Pollutant intake: what can you do about it?
Every day, our bodies are exposed to a large number of pollutants from a wide variety of sources. Pollutants are strong oxidants that lead to an imbalance in the body. As a result, more free radicals are formed, which can damage our organism and even cause inflammatory reactions. Pollutants are not only absorbed from the environment, such as air, water and soil, but also from food in the form of pesticides, plasticisers and packaging materials, medicines, stimulants and highly processed foods, such as cigarettes and alcohol, as well as from stress. The production of pollutants not only has a significant impact on human health, but also on nature. Humans themselves are sometimes largely responsible for the increased production of harmful substances.
Where do we absorb which pollutants?
The high level of air pollution is primarily caused by greenhouse gas emissions. One of the most important greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide (CO2). It can be detected in the atmosphere for more than 100 years and is produced, among other things, when coal, crude oil and natural gas are burned. Another significant greenhouse gas is methane (CH4), which does not remain in the air for as long, but is 25 times more effective than carbon dioxide. In Germany, methane is mainly produced in agriculture especially in factory farming. In this context, the term nitrous oxide (N2O) is often used. Just like methane, this gas is much more effective than carbon dioxide and therefore even more harmful to the environment. Ruminating cattle in particular, manure and heavily fertilised fields release methane and nitrous oxide.
Nitrogen oxides also contribute to air pollution and therefore also to ozone pollution. These gaseous compounds consist of both nitrogen and oxygen and, together with volatile hydrocarbons, are responsible for increased ozone levels on hot summer days. Nitrogen oxides are also involved in particulate matter pollution. Particulate matter floats in the air for a certain period of time and can lead to respiratory diseases when inhaled. The smaller the fine dust particles, the more dangerous they are!
We also absorb pollutants through electrosmog in our environment. This electrosmog is caused by electrical fields generated by computers, mobile phones and televisions, for example.Pesticides:
Pesticides (plant protection products) keep our fruit and vegetables free from pests and diseases, but by using these substances and fertilisers such as nitrate, we pollute both our groundwater and our soil. As a result, entire fields can no longer be used to grow food. In the worst case scenario, the pesticides can migrate to our food.Medicines:
In Germany, doctors prescribe large quantities of medicines every year or people buy them themselves in pharmacies. Even with a mild cold, many people reach straight for a tablet, even though herbal active ingredients and sufficient rest are much more effective for the body. In Germany, painkillers, antibiotics and anti-inflammatories are among the most commonly taken active ingredients. If taken regularly, it is possible for the drugs to build up in the body and cause permanent damage to health. The harmful substances that we take in via medication can affect the metabolism, shift the hormonal balance or alter the transmission of signals from cell to cell. Appropriate disposal of the drugs is therefore extremely important.Food:
Although we in Germany have precise monitoring authorities and for many substances maximum levels have been set, residues of harmful substances in our food can never be completely ruled out. Undesirable substances can be transferred to our food from agriculture, food processing, packaging or via exhaust gases . Our plastic packaging can allow plasticisers to enter the food over time. Heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and mercury can also damage our health. They enter our environment through road traffic or the application of pesticides and thus end up in our food. The heavy metals are absorbed by the plants via the soil and enter our organism primarily via animal food . But also mushrooms can store cadmium and mercury well and therefore contain elevated levels. Harmful substances can also be produced during the preparation of food. For example, the well-known acrylamide can be produced when carbohydrate-rich foods are heated too much, especially when baking, roasting, grilling or deep-frying. The black spots on the food caused by the hot temperatures can be carcinogenic . Also nitrosamines are formed at too high temperatures and are classified as carcinogenic. Nitrosamines are not only found in food, but are also formed in the body itself from nitrite or nitrate.
Heavily processed products in particular contain questionable ingredients. These include trans fatty acids and palm oil. Trans fats are mainly found in finished products such as crisps or chips and have negative effects on the metabolism; in particular, the risk of a lipometabolic disorder is increased. Palm oil is obtained from the oil palm and consists of almost half saturated fatty acids. Due to its high melting point and favourable price, it can be found in almost every second food. Palm oil has a negative impact on human health in that it contributes to high cholesterol levels and can therefore also lead to cardiovascular disease . In addition, the fatty acid esters it contains are said to be carcinogenic.
