Obesity and the toxins in the environment

A very interesting paper presented at the 13th International Symposium of the Institute for Functional Medicine was given by Dr. Mark Hyman, who serves on the board at Georgetown School of Medicine and as well as collaborates with Harvard Medical School Division for Research and Education to Complementary and Integrative Medicine. His paper outlines the connection between toxicity and obesity and the harm that environmental toxins cause to our health.

Dr. Hyman notes that obesity is not a single clinical disorder but is a complex chronic illness resulting from the interplay of genetics, the environment and lifestyle. Hyman suggests that while most obesity can be effectively treated with compliant clients using a focused lifestyle intervention based on low glycemic, phytonutrient-rich diet combined with exercise and stress management, there are patients who need more assistance.

Hyman indicates that environmental and internal toxins disrupt many of the body’s key mechanisms involved with weight regulation and therefore cause resistance to weight loss. Some of the key mechanisms are alterations in thyroid metabolism, and receptor function, central appetite dysregulation, inflammation’s influence on insulin and leptin resistance, impaired mitochondrial oxidative metabolism and oxidative stress mediated effects of via nuclear factor kappa B — all stemming from toxins that create alterations in metabolism. These systems are interlocking, interactive, dynamic and overlapping networks of biochemical and physiological functions.

The influence of toxins on metabolism occurs through five mechanisms — hormonal regulation, immuno-regulatory mechanisms, neuro-regulatory mechanisms, mitochondrial function, and oxidative stress affecting insulin, leptin, thyroid, cortisol, adiponectin, resistin, the sex hormones, as well as ghrelin and cholecystokinin.

Hyman notes that many environmental toxins especially interfere with liver detoxification systems, cause inflammation and promote insulin resistance leading to weight gain and discomfort in the body. He further notes that although most people think that unless they are working in a hazardous toxic environment that they are relatively free of toxic load, the opposite is true.

Hyman affirms that we are living in a sea of toxins, since more than 80,000 new chemicals have been introduced into the environment since the turn of the 20th century, and most of them have not been thoroughly tested for safety or synergistic actions. Toxins do show up in blood tests, but they move quickly from the blood into the fat tissue, organs and bones, so blood and urine tests clearly underestimate the total toxic levels.

The Environmental Protection Agency has monitored human exposure to toxins since 1972 when they began the National Human Adipose (fat) Tissue Study. The global economy means that many of the foods that we eat (one of the prime sources of toxic load) come from other countries where restrictions of pesticides and other chemicals are more lax, and of course consumption of non-organic foods or junk foods whether from overseas or domestic adds to the toxic load, because they are full of chemicals.

Recommendations to reduce the toxic load are: to eat organic food (both plant and animals); drink filtered water; use HEPA filters to remove mold and volatile indoor pollutants; have lots of houseplants to clean the air; avoid as much as possible exposure to garden chemicals, housecleaning chemicals, car exhaust, secondhand (or firsthand) smoke; reduce or eliminate the use of toxic personal care items such as aluminum-containing deodorant; remove allergens and dust from your home as much as possible; reduce the frequency of medical X-rays and radiation from the sun; and reduce heavy metal exposure by limiting or eliminating predatory and river fish from the diet and the use of lead containing paint.

In order to improve the elimination of toxins from your body: have at least two bowel movements a day; drink at least eight glasses of clean water a day; sweat regularly; exercise to sweat and to reduce stress; increase organic fiber in the diet by increasing the consumption of organic beans, whole grains, vegetables (especially cruciferous), fruits and nuts; ensure that you are taking live organic pro-biotics; drink organic green tea; and use herbal base detoxification drinks to help support your liver’s detoxification function.

Hyman recommends a high potency multi-vitamin and mineral formula, an excellent quality omega 3 fatty acids, and antioxidants to help reduce the toxic load and achieve weight loss in doing so.

I have advocated the Isagenix cleansing and replenishing weight loss system for over 10 years because it addresses all of the issues mentioned by Hyman in his paper and because I have seen the results with my own eyes and felt the results in my own body.


Jane Riley is a certified personal trainer, nutritional adviser and behavior change specialist. She can be reached at janerileyfitness@gmail.com, (808) 212-8119 and www.janerileyfitness.com


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