Toxic exposure is a fact of modern life and a health risk that is faced on a daily basis by patients regardless of how carefully they attempt to limit environmental sources of exposure. It is important to also look within the body to understand how to control the toxic load that arises from the body's inability to process and eliminate toxic substances. This is also relevant to the body's creation of toxins resulting from metabolic processes. This chapter reviews some common toxic substances and provides an overview of detoxification processes and how they can be supported clinically to maximize the body's healthy functioning and confer optimal protection.
What, exactly, qualifies as a "toxin"? A toxin is a substance that has a detrimental effect on the functioning or structure of a living cell, with deleterious effects ranging from minimal to fatal to a host organism. Although there are tens of thousands of toxic substances that affect the human body adversely, they can be categorized into the following five general groups: (1) toxic chemicals, (2) endotoxins and exotoxins, (3) heavy metals, (4) dietary breakdown products, and (5) products of altered metabolic homeostasis.
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