This is an extract from my book, Limitless – please see here for more information.
Toxins are a fact of life
The world of health and self-development is focused on what you should be doing, but it doesn’t focus so much on what you shouldn’t be doing and what you should be avoiding.
Toxins are all around you, every single day, and it’s now an unavoidable fact of life; you are living in a synthetic soup that shows no sign of getting better. Toxicity in the environment is no doubt leading to inflammation and disease but it’s also having a significant impact on the sperm count of males, and over the past four decades, sperm counts have dropped 52%. (1)
Toxins not only enter your body through breathing but also through your skin. The skin is the body’s largest organ and is very absorbent. A study conducted by the University of Ottawa in 2017 (2) showed that firefighters absorbed harmful chemicals through their skin while fighting fires despite wearing breathing apparatus.
When you think of toxins, the first thought you probably have is of large city pollution, the common sight of smog filling the air of a sprawling city and people walking around with masks covering their mouths. There is no doubt that these air pollutants are not good for you, but there are many other hidden toxins that are affecting your energy and performance.
It’s not only the air you breathe but the things you touch, what you eat and even what you see and hear.
You are unique, and we will each process toxins in different ways, some people will feel the exposure of certain toxins more than others. However, it’s fair to say that even if you don’t feel a negative impact from exposure to toxins, it’s going to be impacting your performance. It’s always best to minimise your exposure.
Toxins impact your mitochondria, (3) deplete your energy, disturb your sleep and affect your mood.
If you search for toxins on the Internet, you will find a mixed bag of comments. On one side you have a set of people who are super sensitive to some of these toxins and on the other side the ‘Big Companies’ who make millions by selling their products.
I remember being a student and my friends and I would grow mould in our coffee cups to see who could get the largest culture. Mould can be very beneficial. For example, the penicillium mould produces the antibiotic penicillin and is considered a wonder drug because it was used to treat infections from wounds during World War II and saved many lives.
Most mould is non-toxic. However, some species of mould produce mycotoxins which are harmful to humans. Mycotoxin exposure is going to impact everybody to some degree, and the extent will partly depend on your genetics. Some individuals are super sensitive to mycotoxins and can become very ill and be misdiagnosed as having depression, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
If you have exposure to mycotoxins you may experience:
- Brain fog
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Mood issues
- High levels of inflammation
- Weight gain
About one in four people have a sensitivity to mould, which you’ll typically find where there is excessive moisture, such as kitchens, bathrooms and where water leaks have previously occurred. You will also find that some foods are particularly susceptible to toxic mould and I have included a list of them below. A client of mine had toxic mould issues that were so bad that he developed a cough whenever he travelled on the London underground.
As long as there has been life on Earth, there has been a continual battle between mould and bacteria. As your mitochondria are so similar to bacteria, it is no surprise that exposure to toxic mould has a negative impact on your energy and performance.
- Ensure that you have plenty of ventilation in your home.
- Check all pipework on a regular basis for water leaks. Where you do have a mould problem, have it properly treated, and the root cause addressed.
- Ensure there is no visible sign of mould in your food and take note that most of the time mould can be invisible to the human eye. Foods that are susceptible to mould include aged meats, beans, brazil nuts, bread, corn, cheese, chilli spices (high risk), dried fruit, grains (except white rice), oats, peanuts, pistachios (high risk of mould but very good for you if they are a clean source) and pre-ground black pepper (high risk).
Glyphosate is the chemical that you will commonly find in the weed killer that you spray over your garden or drive to kill off any unwanted plants. It’s effective and has become the primary source for killing off plants.
Glyphosate has a fascinating history as it was one of a blend of herbicides called Agent Orange and was used in the Vietnam War to clear the land, enabling the troops to infiltrate the dense forests. Unfortunately, as the war progressed, they discovered that Agent Orange was responsible for many deaths through cancer, so they stopped spraying. Since then glyphosate has been patented many times as an antibiotic, anti-fungal and anti-viral. It is extremely useful in killing all organic material, not just plant material.
The shocking thing about glyphosate is that in many parts of the world, crops are sprayed with it as a pre-harvest application to ensure the wheat ripens evenly. Glyphosate is also sprayed on genetically modified crops to ease the harvesting process. Genetically modified crops such as corn and soy are modified to withstand the toxic load. Not only is glyphosate being sprayed on the food you consume, but it’s also sprayed through the air, which then makes its way into the water system because glyphosate is water soluble.
Glyphosate is not only toxic, but it also impacts your gut microbes (4) and kills the bacteria in the soil.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer called the chemical ‘probably carcinogenic’, (5) but others have said it’s safe to use. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) says ‘glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans’. (6) However, in a 2017 vote to renew the licence of glyphosate, nine EU member states (7) voted against a 5-year extension.