Antibiotics from animal products can also damage our health. In factory farming animals are often treated with antibiotics when they fall ill, which can leave residues in the meat . These active substances are actually intended to prevent pathogens from spreading further; however, if farmers feed these substances regularly, they lose their effect and the bacteria become resistant. This is particularly dangerous for people who have a weakened immune system.Alcohol and smoking:
Nowadays, an after-work beer or a glass of wine with a meal is simply part of life for many people. The National Nutrition Survey II shows that the German population consumes too many alcoholic beverages. The study is based on the intake levels of the German Nutrition Society (DGE): healthy men should consume a maximum of 20 g of alcohol per day and healthy women 10 g. For example, 20 g of alcohol corresponds to half a litre of alcohol. For example, 20 g of alcohol corresponds to half a litre of beer or a glass of wine/sparkling wine. In Germany, one in four men and one in six women exceed this amount.When we talk about alcohol, we are actually referring to the chemical compound, ethanol. Ethanol is broken down in the liver; this degradation process produces the toxic acetaldehyde, which can have a negative effect on the conversion of other nutrients. Alcohol causes fatty liver, liver cirrhosis or even liver cancer. In addition, many other organs can also be affected by the absorption of harmful substances via alcohol, such as the pancreas, the digestive organs, the cardiovascular system and the immune system.
Thus, the affected organs have an increased risk of cancer.
Smoking is one of the most significant and preventable causes of death and disease. Cigarette smoke contains a wealth of toxic, harmful and sometimes carcinogenic substances. As this is released into the environment, so-called passive smoking is just as harmful. In Germany, around a quarter of all adults currently smoke daily or occasionally. The younger population between the ages of 19 and 24 are the most frequent smokers. Studies show that smokers have an increased risk of cancer . It also damages the blood vessels in the body so that the blood can no longer be transported properly, which can lead to cardiovascular diseases such as a heart attack. Diseases such as arteriosclerosis, stroke, chronic bronchitis and a weakened immune system can also occur.Smoking - like alcohol - leads to a number of nutrient deficiencies. Micronutrients are increasingly depleted or lost. That's why you should make sure you eat a balanced and healthy diet that is rich in fruit and vegetables.
The human organism is exposed to many stress factors these days - be it in leisure time, at work or in hectic family life. From a medical point of view, stress is a natural reaction that makes our body more efficient in the short term. Unlike in the Stone Age, when we had to be prepared for flight and fight, the energy provided today is no longer used by the body, so it has to break it down in other ways. If it is not broken down, the body stores the energy in the organism. Regular exercise is a good way to get rid of excess energy. If the body is also exposed to persistent stress situations, this can lead to health problems. Stress varies from person to person and always depends on emotional sensitivity. There is a positive or negative experience of stress. For example, leisure stress is usually perceived as positive stress.What consequences does the intake of pollutants have for our body?
Pollutants can have a negative impact on different areas of the human organism. For example, they can damage the vessels in the body through absorption and deposition, so that the blood can no longer be transported sufficiently. As a result, there is an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as a heart attack. Pollutant deposits can also lead to diseases such as arteriosclerosis, stroke and chronic bronchitis. For example, the body releases more adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol hormones in stressful situations. This increases the respiratory rate, heart rate and blood pressure. Muscle tension also increases. If the hormones are not broken down again, they remain in the blood and can unbalance our organism in the long term, favouring various illnesses. The increased heart rate, for example, can lead to cardiovascular diseases. As the blood sugar level also rises, stress is often associated with metabolic disorders such as diabetes. The imbalance also weakens the immune system and favours psychological illnesses such as burnout, depression and sleep disorders.
In addition, pollutants can also have a negative influence on internal organs, such as the liver. The liver is the largest metabolic organ in the human body, where ingested pollutants are broken down. At the same time, however, the breakdown of harmful substances poses a major challenge for the liver. This is because if the breakdown does not take place to the full extent, free radicals are formed, which in turn can damage the organism and above all the liver itself. It is therefore obvious that liver disease is often associated with a micro- and/or macronutrient deficiency. If there is a deficiency of micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals cleansing processes in the body can no longer take place sufficiently as the micronutrients required for detoxification are not available. The consequences of a diseased liver due to the absorption of harmful substances can include fatty liver, liver cirrhosis or even liver cancer.
In addition to the liver, other organs, such as the intestines and kidneys, can also be affected by the absorption of harmful substances. The intestines and kidneys are particularly affected by excessive intake of medication. The body first absorbs the drugs via the gastrointestinal tract, which primarily irritates the gastric and intestinal mucosa. This irritation in turn favours the development of other diseases. Medication that has not yet been sufficiently broken down is excreted in the urine via the kidneys and can damage the kidneys in the process. However, the severity of the damage depends on the quantity and dose of the medication. If medication has to be taken due to an illness, you should always consult your doctor to find out whether there are more gentle active ingredients available. In addition to excessive intake of medication, the kidneys can also be damaged by the intake of cadmium and mercury. The consequence of ingesting cadmium and mercury is blood poisoning, which leads to compromised blood formation, which is accompanied by anaemia, dizziness and headaches.
In addition, the intake of harmful substances, e.g. in the case of alcohol, can also have a negative influence on body weight. This is because alcohol provides a lot of energy without filling you up or providing nutrients. The situation is similar with heavily processed foods, such as ready meals. As a result, those who consume excessive amounts of alcohol or highly processed foods often suffer from overweight, which can also turn into malnutrition over a longer period of time. In this case, mainly "empty calories" are consumed, resulting in a lack of vitamins and minerals. Obesity and the associated deficiency symptoms are also favoured by a damaged liver, which can no longer properly metabolise micro- and macronutrients.
