If you’re not feeling your best, it’s worth your while to learn about the effects of toxins on the body. There are different ways that toxins can build up in your system, triggering inflammation and immune-system dysfunction that leads to autoimmune disease, degeneration, fatigue, inflammation and chronic illness.
Models of Toxicity: How Toxins Affect Immune Function
There are three ways that toxins can affect you. They’re listed below as models of toxicity:
- The dose-dependent model: This model of toxicity depends on the quantity of a toxin that’s ingested. A toxin can be labeled both safe and unsafe, depending on the dose of it that’s needed to create a reaction. The greater the amount of toxin that you have in your system, the more likely it is to become toxic to you. For example, let’s say that mercury is considered toxic when it’s in the body at a level that surpasses five parts per million. So, if you stay under that five parts per million, it’s not considered a problem, even though the mercury is still present in your body. When it gets to over five parts per million, you’ll experience toxicity. That’s one way to look at it. However, there are other ways that you could develop a toxicity response.
- The buildup model of toxicity: You might experience exposure to a toxin at such low levels that it doesn’t cause harm at first. But if you’re exposed to the toxin fairly consistently over an extended time, it’s going to build up to a point where it will cause problems. This type of toxicity is based upon the duration of the exposure.
- The immune-tolerance model: With this model, it doesn’t matter how much of the toxin you’ve been exposed to or how long you’ve been exposed to it. What matters is your body’s response to the exposure. Specifically, is your immune system reacting to it, or is it tolerating it?
The concept of Immune tolerance explains why some people can smoke cigarettes their entire lives and they’re fine, but other people don’t smoke, eat clean and exercise, but they still have health problems. In those cases, there’s usually some issue with the body’s ability to tolerate a toxin. It could have to do with your genetics, such as your cytochromes P450 enzyme system isn’t working properly or you have trouble with methylation.
However, genes are only one aspect of immune intolerance. Even if you have the genetics, it doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to have a problem. It all depends on the dose of the toxin, the frequency of your exposure and your immune tolerance to the substance.
The models above describe three ways that toxins can affect you. Each one matters, and when faced with a toxin, your outcome is determined by the combination that applies to you.
Let’s say you have a lot of toxins in your environment, and you’ve been exposed to them for a long time. Even so, you might not react to those toxins if your immune response is working really well. Essentially, quantity and frequency of exposure take a back seat when there’s a strong immune-system response.
Inflammation and Disease
What does all of this have to do with inflammation or disease? As you lose immune-chemical tolerance over time, your body starts to respond to the chemical that you’re exposed to more and more as if it’s a bad guy. Sensitivity to a toxin is not something that you’ll never have if you didn’t have it before. You’ve probably heard someone say, “I used to be able to eat a certain food, but I can’t eat it anymore because now I react to it.” The same applies to toxins.
You can develop an immune-chemical intolerance when one or more of these scenarios apply to you:
- You had too much toxin exposure all at one time.
- You had small amounts of toxin exposure over a long period of time.
- Your immune system is impaired because of genetics or other factors, including toxin exposure.
A few things happen when you develop immune-chemical intolerance:
- Diminished glutathione status and recycling: Glutathione is produced in every cell of the body. It protects cells against oxidative damage and is important for phase-two liver detox.
- Lowered T-regulatory cell function: Glutathione plays an important role in T-regulatory cell function. T cells are the immune cells that regulate your immune response. When they’re functioning optimally, your system doesn’t react overzealously, such as triggering an allergic response, to every perceived threat.
- Decreased barrier function: Inflammation from immune-chemical intolerance can degrade the gut barrier, the lung barrier and the brain/blood barrier.
- Impaired cytokine regulation: When these cellular messengers are impaired due to a buildup of toxins, it can cause inflammation.
As a result of everything described above, you can develop multiple food and chemical insensitivities as well as intolerances to environmental compounds, like dust. You can even become sensitive to your body’s own tissues. The ultimate result is the development of autoimmune diseases and disorders, like Hashimoto’s, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis and Myasthenia gravis. There are over 140 differently named autoimmune diseases, but they are all really just manifestations of the same type of autoimmune response in the body.
How to Get Immune-Chemical Tolerance Back
The good news is that if you can lose immune-chemical tolerance, you can also gain it back. We all have chemicals in our body, so staying healthy is a matter of how well your system is able to eliminate toxins and tolerate the ones that are still there. Immune-chemical tolerance can be improved through solutions such as:
- Lifestyle strategies
- Nutrition strategies
A medical practitioner with an understanding of toxicity and the immune response can recommend lab tests to identify chemical issues, toxicities, immune function markers and genes that influence how your body tolerates chemicals. Then, they can use specific strategies to reverse and repair these problems by supporting your natural physiology so that you can start to get your life back. You can reverse symptoms of autoimmunity, slow or stop degeneration, reverse fatigue, quench inflammation and even reverse chronic illness using the right strategies.
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