By Dr. Venessa Wahler, ND As we sit down to write our New Year’s Resolutions, we know that many people will include “weight loss” on their list. For some this means taking more time for movement, for others it means increasing fruits and vegetables, omitting poor dietary habits, or some form of restricted eating. And, as research suggests, those that write down their resolutions will more often achieve their goals throughout the year. But what if despite your best intentions-and even your best actions-you continue to experience weight gain or the inability to lose weight and keep it off over time? Perhaps it’s time to put our focus elsewhere, to explore environmental factors that are commonly overlooked in regard to chronic disease and obesity, and outline measures that can be taken by practitioners and individuals to improve health and optimize weight. The earth’s environment has significantly changed in the last few decades due to the exponential production and usage of synthetic organic and inorganic chemicals. Interestingly, many of these chemicals are known for weight loss at high levels of exposure, but much lower concentrations of the same chemicals have powerful weight-promoting actions. In order to respond to these chemicals and environmental contributions to chronic disease, we must first seek to recognize them within the individual. The next step is avoidance, followed by supportive therapies and detoxification. Recognition of potential risk will include a comprehensive history intake or questionnaire given by your doctor or therapist. This will include the classic questions: What? (is the substance), where? (is a substance made/found), how? (does toxicity manifest), who? (may be affected), and why? (is it used, and are there alternatives that pose less risk). With approximately 80,000 chemicals registered with the Environmental Protection Agency in the last century, how do we comprehensively determine which toxins are present in the body and then assess the overall total toxic burden? While there are certainly limitations to the ability to comprehensively test the body’s total toxin burden, we do have a variety of tests that are helpful as an indication of toxin accumulation in the body. These include (but are not limited to) whole blood or serum testing, urine testing, salivary testing, hair analysis, stool sampling, and breath analysis. In addition to testing for toxic organic chemicals, we have the ability to evaluate the status of intestinal yeast and bacteria, extract information about important neurotransmitters, nutritional markers, glutathione status, oxalate metabolism and much more. Once risks are identified and toxic load determined, avoidance is implemented and clients are empowered to avoid ongoing chemical contamination. There are six routes of possible sources of exposure, and each of them must be explored. These include ingestion, skin contact, breathing, vertical transmission (i.e. mother to infant), olfactory transmission via smell, and penetration of body tissues through surgery, dentistry, injection or vector routes. The body has enormous potential to detoxify the contaminants it is presented with, although elimination will depend completely on the individual’s physiological and biochemical status. Supportive therapies will aim to remediate a dysfunctional nutritional status in the body, often detected via laboratory investigations. For example, glutathione is a prerequisite component of cellular detoxification and those that are carrying a higher toxic load will likely have deficient stores of glutathione, and thus need repletion. Ask our practitioners about a coffee implant at your next colon hydrotherapy session to help support glutathione levels. The priority is to support all major organs of detoxification, including the liver, kidneys, skin, intestines, and lungs. Detoxification therapies will often include diet and nutritional supplementation, sweating or sauna therapy, selected medications (to include chelating agents, antibiotics and antifungals as needed), colon hydrotherapy, Decongestive Lymphatic therapy, and daily exercise among others. So what do we aim to detoxify? Modifiable factors such as tobacco, alcohol, lifestyle (e.g., activity levels), and diet and nutrition top lists of contributors to cardiovascular disease, cancer and obesity/metabolic syndrome/diabetes. There are heavy metals such as lead and mercury found in food and water, dental amalgams, consumer products, and dust. These are probable or established carcinogens that can accumulate in organs such as the brain, liver, kidneys and bone, causing dysfunction. Also contributing to chronic disease are naturally occurring substances such as molds and their volatile metabolites, as well as allergens (plant, food and animal). Various agents used to control pests (e.g. herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides) have been linked to cancers, and neurological, endocrine, developmental, reproductive, respiratory, and immunological disorders. Moreover, there are plastics, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) such as gasoline and fragrances, and Persistent Organic Polllutants (POPs). The latter are synthetic (man-made) chemicals defined by their persistence in the environment and body. These include pesticides, industrial chemicals, and unintended industrial by-products. Adipose tissue (or fat) is involved in several physiological functions in the body, including energy storage, regulating metabolism, and endocrine functions. Obesity is characterized by an increase in size of fat cells, but also by the accumulation of macrophages (important cells of the immune system) within the cells. In vitro experiments have shown that macrophage secretions profoundly disturb adipose cell biology, promoting a proliferative, pro-inflammatory and pro-fibrotic state of early fat cells, as well as an insulin-resistant state in mature fat cells. Put simply, not only does obesity affect fat cell structure, it affects its function as well. When we look at the role of fat cells in regard to storing toxins, we can understand more clearly the need to detoxify in lieu of weight loss measures. There is evidence to support that increasing levels of circulating Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) occurs during times of fasting and weight loss. POPs are stored in fat cells within the body, but can also be released into the blood during times of weight loss. Once in the bloodstream, they can be taken up by other fat cells in the body (they persist!). Nevertheless, losing weight has been shown to lessen the body burden of POPs. POPs are excreted in feces but routes may also include transfer from mother to infant in breastmilk. There has also demonstrated to be an inverse correlation between long-term weight changes and POP blood concentrations. To conclude, the commonly held causes of obesity-overeating and not getting enough exercise-do not explain the current obesity epidemic. If you’ve been dieting your whole life, find that you regain that pesky 30 pounds once you’ve lost it, or have come to a point in your weight loss journey that you are no longer seeing results: it may be time to sit down with your practitioner to identify your exposures and test for toxic load. This can serve to empower you to remove or reduce these toxins from your life, enjoy long-term weight loss, and live a healthier life. By Dr. Venessa Wahler, ND Sources cited: 1)Baillie-Hamilton PF. Chemical toxins: a hypothesis to explain the global obesity epidemic. J Altern Complementary Med. 2002 Apr; 8(2): 185-92. [PubMed] 2)Sears, Margaret E. and Genuis, Stephen J. Environmental Determinants of Chronic Disease and Medical Approaches: Recognition, Avoidance, Supportive Therapy, and Detoxification. J Environ Public Health. 2012. Jan 19. [PubMed] 3)Great Plains Laboratory, Inc. Clinical Significance of the Organic Acids Test. 06/01/2016. 4) World Health Organization. Glabal Status report on noncommunicabl diseases. 2014. https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/148114/1/9789241564854_eng.pdf?ua=1 5) Sanborn, M et al. Non-cancer health effects of pesticides: systematic review and implications for family doctors. Canadian Family Physician, 2007. 53(10): 1712-1720. [PubMed]. 6) World Health Organization. Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), Children’s Health and the Environment. 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