Air Pollution, Soil Pollution, and Toxic Heavy Metals

Air Pollution, Soil Pollution, and Toxic Heavy Metals

In This Article

Air Pollution

Among the many threats that can compromise our health and longevity, pollution may be the deadliest silent killer. According to a 2019 report from The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), air pollution is now considered to be the world’s largest environmental health threat, accounting for 7 million deaths around the world every year.

In Europe, greater than 90% of the population is exposed to air pollutants that are above what is considered safe by the World Health Organization (WHO). Air pollution is not only a concern for the lungs but it is also linked to brain, heart, immunity, metabolic, fertility, and cellular replication issues. In the US, the EPA reported that in 2019 there were 70 million tons of chemicals dumped into the atmosphere. What we put in the air filters down into the water, lakes, streams, soil, and even organic food. As a result, air pollution is ultimately a killer for plants, trees, crops, animals, and the microbes in the soil that make all life on earth possible.

See also Air Pollution Protection with Ayurvedic Detox + Tulsi, Amalaki, and Turmeric

Soil Pollution

The impact of pollution on our soil quality is becoming a primary threat to feeding our earth’s growing population. One of the major threats to our soil is rapidly rising levels of heavy metals. Most heavy metal pollution comes from industrial sources that spew heavy metals into the air. The metals quickly find their way to the soil and water used to grow the food we eat.

Heavy metals are a unique problem for life on the planet. While there are natural causes of heavy metal exposure from fires, volcanoes, weathering of rocks, and floods, the primary sources of heavy metal pollution are agricultural and industrial. Most commonly, the heavy metals that present problems are chromium, arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium, and beryllium. Inorganic fertilizers, animal manure, and pesticides are the biggest offenders. Industrially, petroleum products, manufacturing water run-off, mining, coal burning, and nuclear plants are the major sources of heavy metal soil pollution. Studies have found that heavy metals slowly accumulate in plants, animals, and humans and disturb normal function. This makes them vulnerable to numerous health concerns and accelerated aging.

Don’t Leave Home with Weak Digestion!

A healthy digestive system has the capacity to detoxify heavy metals and environmental pollutants. This is one of the many reasons why we should all strive to support a strong digestive system. For those with food intolerances, avoiding certain foods may provide symptomatic relief, but in Ayurveda, we aim to address the underlying cause of weak digestion and detoxification.

To learn more about how to troubleshoot your digestion, download my free eBook, The Digestive Troubleshooting Guide.

Using Plants to Clean the Soil

One solution to soil pollution used in Singapore is called phytoremediation. This is a process of using plants to pull heavy metals out of the soil. In this study, they found 12 ‘hyperaccumulator’ plant species. These are plants that are able to draw up significant heavy metals out of their soil as they grow. This means they are able to purify toxic areas of soil over time. One of those powerful, soil-cleaning plants is the Ayurvedic herb Brahmi (Centellia Asiatica), which is typically known for supporting cognitive function, mood, and micro-circulation of the lymphatic system. Because of its ability to clean the soil, when using this herb internally, it is important to make sure it is organic and tested for heavy metals by an FDA-approved testing facility. Here at LifeSpa we are FDA and GMP certified and test all of our organic herbs twice—once when we receive the raw organic herb and once after formulation and capsulation of the final product. It is important to note that while Brahmi (Centella Asiatica) is not naturally a chelator or detoxifier of heavy metals in humans, studies have found that it protects against free radical oxidation, suggesting that Brahmi provides protective support for people experiencing heavy metal toxicity. 

It is natural for certain plants to pull minerals and metals from the ground. Rice is a classic example. Rice is known to pull arsenic out of the ground, so it must be grown in areas where there is a low arsenic level in the soil. The heavy metals are mostly concentrated in the hull and bran of the rice (the outer covering is still present on brown rice). White rice has the bran removed, so—while white rice is less nutritious and has a higher glycemic index–it will have less arsenic content. At LifeSpa, we sell an Ayurvedic superfood called kitchari: a combination of organic long-grain white rice and organic split yellow mung beans. Our white rice is tested to be free of heavy metals.

Garlic is another common plant with the remarkable ability to clean soil of heavy metals. Studies have shown that garlic is a hyperaccumulator capable of pulling lead and cadmium up through its roots. Because of this, interplanting garlic (growing it alongside other food crops) is a great choice for improving soil health and reducing toxicity. Interestingly, researchers have shown that while garlic can pull these heavy metals out of the soil, the bulb and shoot tissues (the parts we typically eat) have relatively low levels of heavy metals. Good news for garlic lovers everywhere!

