Xenobiotics are everywhere and why we should care

April 20, 2016

 

Xenobiotics are chemical compounds that are foreign to a biological or an ecological system. A substance, typically a synthetic chemical, that is foreign to the body.

  • Synthetic pesticides/ herbicides

  • Pharmaceutical drugs

  • Plasticizers

  • Food additives

  • Heavy metals

Xeno “stranger or foreigner and Bio “life” The 3 principle entries are the lungs, skin,  and intestines. These foreign substances enter your body usually through contaminated food, water, and air. They include environmental toxins, pollutants, antibiotics, chemicals in plastics, heavy metals, synthetic estrogens, and herbicides and pesticides.

 

You can’t see or taste them so it’s hard to avoid them. The EPA and USDA have established “safe levels” but it is not necessarily the large amounts of exposure to xenobiotics that are the problem rather it is the continuous low-dose exposure to multiple sources like plastic, VOC’s and pesticides. The time of exposure is also something to consider, for example: from conception to adolescence, children are more susceptible to the harmful effects of xenobiotics, yet the effects of exposure may not present itself in health problems until later in life.

 

If you’re storing hot food or preparing food that needs to be reheated, use glassware. For water or other beverages you can use glass, stainless steel, or a number 2 plastic container. For hot beverages like tea or coffee, stick with a traditional porcelain mug or glass.

 

3: PVC, found in condiment bottles, baby toys and shower curtains

6: styrofoam coffee cups, take-out containers, red party cups

7: water bottles (unless it says BPA free)

 

Phthalates are found in plastic food wrappers, cosmetics, shampoos, lotions, and some time-released medicines. BPA can also be found in the lining of canned foods and soda cans. These substances accumulate in our tissues, damage our enzymes, mimic our hormones and deplete the body of nutrients it needs for detoxication, making it ever more vulnerable.

 

“Sick Building Syndrome” is a condition when someone moves into a new house or office and gets sick from these compounds. Symptoms include dizziness, light-headed, headaches, trouble breathing, and can weaken the immune system allowing for susceptibility of other illnesses. If you’re building a new home or renovating your current one, or even if you’re just adding new paint or carpet, be sure to choose VOC-free or low-VOC products. When cleaning your house, new or old, be sure to choose low-VOC cleaners, and to help improve indoor air quality and keep VOC levels low make sure there is adequate air flow and ventilation.

 

Whether it’s through direct dumping into lakes and rivers or through air pollution falling with the rain, xenobiotics tend to find their way into our water supply. Water purification systems can be installed in your sinks and well as personal water purification systems can drastically remove heavy metals and other harmful compunds from the water supply. Air purifiers are a great way to remove airborne pollutants as well as allergens, dust, and mold from the air. This is especially beneficial in modern homes and offices where there is little to no ventilation due to energy saving efforts. You can find filters that are HEPA-certified that can also remove some of the VOCs in your air.

 

One group of xenobiotics is made up of environmental estrogens, referred to as xenoestrogens, which mimic animal hormones and act as endocrine system disrupters. Like other xenobiotics, they come from pesticides/herbicides and other chemicals. They are in our food, our water, and our air. Once in our body, they are not easily broken down. In humans, xenoestrogens mimic the effect of human estrogens because they have a chemical structure that allows them to fit into estrogen receptor sites. But once there, they cause issues. According to a 2006 study, they can prevent normal hormone binding to hormone receptors, influence cell signaling pathways, and increase cell division.

Reduce xenobiotic exposure:

  • Wash all produce

  • Use all natural household cleaners

  • Buy organic fruits and vegetables

  • Buy hormone-free, pasture-raised meat

  • Peel the skin off of non-organic produce

  • Cook and store food in glass containers

  • Store beverages in glass, stainless steel or number 2 plastic container

  • Do not microwave food

  • Use all-natural beauty products

  • Use all-natural cleaning products

Supplements to help reduce xenobiotics effects:

  • N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)

    • precursor to glutathione - one of the body’s most effective antioxidants

  • Green tea extract, quercetin, and alpha lipoic acid

    • antioxidants that assist in xenobiotic metabolism through detox pathways

  • B vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin E

    • cofactors in metabolic processes that eliminate xenobiotics

  • Calcium D-glucarate

    • assists in the metabolism and removal of xenobiotics and xenoestrogens

  • I3C and DIM

    • convert toxic xenoestrogens into less harmful forms

  • Probiotics 

    • beneficial bacteria in your gut can protect you against xenobiotics and other toxins by converting them into less harmful compounds and excretion

The environment may be out of our control but the diet we eat and the lifestyle we live can have an impact on how much of these toxins we have exposure to on a daily basis. Eat a clean diet and try to use green products whenever possible to reduce the risks of xenobiotic exposure.

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