What Do Liver Function Tests Tell Us?

A group of liver function tests are often performed as part of routine laboratory testing. However, as you will learn in this article, these tests may also highlight dysfunction or disease in systems other than the liver.

As a Functional Medicine practitioner, I don’t rely solely on the results of one specific test. I also carefully evaluate your symptoms, diet, lifestyle, history, and other lab test results to further narrow down all potential sources of dysfunction or disease.

When interpreting results, Functional Medicine considers “optimal” ranges as opposed to “normal” ranges (learn more here). This allows us to identify and treat signs of dysfunction before a full-blown disease occurs.

Liver Dysfunction

When combined, the tests described below provide insight into how well (or poor) your liver is functioning. And it’s important to recognize that your diet and lifestyle are two key factors that affect liver function. For example, when the liver is overburdened with toxins, it may become congested. As a result, toxins may build up in your body and lead to additional problems.

Some common signs and symptoms of liver dysfunction include:

  • Abnormal cholesterol levels
  • Gas and bloating
  • Dietary fat intolerance
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Blood sugar imbalances
  • Brain fog
  • Depression
  • Poor memory
  • Food allergies
  • Skin rashes
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Severe menopause or PMS
  • Liver spots (brownish spots on skin)

Thus, if liver dysfunction is suspected, Functional Medicine attempts to identify and eliminate all possible sources.

Common Liver Function Tests

Below are descriptions of the most common liver function tests performed.

Albumin

Albumin is a protein synthesized and secreted by the liver. And it’s the most abundant protein found in human blood. It plays a role in balancing fluids, transporting nutrients and hormones, metabolism, pH balance, blood vessel health, and fighting free radical damage.

The rate of albumin synthesis depends on liver function as well as nutritional intake. Specifically, the body needs a source of energy and amino acids (building blocks of protein) to manufacture albumin.

Thus, abnormal albumin levels may indicate a variety of potential problems in addition to liver dysfunction.

Decreased albumin levels are typically associated with:

  • Liver dysfunction
  • Systemic inflammation
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Digestive dysfunction

Elevated albumin levels may be a sign of dehydration.

Total Protein

The total protein test measures both albumin and globulins, which combined make up a majority of blood proteins.

Globulins are synthesized and secreted by both the liver and the immune system. Similar to albumin, energy and amino acids are required. And one of the key roles is to transport minerals, hormones, and fats throughout the body.

However, one very important type of globulins are known as immunoglobulins (a.k.a. antibodies), which play a crucial role in preventing infections and neutralizing toxins.

Decreased total protein levels may be a sign of:

  • Liver dysfunction
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Digestive dysfunction
  • Kidney dysfunction

Elevated total protein levels may be associated with:

  • Systemic inflammation
  • Chronic infections (i.e., viral hepatitis and HIV)
  • Bone marrow disorders
  • Dehydration

However, it’s worth noting that an optimal total protein level may still be detected even if albumin or globulin levels are out of range. Thus, it’s essential to consider albumin levels when interpreting total protein levels.

Albumin/Globulin Ratio (A/G Ratio)

Total protein and albumin are often used to calculate the ratio of albumin to globulins.

A low A/G ratio may be a sign of:

  • Liver dysfunction
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Kidney dysfunction

A high A/G ratio may indicate low levels of immunoglobulins, which are observed with genetic related disorders and leukemias (blood cancer).

Bilirubin

Bilirubin is a waste product created from the degradation of old red blood cells. And it’s the liver’s job to process bilirubin in a way that makes it easy for the body to eliminate.

There are two tests associated with bilirubin – total bilirubin and direct bilirubin.

Total bilirubin measures both indirect bilirubin (prior to liver processing) and direct bilirubin (after liver processing). However, as with total protein, total bilirubin doesn’t provide a complete picture.

Thus, direct bilirubin levels are also measured. And indirect bilirubin levels can then be calculated.

Elevated levels of indirect bilirubin may be a sign of:

  • B12 deficiency
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Oxidative stress
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Hemolysis (premature destruction of red blood cells)

Elevated levels of direct bilirubin may be associated with:

  • Liver dysfunction
  • Viral hepatitis or other liver infections
  • Alcohol induced liver disease
  • Gallstones
  • Cholecystitis (inflammation of the gall bladder)
  • Liver tumors

Liver Enzyme Tests

The remaining three tests below evaluate blood levels of specific enzymes that reside in the liver. However, it’s worth noting that these enzymes are also found in other tissues within the body. Thus, these tests provide insight into a variety of potential issues, especially when evaluated together along with other laboratory tests.

