The Toxin Solution

Chapter 1. How Toxins Ruin Your Health

Despite advances in modern medicine and technology, today more than ever people are suffering from chronic illnesses through all stages of the human life cycle. In our search for health, have we missed something? Or have the challenges evolved?

For much of the twentieth century, integrative, functional, and natural medicine doctors named nutritional deficiencies and excesses as the primary causes of chronic disease. We all know about the problems of nutrient-deficient food, excessive sugar, and unhealthy fat consumption. But, starting about sixty years ago, something fundamental changed: toxins started entering our world in massive amounts. But only relatively recently has it been possible to really grasp their effects on us. This book will change that. The latest findings I’ll detail in The Toxin Solution: How Hidden Poisons in the Air, Water, Food, and Products We Use Are Destroying Our Health—AND WHAT WE CAN DO TO FIX IT reveal that toxins are now the invisible primary drivers of countless health problems. This book will uncover those findings, while offering a time-tested program to counter these toxins and support you in lightening your toxic load to regain your health.

When I first started offering detoxification protocols, the people who came to my clinic didn’t do so because they wanted to detoxify. They came because they had minor to major health problems they sought to address. No one mentioned the word detox, ever. Now, it seems like every other health provider offers some form of detoxification, making it very hard for people to distinguish between all of these supposed detox programs, no less figure out what is right for them. The Toxin Solution will provide you with a rock-solid rationale for understanding the crucial need for detox, along with a safe, scientifically validated program anyone can safely follow. In just eight weeks (nine if you follow my bonus week) my step-by-step protocol will release your own toxic load and help you rediscover your health and vitality.

Why Toxic Exposures Are Revolutionizing Health Care

Toxins damage every aspect of our physiological function and play a role in virtually all diseases. They don’t act alone. They interact with other factors in our health environment and in many cases magnify the disruption caused by other factors. The cutting-edge research I will share with you throughout The Toxin Solution reveals the strong disease causations of toxic pollutants in virtually all chronic diseases— especially diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and dementia. All these diseases are increasing in every age group. This can’t be simply dismissed as due to lifestyle, nutritional deficiencies, or the increasing age of the population.

I’ve been involved in medicine now for almost half a century—as a researcher, student, clinician, teacher, lecturer, author, and advocate at the local, state, federal, and international levels. I’ve taught tens of thousands of students and doctors, authored or coauthored twelve books, written over one hundred articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and cared for tens of thousands of patients either directly or indirectly through sophisticated corporate wellness programs that I designed and helped implement.

What I’ve learned over these many years is that our bodies have a tremendous capacity to remain vital, bounce back, and heal themselves. The Toxin Solution will offer you the proven detox and tailored protocols I’ve developed to restore that vitality by releasing toxic overload. You will also learn how to avoid toxins (wherever possible) as you progressively release them from your cells, tissues, fat stores, and organs.

In just eight weeks, The Toxin Solution will:

 Reveal how to avoid avoidable toxins.

 Strengthen and repair detox organs: the gut, liver, and kidneys.

 Support your body’s normal processes for excreting toxins.

 Actively facilitate the release of toxins.

 Repair toxin-related damage.

Many people mistakenly believe that toxins are a given and there is nothing we can do about them. But that’s not true. Many people don’t take toxins into account when they buy food and other products. You can shield yourself and your family by making the right choices. The Toxin Solution will reveal specific ways you can minimize your exposure to many toxins and avoid their deleterious health effects.

Here’s just one example: When you gas up your car, do you take the trouble to position yourself upwind of the fumes? If you don’t bother to do that, it may be because no one has ever told you that if you can smell the fumes, that means the chemicals in the gasoline, especially benzene, are entering your body. Yes, you can greatly lessen your avoidable toxic exposure by paying attention, as in this example. Nevertheless, if you, like the majority of the population, live in a city, or are downwind from a gas station, you will constantly breathe in low levels of the benzene that is circulating in the air. Yes, it’s at a lower concentration than what you inhale when gassing up your car. But it still enters your body—and does so on a nearly daily basis. The impact? Since benzene damages DNA, this chronic exposure increases the risk of cancer. You might think you are getting only a small dose during those five minutes you are pumping gas, but the problem is that the benzene you inhale joins all the other chemicals and metals you take in every day in virtually every aspect of your life.

Going through a regular day, the average person encounters a constant stream of benzene and other chemical toxins, from chemical-laden food, paint, printing ink, flame retardants, coolants, and wood-floor finishes to Scotchgard-treated clothing, cosmetics, pizza boxes and popcorn bags, and dust. These are just a few of the everyday things that contain an alphabet soup of truly harmful toxins—PCBs, PBDEs, OCPs, VOCs, EMFs, and PFCs, not to mention arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead.

Many of these hundreds and thousands of chemical toxins simply didn’t exist prior to the midtwentieth century. Our grandparents undoubtedly faced their own unique stressors, but they were nothing like the barrage of chemicals, heavy metals, radiation, electromagnetic frequencies, and pollution that batter people today. Although the human body has an innate capacity to detoxify itself, people now are exposed to a level of consumer, agricultural, and industrial toxins that the human organism never evolved to handle.

Acute poisoning and high levels of heavy-metal toxicity can be easier for doctors to recognize. They are most common among people with high-exposure jobs, or those who live downstream from industrial emissions (like emissions from mining, battery manufacturing, and other industries). On the other hand, chronic low-level exposures, which the majority of people experience, produce subtler and often more pervasive symptoms.

For example, the majority of Americans now carry higher bodily levels than ever before of endocrine- disrupting chemicals. A well-known one, bisphenol A (BPA), is contained in many food cans and packaging. When you eat canned soup or drink soy milk from a BPA-coated container, you increase BPA levels more than tenfold.1 What’s the health effect? The BPA acts to disrupt your endocrine system, which regulates virtually all aspects of the body’s metabolism and function. The predictable result of this barrage of endocrine disruptors is a growing incidence of chronic disease and an increased rate of aging. For example, having a level of BPA in your urine above 5 µg /L (micrograms per liter) doubles your risk of diabetes, since this toxin blocks the receptor sites on the cells that insulin activates to allow sugar in.

