How Toxic Is Your Job?

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting through some health and safety training at work, then you’ll remember hazardous substances, and what you should do if you are dealing with them.

We seem to acknowledge the risk in certain jobs, like if you are using certain chemicals for cleaning, but do we forget the day-to-day exposure and the impact this has on our health?

We’re hazarding a guess that we do (see what we did there?)

Toxic Exposure:

Every day, our bodies are exposed to toxins.  A toxin is defined as any substance that must be neutralised and eliminated to avoid its promotion of ill-health if left to accumulate.

They are produced internally in the body, like lactic acid and the waste products from gut microbes, hormones, and neurotransmitters.  But we are also exposed externally, like air pollution, chemicals from cleaning products or volatile organic compounds from the plug-in air diffuser in your lounge.  It is thought that in the 25 years between 1970 and 1995, the volume of synthetic organic chemicals produced tripled from about 50 million tonnes to approximately 150 million tons, and this number has grown year on year since.

These toxins have the ability to disrupt essential biological structures in the body; especially when exposure is high. 

Luckily, we have a set of systems in our body that helps us detoxify.  We’re not a fan of that word, because it is used so often to sell fad diets that can be quite detrimental to health, but it’s the official process in which the body deals with all the harmful things we are exposed to.  It is also inbuilt, and something that comes naturally; we just need to support its function (and not overwhelm it, if we can help it).

Initially, the body will attempt to detoxify at source. 

These locations include the intestinal mucosa, the respiratory mucosa, the microbiome, and the skin epidermis.  Whilst these also provide a physical barrier to prevent toxin transport, they also express a range of enzymes which are essential in sweeping toxins away. 

The remainder of the detoxification system falls into three phases.

The first two phases are concerned with breaking down the toxin in the body, and phase three is concerned with excreting it. 

Phase I

Here a range of enzymes get cracking and start breaking down the toxins.  This stage is particularly nutrient demanding and so a sufficient level of key vitamins and minerals are essential for it to work efficiently.  But what we’re even more interested in, is that this phase also generates high numbers of reactive oxygen species, or ROS leading to oxidative stress.  As you will know if you’ve been following our blog for some time, antioxidants neutralise free radicals!    

Once toxins have been passed through phase I, they are not completely finished with.  Intermediate metabolites are produced, and they sit in the body.  It’s almost like putting your rubbish in the outside bin, but missing collection day.  The rubbish remains.    

And so, we get to phase II.

Within phase II there are number of pathways and they are all responsible for detoxifying different compounds, some deal with heavy metals, plastics, mould and medications; some deal with heavy smoke, hormones and antibiotics, other pathways deal with caffeine, alcohol, and pesticides. 

Again, these pathways are all nutrient demanding, so again sufficient vitamin and mineral intake is crucial if we want it all to work as it should. 

At this point, we move into phase III, where we need to ensure the excretory part of the process is doing what it needs to.  This includes the function of the gut, skin, liver, and kidneys. 

For optimal excretion of toxins through the digestive system, gut health is vitally important.  Maintaining the mucosal barrier is key for gut health along with supporting motility.  Adequate hydration is also important along with avoiding stress where possible.

The Importance of Hydration

Skin health is also important; poor excretion of toxins through the skin has been linked to metabolic syndrome (conditions like obesity, insulin resistance, hypertension etc).  We have a double whammy with the skin though, it first expresses enzymes to detoxify at first exposure, but also helps excrete at the end! 

Of interest, it has been found that up to 120 compounds including toxic elements, appear to be preferentially excreted through sweat!  So, if you needed any more reason to get a sweat on, there it is!

In addition, poor liver and kidney function (as they play a role in the excretion of toxins) have also been seen to increase the risk of metabolic syndrome.

Jobs with an increased toxin exposure:
-          Agriculture,
-          Hairdresser,
-          Mechanics,
-          Construction,
-          Nail Technician,
-          Plastic Manufacturer,
-          Metalworking,
-          Rubber Manufacturer

If you work in a job with increased toxin exposure, its important to support your detoxification pathways as much as possible.  This includes eating a diet rich in vitamins and minerals to give those pathways the compounds they need to do their job. In addition, the inclusion of antioxidant foods will help neutralise those free radicals that are produced in the process.

Fivaday is clinically proven to provide an antioxidant boost equivalent to five portions of fruit and veg per day.