Written by Tamryn Burgess
Unless you live on a faraway island, completely isolated from the goings on in the world (although you wouldn’t be reading this if you were), by now you’re well aware of the synthetics lurking in conventional skin care and the impact they can have on your health. Not to mention, all the GMOs being pumped into our food supply that can drastically increase the risk of disease in the body.
But there’s another not-so-talked-about missing component in the discussion on toxin exposure...
Be honest, have you ever stopped to wonder what effect these same synthetics in your skin care and GMOs in your food can have on your mental and physical performance?
I’m not just talking about students and athletes, anyone of any age can struggle with the side-effects of toxins. In fact, it’s especially alarming when you see the neurodevelopmental effects (ADD, autism, and cerebral palsy) caused by chemicals on the developing brains of children (1).
It’s not all doom and gloom, there are natural ways of protecting yourself against free radical scavengers, just keep in mind it all comes down to a long-term healthy lifestyle, rather than a temporary quick fix (dieting) , but more on that later on!
If you find yourself forgetful and dealing with brain fog a little too often, or if you find that you lack the stamina to push through your workouts, then your body may be struggling with toxin overload.
So put your to-do list aside for just a few minutes and keep reading, you’ll be glad you did!
What is the impact of heavy metals on athletic performance and mental health?
Heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium sounds like the makings of a horror film; but I hate to be the one to tell you, they make their way into your daily life more often than you’d possibly imagine. The scary fact of the matter is that these heavy metals are found in small traces in everything from our water supply to our cosmetics so avoiding them may seem virtually impossible.
IMPACT ON ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
Contributing to impaired athletic performance and affecting virtually every organ system, lead , in particular, may lead to muscle and joint pain, deficits in motor function, decreased reaction time, memory problems, as well as nerve disorders. Found mostly in “ lead-based paint in older homes, contaminated soil, household dust, drinking water, lead crystal, and lead-glazed pottery” this heavy metal is tough to avoid for the average person (2).
Arsenic from contaminated drinking water can impair the musculoskeletal system and contribute to a decline in muscle function (3) while cadmium and mercury have shown negative effects on skeletal muscle in animal studies (4).
Another heavy metal that has detrimental effects on both the mind and the body is one that is more common than you may realize... I’m talking about mercury of course.
Humans are exposed to mercury most commonly through vaccines, contaminated fish (5+ tons of mercury is released into the sea each year), dental fillings, and workplace exposure; and while you can’t actually see it, it's wreaking havoc within. Muscle atrophy (eg. one leg appearing smaller, not shorter than the other) is typically due to inactivity, yet a study published in 2000 showed that exposure to mercury vapors in an occupational setting also shows moderate to severe atrophy in participants - dental technicians and dentist (5). This is especially awakening for athletes or active people who work in the dental field and seem to be losing muscle mass, instead of gaining. Toxic overload from mercury may be a contributing factor you should investigate with your doctor. Furthermore, if you’re working out and finding it hard to get a good contraction or proper “pump” action, then take a look at your surroundings and lifestyle to see if mercury may be involved as it is known to prevent proper contraction of muscle fibres.
Ultimately, heavy metals block specific enzymes that are needed for the body to produce energy and protein (6). Without sufficient energy and protein, your body will simply not perform at optimal levels. As a result, injuries, fatigue, lack of energy and inability to recover can occur.
Drinking pure, filtered water and limiting exposure to lead by using lead-free paint in your home, throwing out conventional cosmetics and using only natural cosmetics and household products are all important to reduce your risk of heavy metal toxicity.
IMPACT ON MENTAL PERFORMANCE
Just when you got your head around the different ways toxins can affect your physical performance, you’re then confronted with how it can impair your cognitive health and mental performance.
Lead is in the line of fire again here, with direct effects on learning and memory when the brain is exposed to high amounts, although it is now said that no amount of lead exposure is safe (7). In adults, lead exposure is linked to brain and nervous system damage and other problems including high blood pressure and even impotency. In children, however, the effects of lead are well-known and have shown a lowered ability to learn (8).
When it comes to mental performance, high mercury exposure has been linked to central nervous system changes. These changes could result in anything from headaches, fatigue, and irritability, to hallucinations, hearing and cognitive loss, tremors, behavioral changes, and even death (9). The same study found that an increase in toxic exposure increases oxidative stress which is linked to “neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease” and most likely due to the fact that exposure to mercury increases the production of free radicals in the body.
