Welcome back to the Healing Pain Podcast with Dr. Joseph Pizzorno.
Dr. Joseph Pizzorno is a world-leading authority on science-based natural medicine, a term he coined in 1978. He is also the author of The Toxin Solution. In this episode, we are going to talk about toxins and how they affect your health tremendously. He goes into detail about the diseases that are commonly caused by toxins. He also discusses how we can fight this and what we can do about it.
About Dr. Joseph Pizzorno
Dr. Joseph Pizzorno is a world-leading authority on science-based natural medicine, a term he coined in 1978. A licensed naturopathic physician, educator, researcher, clinician and lecturer, he is founding president of Bastyr University, Editor-in-Chief of Integrative Medicine, A Clinician’s Journal, Treasurer of Board of Institute for Functional Medicine, co-founder of American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, board member of American Herbal Pharmacopeia, and on science boards of Hecht Foundation, Gateway for Cancer Research and Bioclinic Naturals. He was appointed by Presidents Clinton and Bush to two prestigious commissions advising the US government on how to integrate natural medicine into the healthcare system. He is recipient of numerous awards and honors and author/co-author of 11 books, including the best-selling Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (2 million copies in 6 languages) and the principal textbook in the field, the Textbook of Natural Medicine. His newest book, The Toxin Solution, will be released February 2017 by HarperCollins.
The Toxin Solution with Dr. Joseph Pizzorno
Dr. Joe Pizzorno, welcome to Healing Pain Podcast. It’s great to have you on as a guest today.
Thank you for the invitation.
I am excited to talk to you because I’ve never had a toxin expert on the podcast. So many people with chronic pain, they are looking for the underlying cause, they are looking for the solution and sometimes they are looking for the reason for their pain that oftentimes the average physician or the allopathic world is not really tapping into. I am really excited to talk about your new book called The Toxin Solution, as well as how this can impact our health. I really think a great place to start is to maybe share with all of us how you got to be so passionate about toxins and their impact on our health.
Good question. I have been involved in medicine now for about half a century. First, as a conventional medicine researcher, then as a naturopathic student and as a clinician, then started Bastyr University, writing books, and have been the editor-in-chief of Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal. Obviously, over that period of time, I’ve been looking at why people are sick. When I first started this around 50 years ago, people were sick because of nutritional deficiencies, poor lifestyle behaviors, lack of exercise. All those things we know about. But then it started to change. I started to see more and more people being sick because they were toxic. They were toxic typically not because of anything they were doing but because of what was happening to the water, to the air, to the food, health and beauty aids, household chemicals, yard chemicals, things like that. I started to see this. I decided to start looking at the research.
Two years ago, I published an editorial on my journal saying, “Are toxins becoming the primary cause of chronic disease?” I said that because I started looking at things like arsenic and mercury, PCBs, phthalates. I started to look at people with the highest level of toxins compared to people with the lowest level of those toxins and look at what the disease burden was. What I found was just stunning. It was just huge strong correlations. For example, 10% of people with the highest level of organochlorine pesticides. These are common in all the fruits we eat that are conventionally grown. They had twelve times the incidents of diabetes compared to people with no levels of these chemicals in their bodies. I started looking at more and more research and the numbers said that most of chronic disease today is due to environmental toxins.
In some ways, it’s eye opening. I think it’s also terrifying for people because toxins are not something that are really spoken about. I think we know that our oceans are polluted and our rivers are polluted. If you are not eating an organic diet, you could be eating fruits and vegetables that have toxins sprayed on them, so to speak. I don’t think we’ve yet made the direct correlation to, “Toxins in my body are creating a disease.” You mentioned diabetes. What are the other common diseases that people are struggling with today, that toxins may be the underlying root cause to?
Everything. I am not being facetious here at all. If you look at rheumatoid arthritis. It looks like one quarter of rheumatoid arthritis is due to PCBs. You might say, “Wait a minute. PCBs were banned 40 years ago.” They were banned. But PCB’s are what are called persistent organic pollutants. What that means is that they’re very difficult to break down. When the scientists developed these chemicals, they developed them with specific purposes. For example, they developed the organophosphate pesticides in order to kill insects. For example, spray it on kale, and that’s great. But there’s not much point developing that chemical if it break downs really quickly, so they made them difficult to break down. It’s not only difficult to break down in the environment, but once it gets into our bodies, it’s difficult to break down as well.
Going back to PCBs as an example. Although PCBs were banned 40 years ago, because they are so widely used, they basically spilled into the environment. They built in the environment, although they are slowly decreasing in the environment, once they get into us human beings, they’re hard to get rid of. The half life of PCBs, that’s the amount of time it takes to rid half of them, is three to twenty-five years. Once it gets in your body, you can’t get rid of them.
