There are certain toxins that are so common, we assume they are harmless. For example Ibuprofen, a common over the counter pain medication, is a nephrotoxin. Tylenol, especially when combined with alcohol or a general anesthetic – can be very harmful to the liver. Any drug or food additive can be toxic if the doses are too high, used on a daily basis, or if combined with other substances – that can create a synergistic effect.
The most known neurotoxins are things like aspartame and other artificial sweeteners, aluminum, lead, and mercury. Other than fillings in our teeth, mercury can be found in high levels in certain types of fish. Tilefish, swordfish, and mackerel are known to contain fairly high levels of mercury. Tuna falls into the mid-range, and wild salmon has one of the lowest levels. The solution is to limit fish intake to a couple times a week, and consume fish with the lowest levels of mercury.
Bisphenol or BPA is contained in the coating on the lining of canned foods. It is presumed that certain more acidic foods like canned tomatoes might contain higher levels of BPA. The fake butter on microwave popcorn and the stuff you get at the movie theatres, contains the neurotoxin diacetyl. Sadly, peanut butter often (but not always) contains a toxin called aflatoxin.
To reduce these toxins, it is best to buy tomato sauce in a glass jar. Avoid the bright yellow fake butter, use a hot air popper, and add real butter. As far as peanuts and peanut butter – the aflatoxin comes from a fungus. The main thing is to buy food as fresh as possible. Some nutritionists suggest avoiding bulk bins because the age of the product is unknown. But if you go to a grocer with a high turnover of that particular product, it should be okay. Supermarket peanut butter is said to have less aflatoxin, but that might be because it has fungal inhibiting additives in it, so it is worth checking the labels on your brand of peanut butter too.
MSG as most of us know, is another neurotoxin – enough to give some people an instant and severe migraine headache. The high concentrations of MSG are found in things like instant noodles, with the little packages of flavouring to add. Certain Chinese dishes are known to contain high amounts of MSG. It is a salt enhancing additive, so pay attention to things like broths and pre-made soups as well. Most of the bouillon cubes are culprits as well. I used them for years before realizing they had a whack of MSG in those little cubes.
Another thing that can be toxic to our systems is meat grilled under high heat. The toxins can be significantly reduced by using a wet marinade before grilling. Like fish, I suppose the best thing is to pick your poison, and then reduce it to occasional use, mixed in with lots of fresh vegetables! Processed meats such as bacon, cured hams, and luncheon meats contain nitrites and other additives – so should be used sparingly. Ironically, the sodium nitrites put into the meat is added to counteract the risk of botulism poisoning.
The list of neurotoxins is a very long list, to include pesticides, natural and artificial flavourings, lead, arsenic, and alcohol. Some of these toxins cross the blood brain barrier. We would go crazy trying to avoid them all – but we may go even crazier if we don’t!
If you buy a package of snack food and then sit down and google the fine print listed under ingredients – it might be a deterrent. There is a case to be made for home grown gardens, organic foods, and avoiding canned and packaged foods. Other brain saving tips include storing food in glass containers instead of plastic ones, and cutting down on all packaged and refined foods. If there are things added to the routine shopping trips with a high “bliss factor” – get out your magnifying glass, and research the list of additives.
Another helpful exercise might be to eliminate all packaged and canned food for a month, and see how much of an adjustment you have to make. There is a belief that it takes twenty-one days to change a habit. I’m not sure if its true or not, but it seems plausible. Small everyday habits, like chewing aspartame laced gum, or taking certain supplements that are too concentrated for the body to use, and must be excreted – can be habits that lead to allergies or symptoms that are difficult to trace.
A couple years ago I read that fish oil capsules can go rancid while stored in the fat cells of the human body, and can even be rancid before being ingested. I don’t know if there is any scientific proof to support the theory, but I would rather eat fresh salmon than take fish oil capsules anyway. Botox is another deadly toxin. Now that it is being used so frequently in the aging and beauty circles, there will be more information coming out about its toxic and possibly systemic effects. We will likely see more insidious and long term health issues associated with Botox as time goes on.
Food is high on the list of life’s pleasures. Like many other things that enter our brains, we need to develop our own individualized filters. We lean toward instant gratification. But probably the simplest advice is to lean toward the au natural, “Grow Your Own & Cook it Slow. Next to that – Buy it Whole”!