TAKE ACTION AGAINST HEAVY METALS
Educate yourself about potential lead found in common children’s toys and check for lead in common, daily cosmetics such as lipstick.
Lead is rampant in conventional lipstick and the problem with this is that it could get directly into your mouth where it has easy access to your bloodstream (because it doesn't have to penetrate your skin first) . This means you are more likely to take in concentrated levels of lead via products like lipstick and even contaminated home cookware, jewelry, and imported foods and candy (10).
Eliminating mercury from the body can be a long, difficult process but is well worth it for your overall health. If you have dental fillings, it’s important to work with a trained biological dentist to assess your mercury fillings and to formulate a plan to remove and replace them with a safer alternative. On your own, you can begin the mercury detox process slowly by preparing your gut first (eliminating allergens and taking pre and probiotics) , increasing your healthy fat intake (boost your liver’s detox capabilities) and mineral intake (zinc and selenium help your body get rid of heavy metals), as well as eat a diet rich in sulphur foods like broccoli, garlic, onion, kale, and collards. Of course, for a personalized nutritional plan, we always recommend you work with a trained nutritionist.
What is the impact of antibiotics on athletic performance and mental health?
We've been taught to put our faith in conventional medicine, including antibiotics, to treat bacterial infections and keep us healthy, but are you aware of the side effects of routinely used antibiotics on physical performance?
IMPACT ON ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
It’s no secret that athletes who train at a maximum level are at a higher risk for illness and infections, making antibiotics the go-to for many athletes on a regular basis (11). However, regular antibiotic use could lead to decreased performance issues, fatigue has been linked to “tendon injuries, cardiac arrhythmias, diarrhea, photosensitivity, cartilage issues, and decreased performance.” (12)
IMPACT ON MENTAL HEALTH
The gut is often referred to as “the second brain” and for good reason! Everything that goes on in your gut has a direct impact on your mental health. If your gut is impaired in any way, you may be at a higher risk of common mental disorders such as anxiety and depression (13).
Antibiotics destroy harmful bacteria that may contribute to illness, but what you may not know is that it also destroys good bacteria needed for a healthy gut environment.
TAKE ACTION AGAINST ANTIBIOTICS
Filling your daily diet with nature’s natural antibiotics help to boost immunity and prevent infections in the first place.
Garlic, mushrooms, and onion are just a few of our favorite natural antibiotics. In fact, garlic is fantastic for killing bacteria associated with both viral and antibacterial infections and its effectiveness has been compared to conventional antibiotics. The difference is that garlic only destroys bad bacteria and leaves beneficial bacteria intact and it also destroys a larger range of bacteria than conventional antibiotics alone (14).
Additionally, increase your intake of probiotic-rich foods to help promote the formation of good gut bacteria. Our favorite plant-based probiotics include miso, sauerkraut, kimchi and coconut yogurt.
How do toxins increase the risk of dementia and Alzheimers?
Exposure to chemical agents at high levels can alter brain function and increase the risk of cognitive decline related illness such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. However, there is limited knowledge (apart from cigarette smoke exposure) “that ongoing exposure to low levels of toxic pollutants and chronic bioaccumulation of these agents can cause sustained disruption of physiologic function including brain biology.”
Too much emphasis is placed on genetics, and while genetics certainly do play a role in the onset of chronic illnesses, a larger contributor is environmental factors:
“In keeping with recent evidence that the majority of chronic illness is not primarily genetic, but environmental in origin, a lack of etiology-centered medicine is sometimes allowing the underlying causes of disease to go unnoticed while clinicians focus on symptomatic management. Exposure to toxic substances has historically been recognized as one of the five fundamental etiologies of chronic illness...” (15).
It’s easy to tell yourself that you’re young, those regular takeouts or constant use of conventional products take years to do damage, that is until you’re older and can’t turn back time to correct your mistakes. Set yourself up now for a life of health. Your future self thanks you!
What happens when I start to detox from toxins?
Detoxing your system from toxins takes time and isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight. It all comes down to daily changes that become a habit, a way of life, rather than eating an unhealthy diet and then trying to be healthy by drinking a green smoothie once a week.
Your current way of eating plays a role too, and if your current diet consists of only processed, unhealthy food then we’re going to urge you to wean off them slowly to avoid toxin overload. When you start the detox process, toxins that may have coated your insides for years start to dislodge and first enter your bloodstream before making their way out of your body.