Figure 1.1. BPA levels by type of container

Although we now consider such nonoptimal eating patterns normal, eating canned soup every day for a week causes BPA levels over four times this threshold. Even just two servings a week doubles the risk of diabetes. Eighteen percent of the U.S. population have levels of BPA above this threshold, which also results in elevated blood pressure. And that’s just one toxin.

As you will learn in this book, BPA and other toxins do all sorts of damage: they gradually clog the liver, block insulin-receptor sites, damage the genes, and undermine DNA repair and recovery. They contribute to inflammation, blood-sugar problems, digestive problems, mitochondrial disorders, hormonal imbalances, low energy, immune issues, and a host of other problems. When toxins build up over time and overload your body, they gradually undermine your health and cause disease.

Where do toxins come from? Where are they found?

 Conventionally grown foods are sprayed with neurotoxic pesticides to kill insects; such foods are contaminated (especially GMO foods) with toxic herbicides that are sprayed to kill weeds. Rice has high arsenic levels when grown in contaminated water; heavy metals like cadmium are found in high levels in soy grown with high-phosphate fertilizers, and antibiotics and hormones are frequently found in animal products.

 Personal-care products and perfumes (often called HABAs, or health and beauty aids) are high in endocrine-disrupting phthalates that are needed to add fragrances.

 Home-building materials, cleaning materials, mattresses, furniture, clothing, and other goods we take for granted release a laundry list of toxic chemicals, the length of which continues to grow.

 Industrial activities such as gas and electrical-power production generate toxic emissions of methane, carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds, ozone, benzene, toluene, mercury, and sulfur, contaminating the air and water around cities, suburbs, and agricultural regions. Two common chemicals emitted by gas pipelines that crisscross the country are xylene and n-hexane. Xylene can produce short-term effects like nausea and gastric discomfort. Its long-term effects include neurological problems.

As you can see from just this array of examples, exposure to the many external chemicals emitted into our world can’t always be eliminated by individual avoidance. From both large-scale and small immediate sources, pollutants enter our communities, our homes, our foods, and our bodies. That is why it is so essential to understand the effects of all the toxins to which we have been exposed, learn how to avoid as many of them as possible, and increase their elimination.

Jennifer’s Story

Sixty-year-old Jennifer considered herself healthy. Being proactive, she came to me for guidance on further improving her health and preventing disease. I immediately noticed that she had a pretty significant tremor. She hadn’t mentioned it, she told me later, because she thought it was simply a sign of aging. Many people assume that neurodegeneration in older years is “normal.” It may be common, but it’s not preordained!

A basic physical exam showed a slightly underweight but otherwise healthy woman. Then I looked in her mouth and counted more than ten amalgam fillings. I immediately suspected that her tremor was due to progressive neurological damage caused by mercury leaking from her fillings. To verify that, I ran several tests. The results showed elevations of both mercury and lead.

We weren’t able to identify the source of lead exposure. Most likely, lead was coming from her bones. People of Jennifer’s generation and older formed a lot of their bone when lead was still being used in gasoline and paint. The bone loss triggered by menopause (and andropause) releases the metal toxins.

Since Jennifer was clearly showing damage from the lead and mercury, she decided with my encouragement to go to an ecological dentist to have the amalgams removed. She also started following my more aggressive mercury- and lead-removal support protocol—a regimen that should be undertaken only with direct medical supervision. (It’s based on the all-around detox protocol you can safely do, offered later in this book.) I also encouraged her to increase her consumption of fruits and vegetables, eat only wild-caught fish, and eat more high-fiber lentils and beans.

During the first few months she suffered some symptoms, including low energy and headaches. Some people do experience symptoms when their cells start to release toxins, but Jennifer decided to stay the course. After a year, we repeated the earlier tests and found much lower levels of mercury and lead. But far more significant, her tremor was gone (so much for it being a normal sign of aging), her energy was up, and she felt much healthier and stronger.

Prior to coming to see me, Jennifer had no idea that toxic metals lodged in her body were a ticking time bomb for health problems that would one day emerge. Like her, you may be experiencing a health issue—or heading toward one—without recognizing that toxicity contributes to it. Even if you’re just first experiencing very early signs of poor health, learning how to dial down your toxic overload can help resolve the issue before it goes further.

It’s not just that we are all being exposed to significant levels of single toxins that are known to damage health and cause disease. The problem is that no matter where you reside in this country or world, you are immersed in a toxic soup. You are exposed to multiple toxins that work synergistically to cause even more damage and disease. A large amount of research now clearly shows that the majority of chronic disease is due to this avalanche of toxins entering our bodies intentionally and unintentionally by every possible pathway.

Yet despite this disturbing alteration of what was once a healthy and natural environment, some doctors misguidedly dismiss the need for detox. In my more than forty years of medical practice, nothing I’ve seen leads me to believe that the body’s innate detoxification systems are capable of handling today’s toxins—without the protocols described in The Toxin Solution that you will undertake. Many illnesses that are extremely common today are dismissed or misunderstood—like the rising incidence of neurological complaints or low-grade chronic symptoms like dementia, diabetes, fatigue, depression, and obesity. Yet many of them arise from—or are increased by—toxicity. My aim in writing The Toxin Solution is to guide you in providing the help your body needs in our toxic world.

The Practitioner’s Journey

I am a formally trained naturopathic physician and leading educator—founding president of this country’s premiere natural medicine institution, Bastyr University. I’ve trained generations of integrative medicine practitioners and championed natural, integrative, and functional medicine for over four decades. From my earliest years, I’ve had a strong orientation to evidence-based medicine. Everything I will recommend in this book, based on years of clinical experience, is scientifically validated. In fact, it has been nothing short of astounding over my lifetime to see the clinical discoveries pioneered by earlier generations of naturopathic doctors repeatedly confirmed by science. I will present many of the latest findings in this book.

But I must confess I am not yet satisfied. I would like to see even more research on the connection between toxins and disease, and on how detoxification promotes health. Nonetheless, the numbers from the new research are staggering. The research shows that toxins are far more damaging than any other known disease risk factors. Throughout this book, I will provide charts and tables to help you grasp the invisible role these toxins play in disease.