See also 8 Ways Pollution Harms Us and What You Can Do About It

Heavy Metal Detox Support

There are a handful of herbs and minerals that have been studied to support the body’s natural ability to detoxify itself from heavy metals. At LifeSpa, we use a formula called Chelation Support which includes Himalayan Shilajit extract (Asphaltum punjabinum), Calcium Disodium EDTA, chlorella (Chlorella Vulgaris), N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine, Alpha-Lipoic Acid, and allicin (from garlic bulb). Read on to find out why I suggest this specific formula to help your body with heavy metal detox.

The Science Behind the Chelation Support Formula*

Himalayan Shilajit is a highly revered Ayurvedic herb. It is found in the high mountains of the Himalayas. It is thought to be formed from decomposed plant material that has been preserved in rocky crevasses. During the summer months, the shilajit warms, seeps out, and is scraped from the mountain’s stone by hand.

LifeSpa’s Shilajit is harvested at high altitudes to ensure the purest product possible. It is then low-temperature dried and tested to be free of pollutants. Shilajit is composed mainly of humic and fulvic acid, plus some trace elements. It has a rich history of use in Ayurveda.

Studies suggest that shilajit has potent antioxidant activity.  In an animal study, shilajit increased superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), and glutathione peroxidase (GPx) activities, which are some of the body’s most potent antioxidants. Because pollutants can cause oxidative stress, antioxidants are a great tool for protecting against pollution harm.

In addition, humic substances, as found in shilajit, have been shown to affect the distribution, metabolism, and absorption of heavy metals such as cadmium and lead. One study of adult humans showed that the daily intake of humic acid for six weeks decreased cadmium uptake while increasing the body’s removal of cadmium through urinary excretion.

EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid), an amino acid compound, is perhaps the most well-known and often-used intravenous chelation agent. Oral EDTA is thought to support the detoxification of metals mainly in the gastrointestinal tract.  According to Ayurveda, the body detoxifies its deep tissues by directing toxins back to the intestinal tract via the liver and lymphatic channels. It is, for this reason, our Ayurvedic cleanses like the Short Home Cleanse and Colorado Ayurvedic Cleanse end with a flushing of the intestinal tract. Due to EDTA’s metal-binding ability, it is also important to replace any beneficial minerals that it might draw out, such as zinc, copper, iron, cobalt, and manganese. We recommend LifeSpa Essential Minerals for this purpose.

Allicin, the main biologically active component of garlic cloves, has shown promising effects on toxic metal detoxification. While garlic has the ability to pull heavy metals out of the soil, it is also a powerful tool for detoxing heavy metals in body tissues. In animal and in vitro models, garlic was able to reduce cellular exposure to, or accumulation of, lead, cadmium, and mercury. In studies on fish and sheep with lead poisoning, researchers found that supplementing allicin was effective in decreasing lead in the liver, kidney, brain, ovary, and bone tissues. Various extracts and forms of garlic have also demonstrated garlic’s ability to positively affect the body’s detoxification pathways.

Chlorella, naturally occurring microalgae, is an excellent source of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is a detoxifier that is also thought to bind toxic metals. The positive effect of chlorella supplementation on toxic metals, including methylmercury, cadmium, and lead, is supported by plenty of animal research. One such study observed a whopping 66% reduction in blood levels of lead in lead-exposed mice who received chlorella extract (50 mg/kg/day) compared to lead-exposed mice who did not receive chlorella.

N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC) and Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) are well-known for their antioxidant activity. Heavy metal exposure increases free radical production and oxidative stress.  Research suggests that free radical scavengers play an important role in reducing the oxidative stress that is common with toxic metal exposure.

One study found that NAC enhanced cell survival after exposure to heavy metals or toxins. In addition, ALA may directly reduce the oxidative capacity of metals, such as copper, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury.

Directions and Dosage: I recommend doing an oral chelation regimen once per year for one month (or longer if necessary). This can be performed with LifeSpa’s Chelation Support.  When using herbal chelators, always supplement with a highly absorbable mineral supplement. We recommend LifeSpa’s Essential Minerals to ensure mineral replenishment, as any chelator may also pull minerals from the body.

Chelation Support – Take 2-4 capsules after supper

Essential Minerals – Take 2-4 capsules with breakfast

Hair Analysis Test is an inexpensive way to measure long-term heavy metal accumulation.

See also Minerals: You Are Probably Deficient

General Disclaimer:

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Keep closed in a cool, dry place out of reach of children.

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Dr. John

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