Alkaline Phosphatase (ALP)

Alkaline phosphatase is found in the liver as well as the bones, skin, and digestive tract.

Elevated levels of ALP may be a sign of:

  • Viral hepatitis or other liver infections
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Liver tumors
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Bone disorders
  • Leaky gut (increased intestinal permeability)
  • Shingles
  • Gallstones
  • Cholecystitis (inflammation of the gall bladder)

The activity of ALP is highly dependent on the presence of the mineral zinc. Thus, while low levels of ALP are optimal, abnormally low levels of ALP may be associated with a zinc deficiency.

Aspartate Aminotransferase (AST)

Aspartate aminotransferase is an enzyme found in the liver as well as the heart, muscles, kidneys, lungs, and pancreas. It is released into the bloodstream as a result of cellular damage or destruction.

Thus, elevated levels of AST may be a sign of:

  • Liver dysfunction
  • Cellular damage (in heart, liver, pancreas, muscle tissue)
  • Heart dysfunction or disease
  • Infectious disease

The functionality of AST heavily relies on the presence of vitamin B6. Thus, while low levels of AST are optimal, abnormally low levels of AST may be associated with a vitamin B6 deficiency, which can be caused by alcoholism.

Alanine Aminotransferase (ALT)

Alanine aminotransferase is found mostly in the liver, but smaller quantities are also found in muscle, kidney, and heart tissue. As with AST, it is released into the blood when cells are damaged or destroyed.

Thus, elevated levels of ALT may be associated with:

  • Liver dysfunction
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Viral hepatitis or other liver infections
  • Alcohol induced liver disease
  • Liver cirrhosis
  • Cellular damage (in liver, heart, or kidney tissue)

Similar to AST, abnormally low levels may be a sign of a vitamin B6 deficiency, which can be caused by alcohol abuse. In addition, abnormally low levels may also be associated with very a early stage of fatty liver disease.

In Conclusion

The liver function tests discussed above provide valuable information related to the health of your liver. However, the test results must be interpreted carefully. In addition, many factors and other laboratory tests must also be considered before drawing any conclusions.

Thus, if you suspect your liver isn’t functioning at top speed, functional medicine can help. We’ll look for signs and symptoms starting with a series of laboratory tests as well as thorough data analysis.

If dysfunction is detected, we’ll work closely together to identify and correct all possible sources. While this process will improve your liver function, it will also most likely improve your health in many other ways.

References

  1. Giannini, E. G., Testa, R., & Savarino, V. (2005). Liver enzyme alteration: a guide for clinicians. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal, 172(3), 367–379. http://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.1040752
  2. Laker, M. F. (1990). Liver function tests. BMJ : British Medical Journal, 301(6746), 250–251.
  3. Limdi, J. K. (2003). Evaluation of abnormal liver function tests. Postgraduate Medical Journal,79(932), 307-312. doi:10.1136/pmj.79.932.307
  4. Weatherby, D., & Ferguson, S. (2002). Blood chemistry and CBC analysis: clinical laboratory testing from a functional perspective. Jacksonville, OR: Bear Mountain Pub.

Are you gluten and wheat sensitive?

How to know if you’re gluten or wheat sensitive

In my opinion, the best way (and least expensive) to determine gluten or wheat sensitivity, or any food intolerance for that matter, is to simply eliminate the suspected food for at least 30-60 days and then reintroduce it. Following the 30 days you should have a pretty good idea of whether or not that particular food is causing problems.

That said, gluten is a pretty big protein so it is entirely possible that it can take months, and in some individuals, years to completely pass through the body. This means that this form of self-experimentation is not always as revealing as you’d like it to be. None the less, identifying gluten intolerance is very important when it comes to optimizing health because it has been linked to over 55 diseases in the medical literature, with most of them being autoimmune.

Take that last statement to heart! Over 55 diseases in the medical literature linked to gluten and wheat sensitivity. Additionally, the majority of individuals who are reacting to these proteins have no digestive issues. The problems can continue for years with aboslutely no symptoms until one day- you get diagnosed with thyroid problems, heart valve problems, skin problems, dementia, multiple sclerosis, insomina- I could go on and on.

The effect of wheat, gluten and 23 other proteins on brain and nervous tissue is significantly worse and more far-reaching than researchers realized. Yet thanks to poor lab testing and general misinformation many people continue to eat gluten, unaware it is harming them.

