5 hidden heart toxins

Circulation


Owen Wiseman
@AVogel_ca


14 December 2018

What are the effects of cardio toxins?

These typically act to increase the force of contraction of the heart by influencing the electrolyte balance in the heart cells. The effects differ and depends on whether you took a single high dose and caused an acute reaction, or have been taking a lower to moderate dose for a long time causing a chronic reaction.

  • Acute toxicity often shows more of the ‘poisoning’ like reactions including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain as the digestive system tries to purge this toxin from the body as quickly as possible. This may also lead to effects such as weakness around the body and drowsiness as the electrolytes are thrown off and the heart’s rhythm slows down known as sinus bradycardia. This can lead to fainting, palpitations, swelling of the lower extremities as blood isn’t returned to the heart in a timely manner, and lowered blood pressure.
  • Chronic toxicity often causes the heart rhythm to become erratic and irregular, potentially moving it into fibrillation. It can also cause renal function to deteriorate, the patient may experience visual changes, can become dehydrated, and it may interact with the metabolism of other medications.

How soon before I notice the effects?

That solely depends on you. A flaw of humankind is to potentially assume that if a little helps, then more must help a lot! They’d quickly discover this to be untrue as the cardio toxins accumulate and lead to some of the effects listed above.

What are some of the more common cardio toxins that I should be aware of?

The age of information has birthed the ‘Superfood of the Month’ style of marketing where there’s always going to be the next best thing that researchers suddenly understand so well that it’s a must buy. It flies off the shelf into the cart of the unsuspecting consumer and could very well introduce hidden cardio toxins into the body. For example, the herbs Convallaria majalis and Digitalis purpurea, the common names of which you may be familiar – Lily of the Valley and Foxglove, contain cardiac glycosides that could be dangerous if the individual is unaware.

Interestingly enough, one of the most common medications for congestive heart failure is digoxin which is derived from the foxglove plant. Others include air pollutants, so check your local air pollution map online to see the concentration in your neighbourhood. These range from carbon monoxide to the exhaust from vehicles to other gases produced from industrial plants such as sulfur dioxide.

Common products are also ripe with cardio toxins known as phthalates that are found in everything from flooring and wall coverings to rubber boots and cars. That new car smell is actually the insidious release of volatile compounds, many of which are cardio toxic, in a phenomenon known as off-gassing. Animal studies have shown that they cause heart cell remodeling, causing the body to take longer to regulate blood pressure and increase how reactive the heart cells are to stimulation which can predict long term risk of cardiovascular disease.

Can I find any in the food I eat?

Yes! Another source comes from mercury which often accumulates in the body with excessive consumption of fish. Mercury toxicity can lead to elevated blood pressure, cause cardiac arrhythmias, and increase the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke. There are many benefits to fish, so it isn’t worth avoiding, but educating yourself on which fish contain the highest levels is ideal.

Mercury often bioaccumulates in bigger predators because they’re eating smaller fish that have eaten smaller fish and so on down the food chain. The ‘big bads’ include shark, swordfish, and tilefish while others such as salmon have low levels.

Everything in moderation is the thing to remember, a single serving of shark won’t kill you, but it isn’t something to have all the time.

To summarize :

  • Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
  • Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
  • Air pollutants (carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide)
  • Phthalates (plastics, PVC, vehicles, flooring)
  • Mercury (fish)

Is there any way to boost my body against these toxins?

In acute toxicity, you may have your stomach pumped with activated charcoal to absorb the cardio toxins. However, for a more long term solution, it’s important to encourage the health of your excretion organs such as the liver and kidneys to help rid the body of the toxins. Herbs such as milk thistle (Silybum marianum) are hepatoprotective, keeping the liver strong against anything that may damage it and allowing it to perform its primary function of detoxifying the body efficiently.

Something else to focus on is toning the heart against the constant assault of these, sometimes unavoidable, cardio toxins. Hawthorn berries (Crataegus oxycantha) have the ability to increase the force and rate of contraction of the heart, helping to counteract the sinus bradycardia due to cardiotoxicity. They also have the ability to regulate abnormal heart rhythms, an important trait in both the short and long term management of cardiovascular function. Consider adding some hawthorn berry into your daily regime with Heart Care after talking with your primary care provider.

Should I start building my bunker now and hide away from the world?

No no no, but informed caution is advised. If you’re unsure about what to believe with the amount of articles saying ‘Don’t do this’ or ‘Do this’, talk to your primary care provider and they can help you wade through the slurry of information.

References

https://www.bmj.com/content/362/bmj.k3310

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/food-safety/chemical-contaminants/environmental-contaminants/mercury/mercury-fish.html

https://www.fda.gov/food/foodborneillnesscontaminants/metals/ucm115644.htm

https://heart.bmj.com/content/94/11/1503

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3018290/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3440133/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4112067/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4525792/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4816869/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28842438

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29982507

https://www.onlinecjc.ca/article/S0828-282X(15)01374-4/pdf