Everyday Toxins Effect Your Weight and Immune System

Everyday Toxins Effect Your Weight and Immune System

Are you struggling with your weight despite eating healthy and exercising? Or do you constantly find yourself under the weather, first to catch whatever is going around? The reason could be the everyday toxins you’re being exposed to – through the air you breathe, the food you eat, and everyday items you use. There is increasingly more research that shows there is a connection between environmental toxins and our health.

Two of the most startling impacts of environmental toxins include obesity and immune system function. It’s important to avoid exposure whenever possible and we’ll outline some basic actions you can take. But first – let’s get into the science.

Exposure to common toxins can contribute to obesity and cause immune problems.

Environmental Toxins and Total Body Burden

There is a concept in environmental medicine called, “total body burden,” which applies to toxin exposure and your health. Imagine that the human body is like a barrel of water barrel that gets filled up over time. When the water level gets to the top, it starts to spill out of the barrel.

Similarly, when a body is overrun with toxins, it can no longer metabolize and excrete these chemicals. At this point chemicals will start to do bodily damage and impact our health.

Examples of common toxins include:

  • Arsenic: naturally occurring but high levels can contaminate groundwater sources like wells1
  • Benzene: a solvent that can be found in the air from second-hand smoke and car exhaust2
  • Bisphenol A (BPA): a chemical used in plastics including food and drink containers3
  • Dioxins: a byproduct of industrial processes often found in fish and poultry4
  • Formaldehyde: off-gases from building materials, glues, pesticides, and even fabric softeners5
  • Glyphosate: a common pesticide that leaves a residue on produce6
  • Phthalates: used in plastics and often found in flooring and beauty products7
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): gasses emitted from furniture, paints, cleaning supplies, etc.8

It’s common knowledge that some of these chemicals are carcinogens but how do they cause obesity or immune system problems?


The Link Between Toxins and Obesity

Obesity is defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 30%, which is calculated by both weight and height. This isn’t just a superficial issue. Excess weight burdens the whole body and increases the likelihood of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and an array of other health problems. In fact, the World Health Organization cites obesity as one of the leading health risks worldwide.

Changes to food intake and lifestyle are the primary link to the rise in obesity, but scientists hypothesize that there is more at play. Recent research has shown that there is a link between exposure to toxins and the rate of obesity. Additionally, there has been an observable rise in obesity rates that coincides with the increase of industrial chemical usage. The exact mechanism by which this takes place is complex but data confirms that pollutants are endocrine disruptors, including a subset known as, “obesogens.”

Endocrine Disruptors and Obesogens

Some toxins are known to be endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and do exactly what their name suggests: interfere with the body’s hormonal balance. Metabolism is one system impacted by EDCs, leading to an increase in fat storage.9 

There are also EDCs specifically classified as obesogens, which directly promote weight gain in people and animals. These substances alter the body’s fat regulation, leading to an increased likelihood of obesity. Scientists consider many compounds as obesogens, including pesticides and herbicides, industrial and household products, plastics, detergents, and elements of many personal care products.10

Obesogens can have different effects. They can change the amount and size of fat cells. They can also impact hunger, fullness, food choices, and energy usage.11 Research indicates that this is most critical during pregnancy and exposure to obesogens in utero can lead to obesity later in life.12


The Impact of Toxins on Immunity

The immune system is a combination of organs, tissue, and cells that work together to protect the body from foreign substances that can cause harm or illness, like bacteria and viruses. The immune system also protects the body from toxins. Environmental toxins commonly found in the air, water, etc. can impact your immune system by overwhelming it.

Toxins Weaken The Immune Response

Remember that comparison of the water barrel to the human body? Just like water overflowing from a barrel, toxicants that harm the body can overwhelm the immune system. They can also overwhelm the liver and kidneys, which eliminate wastes from the body. 

Toxins can also compromise the immune system by causing oxidative stress and inflammation. For example, T-cells, a type of white blood cell and a major component of the immune system, can be dysregulated after exposure to chemicals in tobacco smoke, fossil fuels, and car exhaust.13 A weakened immune response makes individuals more susceptible to infection and disease.


Recommendations For Avoiding Toxins

One major goal for anyone concerned about these issues is to lower your total body burden. When the body isn’t overwhelmed, it can more efficiently metabolize and excrete the chemicals. Not only will this protect you, it will also allow your body to heal. The good news is you can make a few simple changes to reduce toxin exposure and lower your body burden. These changes can potentially help you manage your weight and strengthen your immune system. 

Five ways to avoid toxins include: 1 Choosing a healthy lifestyle, 2. Reading food labels to avoid pollutants, 3. Reevaluate other consumer goods, 4. Purify your water, 5. Filter your air.