Problems With Standard Tests for Gluten

Standard blood tests for gluten intolerance have a less than a 30 percent accuracy rate. Worse, conventional medical testing only looks at 4 of the 23 different proteins it takes to identify gluten intolerance. Would you tolerate that accuracy rate for a cancer, heart disease, or even pregnancy test? In order for a doctor to “believe” that you are gluten intolerant, gluten has to have significantly destroyed the gut wall in which case you are already in a state of disease.

Are you f’ing kidding me? Basically, this is like waiting for your house to actually catch fire and undergo some sort of irrepairable damage before the fire department actually starts to do their job.

Additionally, not all “gluten intolerant” cases result in digestive difficulties. Especially if the brain, heart, or some other part of the body is the main target of attack. This is why gluten is associated with heart disease, neurological disorders, insomnia, hormone imbalance, fatigue and weight gain.

Current salivary tests produce false negatives due to the assessment of only one antibody of one wheat protein. Stool tests produce false negative and false positives due to specimen-interfering factors that alter the outcome of results.

Current tests only screen for one component of wheat. Yet people can react to a single protein in wheat, or a combination of many proteins, peptides, and enzymes associated with wheat. Cyrex Labs tests for twelve of the most antigenic (meaning most likely to provoke a reaction) pathogens associated with wheat.

Some people also have cross-reactivity to gluten. For instance, eating dairy can trigger a gluten-like immune response because the body sees them as one in the same.

Fortunately a revolutionary breakthrough in gluten reactivity testing provided by Cyrex Labs, founded on years of leading immunological research, is now available to help determine whether this ubiquitous food is damaging your health.

“The Cyrex Array 3 offers the most comprehensive analysis available for determining gluten sensitivity. This array has proven incredibly valuable in my practice by providing in-depth information about an issue that has wide clinical implications.”

David Perlmutter

MD, FACN, author of the national best seller Grain Brain

The Array 3 Panel from Cyrex Laboratories

After many years of research and development, Cyrex Labs in Arizona now offers thorough and comprehensive testing for gluten intolerance. Designed to distinguish between celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, the Array 3 is the only wheat/gluten panel that tests for three antigen triggers: gluten proteins, opioid peptides and tissue binding isolates. Furthermore, it detects gluten reactivity and assesses antibody production against eight wheat proteins and peptides, three essential enzymes (transglutaminase-2, -3 and -6), and the gliadin transglutaminase complex.

What the heck does all this mean?

It means that you can trust that the results from this test are definitive and you will absolutely know without any doubt whether or not you are gluten or wheat sensitive!

Remember, an astounding 50% of patients diagnosed with celiac disease receive a false negative test. This is problematic because these gluten-reactive patients, who do not respond to certain proteins, instead may react to one or more of the other gluten proteins that are not being measured by other testing panels.

How much is your life worth? The Cyrex array 3 test costs $325. No, insurance won’t pay for it and that’s largely due to the fact that the Insurance industry doesn’t know what “good health care” is. 

This problem is exactly why Array 3 was developed.

The Array 3 panel is recommended for patients with non-responsive gastrointestinal symptoms, those who present with multiple-symptom complaints such as joint pain, fatigue, muscle pain, brain fog, hormone imbalances and chronic inflammation, and those with depression or neurodegenerative symptoms.

If you or someone you know needs to get tested, I’d be happy to help. Simply submit a comment below or contact me at info (@) drdaniel.com.

Autoimmune Disease: A Functional Medicine Approach

Rheumatoid arthritis. Lupus. Celiac disease. Multiple sclerosis. Graves disease. Psoriasis. 

What do all these widespread diseases have in common? 

They are all examples of an autoimmune disease and there are over seventy more (at least), that we know about.

An autoimmune disease is defined as a condition that arises from an abnormal immune response to a normal body part.

In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks your joints.  In celiac disease, your small intestine is targeted. In lupus, it attacks tissues many parts of your body.  In multiple sclerosis, your nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord are attacked.  In Graves disease, your thyroid is affected.  For psoriasis, it’s the skin cells.

You get the idea.

The bad part is, nearly any body part can fall victim to a rogue immune system.  Did I mention they were common?

  • The American Autoimmune Related Disease Association estimates that over 50 million Americans suffer from autoimmune disease [1].
  • Rheumatoid arthritis and Lupus both affect nearly 1.5 million Americans [2] [3].
  • Roughly 1% of Americans are affected by celiac disease. Of these, a staggering 83% are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed [4].
  • Multiple sclerosis is thought to afflict over 2.3 million people worldwide [5].

