Hidden Toxins in Foods

by | Dec 2, 2020 | Lupus Blog | 0 comments

I’m Dr. Connie, and I have tons of education, degrees and professional certifications. But it wasn’t until my journey with autoimmunity, specifically Lupus and Sjogren’s, that I learned knowledge doesn’t help. It is applied knowledge in every day, but in this blog post about hidden toxins in foods, you’ll learn what’s even more important is BEing healthy.

Enter this post with me with a beginner’s mind.  Bring only innocence, curiosity and complete openness to whatever you may learn without confounding it with what you think you know.

Set aside all that you think you know. I ask that you give me undivided attention and be completely open to receive the insights and wisdom underneath all the knowledge.  

Understanding vs Knowing

I’ve been around long enough to know that many of you have subconscious expectations from this program, from me, and have ideas and opinions of how things should be.  We all bring our individual differences and programming to the table. But I want you to put that aside and truly absorb everything I have to share. Forget everything you think you understand.  

Because at the end of the day, understanding something and truly “knowing” something are very different.  Doctors have limited understanding on autoimmunity. They don’t truly “know” what it is nor what it’s like to live with it.

Understanding and knowing need to be differentiated in the context of our time together because I don’t think many of you truly understand the power you have in knowing your condition.  

You KNOW autoimmunity first hand. Yet you look to the doctors who understand it to help you to “treat” it.  They “treat” disease but don’t “heal” disease.  Don’t follow the symptoms, but look at the big picture first and then fine tune.  

Acute Phase Reactants

The varied reactions of the host to infection, inflammation or trauma are collectively known as the acute-phase response. They encompass a wide range of pathophysiological responses such as high fever, low or high white count, hormone alterations and muscle protein depletion combining to minimize tissue damage while enhancing the repair process.  Liver produces proinflammatory cytokines. The functions of positive acute-phase proteins (APP) are regarded as important in activating the complement system, in binding cellular remnants like nuclear fractions, in neutralizing enzymes, scavenging and in modulating the host’s immune response. Symptoms can be varied and highly fluctuant affecting biochemistry

This is all fine but I am here to offer you the solutions you can live every day to heal your condition. Whereas the doctor continues to treat it.  I also want to point out that Doctors operate from the premise or belief that autoimmunity is incurable.

But this Autoimmune Health Rebel community operates from the belief that autoimmunity can be healed.

How to Heal Your Autoimmunity

Conventional or holistic, functional medicine all operate under the premise that doctors “understand” your condition and can help to treat you.  They prescribe all the things you have to “do” be it meds, supplements, diet, etc. But they don’t look to YOU to engage in your own healing.  It’s a passive approach based on doctor-patient hierarchy.

But I’m here to tell you that healing is an inside job.  In order to heal, you must not only change, but transform from doing health to being healthy.  I want to give your power back once and for all.

It’ll all make sense as we go through this time together.  I’ve been in clinical practice helping patients just like you as I navigated my own autoimmune obstacles. And I just want to come clean and warn you that I’m a straight shooter. I don’t beat around the bush, and I will say it like it is because that’s what it takes.  

I give tough love because that’s what it takes to not only reclaim your life, but to heal once and for all.  That’s the way I am. But you’ll know that everything I do comes from a place of deep connection, knowing and caring for your best outcome.

Your Own Obstacles with Autoimmunity

Let me be clear, I don’t buy into any one dogma, tactics, theory. I believe we are all unique and different.  I’m a rebel by nature, and I don’t like to follow the rules. But I do learn enough to safely break the rules to suit my needs. In my education and experience in Psychology, Nutrition, Physical Medicine, Functional Medicine, Eastern Medicine, and Yoga, not one discipline provided me with all that I needed to navigate my own obstacles with autoimmunity.

It required all of them. I believe my gift to you is in putting it all together, connecting the dots of our fragmented and broken dogmatic medical and holistic approaches into a principle based approach.  Yin to the yang, broad strokes to the finer strokes, big picture to the details, acid to alkaline, sickness to health, and putting the power back in your control.

I want you to adapt the mindset that healing is a state of mind. In order to regain health, we must BE healthy first.  The work together this week is truly knowing what it means to BE healthy vs Do healthy. 

Let’s Talk About Autoimmunity

1 out of 12 women, and 1 in 24 men have an autoimmune disease.  

The truth is that medical education provides limited learning about autoimmune disease.  Specialists generally are unaware of the complex interrelationships among different autoimmune diseases or holistic treatments outside their specialty area.

The ultimate goal with autoimmunity is to improve quality of life, create anti-inflammatory effects in their bodies, nutritional status and lifestyle to support their health and function.

Before we go any further, it’s important to discuss the stages of autoimmunity.

Stage 1:  Silent autoimmunity.  This is elevated antibodies with no symptoms or loss of tissue.  

Stage 2:  Autoimmune Reactivity. This is elevated antibodies with symptoms and no clinically noticeable damage to tissue.

