November 7, 2005 by  
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Acetaldehyde is a toxic substance produced in the body from alcohol and is one of the impurities found in cheap wine and ‘moonshine’ spirits. Its effects are often felt as a ‘hangover’. Acetaldehyde is also found in cigarette smoke, and is produced by the yeast Candida albicans, which may account for much of the malaise experienced by those with a heavy overgrowth of this yeast in their intestines, since the acetaldehyde will be absorbed from their intestines into the bloodstream, to be circulated throughout the body.

Alcohols and aldehydes are formed as intermediary metabolites during the body’s normal processes of detoxification. If the liver’s detoxification pathways are impaired, aldehydes can, instead of being converted to the next intermediate product, build up to harmful levels and cause much damage since they are often more toxic than the original substances from which they are derived.

Acetaldehyde is said to destroy vitamins B1, B6 and C. Supplements of these nutrients, together with the amino acid cysteine, may help the liver to detoxify acetaldehyde.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator


September 2, 2004 by  
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Toxic element

Although known for its light weight, aluminium is classed as a heavy metal because it may accumulate in the body. Aluminium is a neuro-toxin and can cause brain deterioration as well as depletion of phosphate and bone minerals. Aluminium can produce changes in brain structure similar to those seen in Alzheimer’s disease.

Sources of aluminium include cooking vessels, antacids, some baking powders and food additives, tea bags, dried milk, instant coffee, table salt and many anti-perspirants, as well as cereals and vegetables. Soya milk contains more aluminium than cows milk but is unlikely to cause the consumer to exceed official safe intake levels. Babies, however excrete aluminium poorly because their kidneys are not yet fully developed. Excessive levels of aluminium in the body can be detected by hair mineral analysis.

Aluminium is considered to be poorly absorbed from the intestinal tract (which has an alkaline environment) because it is insoluble at a pH of more than 5. Acid rain is causing aluminium to be dissolved out of soil and deposited in lakes.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator


April 10, 2005 by  
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A toxic waste product of protein metabolism. Ammonia is converted to urea by the liver, and the urea is then excreted in the urine. If nutrients such as magnesium, needed for the conversion to urea, are deficient, and ammonia is not adequately broken down, one of its toxic effects is interference with the Krebs cycle of energy production (by depleting the supply of alpha-ketoglutarate). This can result in fatigue, headache, lethargy, irritability, and allergy-like reactions to high-protein foods.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator


April 3, 2004 by  
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Toxic element

Food and drink levels of arsenic are limited by law, due to its toxicity, although arsenic was once used as a treatment for syphilis. Symptoms of chronic arsenic poisoning include fluid retention in the face and eyelids, itching, sore mouth, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, loss of hair and fingernails.

Traces of arsenic are found in shellfish, and some meat may also contain arsenic if it was present in the animals’ feed. Arsenic compounds are used as insecticides which can leach into the water table and thence into reservoirs, as well as remaining in trace amounts in food crops.

Excessive levels of arsenic in the human body can be tested for by hair mineral analysis.

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator


December 28, 2002 by  
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A very widely used artificial sweetener (trade name NutraSweet) consisting of a synthetic dipeptide of aspartic acid and the methyl ester of phenylalanine. Much controversy surrounds this product, which has been blamed for a wide range of symptoms in heavy users of foods and drinks to which it has been added (see table). These symptoms have been passed off as ‘unusual sensitivity’ to aspartame, since studies carried out on monkeys have shown no ill effects from the consumption of 3 grams of aspartame per kilo of body weight per day. However, food given to test animals is usually very nutrient-rich, not high in sugar, fat and a variety of artificial food additives. It is possible that humans and animals who do not consume such diets, rich in antioxidants which help the body to metabolize xenobiotics (foreign substances such as aspartame) may be more susceptible to developing problems.

In the digestive tract, aspartame is split into its two component amino acids and a methyl group. During metabolism, the methyl group is converted to the toxin methyl alcohol and then to another toxin, formaldehyde, which must be detoxified by the liver. Aspartame must not be used by individuals who have been diagnosed with the condition known as phenylketonuria, since they must ensure that their phenylalanine intake remains as low as possible.