As a pioneer of integrative medicine, I’m convinced that there are three key determinants of whether or not you will enjoy health today, tomorrow, and lifelong:

1. The extent of your exposure to toxins

2. The ability of your body to neutralize or excrete toxins

3. Your commitment to building your detoxification capacity

The Toxin Solution will help you recognize the damage done by toxic exposures, while providing ways to do all of the above. My comprehensive approach entails:

Evading avoidable toxins.

 Repairing the detox organs.

 Building detox capacity.

 Actively promoting detoxification.

 Repairing the damage.

This book is designed to support you in that fourfold plan. In chapters 1 and 2, I unveil the toxic exposures hiding in our world. By revealing the toxic burden imposed on all of us, I hope to motivate you in making a commitment to a lifestyle of detoxification, beginning with what I call the Nine-Week Program.

You will first clear the decks by avoiding the two major sources of toxins: toxin-loaded health and beauty products (which you will learn how to limit in chapter 2) and toxin-laden food. The full Nine- Week Program begins with the Two-Week Jumpstart Diet (offered in chapter 3.) This diet will convert your nutrition from toxin-laden to toxin-free, nutrient-dense foods. These two aspects of toxin avoidance (in HABAs and in food) give you a cleaner baseline for undergoing detox.

You can’t detox safely or successfully if your detoxification organs are themselves toxic (or underperforming). And overburdened and dysfunctional detox organs are all too common. That’s why over the next nine weeks, The Toxin Solution will lead you through a well-sequenced series of three two- week detox protocols that will restore each of your most essential detox organs and rebuild your detox capacity. On this scientifically validated update of the classic naturopathic approach to detox, you will progressively repair your most crucial detox organs: the gut (chapter 4), the liver (chapter 5), and the kidneys (chapter 6). During a final, ninth week of the program, you will up-level your detox using some simple but powerful techniques I will recommend.

These naturopathic methods will help you to greatly decrease your toxic load. And decreasing your toxic load makes it easier to detox. Now, instead of experiencing a downward cycle in which toxic overload progressively damages your organs and impairs your detox capacity, you will be actively creating a positive cycle by restoring your organs and rebuilding your detox capacity—by following the protocols in The Toxin Solution.

Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic medicine is built on the profound belief that the body has a tremendous ability to heal, if we just give it a chance. Naturopathic doctors specialize in helping people understand why they are sick and how to become healthy by using natural therapies. They focus on:

 Searching for the underlying causes of illness rather than suppressing symptoms.

 Following the principle of “first do no harm.”

 Educating patients about self-healing, self-care, and prevention.

 Taking into account each individual’s unique physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, and other factors in an effort to treat the whole person.

Toxic Overload

While lifestyle, diet, and genetics all play a major role in your health, symptoms of declining health and chronic disease often start with toxic overload. And, as I’ll reveal in later chapters of this book, many toxic chemicals are specifically engineered to resist breakdown. Although civilized products and comforts have their upsides, toxins from a range of sources are their unacknowledged, nearly invisible downside. Toxic overload may consist of any or all of the following:

1. Industrial toxins, such as heavy metals, pollution, and radiation released by industrial activities

2. Agricultural toxins, such as pesticides, hormones, and herbicides

3. Household toxins from building materials, rugs, paint, and cleaning supplies

4. Toxins in personal care products, including health and beauty aids (HABAs), perfumes, and cosmetics

5. Food toxins, like genetically modified organisms (GMOs), food coloring, artificial flavors, and artificial sweeteners

6. Other consumer-product toxins, such as flame retardants in children’s clothing, toys, and blankets; sealants in cookware, and more

While we take many of these types of products and services for granted, the substances they contain (or generate) can harm our bodies in numerous ways. (See table 1.1.)

Fortunately, not every toxin is harmful to every bodily organ or system. Toxic effects can be major or minor.

Table 1.1. General Types of Toxicity and Symptoms






Nose, throat, lungs

Irritation, coughing, choking, tight chest




Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea



Back pain, urinating more or less than usual


Brain, spinal cord

Headache, dizziness, confusion, depression, coma, convulsions, memory loss



Anemia (tiredness, weakness), frequent infections


Skin, eyes

Rashes, itching, redness, swelling


Ovaries, testes, fetus

Infertility, miscarriage, menstrual cycle disruption

Many diseases once rare are now epidemic in people of all ages for reasons doctors can’t explain— unless we consider toxins. Take diabetes, which affected only 1 percent of the population sixty years ago: it is now diagnosed in 10 percent of the population and is expected to afflict more than 30 percent of all Americans. We are seeing the rise of cardiovascular disease and obesity in twenty-year-olds, and it is now commonplace for men and women to suffer from all the ailments related to aging ten, twenty, or even thirty years earlier than they should. For too many people, forty can feel like fifty or sixty. As you will learn from reading this book, toxins have become the driving factor behind this phenomenon.

In 2010, the President’s National Cancer Panel found that “approximately 1.5 million American men, women, and children were diagnosed with cancer, and 562,000 died from the disease. With the growing body of evidence linking environmental exposures to cancer, the public is becoming increasingly aware of the unacceptable burden of cancer resulting from environmental and occupational exposures that could have been prevented.”2

Unfortunately, since 2010, when the panel presented its findings, there has been no action taken on its recommendations, which included more research into and solid regulation of toxic chemicals.

As a result, since that time toxicity has progressively increased, and most people have no idea how serious this problem has become. It is not just cancer: all chronic disease is caused or aggravated by the pervasive toxins. Don’t wait until you have a serious condition like cancer before you take control.

How I Came to Write This Book

The concept that toxins absorbed into our bodies affect human health is not new. Through clinical work with thousands of grateful people, courageous medical pioneers like Rachel Carson, PhD; Bill Rey, MD; Hal Huggins, DDS; Walter Crinnion, ND; and many others have discovered that, while toxic load is a huge problem, we can do something about it. I’m glad I could play a part in these discoveries and in teaching doctors how to detoxify their patients.

Over the almost half century I’ve been taking care of patients, I’ve seen a relentless increase in chronic disease, along with a dramatic change in the underlying reasons people are becoming chronically unwell. Like many doctors, I at first didn’t fully appreciate the need to promote bodily detoxification. But I became a convert early on, and I’ve seen smart detox support—which I will offer in The Toxin Solution —change lives.

