baldini, N., Giunti, A.  Sensitivity to implant materials in patients with total knee arthroplasties.  Biomaterials.  29 (10):  1495-500.  2008 Case, C.P., Langkamer, V.G., James, C., Palmer, M.R., Kemp, A.J., Heap, P.F., Soloman, L.  Widespread dissemination of metal debris from implants.  J Bone Joint Surgery Br.  76(5): 701-12 University of Maryland Medical Centre.  Echinacea. http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/echinacea-000239.htm Barak, V., Birkenfeld, S., Halperin, T., Kalickman, I.  The effect of herbal remedies on the production of human inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines.  Isr Med Assoc J, 2002.  4 (11 Suppl): 944-6 Holford, P., New Optimum Nutrition Bible.  pp 287-296.  Piatkus, UK, 2005

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