All of these diseases develop when your immune system, which is supposed to defend your body against disease, errs and decides that your healthy cells (in nearly any part of your body) are foreign and begins to attack themselves.

tissues affected by autoimmune disease dr danielThere is some genetic predisposition to autoimmune diseases, but certainly, and arguably most important, is that environmental factors play a huge part.  By environmental factors, I mean, among other things:

  • The foods we eat.
  • The exercise we perform.
  • The amount of sleep we get.
  • The amount of stress we endure.
  • Whether we smoke or not.
  • The medications we take.

There are many other environmental factors and I’m sure you can think of a few more.

The painful reality here is that conventional medicine has yet to find cures or effective treatments for many of these diseases.  However, there is hope for those that suffer from autoimmune diseases in Functional Medicine.

Why Conventional Medicine Has It Wrong

Conventional medicine has it wrong when it comes to treating autoimmune diseases.  For autoimmune diseases, as in many others (See my article on conventional versus Functional Medicine), conventional medicine focuses on the symptoms, rather than the underlying causes of autoimmunity.

Take the example multiple sclerosis (MS).

This is a nasty disease where your immune system attacks your otherwise healthy, normal nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord.   In effect, it disrupts the paths of communication from your brain to your body.

Early symptoms include weakness, tingling, numbness and blurred vision.  Muscle stiffness, problems thinking and urinary problems can also occur.  Those afflicted with MS have a shortened life span of around five to ten years.  A lucky few may experience very few symptoms, while others may be cursed with chronic symptoms for the rest of their lifetimes.

There is no conventional “cure” for MS.

Instead of looking at what may be the underlying cause, conventional medicine only seeks to delay the progression of the disease and manage symptoms by pumping MS patients full of drugs that come with their own long list of risks.

There are fourteen FDA approved injectable and oral drug therapies to slow the progression of the disease for those with relapsing forms of MS.  There are no drug therapies that treat primary MS (the slow steady progression of symptoms from initial onset). [6]   While the efficacy of these drugs have been proven to help some people, they are not without their own dangerous side effects.

Take for example, the drug Extavia®, which was introduced in the United States in 2009.  This is an injected drug therapy that is to be taken every other day.  Side effects include flu-like symptoms, headaches and skin reactions at the injection site.  Other documented side effects include small blood clots, worsening of congestive heart failure and reduction of white blood cell counts [6].  Most of the thirteen other disease-modifying MS drug therapies have the same or worse side effects.

Pretty nasty stuff, right?  Imagine giving yourself an injection every other day, getting the chills and feeling weak and fatigued and scratching a swollen, itchy rash each time you do it.

Is that any way to live?

And those are just the drugs that slow the progression of MS.  There are a whole host of drugs that conventional medicine prescribes to manage symptoms.  According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, there are over sixty drugs that doctors typically prescribe to treat the most common symptoms of MS [7].

There’s the conventional approach to medicine in a nutshell, and it’s not isolated to just MS but many other autoimmune diseases:  manage the symptoms and the disease by prescribing drugs.

I’m not making the argument that there isn’t a place for conventional medicine in the treatment of MS and autoimmune diseases, but we need to look further.

I am however, arguing that it’s utter nonsense for a patient to continue on with their same old lifestyle while introducing strong drugs into their system that can cause all kinds of serious and sometimes fatal side effects without looking at the underlying causes of autoimmunity.

Causes of Autoimmunity

autoimmune-disease-functional-medicineBeyond genetics, there are several contributing factors that can cause autoimmune disease in your body.  Of course, genetics plays a role but mostly it’s a case of being predisposed to a certain autoimmunity.  It is the environmental factors that actually triggers disease in your body.

Diet and Leaky Gut

Your diet has a significant effect on the health of your gut – or your intestines (where nutrients are absorbed into your bloodstream).  Poor gut health can trigger a whole host of autoimmune responses.

Take gluten for example.

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat.  With the rise in popularity of processed convenience foods, it’s now found in virtually every food product.  It’s also not the same gluten that our great-grandparents found in their homemade bread – wheat has been genetically modified in the last fifty years which has created new forms of gluten.  Food scientists have also discovered ways to modify the protein, allowing it to be absorbed into other liquids more easily – so now you can find it in lunch meat and even toothpaste.  What all this means is that now, our bodies are exposed to large amounts of modified gluten that it’s not used to.

