A healthy immune system defends the body against disease and infection. But if the immune system malfunctions, it mistakenly attacks healthy cells, tissues, and organs. Called autoimmune disease, these attacks can affect any part of the body, weakening bodily function and even turning life-threatening.
Recent epidemiological studies have shown that the incidence of autoimmune diseases has increased over the past 25 years. Indeed, according to a research round-up article from the prestigious scientific journal Nature, a team of researchers has shown that antinuclear antibodies — a type of autoantibody that is a common biomarker of autoimmune disease — have become increasingly prevalent in the US population over the past 25 years.
Besides the Western diet, which is characterized by a high intake of processed foods, red meat, refined carbohydrates, etc., there is another major factor which explains this increased incidence of autoimmune diseases: exposure to environmental toxins. Many research papers have pointed to a possible causal link between exposure to these toxins (which includes heavy metals, pesticides, chlorinated solvents, asbestos) and an increased risk of developing autoimmune diseases. Sources of the aforementioned toxins are food, water, air, lining of cans, cleaning supplies, ink, etc.
There are many mechanisms, some more complex than others, through which exposure to environmental toxins contributes to autoimmune disease. Examples of such mechanisms that can cause immune disruption following toxic chemical exposure include: toxic chemicals can induce epigenetic expressions, bind to immune and endocrine receptors throughout the body and promote immune dysregulation, bind to nucleic acids and promote anti-nuclear autoimmunity, deplete antioxidant reserves, promote immune barrier degradation, induce lymphocyte dysregulation, and alter normal antigen-presenting responses.
So, what can you do to minimise your exposure to environmental toxins? With regards to heavy metals, avoiding fish with high levels of mercury (e.g. shark, swordfish, ray), bone broth which is often contaminated with lead and e-cigarettes, which contain cadmium, are all good ways to avoid them. In the past, many home-building products and materials had asbestos in them. Common products with asbestos are ceiling tiles, insulation in walls and attics and material sprayed on walls to soundproof or decorate them. To avoid inhaling asbestos fibres, take precautions to avoid damaging asbestos material. To avoid pesticides and chlorinated solvents, try to use non-toxic home cleaning products.
Toxicity and environmental toxins have been linked to autoimmune diseases by causing dysregulation of the immune system. Hence, minimising one´s exposure to these toxins is a major way to reduce the risk of developing autoimmune diseases.
It is of paramount importance to find detoxifying strategies to eliminate or substantially reduce this toxic burden from our bodies (blood, tissues and cells). Reinforcing the natural detoxification of your body can help you fight back and restore functionality and the immune system.