We are born into a toxic world. A 2004 study showed 287 toxins found in the umbilical cords of babies who were tested for them. These include “pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage.” [i]
The air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink and use to bathe in are, more likely than not, infused with environmental and industrial toxins. Often household cleaners, hygiene products, even bedding materials bombard our fragile systems with toxins. Over time, the toxic chemical burden on our body is likely to increase.
Some people have a genetic predisposition to detox poorly; they have one or more genetic polymorphism that makes it hard for them to detox everything from psychiatric drugs and pesticides, to heavy metals such as lead and mercury. I have often wondered why I was so severely impacted by living in big cities or taking psych meds while others managed to do so without destabilizing psychically or mentally. I simply could not expunge the toxins I took in very well.
This toxic burden I and others carry has a pernicious effect on our brain chemistry, which is highly sensitive to chemical toxicity. These toxins often mimic minerals and bind onto to cells in our brain interfering with the synthesis of neurotransmitters. Someone who has had their neurotransmitters disrupted can become depressed, anxious, or psychotic.
Before I knew anything about neurotoxins and their potential effect on neurotransmitters, I thought I was going insane. The doctors treating me certainly thought I was. I was hearing things, seeing things, experiencing violent mood swings, and living in chronic pain. I let doctors flood my system with more and more meds, thereby INCREASING my toxic burden and exacerbating my symptoms. Not one doctor bothered to investigate the underlying cause of my physical, mental, and emotional distress. If they had, they would have seen that the levels of many of the toxins I was holding were literally off the chart.
Mercurial or Insane?
I have since learned that mercury toxicity contributes to insomnia and anxiety. Arsenic toxicity can affect endorphin synthesis and thus contributes to any number of mood disorders. Mercury-lead or mercury-aluminum combinations can cause psychosis because they often bind to the neuronal receptor sites generally reserved for neurotransmitters.
Many people are in a hurry to get off psych meds because they suspect that those medications may be contributing to their acute psychical and emotional problems. I too was desperate to get off my meds as soon as possible. While getting off many of these meds may certainly be optimal, addressing the underlying overall toxic burden, I have found, is the clear priority. I liken my system and that of others who have been on meds for years to toxic landfills. Stopping one or two of the cars that are dumping trash in the dump – the daily med intake – will not necessary clear up all the symptoms a person is suffering from; there still remain a lifetime of accumulated toxins that are wreaking havoc on our nervous symptoms.
Help Your Body
I often communicate with people who are suffering with a range of physical, mental, and emotional symptoms months, even years, after they have stopped their medication. The first thing I ask them is: What steps have you taken to determine if you have a heavy toxic burden? And, subsequently: What steps have you taken to reduce that toxic burden? Just waiting for our bodies to expunge these toxins without any encouragement may be a long and painful wait. As mentioned above, some of us are simply unable to detoxify well.
The encouragement I speak of comes in the form of “chelators” and “conjugators.” Chelation agents are proteins that can bind heavy metals. A chelator is a protein that has a higher affinity for heavy metals than does the fatty tissue and can therefore grab the toxins like a claw. Think of a large magnet moving over the surface area of a work bench picking up metal shavings as it goes. Furthermore, in order for fat soluble toxins to be eliminated via sweat, defecation, and urinary routes, they must be converted to a water soluble form. This is done by adding something to the toxin such as a sulfur group, methyl group, or acetyl group. This addition is chemically termed “conjoining.”
I spent months, while still on my meds, taking chelators and conjugators specifically designed to pull out toxins my body had tested high in. After a few weeks I stopped hearing things and perceiving visual auras. The violent shaking and tardive dyskinesia that doctors warned me had become permanent started to abate after about a month. The emotional turbulence did take much longer to subside; we’re talking about a good three decades worth of toxicity, so it was a slow and arduous process. And, I often felt worse before I felt better – when the body is flooded with toxins, even as they are being eliminated from the system, it is not uncommon to have flu-like symptoms and emotional gyrations.
While chelating and conjugating, I also took a protocol of supplements that were designed to aid in the recovery of my cells as well as increase brain serotonin, dopamine, and GABA levels. These worked better and better the more I detoxified. Many who try to take amino acids or other supplements and don’t feel all that better complain that the supplements don’t work. Without adequately detoxifying, however, how could they? If receptor sites remain blocked by neurotoxins, no amount of vitamins will rebalance the body’s neurochemistry.
On many message boards and forums dedicated to psych med withdrawal I often see warnings posted not to take chelators or any supplements during med tapers or even after getting off of medication all together. I find that advice sadly misguided.
Based on my personal experience and the experiences of hundreds of others whom I have personally known, I have come to conclude that identifying which toxins a person is burdened by, chelating and conjugating those toxins, and then adding supplements to naturally restore neurotransmission levels can have the real potential to help people resolve a life-time of physical, emotional, and mental suffering.