How is this connected to autoimmune diseases?

It’s because gluten causes a leaky gut.  When you consume foods containing gluten, it travels through your stomach to your intestines where it causes the release of zonulin.  Zonulin tells your gut wall to open up, causing intestinal permeability, or leaky gut.  This is a problem because large particles, other than the small micronutrients found in foods, to enter your bloodstream – large particles like gluten, other proteins, microbes, toxins and partially digested food into your bloodstream.  Because these large particles aren’t supposed to be in your blood stream, your immune system targets them as dangerous and causes inflammation to get rid of them.

When your immune system is chronically causing inflammation to attack these large particles in your bloodstream, your immune system becomes stressed.  It can now no longer precisely attack invaders with precision and begins sending waves of attacks to fight off invaders in a desperate stand to defend itself.  Sooner or later, your body’s own tissues become victim to these attacks and you develop an autoimmune disease.

Environmental Toxins

Mercury. Pesticides. Aspartame. Silica. Dioxin. Lead.

These are just a handful of the more than 80,000 toxic chemicals found in consumer products today.  In fact, the average American is saturated with more than 400 toxic chemicals and babies are born with an average of 287 chemicals in their umbilical cords [8, 9].

Our bodies have the capability to detoxify themselves.  However, when stressed with the enormous amount of toxins they see today, they can accumulate and cause a whole host of problems – leaky gut, inflammation and eventually autoimmune disease.

Stress

Our bodies have the capability to withstand or even thrive when encountered with physical, mental, emotional, chemical or traumatic stress.  However, it’s the traumatic and chronic stress that is linked to the onset and progression of autoimmune diseases.  In fact, almost eighty percent of people report a large emotional stress before onset of physical symptoms due to an autoimmune disease [10].

Why?

Because traumatic and chronic stress cause inflammation, suppress your immunity and alter your body chemistry [11].  This eventually leads to a rogue immune system because your body doesn’t distinguish between other environmental triggers like gluten or toxicity.

Infections

Chronic infections from bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi may be one of the primary environmental triggers for autoimmune disease [12].  In fact, there is usually a hidden infection that either precedes the initial autoimmune attack or appears when the immune system is weakened.

The Functional Medicine Approach

The functional doctor’s primary approach to autoimmune diseases is to help you identify and remove the causes of the autoimmunity from your life that you have control over.  This is in stark contrast to the conventional medicine approach which is to throw drugs at your symptoms.

Think of autoimmune disease symptoms like a wildfire.

What’s the best way to avoid fire?  Remove the fuel so it never starts in the first place? Or throw water on it to prevent it from spreading?

Let’s take a look at what we’ll help you evaluate so you never have to worry about developing autoimmune diseases in the future.  Or, if you’ve already been diagnosed, that’s OK – it’s never too late to take a functional approach to solving your medical problems.  Here are some of what we can do for you:

  • Help you manage the stress in your life. Whether it’s teaching you relaxation or meditation techniques, helping you proactively eliminate stressors, or helping you to set up an exercise program – we’ve got you covered when it comes to stress.
  • Teach you what foods you should avoid, so that you can avoid autoimmune diseases. We know foods like sugar, gluten, dairy and many others can lead to autoimmune diseases and we’ll show you how to incorporate these dietary changes into your own life.
  • Teach you how to reduce or eliminate the most dangerous toxins from your life. We’ll also help you to detoxify what’s already built up in your system – whether it’s through an exercise regimen or special diet.
  • Help you build the strength of your immune system to protect you from infections that can lead to autoimmune disease.
  • We can get you started gut repair program, if you suffer from leaky gut, or help you adopt a gut healthy lifestyle if you don’t.

These are just a few of the things we can do to help you manage or prevent autoimmune diseases.  Contact us today for your own personal consultation.

Dangers of Chemicals in Cosmetics

Dangers of Chemicals in Cosmetics

Using an array of cosmetics and personal care products is all about feeling confident and beautiful. But could they be making you sick? 

Do you thoroughly scan ingredients lists on the food products before buying? You should be doing the same for your skin care products.

Not all but most of the personal grooming products you use on a regular basis are loaded with a nasty slew of chemicals – both natural and synthetic.

Unknown to many, these synthetic ingredients carry a wide range of proven and suspected health risks; for example, these chemicals are known to interfere with hormone and nervous system functions (as endocrine disruptors and neurotoxins), and can cause allergies, skin irritation, respiratory distress, developmental problems, reproductive damage and even cancer.

