By Gary M. Verigin, DDS, CTN

The word “toxicology” is derived from two Greek words: toxikon, meaning poison, and logia, meaning a field of study. Homotoxicology, then, is the study of how toxins affect humans, homo sapiens. It was developed in the mid-20th century by German physician Hans-Heinrich Reckeweg and is known today as bioregulatory medicine.

The Homotoxins All Around Us

chemistry labWe ended last time by noting the vast number of synthetic chemicals we’re exposed to every day – in the products we buy, the food we consume, the water we drink, the air we breathe. These are all considered homotoxins, which your body strives to defend against.

But not all of them come from outside the body. Metabolic waste generated from within – by bacteria or other microbes, for instance – is also homotoxic.

In most basic terms, a homotoxin is anything that interferes with or interrupts the thousands of metabolic and energetic processes monitored by the autoregulatory system we looked at previously. “Toxicity” results when you take in or produce more homotoxins than your body can easily eliminate.

Toxins which enter the body from the external environment are called exogenous toxins. They can also be called toxicants or xenobiotics. These come through ingestion, breathing, or absorption. All have an impact on your body.


These toxins can be either gaseous or particulate, and are inhaled.

The gasses of greatest concern are carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, carbon dioxide, and ozone and other oxidants. (Note: Environmental ozone is different from the medical grade ozone used by some holistic and integrative practitioners.)

Particulate pollutants are found in dust, fumes, mist, smoke, and aerosols. Their most damaging effect is on the lungs and respiratory mucosa, contributing to allergy, asthma, and cancer.


Metals are naturally occurring compounds but they can accumulate due to the way we use them in modern, industrialized societies. As one 2014 paper put it,

Human exposure has risen dramatically as a result of an exponential increase of their use in several industrial, agricultural, domestic and technological applications. Reported sources of heavy metals in the environment include geogenic, industrial, agricultural, pharmaceutical, domestic effluents, and atmospheric sources. Environmental pollution is very prominent in point source areas such as mining, foundries and smelters, and other metal-based industrial operations.

“Their toxicity,” the authors note, “depends on several factors including the dose, route of exposure, and chemical species, as well as the age, gender, genetics, and nutritional status of exposed individuals.”

Because of their high degree of toxicity, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury rank among the priority metals that are of public health significance. These metallic elements are considered systemic toxicants that are known to induce multiple organ damage, even at lower levels of exposure. They are also classified as human carcinogens (known or probable) according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Accumulated heavy metals have a wide range of ill effects and typically share toxic mechanisms and sites of action. Here is just a partial overview:

  • Heavy metals disrupt enzyme activity. Those containing sulfhydryl (SH) groups may be especially affected, as certain metals can bind to it in place of the cofactor that normally helps the enzyme do its work.
  • Toxic metals disrupt the structure and function of a number of organelles – structures within your cells – such as the endoplasmic reticulum, lysosomes, and mitochondria. Metal inclusion bodies may form in the cell nucleus, as well.
  • Arsenic, chromium, nickel, cadmium, and mercury are human carcinogens, due to interactions of metallic ions with the DNA.
  • Cadmium and mercury are toxic to the kidneys (nephrotoxic), your body’s main excretory organ for metals.
  • Methylmercury and organic lead compounds readily cross the blood brain barrier and are highly neurotoxic. They have been implicated in diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and autism spectrum disorders.
  • Both the male and female reproductive systems are under very complex neuroendocrine control. Any homotoxic interference can cause endocrine or reproductive effects.
  • Acute exposure to metals leads to irritation, acidity, and inflammation in the respiratory tract. Chronic, long-term exposure may result in fibrosis, often due to aluminum, or cancer, caused by elevated levels of arsenic, lead, and nickel.
  • The toxicity of many heavy metals depends on their transport and intracellular bioavailability. This is regulated by their high affinity to certain proteins in cells’ intra-cellular fluid or cytosol. These proteins are typically rich thiol (SH) groups and help sequester metals from the organelles. The extracellular matrix is another important storage space for metals before they reach the cells.

Agricultural Chemicals

pouring pesticideBy the late 19th century, American farmers were using chemicals such as copper acetoarsenite (Paris green), calcium arsenate, nicotine sulfate, and sulfur to control pests in field crops, but the results were often less than hoped for.

Modern pesticides are big business. According to the latest EPA data, more than $50 billion is spent globally on pesticides each year. Roughly one-fifth of that is spent in the US alone.

Ideally, pesticides should be highly specific and only harm the intended target, but we now know that they actually enter our food chain via the soil crops are grown in, as well as their water sources. Pesticides enter us through the food we eat.

One major medical concern is the long half-life of these compounds, as well as their lipophilic nature, or tendency to be drawn toward fats. This makes bioaccumulation a very real and hazardous threat.

In fact, many modern pesticides are classified as persistent organic pollutants, or POPs. Some of the most well-known include DDT, PCBs, and dioxins. As the name suggests, POPs hang around a long time.

Because they can be transported by wind and water, most POPs generated in one country can and do affect people and wildlife far from where they are used and released. They persist for long periods of time in the environment and can accumulate and pass from one species to the next through the food chain.

“Many POPs,” the EPA goes on to note,

were widely used during the boom in industrial production after World War II, when thousands of synthetic chemicals were introduced into commercial use. Many of these chemicals proved beneficial in pest and disease control, crop production, and industry. These same chemicals, however, have had unforeseen effects on human health and the environment.