This is why you may feel terrible initially when you begin cutting back on unhealthy food and start introducing natural, whole foods into your system. This is often the point many people quit, believing it’s the healthy food making them feel sick when it’s actually all the nasty toxins they’ve consumed for years trying to make their way out of their body. It’s crucial to stick with it!
Signs your body is detoxing:
As you can see, detoxing is not very pleasant, but once these toxins have made their way out of your system you’re going to feel better than you’ve ever felt before, trust us!
I recommend starting slowly to avoid severe symptoms, especially if you have to work and can’t take time off as you wish. Perhaps cut back on takeouts the first week and experiment with making your own meals.
Then aim to eliminate sugar the next week, dairy the week after and so on. Keep a food diary, keep track of how you feel and listen to your body. This is the most important tip of all! We’re all different and our bodies know what works and what doesn’t so pay close attention.
3 tips to help you on your detox journey
There are many ways you can ease the discomfort of toxins making their way out of your body. We recommend avoiding heavy workouts and sticking to light walking and stretching to help to keep things moving, without placing unnecessary strain or stress on your body right now in addition to staying hydrated, loading up on antioxidants, supplementing with magnesium, and resting.
DRINK LOADS OF WATER
Water is key to help flush those toxins out of your body so be sure you’re drinking at least 2-3 liters of water to help speed up the process.
Only pure, filtered water should be used, and you may add a squeeze of lemon for an antioxidant boost, peppermint to help soothe your tummy or cucumber to ease bloat and provide essential vitamins and minerals.
Herbal teas count too and are wonderful alongside food to help aid in digestion. Peppermint and dandelion are two of our favorites for digestive health.
EASE PAIN AND MOOD DISTURBANCES WITH MAGNESIUM
Magnesium is my absolute favorite mineral for relaxation and when you’re going through a roller coaster of emotions during a detox, you’re going to need all the help you can get! Magnesium is also excellent for alleviating muscle and joint pain so an Epsom salt bath may be in order for you too!
Be sure you take the highly absorbable magnesium glycinate form that won’t upset your stomach rather than the magnesium citrate form that may cause diarrhea.
REST WHEN YOU NEED
I’ll say it again; listen to your body! Rest is so important to help your body recover from the onslaught of toxins making their way out so if you feel tired then allow yourself to rest. Take a nap, read a good book, indulge in an interesting Netflix documentary.
Don’t feel guilty for taking time out. Remember, you’re doing something incredible for your body and these symptoms are only temporary.
FIGHT FREE RADICALS WITH ANTIOXIDANTS
This is the time when your body needs additional support in the form of antioxidants to help counteract the negative effects of free radicals in your body due to toxins.
It wouldn’t hurt to drastically increase your intake of antioxidant-rich foods from the get-go and you may want to consider taking a Vitamin c supplement, as well as an all natural multi-vitamin, just to ensure you’re getting all your nutrients right now.
Here are a couple of recipes to help you along:
Antioxidant Power Bowl
You’ll be blown away that healthy can taste this good!
This antioxidant bowl is bursting in antioxidants, protein, and healthy fats to keep you full without feeling bloated. It’s vegan too, making it perfect for everyone to enjoy!
This beautiful, abundant bowl also includes one of our favorite antioxidant spices; turmeric! This vivid, sunny spice has powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties and provides a wonderful warming feeling within the body.
Probiotic Smoothie Bowl
Sometimes you need something to satisfy that sweet craving and this will do that in the healthiest way possible!
This probiotic smoothie bowl has a base of frozen berries in delicious coconut yogurt for a dose of healthy fats and to keep your gut happy. Try any combination of these toppings for an extra dose of vitamins and minerals: chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, sprouted nuts, pumpkin seeds, shredded coconut, vegan chocolate chips, fresh berries, fresh sliced fruit.
Heavy Metal Detox Smoothie
Popeye would be envious of this smoothie, that’s how healthy it is!
This detox smoothie includes 5 ingredients designed to pull heavy metals out of your system, including fresh cilantro and rich blue-green spirulina.
As you can now see, when it comes to reducing toxins in your body, it all comes down to starting small and making small changes for a long term impact. Increase your vitamin and mineral intake through fresh, whole foods, while eliminating toxic skin and body care products. Doing this, you’ll be well on your way to optimal physical and mental performance!