Stage 3:  Autoimmune Disease. This is elevated antibodies with symptoms and measurable tissue destruction.

The obstacles with autoimmunity diagnosis include:

  • Symptoms cross many specialties and can affect all body organs.
  • Medical education provides minimal education on autoimmunity.
  • Specialists are generally unaware of the complex interrelationships among different autoimmune diseases.
  • Initial symptoms are often intermittent and non-specific until the disease becomes acute.
  • Research is limited in scope.

Taking a Proactive Approach to Healing

Our goal here is to take a proactive approach to healing to prevent our autoimmunity from becoming a disease.  Yet, in the conventional medical space, it’s a waiting game until we get sick enough to detect a disease.  To me, this is the upside down approach to holistic health and healing.  

I’ve lived it and experienced it for over 20 years.  There is a limited understanding from doctors that places us in an unfortunate situation where we are left to guess what’s going on. And when we do finally have a diagnosis, we are left to the heavy meds that cause more damage than good.  There’s limited viable options for those of us living with autoimmune conditions.

There’s a significant biochemical imbalance that triggers and perpetuates autoimmunity.  To this end, our goal in this group is to teach you how to minimize the triggers, and more importantly, perpetrators to make sure it can be controlled and contained.

Diet is something that we must start with.  It’s the thing that will be the most efficient in getting your body closer to its goals.  Getting patients on a complete anti-toxic, anti-inflammatory diet is key to make sure that we keep the inflammatory and immunological dysfunctions to a minimum.  And as we now know, hidden toxins are in the foods you may eat on a daily basis.

Three Distinct Barriers in Our Body

It is assumed in functional medicine that an autoimmune patient has leaky or a barrier permeability that serves as an open door for toxins to enter the body.  Most talk about gut permeability but it’s important to recognize that there are three distinct barriers that we refer to in our body.

  1.  Gut- Intestinal barrier
  2. Blood- Brain barrier
  3. Lung- Respiratory barrier.

It’s in our best interest to have a sealing effect on our barriers. That can be accomplished by minimizing the amount of toxic load into our body.  

So let me quickly explain how the gut barrier is the most important to tackle to help seal other barriers.

Tackling the Gut Barrier

I believe stress is the single most factor in triggering and perpetuating autoimmunity. Stress creates gaps in our tight junctions of our gut.  Tight junctions keep the toxins outside of our body, and the leakiness comes from the stress that creates gaps on our gut lining.

The gaps can be worsened by the inflammation, toxins, hormones, etc., but I believe stress has the most profound impact on our gut. Yet it’s something that’s not fully addressed in both conventional and holistic medicine.

As important as the diet is, it’s also important to align stress levels, movement, sleep and eating to optimize our health in a big way.  It’s when we do parts and pieces here and there without accountability that we fail to see the full effect of our autoimmune reversal.  

What Diet is Best?

I have many patients who swear to me that they are on a healthy diet.  But the real question isn’t a healthy diet in general.  It’s what diet is healthy for you?

And when thinking about foods, and hidden toxins in foods, it’s a balancing act to figure out what to eat as well as what not to eat.  It’s all about you learning to tune into the signals your body is sending you.  We’ve become numb to our own body signals but have become so attentive to the stress signals of the world, which are ultimately affecting our body.  

Hidden toxins are in these foods:  

Meats:  The processing of conventional meats include unsanitary conditions and inhumane treatments of livestock, which increases biotoxicity in the meats from elevated stress hormones. Then, livestock are injected with antibiotics to keep them from dying from infections as well as growth hormones to fatten them up for higher profit margins.  They also feed on pesticide-infested corn meal among others, which further toxifies the food.

Produce: Produce is genetically engineered or sprayed with pesticides, which leaves residues on the produce.  Small amounts over time build up, especially for those of us who have autoimmunity.  

Let’s make sure to understand too that our soil today is not so nutrient dense. It is stripped of all the nutrients, so fruits and vegetables lack sufficient nutrients they once had when our parents were growing up.  

Autoimmune/leaky gut:  Food sensitivities to gluten, dairy, certain nuts, night shades, certain meats, etc. that don’t create immediate effect but cumulative over time. It can cause serious inflammation driving our immune system to the point of autoimmunity.

Key Facts About Hidden Toxins in Foods

  • Some natural toxins can be formed in food as defense mechanisms of plants, through their infestation with toxin-producing mould, or through ingestion by animals of toxin-producing microorganisms.
  • Natural toxins can cause a variety of adverse health effects and pose a serious health threat to both humans and livestock. Some of these toxins are extremely potent.
  • Negative health effects can be acute poisoning ranging from allergic reactions to severe stomachache and diarrhea, and even death.
  • Long-term health consequences include effects on the immune, reproductive or nervous systems, and also cancer.

What are Natural Toxins?

Natural toxins are toxic compounds that are naturally produced by living organisms. These toxins are not harmful to the organisms themselves but they may be toxic to other creatures, including humans, when eaten. Some toxins are produced by plants as a natural defense mechanism against predators, insects or microorganisms, or as a consequence of infestation with microorganisms, such as mould, in response to climate stress (such as drought or extreme humidity).

