Exclusive interview: Joseph Pizzorno
Date: 2015-03-26
Author: Retail Pharmacy April 2014
Access: Public

Set to address the 3rd BioCeuticals Research Symposium this April, Joseph Pizzorno,ND is one of the world’s leading authorities on science-based natural and integrative medicine. A naturopathic physician, educator and researcher Dr. Pizzorno was an advisor on medicine policy to the Clinton and Bush administrations and is the co-author of the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine and the Textbook and Handbook of Natural Medicine. He tells Retail Pharmacy about the health threat posed by toxins in our environment.

What will you be speaking to the BioCeuticals symposium about?

I will be describing how to recognise toxins in the body, how they damage the body and then what to do about it. I've broken the toxins into different categories and some research I am going to report may be a surprise.

For example, how many people think about excessive salt consumption as a toxin in the body? Did you know that when you eat excessive salt you impair the body's ability to produce glutathione? And, glutathione is the key molecule required to get rid of chemical toxins. So, the higher the salt intake the less you are able to adequately detoxify and this is a significant factor in keeping toxins in peoples' bodies.

What are the different categories of toxin?

Category one is exogenous toxins - things from the environment. These are heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury), persistent organic pollutants (POPs), solvents and other such chemicals. 

Everyone, I think, is somewhat aware of this problem, but I don't think they are aware about how bad it is. For example, if a patient were to come to you with diabetes, you would normally consider how much sugar they are eating, if they are overweight or not exercising. In actuality, the pesticides used on the food people eat are a better predictor of type 2 diabetes than any other factor we have today. People in the top 10 per cent of toxic exposure have a 20-fold increase risk for diabetes.

The reason for this is that many chemicals are insulin receptor site poisons. Insulin receptors can't respond because they are being blocked by those persistent organic pollutants. 

Category two is endogenous toxins, which are produced from within the body. Up to one-third of the non-protein molecules in the blood come from bacteria in our gut. Some of these chemicals are good for us, like B-vitamins, but most are metabolic poisons. There are 10 times more bacteria in our gut and 100 times more genes in these gut bacteria than we have in our body and the balance of good and bad bacteria is essential for maintaining good health. 

The third category is what I call ‘toxins of choice’. This is things like alcohol and sugar but also wheat. Alcohol, sugar, wheat and genetic makeup can cause gut permeability to increase until it is out of control every time a person eats.

What’s the significance of that?

Gut permeability has a role in all toxicity. Normally, in the healthy gut, we have good permeability control – which means we keep out the bad stuff and let in the good stuff. 

Today up to 35 per cent of people have excess gut permeability because of our modern diet, food intolerance and inappropriate gut bacteria.

We're now seeing research with wheat which shows that, depending on a person's genetic type, every time a person eats wheat it causes gut permeability to increase until it is out of control. It looks like 75 per cent of the Caucasian population will respond to wheat with increased permeability. So, for the average person, gut permeability goes up uncontrollably for about one hour. For people who are what is called haptoglobin type 2-2, which is 20 per cent of the Caucasian population, when they eat wheat their gut permeability increases for three hours afterwards.

Is there anything that can help with this?

Fibre is so critical. When we evolved as a species we used to have about 100-150g of fibre in our diet every day but now, in western civilisations, we have about 10-15g [Editors note: In Australia the rate is 18-25 g] of fibre every day. The bile in your gut is expecting fibre to be there to bind to the chemicals being excreted from the liver.

If all you do is increase the fibre in the patient's diet substantially, not just 10-15 g, but get it up to 50g if you can, then that in itself will greatly facilitate the body's ability to get rid of toxins. There are more aggressive ways of doing it, but that in itself is a very effective, though slow, strategy.

Many of these ideas are new to the general public so where is the progress of this science currently at?

Up until about six years ago the health authorities were basically discounting the issue of toxicity. When they looked at individual toxins, the disease correlations were not very good, but this is because a lot of toxins have non-monotonic relationships. 

In other words, if you give a person mercury toxicity you get a nice linear relationship. The more mercury the more toxicity. But, with a lot of these POPs, you get curvilinear relationships where a low dose may cause toxicity, a medium dose has no apparent toxicity and high dose has toxicity. So, you look at the data and it's all over the board with no correlations. 

Researchers are now much more sophisticated and they've done two things. One, they've looked at 'total toxic load' where you get really strong correlations. They have also started to look at non-linear dose relationships, primarily in animal models, but now they are finding this in humans as well. Now we know that if you understand the specific biochemistry of the toxin, you can also understand at what level they are going to be toxic in the body. But, the bottom line is, the greater the toxic load the greater the problems. 

Dr.  Pizzorno will present at the 3rd BioCeuticals Research Symposium, 17-19 April at the Hilton Hotel Sydney. To find our more or to register for the event click here.

Source: Retail Pharmacy April 2015.