1. Choose a Healthy Lifestyle

It may seem obvious but, first and foremost, do your best to adopt healthy habits. If you eat well, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep, your body will be better able to fight off the environmental toxins you can’t avoid. 

These practices will also inadvertently help you maintain (or achieve) a healthy weight and a strong(er) immune system. Eating berries, leafy greens, and citrus fruits can boost the immune system. The CDC recommends adults get a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night.


2. Reduce Toxin Exposure from Food

Be mindful of the products you use and the environment you live in. We encounter toxins through beauty products, cleaners, cigarettes, mold, building materials, fragrances, and even the food we eat.

Minimize high levels of exposure to harmful chemicals by choosing natural and organic products whenever possible. When shopping at the grocery store, try reading food labels carefully. 

Look for words and phrases such as “organic,” “non-GMO,” and “all-natural” on product labels. Make sure to wash all produce thoroughly. If possible, consider growing your own herbs. 

Also, look for “BPA-free” water bottles and food storage containers. BPA is a toxin found in plastics and the containers we use for food and drink are one of the most common means of exposure. Using glass or metal food and drink containers, instead of plastic, can also help you avoid certain toxins.

In fact, avoid eating from plastic containers whenever possible – especially when microwaving food or consuming hot items. Plastics can leach chemicals when heated.


3. Reduce Toxin Exposure from Other Consumer Goods

In addition to food and drink, we can be exposed to toxins from cosmetics, paper products, and – believe it or not – pharmaceutical items. 

Whenever you can, use “all-natural” products. Also, look for terms like “paraben-free” on product labels. If you’ll be redecorating, purchase “zero VOC”/ “no VOC” / “low VOC” paints, carpets, and furniture. 


4. Avoid Toxin Exposure in Water

Water filtration is crucial. Reverse osmosis (RO) with carbon filtration is considered the gold standard for water filtration. Ironically, there are water filtration systems that actually add microplastics to the water – do your research and be sure to avoid them.


5. Clean The Air 

Many of the everyday toxins we should strive to avoid are airborne, including benzene, formaldehyde, and VOCs. It’s helpful to make sure that your home and workplace are properly vented, to remove stale or bad air. You also want to achieve a regular exchange of indoor air for outdoor air. In cold winter months, when doors and windows are closed, it can be helpful to open up and let in fresh air for 15 to 20 minutes at least once a week.

Air filtration is also crucial. However, manufacturers do not create all air filters equally. Therefore, considering filtration technology is important. Austin Air purifiers use true, medical-grade HEPA and activated carbon filters to remove various particles and toxins from the air. This includes volatile organic compounds (VOCs), allergens, chemicals, and pollutants that can contribute to obesity and compromise immune function.


Dodge Pollutants for Better Health

Understandably, it is difficult to avoid pollutants that are all around us but if you’re mindful, you can adopt habits to reduce your exposure and enhance your body’s ability to detox. A body unburdened by pollutants will be better able to manage a healthy weight and maintain a stronger immune system.




1 Arsenic. (2023, November 13). National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/arsenic.
2 Benzene – Cancer-Causing Substances. (2022, December 5). National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/substances/benzene.
3 Bisphenol A (BPA). (2023, August 31). National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/sya-bpa.
4 Dioxins. (2023, November 29). World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dioxins-and-their-effects-on-human-health.
5  Facts About Formaldehyde (2023, March 28). US EPA. https://www.epa.gov/formaldehyde/facts-about-formaldehyde.
6 Questions and Answers on Glyphosate. (2022, February 28). U.S. Food And Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/food/pesticides/questions-and-answers-glyphosate.
7 Phthalates Factsheet. (2021, April 5). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Biomonitoring Program.   https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/Phthalates_FactSheet.html.
8 What are volatile organic compounds (VOCs)?. (2023, March 15). US EPA. https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/what-are-volatile-organic-compounds-vocs.
9 Diamanti-Kandarakis E, Bourguignon JP, Giudice LC, et al. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals: an Endocrine Society scientific statement. Endocr Rev. 2009 Jun;30(4):293-342. doi: 10.1210/er.2009-0002.
10 Amorim Amato A, Brit Wheeler H, and Blumberg B. Obesity and endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Endocrine Connections. 2021 Feb;10(2):R87–R105. doi: 10.1530/EC-20-0578.
11 Holtcamp W. Obesogens: an environmental link to obesity. Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Feb;120(2):a62-8. doi: 10.1289/ehp.120-a62.
12 Heindel JJ, Howard S, Agay-Shay K, et al. Obesity II: Establishing causal links between chemical exposures and obesity. Biochemical Pharm. 2022, May;Vol 199:115015. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2022.115015.
13 National Research Council. 1992. Biologic Markers in Immunotoxicology. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1591.

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