It was by accident that I first found out about, studied, and eventually began to practice detoxification therapy. In 1970, I decided to leave graduate school to go into medical research. Moving from upstate New York to Seattle, I began to work as a research assistant in the Department of Rheumatology at the University of Washington School of Medicine. I loved the laboratory and occasional clinical work and soon decided to pursue a PhD in the field. But then something unexpected happened.

Like many research labs around the world, our lab sought a cure for the various forms of arthritis. When the fiancée of my college roommate told me that her supposedly “incurable” juvenile arthritis was now cured, I was amazed and asked her how this happened.

“I went to a naturopathic doctor,” she told me.

My response was “Huh?”

Looking back, I was pretty naive about medicine: I didn’t know there were any other healing arts, not even chiropractic.

Being naturally quite inquisitive and scientifically oriented, I went to this naturopathic doctor and asked what he did for my friend. His response? “I detoxified her liver, taught her how to eat, and gave her some vitamins.” Another “Huh?” from me. What did her liver have to do with her hands and knees being swollen? I then asked if I could spend a few days watching him see patients. I saw case after case of “incurable” patients being helped by this wonderful healer through what seemed much simpler, far safer, and more sensible “natural” interventions. I was hooked, and to my good fortune, the last naturopathic medicine school in all of North America was in Seattle. Yes, the AMA had won every battle and greatly diminished the profession—but they didn’t quite win the war. As my beloved Dr. John Bastyr told us as students, paraphrasing Shakespeare, “No matter the obstacles they place, the truth of our medicine will out.”

As a naturopathic medical student in the early 1970s, I learned about toxicity and detoxification. Although we were taught some great detoxification protocols, at the time there was no scientific validation for them. The mechanisms of toxicity and protocols for detoxification were simply unknown. So, while I was aware of the principle of detox, it didn’t affect my clinical thinking very much. Then, in about my sixth month of practice, two patients transformed my understanding.

Peter’s and Don’s Stories

Peter came to my office because of his leukemia. He appeared to have been effectively treated with chemotherapy, but he wondered why, at age thirty, he had developed this cancer. I learned that he ate like everyone else (poorly) and didn’t take any vitamins. He did get a lot of exercise, since he worked on a farm. A physical exam revealed nothing unusual for a young man his age, and a screening lab test found no abnormalities. (I wish I could go back to look at those old lab tests with the knowledge I have now.) All I could offer him at the time was the advice to simply clean up his diet and take a good-quality multivitamin and mineral.

Then, two weeks later, Don came to my office with essentially the same presentation. He also worked on a farm. Hmm, I wondered, could there be a connection between their illness and their exposure to chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides? At my request, both brought me the labels from the drums that contained the products they were using on the farms.

I consulted a toxicology textbook to learn about the chemicals these two men had been spraying on the fields. I dug into the relevant chapters, and lo and behold, I found that farmers in general were showing a significantly increased risk of most blood cancers, apparently in proportion to their use of modern farm chemicals. I gulped a bit, spent $150 (a lot of money for a struggling young practitioner in an unpopular field of medicine) to buy the textbook, and started reading.

Tracking the connections between supposedly benign chemicals and human health opened my eyes. It became the work of a lifetime. In The Toxin Solution, I hope to open your eyes. A lot of people prefer not to know about the toxin-health connection, because it’s just too scary and requires change. But knowing gives you two options that you lack when you just take our toxic world for granted. Once you know, you have a new opportunity to:

1. Make dietary and lifestyle choices to lessen the toxins you absorb.

2. Undergo the Toxin Solution on a regular basis to release your toxic load.

Our Toxic World

Toxins enter our bodies every day through the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, the substances we touch or apply to our faces and bodies—even through the drugs and treatments prescribed by doctors and dentists. Until you reflect upon all that you take in without a second thought, the many ways you are exposed to toxins may seem hidden and surprising.

For example, do you ever order out for pizza? To increase their durability and confer heat resistance, pizza boxes are widely treated with perfluorinated alkylated substances (PFASs) to make them resistant to water and to grease stains. PFASs cause low-dose endocrine disruption and immunotoxicity.3 In other words, exposure to them can either suppress or imbalance the immune system, increasing risk of infection and autoimmune conditions. PFASs are used on a wide range of other products, including nonstick cooking pans and utensils, “breathable” rain gear, stain-resistant sprays for furniture, sleeping bags, electronics (cell phones and hard disk drives), backpacks, footwear, and even hospital equipment. They can be found in the needles, pacemakers, stents, hospital gowns, and even the divider curtains used in hospitals.

A hazardous substance moves into the human body via what scientists call “an exposure pathway.” Unfortunately, as a study published in 2015 notes, breast-feeding is an important exposure pathway for PFASs.4 The greater the frequency of breast-feeding, the higher the concentrations of PFASs in infants and babies studied at ages eleven months, eighteen months, and five years.5 What people use, handle, contact, inhale, smell, or eat is absorbed into their bodies and even passed along to the next generation. How sad that newborns (and, as we will see later, even infants in utero) are absorbing the toxic chemicals that flood our world.

How did we come to this?

Over the last seventy-five years, chemistry has brought Americans and others in the “civilized” world a wide range of useful products and services that most of us take for granted. In becoming dependent on everything from fast food to heating fuel to commercially produced baby blankets, we’ve made certain assumptions. Most of us have assumed either that all these wonders are “inert”—that is, that they are biologically inactive, with no discernible impact on biology and living things—or that it is safe to overlook their chemical effects as insignificant. Yet over fifty years ago, pioneering ecologist Rachel Carson cautioned about chemicals in our food in her breakthrough book Silent Spring. “A Who’s Who of pesticides,” she wrote, is “of concern to us all. If we are going to live so intimately with these chemicals, eating and drinking them, taking them into the very marrow of our bones—we had better know something about their nature and their power.”6

The unfortunate reality is that half a century later, we still have much to learn, and the toxin problem has become much, much worse. The President’s Cancer Panel of 2010 found that “with nearly 80,000 chemicals on the market in the United States, many of which are used by millions of Americans in their daily lives and are un- or understudied and largely unregulated, exposure to potential environmental carcinogens is widespread.”7

