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Several factors affect your individual toxic load. The first is exposure. “Everyone has a different exposure level to things in our environment,” says Sara Jean Barrett, ND, a Minneapolis-based integrative practitioner who treats patients with chronic health conditions..

She notes that particular occupations, or living near industrial sites, may expose us to more toxins than our body’s natural detox systems can handle. This is a risk for agricultural workers, cleaners, nail technicians, hairdressers, miners, and people who work in certain types of manufacturing — all have higher-than-average exposure to toxic chemicals.

Genes also play a critical role. “Genes dictate our individual ability to detoxify everything from drugs to chemicals to hormones,” Barrett adds.

For example, a gene known as MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase) produces an enzyme to support methylation, a cellular process essential for detoxification. Between 30 and 40 percent of people carry variants of the MTHFR gene that correspond to slower methylation, which compromises their body’s ability to eliminate toxins. (For more, see “What Are SNPs and Why Do They Matter?”)

Genetics help explain why two people might react very differently to the same exposure. “Some people are more susceptible to damage to their immune system, so they will have more allergies and autoimmune problems,” notes Institute for Functional Medicine board chair Joseph Pizzorno, ND, in his book The Toxin Solution.

“For others, their mitochondria might be more susceptible to toxins, so they will become more fatigued.”

Nutritional status matters too. “Vitamins and minerals act as cofactors for most of our detox pathways, so without adequate nutrition, it can be challenging to detoxify effectively,” Barrett explains.

Go Deeper

The body already knows how to clear toxins — but you can give your detoxification system a helping hand. Learn more at “How to Support Your Body’s Natural Detox Organs,” from which this article was excerpted.

Mo Perry

Mo Perry is an Experience Life contributing editor.

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