I know you’re focused on pain. These toxins have a huge impact on pain. If you look at how toxins damage the body, you can break it down to two categories. Category one is oxidative stress. It turns out all these toxins increase oxidative stress in the body. We increase oxidative stress, we increase inflammation. We increase inflammation, you get more pain. As you well know, one of the key strategies for decreasing pain in the body is to decrease inflammation and oxidative stress.
The other thing they do is they have specific damage effects to the body. For example, mercury specifically poisons neurons. Lead poisons the enzymes that are responsible for producing blood in the body. When we look at all these various things, we see inflammation goes up in proportion to toxin exposure. It’s a huge problem.
How about ADHD in children? Children with the highest levels of organophosphate pesticides compared to those with the lowest levels of organophosphate pesticides, they have a double in ADHD. It’s worse than that. Research looked at the organophosphate pesticides in pregnant women and then looked at the IQ of their children compared to the IQ of children born with women with the lowest levels of organophosphate pesticides, three studies have now shown that those children lose seven IQ points. One study found these kids to seven years, they never got their IQ back. Basically, we dummied down our population because of the poison that we’re exposing everybody to.
If you go on the internet right now and you Google toxins, a lot of different things pop up. Sometimes things pop up like, you are going to do a juice cleanse and you are going to detoxify your liver. Tell us why that might not be the best approach to detoxifying your body.
You get back to the theme of my book. In the book, I start with telling people, “Here are how toxins are causing disease.” Then we talk about where they are coming from and how to avoid them. I say, “Don’t just go on a detox program because your body is still saturated with toxins. If you’re going to a detox program and loosen things up, before you can get rid of them you’re going to run into trouble.”
I go through a process and say, first, let’s detox for your gut because it turns out the wrong bacteria in your gut can produce mono-toxins that not only are directly damaging to the body, but they also overload the liver. It’s painful in the gut. We spend two weeks cleaning up the liver. Let’s get the liver all cleaned up. Let’s get all the enzymes working the way it’s supposed to make sure all the nutrients needed are there. Make sure we get rid of bile the way we have to.
The third factor added was the kidneys, taking care of the kidneys. We have this epidemic now of kidney failure. That didn’t exist 50 years ago. Now, we have all these people having kidney failure. You have to really prepare the kidneys. Now, once your organs of detoxification are taken care of, now let’s go on a detox program. I show people real intense detox program that is safe at this point because your body is ready for it.
I know in your book, The Toxin Solution, you talk about the immune system. What are the effects of toxins on the immune system? I think that’s so important when we’re talking to people about pain because out of the 100 million Americans that have chronic pain, probably about half of them have an autoimmune disease or some kind of autoimmune basis to their pain. It’s really important that we touch on the immune system and how toxins affect it negatively.
Actually, it’s pretty interesting, of course, scary too. I like diving into these things. You have, first off, the direct damaging effect of toxins on the new system function. For example, people exposed to mercury. When they’ve taken a drug like Cortisone, when they’re exposed to things like ozone, it actually damages the white cells so they can’t attack infections as well. But we also know that antibodies are really important part of our immune system. It turns out, if a person has been exposed to organochlorine pesticides, their ability to produce antibodies is decreased. It turns out, it’s directly damaging the immune system.
We’re also getting more autoimmune disease. One thing that’s happening, and this is just really brand new research, is that when we’re in utero, when we were developing as human beings, our body’s immune system is programmed to look at our normal body tissues and proteins and such to say, “These are normal. Don’t develop antibodies to them.” But what happens to the normal body enzymes and proteins when you then bind them to toxins? All of a sudden, you have different chemicals. The antibodies say, “Wait a minute. This is new. Now, we have to react to it.” We start reacting to our own normal tissues because they’ve been bound to chemical toxins and metal toxins. It’s a double whammy. You can’t fight infection as well as you should, but you’re also fighting your own body. The more I look at the research, the more disconcerting I am by what we’re seeing. It’s really bad.
How do we educate? I know your book will obviously push this in the right direction. How do we educate the traditional physician who maybe doesn’t know about toxins and who might want to learn more and figure out how they work that in with their patient population?
We need to get the doctors educated properly. Actually, I’m working on that quite vigorously. Number one is with Dr. Walter Crinnion. I’m writing a textbook. It’s called Clinical Environmental Medicine. It will be published by Elsevier and it will be coming out in mid 2018. Walter and I, we have a hundred chapters in the book. We look at all the toxins. We look at all the diseases. We look at how to assess toxic load and how to get the toxins out of the body. We’re looking at all that research put together. It has been a lot of fun, learning a lot. That’s one way.
The second way is by doing what I’m doing right now, and that is I’m lecturing, literally, all over the world to healthcare groups. They are more oriented towards integrative medicine, but more and more MDs are coming to these conferences. I’ll tell you what a sad thing is. Virtually, every time I give this lecture to a group, the first thing I get during the question and answer period was, “That was the most depressing lecture I’ve ever heard.”