Why should you worry?

Myth #1: FDA approved means safe

With the exception of color additives and some active chemical ingredients, cosmetics manufacturers have the full authority to use any ingredient without the agency’s approval.

What does it mean? Most claims made by the cosmetics companies are unregulated. Interestingly, the European Union has banned more than 1,000 ingredients to be used in cosmetics that may cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive issues.

Myth #2: Cosmetics are not absorbed into the body

The truth is cosmetics are absorbed by your skin and enter the bloodstream. The efficacy of nicotine and birth control patches confirm this. Most of the ingredients in the cosmetics penetrate the skin. You can get exposed to these chemical in a number of ways; for example, inhaling (sprays, powders) and ingestion (lipsticks, hand lotions and creams).

The health risks associated with these ‘unregulated, untested and sometimes unlisted’ chemicals have significant implications. It is because the average adult in the U.S uses 9 personal care products every day – getting exposed to 126 unique chemical ingredients [1].

There is mounting concern that the cumulative toxic burden from these chemicals may be responsible for increasing rate of reproductive issues and cancer among women. Pregnant women, babies and growing children are considered most vulnerable to these adverse effects on health and well-being.

The stakes are high and you should be paying attention to what goes in your product.

Let’s look at the top 10 toxic chemicals you should avoid and what makes these ingredients hazardous.

10 chemicals in the cosmetics you should worry about

  1. Parabens

Parabens are commonly used as preservatives in a wide range of make-up and skin care products such as lipstick, mascara, foundation, body wash, sunscreen, lotions and shaving creams. These chemicals are also found in some pharmaceutical products.  Parabens prevent the growth of fungus, bacteria and other micro-organisms in your cosmetic products – keeping them from spoiling and extending their shelf-life. But isn’t that a good thing?

Well, parabens are also linked with an increased risk of breast cancer. Parabens mimic the effects of estrogen – a female reproductive hormone excess of which is implicated in the development of breast cancer and fertility problems. These chemicals are absorbed through the skin and have been isolated in the breast tissue and biopsy samples from breast tumors [2] [3]. As reported by WebMD, a study found that parabens, even in small amounts, can encourage the growth of certain types of breast cancer cells.

  1. Phthalates

Phthalates are commonly used as solvents and softeners in hundreds of products ranging from household cleaners to grooming products such as cosmetics, nail polish, perfumes and hair spray. These controversial chemicals help to hold color, make nail polish less fragile, prevent hair spray to make hair too stiff and make fragrances last longer.

Phthalates work as endocrine disruptors – interfering in the way hormones work in our body.  They are known to disrupt the balance of other hormones that work synergistically with estrogen, including testosterone.

Phthalates are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, early puberty in girls, decreased sperm count, behavioral problems, asthma in children, ADHD, premature birth, and reproductive defects in the developing male fetus. In addition, phthalate metabolites are also associated with obesity and insulin resistance in males [4]. Both National Toxicology Program and Environmental Protection Agency consider some phthalates (like DIP and DEHP) as ‘probable carcinogens’.

  1. Synthetic colors

Colorful cosmetics make us feel happy and refreshed. Bursts of orange, yellow and red when we open a jar or squeeze the gel tube enhance the overall experience of using that product. Make no mistake, the cosmetic companies are aware of  the power this spectrum of colors has on our physiology.

But did you know synthetic colors found in your cosmetics (and in the processed food items) are derived from coal tar or petroleum? These fake colors have been linked with cancer, allergies, hormonal imbalance, skin irritation, and ADHD in children.

  1. Fragrance

Consumer research shows that fragrance is one of the important factors when it comes to choosing a cosmetic or a personal care product. But the term fragrance can be misleading; it is actually a combination of dozens of chemicals added to either lend a pleasant smell or to mask the odor of certain harsh ingredients – aimed to enhance the user’s experience. On the pretext of protecting the secret formula, the cosmetics companies are not required to disclose the full ingredient list.

The chemical cocktail is present in many products such as perfume, cologne, shampoo, hair conditioner, soap, body wash, exfoliating scrubs, facial creams and moisturizers. The use of these unlisted and often untested ingredients are known to trigger allergies, migraines, skin irritation, runny nose and respiratory disorders like asthma. Some individual ingredients are even linked with cancer, development disorders and neurotoxicity among many other serious side effects [5] [6].