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a practicing neurosurgeon and CNN’s chief medical correspondent, notes that “up to 200 chemicals are in the blood of babies before they’re even born. The exact ramifications of the presence of all these chemicals is unclear. Certainly, we have seen an increase in various diseases, from asthma and autism to childhood obesity. It will take a national long-term study to say for sure what these chemicals may be contributing.”8

“Only a few hundred of the more than 80,000 chemicals in use in the United States have been tested for safety,” writes Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, quoting the President’s Cancer Panel: “Many known or suspected carcinogens are completely unregulated.”9

While concerned people work hard to avoid individual exposure, Ansje Miller, the coauthor of a 2013 report released by the Center for the Environment and Health, notes that “many harmful chemicals that we have been working so hard to eliminate from consumer products are now being used”10 in industrial activities such as hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking).

Large-scale exposures to pollutants where you live is becoming increasingly impossible to avoid. A University of Pittsburgh study published in 2015 found that “living close to a high number of 'fracked’ natural gas wells may be linked to an increased risk of having a lower-birth-weight baby.”11 This may be due in part to heavy metals, radiation, and carcinogens used in (or released by) drilling for unconventional sources of gas.

You may not live near fracking wells, but few communities are immune to pollutants of one kind or another. For example, if you live in New England, you likely have elevated mercury levels from the burning of contaminated coal for electricity generation. Or you may have high levels of arsenic if you’re one of the 10 percent of Americans drinking from commercial water supplies. In fact, a 2000 study showed that as many as fifty-six million Americans had unsafe levels of arsenic in their water—and that was only in the twenty-five states that were studied.12 Or you may go to work every day unaware of the harmful chemicals in your workplace. One study out of Harvard determined that Americans have collectively forfeited 41 million IQ points as a result of exposure to lead, mercury, and organophosphate pesticides.13

The bottom line is that if you are like most people, your body is storing many of the toxins I cover in this book. It is storing them wherever it can—in your bones, in your brain, in your blood, and in your fat. You don’t want them there. But you will never release these toxins from your body until your detox system is itself detoxified and doing a first-rate job of getting those toxins out.

Jack’s Story

Jack was a wooden-boat builder in Port Townsend, Washington. In my region, the Pacific Northwest, many boat builders are routinely exposed to harmful chemicals from the paints and fiberglass products used to protect the hulls of boats.

Although still a relatively young man, Jack had become progressively debilitated. He felt tired all the time and had no energy to devote to his family. For unknown reasons, his symptoms worsened in the winter. By the time he came to see me, he had become so weak he was hardly able to get out of bed in the morning. Like many people who consult me, he had already seen several medical doctors. Unable to pinpoint any recognizable disease, they had no treatment to offer him. Jack told me he felt as if he had the flu all the time. He was desperate for answers, since he had a wife and young children to support. Fortunately, a bit of detective work quickly pinpointed the cause of his problems.

The special paints used on boat hulls contain varnishes to preserve the wood and heavy metals to keep barnacles from growing on boat bottoms. Although Jack was somewhat able to tolerate these toxins in the summer, to keep his workshop warm in the winter he closed all the doors and windows. Despite the vents, the higher concentration of toxins delivered an increased exposure when he breathed in the polluted air or forgot to wear gloves to prevent topical absorption. Since the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA—which regulates workplace safety) had approved his workplace, Jack assumed that the chemicals he worked with were perfectly safe. He rarely wore a protective mask. To make matters worse, his living space was right next door to his workshop and smelled of solvents!

Jack had an enlarged and very sensitive liver. His hands were discolored, and his complexion appeared waxen. I immediately put him on an intensive detoxification program. He stopped working for one week and moved his family several blocks away to avoid exposure while he began to detox.

To stimulate his detoxification processes, Jack went on a one-week modified food fast, emphasizing raw and cooked fruits and vegetables—the very same diet you will be following in this book. (See chapter 3.) He also took the same supplements I will recommend in chapter 5 for detoxing the liver, as well as extra fiber to get the toxins released by the liver bound into his stools.

Jack had a good constitution and responded rapidly to the Toxin Solution. Within a few weeks he was back to his normal, energetic self. Once he returned to work, he installed a heater, opened all the doors and windows in the workshop, and began using gloves and a chemical mask while he worked. By improving the ventilation, rigorously limiting contact exposure, and strongly supporting his detoxification systems, Jack’s health and energy were fully restored, giving him ample stamina for fun family activities with his wife and kids, as well as building his beautiful wooden boats.

When I first began treating detox, most people had never heard of the concept. How things have changed! Now, it’s extremely common for well-informed people to actively seek out detox approaches. And it’s due to growing public concern about the mounting toxic load that contributes to symptoms and illness. I applaud this development! But knowing that detox is necessary is not the same thing as fully understanding how to safely detox. Nor does it mean that any and all detox approaches are equally effective. For one thing, stirring up a load of toxins and allowing them to circulate in your system isn’t a good approach. You must control and manage your detox. To do that, it’s essential that the organs of elimination themselves (gut, liver, and kidneys) first be repaired. And to ensure that you initiate detox safely, those organs must be repaired in the right sequence. Otherwise, you can unleash more toxins than your body can safely handle. Yes, you need to detox, but your body’s detoxification organs need help first —a lot of help—to detox effectively. And that’s what the Toxin Solution will provide.

The problem is that, since conventional medicine is largely ignorant about detoxification, when it comes to using a truly science-based approach, people have almost no guidance.

Why Has It Taken So Long to Recognize the Problem with Toxins?

You may be wondering, If this is such a big problem, why don’t you hear more about it? There are several reasons—all due to shortfalls in conventional medicine and its research agenda.

Conventional medicine works great where there is a simple connection between the cause of a disease, like an infecting organism, and the treatment, like an antibiotic. However, this model fails in many areas—for example, when a disease has multiple causes or when single causes are associated with multiple diseases.