I tried bringing some good news too and using lead as an example. For example, we finally became aware of lead being a problem way back in the ’70s. We banned lead in gasoline and we banned lead in paint. The good news is that we’ve decreased the average person’s blood levels of lead by 90% in the last 40 years. We can do something about it, but we have to choose to do something about it.
Let’s circle back to the average person for a minute. Is there a difference in how toxins affect the male versus female and that of physiology, if you will?
Yes. In general it’s almost all the same, but there are some areas that have a pretty significant difference. For example, if you look at prostate cancer in men, this is a significant problem. It looks like one third of prostate cancer in men is due to arsenic. You might say, “Arsenic, don’t you just get that when you’re being poisoned by your spouse?” No. Where does arsenic come from? It comes from water, for example. 10% of the public water supplies in the US that have been tested happen to show to have levels of arsenic high enough that are known to cause disease.
How about chicken? Arsenic is given to chickens to make them plump up, make it bigger, you have more white meat and to prevent infection. The USDA is now limiting the amount of arsenic that are given to chicken. But the problem is chicken is a major source of arsenic.
The third source is rice. Even organically grown rice is problematic in that rice for some reason is very good at absorbing arsenic. Rice is often fertilized with chicken feed, which has arsenic in it. We have all these arsenic that’s causing prostate cancer in men. How about women? When we start looking at breast cancer in women and toxicity, what we found was a very, very strong correlation with PCB’s.
I think it’s fascinating because you are starting to make all the connections between what’s happening in our environment, what’s happening in our body. We’re looking at this global environment, but I think what’s happening globally is just being reflected in our own microenvironment in our body basically.
Looking at women with PCBs in breast cancer, I would assert that about a third of breast cancer is probably due to PCBs, even though they were banned for 40 years. Here’s the really scary part. It turns out, we know that women, the more they breastfeed, the less breast cancer they have. One interesting group of researchers decided to look at PCB levels in women and looked at what their levels are depending upon how long they breastfeed. They found that women who breastfeed for at least twelve months, it didn’t matter whether there’s one baby or several babies, to breastfeed for at least twelve months, they decrease their PCB levels by about 40%. It’s good for women, less breast cancer, but where are the PCBs going? Unfortunately, they are going into our babies and children.
Basically, we’re just getting worse generation by generation as the environment becomes more polluted and the mothers, through no fault of their own, are passing these toxins on to the babies.
If someone is listening to the podcast today and they want to start today and they want to make a change and decrease their toxic load in some way, where is the first place they should start?
First place is to stop letting the toxins in. I can’t overemphasize this enough. Because once they get in your body, they are so hard to get rid of, so you have to stop the toxins. Let’s look at food. Organically grown food versus conventional grown foods, you drop your toxin load by about a factor of ten. For example, there was a study that was done here in Seattle. They looked at organophosphate pesticides in kids eating organically grown foods and they compared it to kids who are eating conventionally grown foods. The kids eating conventionally grown foods had nine times the level of organophosphate pesticides. Clearly, just eat organically grown food.
Now, some organically grown foods may be too expensive. There’s a really good resource called the Environmental Working Group or EWG.org. On that website, they show you which foods are most toxic, which are least toxic. Those that are least toxic, you can eat them conventionally grown. Those that are most toxic, you never should eat them unless they are only organically grown. The food, the food, the food.
Another area that’s immediately addressable is health and beauty aids. Health and beauty aids are very high in phthalates. These chemicals were designed to basically solubilize fragrances and stabilize them. Whenever you put on your lotions and potions, while it may help your skin look nicer and may help you look prettier, you’re actually poisoning yourself. You can get health and beauty aids without these chemical toxins in them. If you look at these phthalates, these phthalates are particularly damaging to the body because they block the interceptor sites and make people more susceptible to diabetes.
This fascinates me because as you become diabetic, obviously, you have more belly fat and oftentimes that belly fat is where the toxin is actually stored in patients.
When people try to lose weight, they start breaking down all the fat in their body. That fat is saturated with these toxins because these persistent organic pollutants are fat soluble. They are built in your fat. When you start losing weight, they all start coming out and make you feel crappy. These things cause inflammation and they depress thyroid functions and such. It makes you harder and harder to lose weight because you feel so toxic when you lose weight.
Looking at other things, let’s look at the chemicals you use in the house. When you’re cleaning your toilets or you’re cleaning your sink tops, whatever. There are low toxin versions and there are high toxin versions. Choose the low toxin versions. Now, more difficult are water and air. It’s a good idea in the areas where you sleep to have HEPA filters, for example, to filter out what are called PHS and the particulate matter because it’s also damaging as well. In these areas you’re in the most, like your bedroom, clean those out.