  1. Triclosan

Triclosan, known for its potent antimicrobial properties, is widely used in several products such as soaps, wipes, sprays, creams and toothpaste. Recently, the FDA banned triclosan from soaps but it is still found in the toothpaste, reports the New York Times.

Studies show that triclosan and similar chemicals in products – promising germ-free hands and surfaces – can do more harm than good. The risks of using triclosan are many. Firstly, it can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Secondly, chemicals like these have been shown to negatively impact metabolism, liver, and hormone functions (especially related to thyroid and reproductive system).

Any disturbance in the endocrine system can cause many health issues including “premature puberty, poor quality of sperm, fertility issues, obesity, and even cancer” [6]. In addition, triclosan is also linked with impaired learning and memory, impaired muscle functions and allergies.

  1. Mineral oil

Mineral oil is a colorless, odorless by-product of petroleum distillation process. It is an extremely common ingredient in baby oil, hair oil, moisturizers, lip-balm and other cosmetics. Why should you avoid using mineral oil?

According to a  2011 report by the National Toxicology Program, “Untreated and mildly treated mineral oils are known to be human carcinogens based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in humans [8].” While cosmetics contain a better grade mineral oil, scientists have raised grave concerns as much of the mineral oil we use contain contaminants that can be extremely damaging.

There is another reason to worry. Skin is one of the most important detox machinery in the body and works together with other organs to release toxins. But it needs to breathe to be able to perform this important function. The mineral oil is an “occlusive agent”—meaning it creates a barrier over your skin to prevent the loss of moisture; something like a plastic wrap. The skin can’t breathe and is left with clogged pores and toxin build up – increasing your risk of a breakouts and other skin disorders. This process can also damage collagen leading to premature skin aging.

  1. Sunscreen chemicals

Your treasured sunscreen product may contain active ingredients that are absorbed through the skin into the blood stream where they work as endocrine disruptors; especially among children. While these ingredients are added to protect the skin against the sun’s ultraviolet rays, studies show chemicals in most of the sunscreens can trigger cellular damage and even cause cancer.

Oxybenzone, the most common chemical used in the sunscreen, was found in 96% of the population in a study by CDC. This is an alarming figure as the chemical is a known endocrine disruptor, lowers sperm count in men and may cause endometriosis in women [9]. A 2015 Swiss survey for another ingredient octinoxate suggest that the exposure may put young children at increased risk of thyroid disruption.

This issue is very serious as the use of sunscreen – as a tool against sun exposure – has risen sharply; and people generally slather large amounts of sunscreen and over a large skin surface before stepping out in the sun.

  1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)

SLS and SLES are surfactants widely used in cleansing products, shower gels, bubble baths, face wash and in shampoos – lending foaming and lathering properties to these products.

Both these ingredients are skin, eye and lung irritants. In addition, SLS can interact with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, cancer causing substance. On the other hand, SLES is found to be contaminated with 1,4 dioxane – classified as a possible human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

  1. BHA and BHT

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are used as preservatives in many personal care products such as lipsticks, moisturizers, sunscreens, hair products, antiperspirant, deodorant, and other cosmetics. These chemicals are added to prevent the oxidation of fat and oils in these products; that can otherwise make the items go rancid and bad.

Both BHT and BHA are linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, liver and kidney toxicity, fertility issues, and reproductive and developmental toxicity [10].

  1. Lead

Most women apply lipstick without a second thought. But what they don’t know that most lipsticks, if not all, contain lead – a metal known for its neurotoxin properties. Lead has no useful role in the body but inside the body it mimics calcium and gets deposited in teeth and bones – causing severe damage to all the organ systems; with nervous and endocrine system taking the maximum impact. Lead is associated with learning and behavioral disorders, reduced fertility in both men and women, and delayed onset of puberty in girls and development of testes in boys. [111]

It is important (and scary) to know that there is no safe level of lead in the blood and it can be dangerous even in small quantities.

In fact, a recent study, conducted by the University of California, suggested that lead may not be the only metal in the lipsticks. The team detected nine toxic heavy metals, including chromium, aluminium, cadmium and manganese besides lead [12].

Is there something you can do to safeguard yourself?

It may not be possible to avoid every single chemical that is toxic. But you can definitely limit your exposure. Eating clean and avoiding processed food items loaded with preservatives, artificial sweeteners and fake colors is a good starting point to reduce the toxic burden on your system.

What else can you do?