In August 2018 a California jury found Monsanto liable in a lawsuit filed by a school groundskeeper, Dewayne Johnson, who alleged the company’s glyphosate-based weed-killers caused his cancer. The jury awarded Dewayne Johnson $289 million in damages. (8)
- Go through your garden shed, throw away anything that contains glyphosate and use a natural weed killer, such as your hands or a solution of salt and vinegar .
- Eat organic whenever possible. The list of foods being sprayed with glyphosate is proliferating and is too long to list here .
Your skin is very absorbent, and it’s your body’s largest organ, so it is an effective way for toxins to make their way inside of you. I’m not sure who I first heard say this, but as a rule of thumb ‘if I won’t put it in my mouth, then I won’t put it on my skin’. I stopped using all creams, soaps, shampoo and deodorant. You’re probably thinking ‘yuck, he must walk around smelly all of the time’. I’ve asked my wife, and she says I smell fine.
The thing is that when you clean up your diet and your toxic load is low, you don’t suffer from body odour as much, and your farts stop smelling. You don’t need to use much of, or any, chemical products. I do use some shampoo and body wash products , but they are natural, and while they wouldn’t taste good, I could eat them. I also use a toxin-free sunscreen when I go away on holiday.
The same goes for cleaning products at home, some of them can be extremely toxic and people often clean without gloves or a face mask. Wherever possible, wear a mask, gloves and seek out products that don’t have a high toxic load.
- Source low toxicity products
- Wear adequate protection when using cleaning products
What else to watch out for?
I could probably write a whole book on toxins, so here is a list of other toxins that you may want to research further:
- Mercury fillings
- Heavy metals
- Non-stick-coated cookery items
- Air fresheners
- Bug sprays
- Petrol station fumes
- Plastics containing Bisphenol A (BPA)
1 Levine, H., Jørgensen, N., Martino-Andrade, A., Mendiola, J., Weksler-Derri, D., Mindlis, I., & Swan, S. H. (2017). Temporal trends in sperm count: a systematic review and meta-regression analysis. Human Reproduction Update, 23(6), 646–659. PMID: 28981654 – DOI: 10.1093/HUMUPD/DMX022
2 Keir, J. L., Akhtar, U. S., Matschke, D. M., Kirkham, T. L., Chan, H. M., Ayotte, P., … & Blais, J. M. (2017). Elevated Exposures to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and Other Organic Mutagens in Ottawa Firefighters Participating in Emergency, On-Shift Fire Suppression. Environmental science & technology, 51(21), 12745–12755. PMID: 29043785 – DOI: 10.1021/ACS.EST.7B02850
3 Meyer, J. N., Leung, M. C., Rooney, J. P., Sendoel, A., Hengartner, M. O., Kisby, G. E., & Bess, A. S. (2013). Mitochondria as a target of environmental toxicants. Toxicological sciences : an official journal of the Society of Toxicology, 134(1), 1–17. PMID: 23629515 – DOI: 10.1093/TOXSCI/KFT102
4 Samsel, A., & Seneff, S. (2013). Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance. Interdisciplinary toxicology, 6(4), 159–84. PMID: 24678255 – DOI: 10.2478/INTOX-2013-0026
5 Evaluation of five organophosphate insecticides and herbicides. (2015, March 20). Retrieved from: https://www.iarc.fr/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/MonographVolume112-1.pdf
6 European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) (2015). Conclusion on the peer review of the pesticide risk assessment of the active substance glyphosate. EFSA Journal, 13(11), 4302. DOI: 10.2903/J.EFSA.2015.4302
7 European Commission (2017). Summary report of the Appeal Committee – Phytopharmaceuticals – Plant Protection Products – Legislation. Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/plant/docs/sc_phyto_20171127_pppl_summary.pdf
8 Levin. S., & Greenfield, P. (2018, Aug 11). Monsanto ordered to pay $289m as jury rules weedkiller caused man’s cancer. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/aug/10/monsanto-trial-cancer-dewayne-johnson-ruling
Nick Powell is the founder of Stronger Self and he works with entrepreneurs and senior leaders to enable them to take their personal and professional performance to the next level.
Nick’s approach uses cutting edge tools and techniques from the worlds of biohacking, productivity, anti-aging and neuroscience; harnessing the exciting intersection between biology and technology.
Nick has developed his Peak Performance Coaching Programmes to enable his clients to deliver extraordinary results across all aspects of their personal and professional lives.
He runs his Coaching sessions face to face in London & Surrey and across the World via Zoom.