This model also wrongly assumes that people are standard. On the contrary, each of us is biochemically unique—especially in our ability to detoxify the huge range of poisons we are exposed to. This really shows up with toxicity: some people may be very good at getting rid of specific toxins—like smokers who live to over a hundred without lung cancer—while for most of us, ridding the body of toxins isn’t easy. Conventional medicine doesn’t measure toxic levels (except in those who have had obvious workplace exposure) and pays no attention to detox capacity. It’s easy to dismiss the need for detoxification when you don’t assess these markers. But where does that leave you? Outside of obvious high-level toxic exposures—like those that occur in specific jobs or in industrial accidents or spills— doctors can rarely point to one toxin as the cause of disease onset.

Conventional medicine spends its big research bucks on devising new pharmaceutical medications, not on investigating what makes people sick to begin with. In addition, as crass as this sounds, there is no one who commercially benefits from finding these toxin connections, so the research dollars are scarce. As a result, until quite recently researchers have been hamstrung in their efforts to adequately assess the many problems of toxicity.

How Chemical Toxins Dysregulate Your Body

So how exactly do toxins produce all of these different kinds of health issues and symptoms? And why is the range of problems so diverse? According to the Pesticide Information Project of Cooperative Extension Offices of Cornell University, Michigan State University, Oregon State University, and University of California at Davis,14 when a chemical toxin enters your body, it actually alters the speed at which many key functions take place. This alteration can decrease the activity of the enzymes that are required for every bodily function. For example, toxins may:

 Increase or decrease heart rate.

 Interrupt neuron connections necessary for the brain to function.

 Decrease the production of thyroid hormones that regulate how fast enzymes work.

 Block insulin-receptor sites on cells so sugar can’t get in to produce energy.

Obviously, when extreme, these effects can even be life-threatening. Any toxic exposure, whether it is chronic (over a long period) or acute (a sudden high exposure), starts with biochemical changes. These in turn affect the cells’ function. The activity—or dysfunction—determines how well the organs and systems work. Any given toxin may have very broad effects or cause only a very limited change in a particular organ or area. It depends on the toxin, the dosage, and each person’s unique DNA.

For example, if someone ingests an insecticide such as parathion, it can inactivate an enzyme that affects communication between nerves. At the cellular level, this produces changes that lead to sweating. But that is not the sole effect.

Since that enzyme works throughout the body, its inactivation produces widespread physiological changes. These include reproductive, nervous-system, and possibly carcinogenic effects.15

How Toxins Cause Disease

Although the word toxin sounds scary, most people don’t grasp precisely how toxins interact with human physiology and how long this has been a problem for humans. Doctors noticed almost two hundred years ago that toxins like mercury were causing “mad hatter disease.” It was also known that toxicity from leaded water pipes was a major cause of the decline of the Roman Empire. But in the past, these toxins were largely limited to occupational exposure. Only people who performed certain specific tasks—coal miners, who inhale coal dust, for example—were known to be casualties. Doctors didn’t consider the rest of the population to be at risk. But with the explosion of industrial activity and products, that has changed. Following more research, scientists and perceptive clinicians now better understand that toxicity affects most—if not all—of the population. The more research I look at and the more patients I care for, the more convinced I am that we are seeing only the tip of the iceberg.

Basically, there are eight ways toxins damage our bodies: 1

1. Toxins poison enzymes so they don’t work properly. Our bodies are enzyme engines. Every physiological function depends on enzymes to manufacture molecules, produce energy, and create cell structures. Toxins damage enzymes and thus undermine countless bodily functions—inhibiting the production of hemoglobin in the blood, for example, or lowering the body’s capacity to prevent the free-radical damage that accelerates aging.

2. Toxins displace structural minerals, resulting in weaker bones. People need to maintain healthy bone mass for lifelong mobility. When toxins displace the calcium present in bone, there is a twofold effect: weaker skeletal structures and increased toxins, released by bone loss, which circulate throughout the body.

3. Toxins damage the organs. Toxins damage nearly all your organs and systems. The Toxin Solution will focus specifically on the detox organs. If your digestive tract, liver, and kidneys are so toxic they are unable to detox effectively, your detoxification will backfire, and your body will remain toxic.

4. Toxins damage DNA, which increases the rate of aging and degeneration. Many commonly used pesticides, phthalates, improperly detoxified estrogens, and products containing benzene damage DNA.

5. Toxins modify gene expression. Our genes switch off and on to adapt to changes in our bodies and the outer environment. But many toxins activate or suppress our genes in undesirable ways. The results are not only individual health problems but also effects that span generations.

6. Toxins damage cell membranes so they don’t respond properly. “Signaling” in the body happens in the cell membranes. Damage to these membranes prevents them from getting important messages —insulin not signaling the cells to absorb more sugar, for example, or muscle cells not responding to the message from magnesium to relax.

7. Toxins interfere with hormones and cause imbalances. Toxins induce, inhibit, mimic, and block hormones. One example: Arsenic disrupts thyroid hormone receptors on the cells, so the cells don’t get the message from the thyroid hormones that cause them to rev up metabolism. The result is inexplicable fatigue. (I’ll present more examples in chapter 2.)

8. Last but not least, toxins actually impair your ability to detoxify—and this is the worst problem of all.

When you are very toxic and desperately need to detoxify, it’s harder to do than when you are not toxic. In other words, just when you need your detox systems most (to address health issues), your hardworking detox system is most likely to be functioning below par. Why? Because the heavy toxic load you already carry has overwhelmed your detox capacity. That’s right. The more toxins you have burdening your body, the greater the damage to your body’s detoxification pathways.

That’s why the Toxin Solution comprehensively addresses the biggest challenge—restoring your detox organs, and with them your detox pathways. The net result is that you then can readily release toxins from your body.

The Risks of Mercury Exposure

Let’s take a closer look at one extremely harmful heavy metal. When present in the body, mercury, a well- established neurotoxin, poisons the nervous system. Suffice it to say here that when your brain and nervous system don’t function right, nothing is going to go right. Fatigue—a key reason many patients see doctors—is the foremost symptom, affecting over a quarter of those with too much mercury.

Where does that mercury come from, and where does it go? Table 1.2 shows the primary sources of mercury, apart from occupational and industrial exposures.