  • Go for certified organic products
  • Awareness is the biggest tool you can have. Take out time to educate yourself and do your research before you buy any product.
  • Buy products with shorter ingredients lists and less chemicals. (See a name you can’t pronounce? Drop it)

It is again very important to note that buying a natural or herbal product may not always mean it is 100 % safe. EWG has created Skin DeepⓇcosmetics database, to help you research what toxic chemicals could be in your cosmetics and help you find safer, healthier alternatives.

References:

  1. Exposures add up – Survey results. EWG.org
  2. L Barr et al. Measurement of paraben concentrations in human breast tissue at serial locations across the breast from axilla to sternum. J Appl Toxicol. 2012 Mar;32(3):219-32. doi: 10.1002/jat.1786. Epub 2012 Jan 12.
  3. Darbare et al. Concentrations of parabens in human breast tumours. J Appl Toxicol. 2004 Jan-Feb;24(1):5-13.
  4. Stahlhut, RW et al. Concentrations of urinary phthalate metabolites are associated with increased waste circumference and insulin resistence in adult S. males. Environmental Health Perspectives 115, 6 (Jun 2007).
  5. S. National Toxicology Program. NTP toxicology and carcinogensis Studies of 2,4-hexadienal (89% trans,trans isomer, CAS No. 142-83-6; 11% cis,trans isomer) (Gavage Studies). Natl Toxicol Program Tech Rep Ser. 509 (Oct 2003):1-290
  6. S. National Toxicology Program. NTP Toxicology and Carcinogenesis Studies of Methyleugenol (CAS NO. 93-15-2) in F344/N Rats and B6C3F1 Mice (Gavage Studies). Natl Toxicol Program Tech Rep Ser. 491 (Jul 2000): 1-412.
  7. Nicole Greenfield. The Dirt on Antibacterial Soaps. NRDC. March 15, 2016.
  8. Mineral Oils: Untreated and Mildly Treated,Report on Carcinogens, Twelfth Edition (2011), National Toxicology Program, Department of Health and Human Services.
  9. The Trouble With Oxybenzone and Other Sunscreen Chemicals. EWG
  10. Butylated Compounds. Safe Cosmetics.
  11. Lead In Lipstick. Safe Cosmetics.
  12. Liu et al. Concentrations and Potential Health Risks of Metals in Lip Products. Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1205518

4 Factors that Contribute to Fatigue and Sleeping Problems

Do You Experience Fatigue and Sleeping Issues? Here’re 4 Biggest Contributing Factors

If you have a lack of focus, get tired only a few hours into starting the day and can’t seem to get enough sleep you might be experiencing chronic fatigue.

Worse is when you don’t know what’s causing your fatigue, and you’re left unsure what to do to get rid of it. The truth is, there can be many reasons and getting to the heart of what causes these symptoms is the key to overcoming this debilitating condition.

Here are four factors that contribute to brain fog, fatigue, and sleeping issues:

Step 1: Toxicity

More and more research is pointing to a link between exposure to chemicals (either by ingestion through foods or exposure through our environment) and fatigue.

Reactions to certain foods, pollen, metals and other environmental chemicals may be causing the rising number of individuals with low energy and fatigue.

Lesson: Pay attention to your diet and make sure to minimize the contact with chemicals.

Step 2: Nutrient Depletion

Certain nutrients, especially iron and B vitamins, may help women feel more energized. More important is the fact that iron and b vitamins taken in supplement form are not absorbed as well as when consumed from whole foods.

So focus on increasing nutrients by consuming fresh, whole fruits and vegetables and clean meats.

Lesson: as you can tell, nutrition is a huge part of overcoming your fatigue and eating the right kind of foods will either contribute to or eradicate your fatigue.

Step 3: Complement Your Body with Herbs

After you stop the source of toxicity and increase nutrients in the form of foods, consider using high-quality supplements and herbs to help the restoration and function of your cells.

These include supplements include such things as Omega 3 fish oils,

Step 4: Cultivate a Healthy Lifestyle

Whether it’s through constantly eliminating the sources of toxicity, better nutrition, managing stress, or a combination of these, by continuously cultivating a healthy lifestyle you can feel better, live stronger, and be healthier with an abundance of energy.

Conclusion

This list can go on forever, and the truth is, know what exactly causes your fatigue, you’d need to answer a couple of more question about your lifestyle and habits.

So, if you want to discover the most primary causes for your lack of energy then click here and pass this quick quiz that I usually give my patients.

 

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