What can be done to combat and prevent harmful substances?
There are a number of measures that can be taken to protect the body from various pollutants. Each of us can do something and become active! First and foremost, our diet plays an important role.
Healthy and balanced diet:
Even a healthy and balanced diet with a high vitamin and mineral content can prevent a high intake of harmful substances. It is therefore advisable to make sure you buy fresh and minimally processed foods in the supermarket. Fruit and vegetables from organic cultivation also have a lower pesticide load. Buying fresh food automatically avoids the intake of harmful substances from packaging. It is also advisable to eat a healthy and balanced diet that contains all the important antioxidants. These are necessary to capture the free radicals that are released by pollutants from the environment and thus protect the body from oxidative stress. Antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A as well as β-carotene and selenium. In addition to the vital substances mentioned, a sufficient supply of vitamin D, iron and zinc (e.g. with our Zinc Tablets) should be ensured, as these nutrients are an essential component of a functioning immune defence system. Among other things, they are a component of antioxidant enzymes that break down the free radicals caused by harmful substances. Not only do the nutrients mentioned play an important role here, but also the secondary plant substances, especially the polyphenols (e.g. green tea extract), as these also have an antioxidant effect.
To illustrate the need for antioxidants, the vitamin C supply of smokers and non-smokers is a good example. While a non-smoker has a vitamin C recommendation of 100 mg/day, a smoker needs 50 mg/day more vitamin C, which represents an additional requirement of 50%. This is because smoking causes free radicals to form in the body, meaning that smokers need more antioxidants than non-smokers. A supply of B vitamins is also particularly important. For example, around 80% of people who consume excessive amounts of alcohol have a deficiency, which manifests itself in changes in consciousness and psychosis (Wernicke-Korsakow syndrome). This group of people should therefore pay particular attention to their vitamin B1 (thiamine) supply. They also have an increased need for folic acid; a poor supply can lead to haematopoietic disorders. Smokers are also characterised by an increased need for B vitamins. B vitamins reduce high homocysteine concentrations in the body, which can damage the blood vessels.
Omega-3 fatty acids also have a positive effect on blood pressure and keep the blood vessels elastic, making them important for a healthy cardiovascular system.
Careful preparation of food and good hygiene at home can also reduce certain harmful substances. However, these can be avoided by using carefulcooking methods such as steaming or steaming however. This is because excessively high temperatures produce nitrosamines, which are classified as carcinogenic. These are not only found in food, but are also formed in the body itself from nitrite or nitrate. Vitamin C,Vitamin E and polyphenols can counteract this transformation. It is also very important to wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly as well as work equipment and kitchen utensils. Proper storage of food is also important, as even appropriate storage can reduce harmful substances.
Support the environment:
It is also advisable to consume no or few animal products in order to reduce the intake of heavy metals and other harmful substances. The same applies to dairy products and eggs, as these can also be contaminated. The antibiotics from animal products can also be harmful to health. In factory farming, animals are often treated with antibiotics when they fall ill, which can leave residues in the meat . These active substances are actually intended to prevent pathogens from spreading further; however, if farmers regularly feed these substances, they lose their effect and the bacteria become resistant. This is particularly dangerous for people who have a weakened immune system. Avoiding animal-based foods can lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and factory farming. But even a reduced consumption of animal products contributes to a healthier environment. Those who cannot do without meat and dairy products have the option of buying organic products, as these contain significantly fewer or no antibiotics due to stricter guidelines and are also better for the environment. This applies to all foods. It is also important to buy regional and seasonal food. This results in less pollution, as there are fewer pesticide residues in the production of organic food.
Nutrition and stress are often closely linked. An unhealthy diet increases the stress level in the body: an unbalanced diet with lots of highly processed products, additives, bad sugars and fats leads to an increased absorption of harmful substances in the body. A conscious diet with all essential minerals and vitamins as well as regular exercise is particularly important in stressful situations.
Stressful situations often lead to the release of free radicals in the body, which cause oxidative stress and damage tissue and cells. Antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E and secondary plant substances (polyphenols, carotenoids) capture these radicals and render them harmless. It is therefore advisable to eat plenty of vegetables, fruit and nuts. It also helps to get enough iron, folic acid and vitamin B12, as a deficiency of these nutrients leads to anaemia, which increases stress-related symptoms such as poor concentration, headaches and tiredness. With frequent stress, the B vitamins are particularly important for the organism, as they have a positive effect on our nervous system and our energy metabolism. Magnesium and potassium also ensure that our nervous system can function normally. Potassium also regulates blood pressure.However, it is not only important to ensure a healthy and balanced diet, but also sufficient sleep, targeted relaxation exercises and physical exercise should also be taken into account.
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