Amalgams, also called “silver fillings,” are typically 55 percent mercury. Each filling releases about 1 μg (one microgram) of mercury every day, and since the average adult in North America has ten fillings, that means 10 µg  every day. Is that mercury absorbed into your body? Yes, which is why it shows up in the urine in proportion to the amount of mercury in a person’s mouth.

Table 1.2. Primary Sources of Mercury, in Micrograms per Day (μg /d)




10 μg /d


2.3 μg /d


0.3 μg /d


Variable according to location


Variable according to vaccine

To make matters worse, the half-life of mercury is two months. The half-life measures how long it takes for 50 percent of a substance to be cleared from the body. As you can see in table 1.3, many toxic metals and chemicals that get into our bodies have half-lives measured in months and years! This means they are extremely difficult to get rid of.

Table 1.3. Half-Lives of Typical Toxins in the Blood




2-4 days (CDC)


0.5-1 day


16 years


3-4 days


6-10 years


2-12 months


15 percent/hour


1-1.5 months (2-30 years in bone)


2 months (CDC)


2-30 years!


0.5-3 days

Unfortunately, the data get worse. Mercury in pregnant and nursing women gets into the fetus. It actually reaches higher levels in the fetus, with the fetal brain containing levels 40 percent higher than the mother’s brain—a disaster for a developing neurological system. And where does that mercury mostly come from? The mother’s fillings.16 Sadly, mercury in breast milk also ends up in the infant. Mothers-to- be, one of the best gifts you can give your future child is to get the toxins out before you become pregnant.

Now, let’s see exactly how toxic mercury load undermines detox capacity. When doctors examine brain mercury levels in someone with a mouthful of mercury amalgam fillings, they find that these levels are disproportionately higher after twelve or more fillings in the mouth. Why? Because mercury transport out of the brain is slowed as the blood-brain membrane becomes saturated.17 In other words, we have a limited capacity to get mercury out of the brain, and once that capacity is used up, the rest of the mercury can’t get out. Obviously, you don’t want excess mercury stuck in your brain.

This is a good example of how nearly any toxin impairs the body’s detox capacities. When the toxic load increases past a certain point, detoxing gets harder. Trust me, you don’t want to reach that point. The problem is that, apart from symptoms and disease, you don’t know your current toxic load, because conventional medicine mostly ignores toxins, toxic load, and detoxification.

What We Should Be Doing

What do we need to do to gain a complete scientific grasp of how toxins affect health? All of the following.

Track All Toxic Exposures

Despite the need to know the health effects of all toxic exposures, from the minor ones to cases of extreme exposure, most research focuses either on acute poisoning or chronic buildup from long-term occupational industrial exposure. The first toxicology textbook I read asserted the widely held view at the time that even though exposure to pesticides and herbicides caused health problems for farmworkers, consumers eating foods grown with those very same agricultural toxins should not be alarmed. Supposedly, their exposure was too low to be a problem.

That seemed to be true—because back then most research covered only a few years of exposure to just one toxin. But what about the reality: decades of exposure to multiple toxins? What about genetic susceptibility? Or nutrient deficiencies that impair the function of detoxification enzymes? Forty years ago, I began to ask those questions. Because I knew what to look for, I soon realized that I could see how toxins were damaging my most susceptible or most exposed patients—the so-called yellow canaries. (This term comes from coal mining—miners used to keep these birds with them in the mines because they were very sensitive to carbon monoxide. The miners knew there was a problem as soon as the birds started to faint.) It has only gotten worse, to the point that these days everyone is affected. What is now called “normal” is a population heavily exposed to toxins.

About ten years ago, researchers finally started asking the right questions and measuring the right parameters. Despite continued resistance from conventional medicine and from agribusiness (and the politicians who accept their campaign donations), these courageous researchers are now clearly documenting the huge health impacts of so many different toxins.

Conduct More Long-Term Research

Almost all the studies focus on high levels of exposure, with little research on low- and medium-level exposure over a long period of time. The good news is that this latter research is finally being done. The bad news is that what is being found is far worse than most anyone expected.

Identify Individual Variations in Susceptibility to Toxins

One of the big challenges in tracing the connection between your toxic load and your health symptoms is that we each are physiologically unique. As a result, each of us will have a somewhat different pattern of symptoms associated with specific toxins. For example, in the liver, a major detox organ, there can be as much as a thousandfold variation among individuals in the functionality of certain detox enzymes. This is what is happening backstage in the body when one person can better tolerate a given substance than another person with different genetics.

Some people are more susceptible to damage to their immune system, so they will have more allergies and autoimmune problems. For others, their mitochondria might be more susceptible to toxins, so they will become more fatigued. Nonetheless, if you are in less than perfect health, in reading this book you will begin to recognize the toxins whose symptom patterns best match yours. Just don’t expect an exact match, and don’t expect it to be as simple as one toxin equals one symptom.

Account for Synergistic Effects

Researchers work really hard to isolate single factors so they can be studied. It’s a good beginning, but we need to go further, since no one is exposed to just one toxin. Nor does isolating a single toxin capture the breadth of the average person’s toxic load. And what about when toxins act together? Those interactions can magnify the damage. They may:

 Cause damage by the same mechanisms.

 Increase the risk of the same disease by different mechanisms.

 Work synergistically to cause more damage than one toxin alone would.

 Use up the body’s stores of glutathione—the main molecule that protects us from the oxidative damage caused by toxins.

For example, organochlorine pesticides poison insulin-receptor sites to worsen metabolic syndrome and diabetes.18 But the effect is worse when the person is also exposed to arsenic, which impairs the ability of the pancreas to secrete insulin.19 Now you have two different toxic agents attacking the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, each in a different way. The end result after years of exposure is diabetes.

Figure 1.2 shows what happens when a pesticide and aluminum act together on the body to increase disease risk.

Figure 1.2. Synergistic interaction of pesticides and aluminum

Figure 1.2 incorporates a great deal of research and is just the beginning of the type of assessment necessary to track how toxins contribute to the rising rates of disease. But the bottom line is that no one is exposed to just one single toxin. We are all exposed to many different toxins over time. Some are released fairly rapidly, but some linger in our bodies. And that is why each of us carries a toxic brew within. The goal of this book is to help you reduce the total amount of that brew and lower the levels of the more dangerous toxins.