These include reproductive, developmental, behavioral, neurologic, endocrine, and immunologic effects. Because they do direct damage to DNA, they are also carcinogenic. Crucially, they also interfere with the P-450 enzyme system, which is essential to detoxification via the liver.

While most POP exposure comes via food, water, and direct chemical contact, they can also be transferred from mother to child through the placenta and breast milk.

Plasticizers & PBDEs

Plasticizers such as phthalates, alkylphenols, and BPA are all used to soften materials. Phthalates are also used in a wide range of consumer products, including perfumes, hairsprays, and other personal care items.

Recent research has shown that when expectant mothers are exposed to phthalates during their first trimester may increase the risk of infertility in male offspring. And as the Guardian has reported,

In the past few years, researchers have linked phthalates to asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues.

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) inhibit the spread of fire, so are mainly used as flame retardants. Studies have linked PBDEs to thyroid, liver, and neurodevelopmental issues, as well as advanced puberty and reduced fertility.

Drugs, Therapeutic & Recreational

prescription drugsAlthough Big Pharma likes to distinguish between “effects” and “side effects,” they are one and the same – effects that would not occur but for the action of the drug. And all drugs have one effect in common: disruption of homeostasis. As the body’s autoregulatory systems are derailed, new symptoms are created. Often, these get labeled as new diseases.

And often, life-threatening “side effects” don’t show up until after a drug is approved. One recent study found that nearly one-third of new drugs approved during the first decade of this century turned out to have problems that were not observed in clinical trials.

Over a hundred thousand Americans die each year taking drugs exactly as they were told. Millions experience serious injury. These are direct effects. The deaths are more common than those from heart disease or cancer.

Food Additives & Preservatives

Preservatives are one type of additive, used to extend the shelf life of processed food products. Other additives are used to change the color, texture, smell, and taste of those products.

The FDA currently lists over 3000 additives they have approved for food use in the United States. Not all of these have been adequately tested. As GRACE Communications Foundation notes,

There is actually very little oversight for many of the additives and other ingredients in our food supply. The term GRAS refers to “generally regarded as safe,” the moniker the FDA uses to regulate food additives, dyes, and preservatives. But according to Dr. Michael Hansen, a senior scientist at Consumers Union, many additives in our food supply are never even tested. That’s because the GRAS designation is a voluntary process—instead of being required to register food additives, companies can notify the FDA about their product, but only if they so choose.

Yet research has shown that some additives may be carcinogenic or mutagenic (harming DNA). I encourage you to read this post from People for Ethical Living, which outlines some of the additives of greatest concern.

Electromagnetic Fields

power linesAnyone who has studied bioregulatory medicine or read Cyndi Dales’ The Subtle Body or James Oschman’s The Scientific Basis of Energy Medicine will fully understand that your body runs on electricity. From cellular metabolism to your heartbeat to your ability remember, subtle energy is always involved.

And your body’s electrical system is far more vast, intricate, and sensitive than the system powering your smartphone or tablet or computer.

And just as electrical fields can disrupt our gadgets – think of how your AM car radio reception goes to static as you drive under major power lines – so, too, can they disrupt our energetic system to one degree or another.

Cell phones and towers, Wi-Fi, microwave ovens, medical imaging, security screening, RFID, cordless phones, electric lines – all these and more emit radiation that, cumulatively, can wreak havoc on your body’s autoregulatory system. This article by Cathee Courter and Peter McGill offers a good overview.

Endogenous Homotoxins

Where exogenous toxins come from outside the body, endogenous toxins come from within.

Normal bioregulatory processes produce a variety of substances which can accumulate if overproduced or if they’re not adequately metabolized, detoxified by the liver, and excreted. Some are the result of metabolism. Others result from infection, inflammation, or other pathological states, byproducts of oxidative stress.

These include substances include bilirubin, uric acid, lactic acid, creatine, histamine, carbon dioxide, free radicals, ammonium, adrenaline and other hormones, neurotransmitters, oxalic acid, and glucoses.

These are metabolized by the very same processes that metabolize exogenous toxins. So when the extracelluar matrix or terrain is overloaded by the latter, endogenous toxins will build up, as well.

This is why so many toxicity patients suffer panic attacks and depression. The metabolism of adrenaline and cortisol becomes impaired. The psyche toxins cause an imbalance with in patient’s neurotransmitter status and disturb bioregulatory processes, namely homeostasis.

Elevated levels of cortisol – the stress hormone that also plays an important role in metabolism and the detoxification pathways in the extracellular matrix – results in chronic stress. This, in turn, impairs the process of refreshing, refurbishing, and renewing the matrix, making it even harder to excrete the accumulated homotoxins.

Which Model for the Future Will We Choose?

welcome to the futureFrom my perspective as a traditional naturopathic dentist, I believe that so long as the orthodox scientific community keeps on in its atomistic, reductionist ways, bioregulatory medicine will have a hard time proving to their satisfaction that lifestyle, environment, and social change are more important to human health than their high-cost, high-tech “solutions.”

But there’s good news to be found amidst our epidemic of out-of-control medical costs, medical errors, unending chronic disease and the like. These problems make it more evident than ever that this antiquated model of medicine has run its course, that we need to rethink what we know in light of cutting edge scientific research.

The ideal is to replace orthodox medicine’s linear categorization with resonating interconnectivity as the model for our future.

Lab image by Horla Varlan

One response to “The Causes of Illness & Degenerative Diseases, Part 3: The Homotoxins All Around Us (and In Us)”

  1. Laura Henze Russell says:

    Nice post, thank you.

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