Then in your water supply, a lot of people put carbon box filters on their sinks in the kitchen and that’s worthwhile. But it’s much more important to put it on your shower because when you’re exposed to these toxins, while you absorb some through eating them, when you breathe them, they go right into your body very, very efficiently. If you are just thoughtful just looking at all the ways you’re exposed to chemicals and metals, decrease them.
I think it’s an awesome topic. In your book, I know you talk about the brain and the nervous system a little bit and how toxins affect that. I talk about the brain all the time because ultimately, the brain and nervous system is really what contributes to your pain perception. Talk just briefly about how toxins affect, let’s say, the brain and why we should be so concerned about that.
This year’s Institute for Functional Medicine conference in June, I’ll actually be lecturing on neurotoxins and how they are the cause of the neurodegeneration we’re seeing today. Just a quick aside, I had the great advantage of having known my great grandfather, my grandfather as well as my father. My great grandfather lived to age 95, never saw a doctor in his life. I used to play strategy games with him. I love playing strategy games. This old guy would beat me all the time. I was thinking, “Wow. How can this old guy beat me all the time?” He beat me all the time because his brain was working just fine. He never saw a doctor in his life. He had no disease. He ate a Mediterranean-type diet. He grew a lot of his own food, avoided toxins and he was great. But then I noticed, generation by generation, the brain function, the longevity, the disease burden were dramatically different. My father had much more disease, much poor brain function as he got older, didn’t live near as long. That’s because he lived a standard American diet which was low in nutrients and high in toxins.
When we look at the neurotoxins, there are many. Mercury is one of the worst neurotoxins we know of. While various official biases have said “The mercury in your fillings doesn’t get into your body.” It’s simply not true. If you do a biopsy of cadavers, you can predict how much mercury is in the brain of cadavers based on the number of several fillings in their mouth. It’s just really clearly damaged the brain. I’ve had patients who were diagnosed with dementia, early Alzheimer’s disease with high mercury levels. I got the mercury out of their bodies and all their dementia went away. The good news is that a lot of it is still reversible, but you wait too long, eventually it’s not reversible. Mercury is a really typical example.
Another example of a significant neurotoxin is the organophosphate pesticides I mentioned before. They were developed to poison the neurological systems of insects. Why do we think they are not going to poison our neurological systems as well? People might say, “The research shows they are not that toxic.” The research was done for a few months, we’re doing this now for a whole lifetime. Small factors may not have much effect in short time periods, but for long time periods, you’ve got a huge problem.
Let’s look at DDT for example. The research we’re looking at in DDT and Alzheimer’s disease is really strong. I’m not sure what the numbers are now. I’m thinking it’s going to be around one quarter of Alzheimer’s is due to DDT. We banned DDT back in 1972. The problem is, the DDT half life in the body is ten years. Not only that, but the DDT half life in the environment is decades as well. Once it gets into the environment, once it gets into your body, it just keeps causing more and more damage.
I think it’s a really, really powerful topic. I want you to have an opportunity to share to everyone how they can access more of your information, both on your website and your new books. Please tell us how we can learn more.
The book’s title is The Toxin Solution. I wrote it for consumers. A matter of fact, the publisher required that I have a professional writer rewrite what I wrote. I am a good writer but I’m writing for doctors, so she made it so people can really understand it. That’s my strong recommendation.
What I’m asking of people is not easy to do, because I’m asking people to really just look at their whole life. I’m asking them to change their diet. I’m asking them to take supplements and herbal medicines to help get these toxins out. It’s not easy to do. But the lifelong effects are just huge.
The website for The Toxin Solution is called TheToxinSolution.com, not surprisingly. We have some gifts and things for people if they buy the book through The Toxin Solution. That’s a good resource. I also have a personal website, DrPizzorno.com. On the website for the book, we have lots of resources. Not only that there some excellent giveaways, but we have tools. For example, you can do an online tool to help you understand how toxic you are. We have charts where you can look at what disease you may have. It will tell you which toxin is most likely causing that disease. We have a list of laboratories I recommend if you wanted to see and objectively measure the level of toxins in your body. There are lots of resources for people.
Let us know when does the book come out and where can people find.
It just came out. You can go to Amazon right now. Click on the button and they’ll be happy to send it to you, either through your Kindle via the e-books or you can buy the book itself.
I want to thank Dr. Joe Pizzorno for being on the Healing Pain Podcast. Make sure to check out his brand new book. It’s available now in stores and online, called The Toxin Solution. You can learn more about the book at TheToxinSolution.com as well as on his website, DrPizzorno.com.
Thank you everyone for being with us again on the Healing Pain Podcast this week. As always, make sure to check out the podcast each week at DrJoeTatta.com/podcasts. Make sure to sign in and, of course, share this important information out with your friends and family on social media.
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