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How Environmental Toxins May Contribute to Adrenal Fatigue

Blood work can be useful in telling you that inflammation, that may cause adrenal fatigue, is present. It can be useful in identifying potential causes of that inflammation. But more often than not, more-detailed testing is needed to investigate other causes of inflammation. A significant cause of inflammation is environmental toxins.

Basic environmental toxins

Which toxins are potent stimulators of inflammation? Well, there are many candidates, and they include the following:

  • Heavy metals, including mercury, arsenic, lead, and cadmium (in particular, mercury is one of the most common causes of heavy metal toxicity and inflammation; see the nearby sidebar for details)

  • Plastics, such as bisphenol A (BPA), which can affect the integrity of your endocrine system

  • Toxins and other pollutants in the food you eat

  • Cleaning supplies, including laundry detergent

  • Food allergens and sensitivities that can be evaluated through blood testing

Environmental toxins affect people all the time. Understand that chronic inflammation and illness from toxin exposure is a result of cumulative exposure over months or years. Environmental toxins have been linked to many chronic illnesses, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, diabetes, and cancer.

Toxins can also cause weight gain. BPA is a toxin in plastic that's referred to as a hormonal manipulator. It can simulate the actions of estrogen, with weight gain being a significant side effect.

Note that although weight gain is mostly affected by diet and exercise (or lack thereof), the science of obesity has demonstrated that toxins and fungal overgrowth also play a role in weight gain. Fat cells are treasure chests of inflammatory proteins. For many people, obesity contributes to the development of adrenal fatigue through its stimulation of the inflammatory process.

Basics of mercury

Some people believe all healthcare practitioners should test for levels of mercury and other heavy metals (manganese, aluminum, cadmium, beryllium, and arsenic). Mercury toxicity has been linked to many chronic diseases, including inflammatory arthritis, cancer, neuropathy, heart disease, and stroke. Other consequences of heavy metal toxicity include liver and kidney disease.

Mercury causes its toxic effects by interfering with the activities of the cell. It enters a cell, interferes with chemical reactions, and depletes the body of trace minerals such as zinc. It also causes a rapid depletion of potent cellular antioxidants, including glutathione.

With regard to heavy metals, you can take all the antioxidants that you want, but unless you do something to eliminate the heavy metal load, the anti-inflammatories and antioxidants won’t be very effective. Chelation is an effective way of eliminating heavy metals from the body. For information concerning chelation, visit the National Capital Poison Center website.

Note: Be aware that many older dental fillings contain mercury. Fortunately, most dentists no longer use mercury amalgam. Just the same, it’s a smart idea to ask your dentist not to use this toxin in your fillings.

How to undergo hair tests for toxins

Just measuring blood levels of a particular toxin, especially heavy metals, won't give you any information about the degree of toxicity in the tissues. Some healthcare practitioners do a chelation test. This test involves giving you a substance like EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid), which removes some of the metals from your tissues and puts them in the bloodstream. The next step is a 24-hour urine collection to quantitate the metals excreted.

Because toxins go deep into the tissues, performing a hair analysis is one of the best ways to get a sense of tissue toxicity. A hair analysis is easy to do (it can be done at home) and is noninvasive. The only requirements are that you have hair and don't live in the state of New York, because this testing isn't allowed there!

A hair analysis can measure metals, minerals, and electrolytes. Just from the hair sample, a lab quantifies the amounts of each toxin or nutrient in the body:

  • Metals: Mercury, lead, arsenic, and cadmium

  • Minerals: Zinc, magnesium, calcium, selenium, and manganese

  • Electrolytes: Potassium and phosphorous

Together, the levels of all these substances provide a profile that can tell you and your healthcare practitioner many things. It's not by accident that “heavy metal poisoning” is in the modern vocabulary.

Don't wash your hair before collecting the hair sample, because washing may affect the results. (Here's the kicker: Some labs wash the hair sample that you send to them, which may affect the reliability of the test.) Cut your hair as close to the scalp as possible for the best possible result. If you're bald, you can still have this test done using hair from other areas .

After the test is done, the testing center should offer you the opportunity to have a review session with an individual who specializes in the interpretation of the hair analysis. In an ideal world, your healthcare practitioner would want to speak with this specialist to determine how best to personalize your treatment regimen.

However, many health practitioners are reluctant to even order the test, let alone speak with such a specialist. You need to be an advocate for your own health and treatment. In terms of price, many of these tests can range from $100 to $300.

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