Undercover Nerve Agents…Neurotoxins

There are many kinds of toxins. They range anywhere from being a mild irritant and possible trigger for asthma all the way to being known hormone disruptors and carcinogens.  One of the most alarming buckets of toxins affecting our society today is the neurotoxin category.

To date, my favourite read on this subject has been a book called “Healthy Living in a Toxic World” by Cynthia E. Fincher, PHD.  I like the way Fincher sets the scene by explaining how we tend to blame our everyday ailments and irritations on lifestyle excuses (long day, missed the gym, didn’t eat well today etc.) while they are actually symptoms of chemical injury.  What I really love about her approach is that the book was not written to discuss deaths caused by toxins to provoke controversy.  The book was written to talk about how everyday toxins affect how we feel every day.  She also provides some excellent research on their long- term effects as well as practical tips for a safer lifestyle.

When I first read the book I thought of all the late night ads running on television throwing out symptoms that have become so common in our lives that virtually everyone could diagnose himself or herself through an ad.  You know the ones “Are you tired, sluggish, overweight, depressed, have poor memory and suffer headaches???”

In Fincher’s introduction to neurotoxins she lists the most common symptoms as follows:

  • Fatigue
  • Memory Loss
  • Personality Changes
  • Headaches
  • Sleep Disturbances
  • Lack of Muscular Coordination
  • Visual Disturbances
  • Aches and Pains
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Recognition of loss – this means that the person is aware of loss of mental functioning

Sound familiar?  Getting into the science of what causes these symptoms is fascinating.

There are basically six categories of neurotoxins that we encounter in our daily lives:

Pesticides –found in water food and air

Petrochemicals – found in car fumes, gas appliances, plastics, polyesters, vinyl, fragrances, cosmetics, household cleaners

Solvents – found in paint thinners, paints, glues, carpet glues, many construction adhesives, nail polish remover, acetone

Formaldehyde – pressboard, mobile homes, carpet glues, new construction, furniture, new carpeting, new clothes, book bindings

Heavy Metals – found in contaminated water supplies, leaded paints, leaded gasoline residues, leaded crystal, silver mercury fillings in teeth, cosmetics

Food additives – NutraSweet, MSG, artificial colours in foods marketed to children, processed, pre-packaged foods

Sadly, we are surrounded by neurotoxins.  The unfortunate fact is that these toxins are so ubiquitous that they are present in our lives at almost every touch point.  We can’t control what pesticide a restaurant uses nor can we eliminate the effect of standing in traffic for an hour absorbing the fumes from three lanes of dense traffic.  All we know is that we’re awfully tired when we get out of our cars and sometimes we scratch our heads wondering what was so tiring about the day?  Chemical injuries are in many ways invisible.  We haven’t touched on the subject of bioaccumulation (storing the toxins in our fat tissues so that they can resurface at any point) or synergy (the compounded toxic cocktails we ingest during the course of our busy lives).

For now, let’s just be aware of this one category (neurotoxins).  What if we shifted our general understanding of what a detox program actually could mean?  What if instead of focusing on weight loss or speedier metabolisms, we could concentrate on a greater mission – seriously removing toxins from our systems so that we can live fuller functioning lives?

This is a commitment.  It takes time and can be painful for a few months.  I would compare my personal experience to an exorcism of sorts.  It was ugly, it was resistant and it was deceptive.  Whatever it was, it is only a fraction of what it used to be and I promise you, it’s paid off in so many ways.

Thank you Dr. Fincher for the great insights, facts and figures.  The 1996 book was truly ground breaking and I’m sure it has affected many lives.

Stay tuned for more about the “exorcism”…


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