The most common symptoms reported to the US Food and Drug Administration by aspartame users, which have resolved when aspartame use was ceased

  • Abdominal pain and cramps
  • Depression
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dizziness or poor balance
  • Eye problems
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Headache (19 per cent of all complaints)
  • Memory loss
  • Mood changes
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Rash
  • Seizures and convulsions
  • Sleep problems
  • Urticaria
  • Vomiting and nausea

Aspartame (NutraSweet®) is used commercially to sweeten yoghurt, diet drinks, fruit squashes and low-calorie desserts, and is also sold in tablets and granules for adding to food and drinks.


November 19, 2001 by  
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Carcinogenic polycyclic hydrocarbons formed by the browning of fat- and protein-containing foods during their preparation. In char-grilling, some of the fat which drips on hot coals is converted into smoke containing benzopyrenes, which rises and forms deposits containing these carcinogens on the food. It is thought that garlic contains natural chemicals which can detoxify benzopyrenes.


February 20, 2005 by  
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Toxic element

One of the group of so-called heavy metals, cadmium accumulates in the body, especially in the liver and kidneys, as excretion is very slow. A high level of accumulation can eventually result in kidney damage. Other effects of cadmium excess can include anaemia (probably because cadmium competes with copper and iron, needed for blood formation), high blood pressure (probably due to kidney damage), and itai-itai disease in Japan.

Cadmium is a pollutant which is present in the air around industrial smelting and plating plants, and can be inhaled through the lungs. It is also present in galvanized water pipes, which may contaminate drinking water that passes through the pipes. Tobacco smoke contains cadmium (and lead) and may cause smokers to inhale up to 5 mcg of cadmium per day. Silver (amalgam) tooth fillings may also contain cadmium.

Some foods are contaminated with small amounts of cadmium: oysters, liver and kidneys, and crops which have been grown on soil contaminated with cadmium or dressed with cadmium-containing fertilizer.


May 7, 2007 by  
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Poisons produced within bacterial cells. Endotoxins can be absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream, adding to the body’s overall toxic load. If the individual’s gut is chronically overloaded with unfavourable bacteria at the expense of the so-called ‘friendly’ bacteria (mainly Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria), endotoxin levels can represent a significant challenge to the liver’s detoxification capacity. Endotoxins produced by an acute infection from pathogenic (disease-producing) bacteria such as Salmonella can be life-threatening.


February 21, 2002 by  
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Trace element

Fluoride is normally present in the human body in amounts similar to those of iron. Most fluoride is found in bone, where it combines with calcium or hydroxyapatite to form fluorapatite, helping to strengthen bones and teeth. It is known that a high fluoride intake by children results in a lower incidence of dental decay (caries). Many studies have also shown that a higher fluoride intake corresponds to greater bone density. Most foods contain small quantities of fluoride. Particularly rich sources are seafood and black tea.

Unlike most trace elements, there is a very small margin between beneficial and toxic levels of fluoride intake. Children who regularly consume a little too much fluoride may develop permanently mottled teeth. Chronic exposure to excessive fluoride may result in osteoporosis, calcification of the tendons and ligaments, and the growth of bone spurs, probably through the overstimulation of the parathyroid glands. Fluoride is also an inhibitor of the enzymes enolase, involved in glycolysis, (see Energy production) and adenylcyclase, which stimulates the production of cyclic AMP. It may therefore have potentially adverse effects on energy production and its consumption should be particularly discouraged in those with chronic fatigue syndrome.

Many health campaigners oppose the addition of fluoride to public water supplies, on grounds that potential long-term adverse health effects of this compulsory mass medication are unknown.


April 20, 2003 by  
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Heavy metals

Technically metals with a specific gravity five or more times that of water, such as cadmium, mercury and lead, but usually taken to mean toxic heavy metals which the body excretes with difficulty. It is not widely known that as well as aiding the absorption of calcium, magnesium and other nutritional minerals, vitamin D can also aid the absorption of heavy metals. Conversely lead, cadmium and aluminium block the synthesis of active vitamin D by the kidneys.

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