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blog Dr. Wysong's Blog - 9/22/2010

TOXIN PARANOIA

It seems that every few days there is a new toxin sensation on the web and in the media. Toxins gas and leach out of our clothes, carpets, walls, and cookware.  Air, water, and food have toxins. If you think you can identify all these dangers and avoid them, you are on a wild goose chase.

With so many unavoidable toxins about us, it would seem that nobody could survive.

But health is possible in spite of all the dangers. That's because the body is designed with abundant detoxifying mechanisms. Most toxins can be neutralized by the immune system, liver, kidney, and within the digestive tract, provided these mechanisms are not overwhelmed with the toxins or weakened from nutritional compromise.

Two things are required to withstand the toxin assault: good health, and low toxin dose. Good health must be a relentless pursuit and requires many factors, including exercise, sunlight, fresh air, clean water, natural nutrition, social balance, and loving relationships. With regard to toxins, the dose is critical. The threshold of a potential poison obeys the foundation principle of toxicology: “All substances are poisons; there is none which is not a poison. The right dose differentiates a poison from a remedy.” (Von der Besucht, Paracelsus, 1567) Today this is commonly phrased: The dose makes the poison.

Toxin wisdom requires the understanding that all things are potentially toxic. Even oxygen and water can kill in large enough dosage. Caffeine at 50 times the normal consumption is lethal. Oxalic acid in spinach is harmless unless one eats 10 to 20 pounds of spinach at a sitting. We all know that taking drugs at a certain dosage is critical and can be harmful or lethal if consumed in excess.

Many substances are beneficial at one dosage and harmful at another. Aspirin at low dose may prevent a heart attack. At a higher dose it can cure a headache. At an even higher dose it can ulcerate the stomach. Wine in moderate consumption is cardioprotective. In excess it can destroy the liver.

This simple dose-makes-the-poison principle is not taken into consideration by Internet toxin enthusiasts. For example, acrylamides are toxins which can form when starchy foods are cooked. They can be found in over 750 different common foods. However, the daily dose for most people is 10,000 times smaller than the proportionate amount found to cause cancer in rats. So unless a person is eating about 62 pounds of potato chips and 182 pounds of French fries every day for their entire life, there is little danger. But these facts are ignored by a new California law that panders to ignorance and hysteria and requires that an acrylamide caution be put on packages.

I am not advocating here the healthiness of potato chips, but only wish to point out that if all dangers of all ingredients in foods were posted on labels, little encyclopedias would have to be glued to products.

People extend their toxin paranoia to pet foods. Because these foods are nondescript and their formulation and production mysterious, all sorts of fears are conjured. Someone will find a study somewhere about how this or that ingredient fed to lab animals at a dosage that would choke a horse will cause some manner of disease. This is then spread through the Internet as yet another reason to avoid all the evil pet food companies using the ingredient. These boogeyman ingredients include such things as vitamin K, vitamin C, iodine, citric acid, seaweed, garlic, selenium, yeast, grains and legumes—particularly high on the boogeyman hit list are corn, wheat, and soy— preservatives, flaxseeds, fish oils... to name a few. If a suspect ingredient is in a food when an animal happens to get ill, that becomes proof of the ingredient's toxicity. However, all animals eat and all animals become ill at one time or another. That does not prove an association.

We have produced foods containing some of these suspect ingredients for thirty years. Not because we are unaware of the bad press regarding them, but because of the science and millennia of experience proving their benefits. Tens of thousands of humans and animals have consumed our products through multiple generations for decades. The results have been health, not disease. But that does not deter those on an evangelical mission to rid foods of their particular favorite demon toxins. For those consumed by a belief, reason and facts do not matter.

It is important to note that toxins are not just man made. Natural foods, all natural foods, contain toxins. Carrots have carototoxin, potatoes have solanine, tapioca has hydrogen cyanide, grains and legumes have anti-enzymes... there are tens of thousands of such toxins in plants. This is the means by which plants inhibit competing plants and ward off insects and infectious agents. Since plants have no ability to run away, they develop extensive poisonous arsenals. Most of these toxins are either neutralized during processing, by combination with other ingredients, or by the body's defense mechanisms.

Many ingredients people are concerned about have been consumed for thousands of years. An argument never defeats direct experience. So the burden is on the toxin enthusiast to prove claims that foods thousands of years old are now all of a sudden toxic... and a research report without proper controls making it relevant to real feeding patterns, or results from laboratory animals of a different species on huge dosages, does not qualify.

Proof of toxicity of commercial foods would have to be properly scientifically controlled, account for the variety of ingredients used in the formulations, and the way they are processed. A toxin does not exist in isolation within a processed food, but in complex with a variety of other factors that influence its toxicity.

Foods in variety and rotation, including fresh foods, intelligent supplements, and periodic fasting can nix the effects of toxins found in any particular ingredient. Such wise eating/feeding allows the body a rest from any one toxin, and time for detoxification and recuperation.

Occasionally there is a toxin introduced into foods that brings identifiable harm. Melamine, a toxic protein substitute used by Chinese ingredient suppliers, and found in both human and animal foods, is a recent example. But that is different from the natural toxins that have been a part of foods since time's beginnings, and from other ingredients such as vitamins that have been used for over a century with great benefit, not harm.

We can dream of a pristine world in which no toxins exist. But that is not our world. Nor would it be ideal, since exposure to toxins, much like a vaccine, trains the body to cope with inevitable adversity. Attempting to achieve health by finding the one perfect food that has no potential toxins is more dangerous than the ubiquitous toxins. It leads people into the practice of seeking and feeding a supposed ideal food meal after meal, which, getting back to the dose-makes-the poison principle, makes the ideal food itself a potential poison.

It is so much wiser to feed as nature intended and to trust the body's ability to do as it is designed.


Word Word: pristine [pris-teen, pri-steen]
–adjective
1. having its original purity; uncorrupted or unsullied.
2. of or pertaining to the earliest period or state; primitive.


Thought Thought: Self control is not as limiting as is disease.


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