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Brain Toxins

Introduction

Many of us trust big brand household names but are unaware of the lack of regulation of their products.

Most of have seen, or are aware of, news and articles bringing dangers of chemicals to light; however, because many products don’t cause immediate effects for many people, information is often ignored.

Some toxic chemicals and heavy metals accumulate in ever-increasing amounts in the fatty tissues and human body over a period of years, meaning that health consequences are rarely attributed to them. Nearly 1,000 substances have been identified or are suspected (needing more research) of having a neurotoxic effect. In many cases, we are susceptible to chronic exposure without even knowing it.

Because brain injury and traumatic events cause a biochemical cascade flooding our body with harmful inflammatory hormones, people can become much more sensitive to environmental toxins and chemicals used in our foods and everyday household goods.

To heal the brain needs a healthy inner and outer environment and restorative sleep, with many people not realising the connections between household chemicals and food additives and how these can cause sleep problems and even headache and migraine.

The following information will help you to make educated choices about the foods and products you eat and use.

Not all chemical constituents are listed on containers. However, many household products contain:

  • Phalates, a chemical compound added to plastics, are used in air fresheners and are known to cause stunted brain development in rats. Prof Janice Juraska, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, explains, “These results may have serious implications for humans given the mPFC is involved in executive functions and is implicated in the pathology of many neuropsychiatric disorders.”
  • 1,4-Dichlorobenzene is also used in air fresheners, and it works by attacking the receptors in the nose eliminating the sense of smell
  • Some synthetic fragrances cause changes in blood flow, blood pressure, mood, and trigger migraine headaches
  • Perfume contains up to 400 different toxic ingredients, 95% of which are derived from petroleum products and are linked to a whole list of serious health conditions ranging from headaches and dizziness to depression and behavioural changes.
  • Acetone—is a blood, heart, gastrointestinal, liver, kidney, skin, respiratory, brain and nervous system toxin.  So, in other words, it can damage just about any part of your body and have a wide range of adverse effects
  • Butane and Isobutane is a serious brain and nervous system toxin
  • Propane is a cardiovascular and blood toxin and nervous system toxin and is also known to be extremely dangerous  to the liver, kidney, respiratory systems and skin
  • Benzene is known to cause leukaemia in humans
  • Formaldehyde is linked to cancers of the upper airways and is metabolised into formic acid. In excess formic acid can cause metabolic acidosis and tissue injury with the eyes being particularly sensitive to the toxic effects of methanol(see artificial sweeteners). Methanol toxicity can lead to blindness.
Research suggests that artificial sweeteners are just as harmful as real sugar and that even at dosages considered safe by the FDA, they can be toxic to the body and the brain. Data also suggests that artificial sweeteners can lead to neurological and behavioural changes as well as being associated with chronic inflammation, memory problems, migraine headaches, dementia, fibromyalgia, and even depression.

Research suggests that both sugar and artificial sweeteners can increase chronic/systemic and brain inflammation. Both also impair appetite mechanisms in the body as they can increase cravings for sweet food. Stevia is often used as a substitute in homes. However, this can also can cause unfavourable changes in dopamine and serotonin secretion.

Aspartame

Aspartame is one of the most commonly used artificial sweeteners and is used in a wide range of foods and drink, and is even used in chewable vitamins and prescription drugs.

After aspartame is ingested, it is metabolized into 3 isolates:

  • Aspartic acid (40%)
  • Methanol (10%)
  • Phenylalanine (50%)

Aspartic acid can cross the blood-brain barrier and bind to NMDA receptor (N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor – glutamate receptor)  and can cause excitotoxicity which, leads to neuron death and cognitive and memory impairment

Methanol is a toxic substance metabolised in the liver into formaldehyde (see ‘air fresheners’ above)

Phenylalanine can cross the blood-brain barrier (a special protective layer in the blood vessels surrounding the brain) causing severe changes in the production of dopamine and serotonin, important neurotransmitters that play a role in mood, sleep, and digestion.

Aspartame is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream allowing the above toxic metabolites to accumulate more rapidly in the blood increasing the risk for toxicity.

In a 2017 review aspartame was shown to also cause widespread damage to other organs in the body by causing anti-oxidant/oxidant imbalance, inducing oxidative stress causing tissue and organ injury.

Sucralose

Sucralose, also known as Splenda, is another artificial sweetener commonly used in diet foods and drinks. There is not much data on humans. However, rat studies show that sucralose can cause brain damage, especially to the hippocampus (a region in the brain important for memory formation).

Sucralose also can decrease levels of good bacteria in the gut. Moreover, when sucralose is cooked at high temperatures, it breaks down and interacts with other ingredients, which can be harmful. For example, sucralose can interact with glycerol which creates chloropropanol, a chemical that may increase cancer risk.

A debate regarding the safety and potential health effects of monosodium glutamate, or MSG, seems to have been going on forever. Some say the science showing negative neural response and damage was flawed, some say they have an immediate allergic reaction to it, and all the while the Japanese and Chinese have been using it without any problems for over a hundred years.

While the funding for ‘flawless’ research isn’t there, the debate will continue, and the risks will remain unknown. People who are living with the outcomes and symptoms of brain injury may err to the side of precaution since avoiding MSG is possible if you avoid all processed foods. 

Resources:

European Medical Group – Exposure to Plastics: the effect on rat brain development

NRDC – Common Air Fresheners contain chemicals

JAMA Network – Chemical Exposure – Low levels and high stakes

NCBI – Possible neurologic effects of aspartame

ResearchGate – Biochemical and histological changes produced by sweeteners (such as stevia and Splenda)

Science Direct – Neurotropic effects of aspartame, stevia and sucralose

The MSG debate:

Life Enthusiast – MSG Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills

Harvard Library – Fact or Fiction? The MSG Controversy

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