You may be wondering how big a problem toxicity really is and maybe even thinking it does not apply to you. If you are reading this book, I suspect you are not a smoker, as everyone knows smoking is really bad for us and greatly increases the risk of lung cancer. What would you think if I told you that certain toxins increase the risk of their corresponding diseases to the same degree as smoking cigarettes? Smoking cigarettes doubles your risk of lung cancer. As you can see below, almost everyone has levels of toxins that double the risk of many diseases. After looking at a large amount of research, I think we can now say that toxins are a much worse public health problem than smoking, as only 17.9 percent of people in the USA smoke20 but far more have elevated disease-causing toxin levels.

Table 1.4. Percent of Population with Doubled Risk of Disease due to Specific Toxins







PCB 187

Breast cancer






ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)



ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)







Rheumatoid arthritis










Lung cancer








Even though the connections between toxins and diseases have yet to be studied comprehensively, the results from the latest research reveal that doctors need to account for all toxins—and so do you! You need to be mindful of the toxins you absorb from the foods you eat, the products you use, the water you drink, the air you breathe, and the places where you live and work. The relationship between toxin exposure and disease is far more powerful than any other known disease risk factor.

To understand how toxins interplay with—and worsen—other risk factors, let’s take a look at the role of toxins in diabetes.

What Caused the Diabetes Epidemic: Sugar or Toxins?

When I first started my work in health, diabetes was rare. In clinical practice in the late 1970s, every year I would see only a few patients with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Diabetes has now become one of the most common diseases seen by doctors every day. As of 2012, the annual costs of diagnosed type 2 diabetes were $245 billion, a 41 percent increase over just five years (from 2007).21 This gives you an idea of both the price tag and accelerating speed of this epidemic.

Figure 1.3. The type 2 diabetes epidemic: Percentage of U.S. population with diagnosed diabetes, 1958-2009

Please note that the data in figure 1.3 use the same diagnostic criteria throughout the whole fifty-one- year time period covered by the graph. (Those criteria were changed in 2013, resulting in an even greater number of people now being diagnosed as diabetic.)

Reading this, you might think, Of course diabetes is more common now. People eat a lot more sugar than in the past! When you look at sugar consumption over the past two hundred years, though (see figure 1.4), the surprising finding is that while excessive sugar consumption by individuals does correlate with diabetes to some extent, the increase in diabetes didn’t start with the consumption of sugar. Then what was going on?

Figure 1.4. Increasing sugar consumption, 1822-2005

Now take a look at the growing production of chemicals for industrial, personal, and agricultural use. (See figure 1.5.) Wow, an incredibly strong correlation! Of course, we all know that correlation does not prove causation. However, in this instance we have both correlation and the key mechanisms that explain why and how increased exposure to chemical pollutants could produce (or significantly contribute to) diabetes: Many chemical pollutants poison insulin-receptor sites on our cells. These are sites that need to be well functioning so insulin can get sugar into our cells for energy production and protect us from diabetes.

Figure 1.5. The correlation between chemical production and type 2 diabetes

Still not convinced? Well, how about we measure the levels of chemicals in people’s bodies to see if they correlate with metabolic syndrome (basically, prediabetes). As you can see in figure 1.6, not only does each of these correlate with prediabetes, but they are synergistic.

Researchers are now finding such a strong connection between these chemicals on the one hand and diabetes and obesity on the other that they are being called diabetogens and obesogens.

Figure 1.6. Toxin levels correlate strongly with metabolic syndrome

Obviously, this is just one example of how toxins increase your chances of getting one disease. But diabetes is not the sole disease that toxins contribute to.

If you still are not convinced, take a look at how the levels of toxic chemicals in the body correlate with full-blown diabetes risk. As can be seen in figure 1.7, as toxin load goes up, so does the risk of diabetes, with those in the top 10% body load of just one of the many toxins having a worrisome twelvefold increased risk of diabetes!

Figure 1.7. Toxin levels correlate strongly with diabetes

Why Doesn’t My Regular Doctor Know About This?

In many ways, conventional medicine is the victim of its own success. Its excellent understanding of some external causes of disease—like infectious organisms and injury—has helped so many people. But the exclusive focus on these factors blinds doctors from seeing the full, multicausal range of factors damaging health. Nor do they recognize how this broader group of causes interacts with the uniqueness of each individual’s biochemistry. That’s why the medical model almost entirely breaks down for the chronic diseases to which toxins contribute.

Type 2 diabetes is due to a combination of many possible causes and mechanisms—primarily loss of insulin sensitivity by the cells and impaired ability of the pancreas to secrete insulin. These varied mechanisms are triggered by: obesity,22 lack of exercise,23 eating too many refined carbohydrates,24 a low-fiber diet,25 too much saturated or hydrogenated fat,26 and chromium deficiency.27 To this list we now must add the insulin resistance caused by the many persistent organic pollutants that are building up in our bodies.28 These are now an even greater risk factor. You will notice that obesity is first on the list above; everyone knows that people who are extremely overweight almost always get diabetes. However, and this is incredibly important, the 10 percent of obese people with the lowest toxin levels have no increased risk of diabetes! Obviously, obesity on its own is never good for people. But amazingly, toxins have an even bigger impact on causing diabetes than fat.

Why Detoxification Is Important for You

Many so-called normal health problems are actually unnecessary ill health, dysfunction, disease, and deterioration with aging. Research now shows that the allergies, immune impairment, autoimmune disease, degenerative neurological diseases, diabetes, and cancers that have become so common are not normal but are instead due to nutrient deficiencies and an ever-growing toxic load. Even the conventional laboratory tests to detect disease now have “normal” ranges that are not the “healthy” range.

This book contains many case stories showing how to reverse disease by avoiding and eliminating toxins. Many, many people have benefited from this approach.

By understanding the role toxins play in your health—present and future—you can do something about them now by following my comprehensive detox program. Not only will The Toxin Solution help to address any current complaints you may have, but, most importantly, it will help to prevent future diseases. I’ve looked into this topic deeply and am certain that grasping certain basics, and understanding the disease risks that as a society we have foolishly discounted, will motivate you to protect your health.

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