Other sources of natural toxins are microscopic algae and plankton in oceans or sometimes in lakes that produce chemical compounds that are toxic to humans but not to fish or shellfish that eat these toxin-producing organisms. When people eat fish or shellfish that contain these toxins, illness can rapidly follow. 

Some of the most commonly found natural toxins are as follows.  Write them down.  

Aquatic Biotoxins

Toxins formed by algae in the ocean and freshwater are called algal toxins. Shellfish such as mussels, scallops and oysters are more likely to contain these toxins than fish. Algal toxins can cause diarrhea, vomiting, tingling, paralysis and other effects in humans, other mammals or fish. The algal toxins can be retained in shellfish and fish or contaminate drinking water. They have no taste or smell and are not eliminated by cooking or freezing.


These toxins are present in many plants such as parsnips (closely related to carrots and parsley), celery roots, citrus plants (lemon, lime, grapefruit, bergamot) and some medicinal plants. Furocoumarins release in response to stress, such as physical damage to the plant. Some of these toxins can cause gastrointestinal problems in susceptible people. 


Many types of beans contain toxins called lectins, and kidney beans have the highest concentrations – especially red kidney beans. As few as 4 or 5 raw beans can cause severe stomach ache, vomiting and diarrhea. Lectins are destroyed when the dried beans are soaked for at least 12 hours and then boiled vigorously for at least 10 minutes in water. Tinned kidney beans have already had this process applied, so they can be used without further treatment.


Mycotoxins are naturally occurring toxic compounds produced by certain types of moulds. Moulds that can produce mycotoxins grow on numerous foodstuffs such as cereals, dried fruits, nuts and spices. Mould growth can occur before harvest or after harvest, during storage, on/in the food itself often under warm, damp and humid conditions.

Most mycotoxins are chemically stable and survive food processing. The effects of food-borne mycotoxins can be acute with symptoms of severe illness and even death appearing quickly after consumption of highly contaminated food products. Long term effects on health of chronic mycotoxin exposure include cancers and immune deficiency.

Solanine and Glycoalkaloids

All solanacea plants, which include tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants, contain natural toxins called solanine and glycoalkaloids. While levels are generally low, higher concentrations are found in potato sprouts and bitter-tasting peel and green parts, as well as in green tomatoes. The plants produce the toxins in response to stresses like bruising, UV light, microorganisms and attacks from insect pests and herbivores. To reduce the production of solanine and glycoalkaloids it is important to store potatoes in a dark, cool and dry place, and not to eat green or sprouting parts.

Poisonous Mushrooms

Wild mushrooms may contain several toxins, such as muscimol and muscarine, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, confusion, visual disturbances, salivation, and hallucinations. Onset of symptoms occurs 6–24 hours or more after ingestion of mushrooms. Fatal poisoning is usually associated with delayed onset of symptoms which are very severe, with toxic effects on the liver, kidney and nervous systems. Cooking or peeling does not inactivate the toxins. It is recommended to avoid any wild mushrooms, unless definitively identified as non-poisonous.

How Can I Minimize the Health Risk from Natural Toxins?

When it comes to natural toxins it is important to note that they can be present in a variety of different crops and foodstuffs.  In a usual balanced, healthy diet, the levels of natural toxins are well below the threshold for acute and chronic toxicity.

To minimize the health risk from natural and hidden toxins in food:

  • Don’t assume that if something is ‘natural’ it is automatically safe.
  • Throw away bruised, damaged or discolored food, and in particular moldy foods.
  • Throw away any food that does not smell or taste fresh or has an unusual taste.
  • Only eat mushrooms or other wild plants identified as non-poisonous.

Because of the genetic and tolerant specific individuality that exists, it’s hard to say this or that diet specifically. This is why there’s so much contradicting information out there.

So I want to propose that you start with a clean slate.  Logically, you’d want to be on a diet where there’s no stress or inflammation to the body whatsoever for a certain period to let your body reset itself.

The Elimination Diet

The elimination diet is where we eliminate ALL potential toxins from the body, including these hidden toxins in foods. Keep in mind that many of you will not have sensitivities or aversions to the many of these foods that I’m asking you to eliminate. But to do this right, I’m eliminating ALL foods that can cause inflammation in the body.

We want to do this ideally for 28 days to allow our body to reset, renew and replenish. This will give us a chance to reverse our condition.

Toxins in the foods are basic knowledge.  There are chemicals, additives, preservatives, hormones in meats and pesticides on fruits that find their way into our body further eroding the tight junctions in our gut.  

Toxins are in Everything

I want to make note that toxins are in everything. Hidden toxins are in foods, our cleaning products, our beauty products and our environment in general. Autoimmunity is the loss of tolerance to self and toxins. So we are naturally more sensitive and reactive to many things.

The ultimate goal isn’t deprivation.  Our goal is to heal enough to create a healthy environment to improve tolerance by creating tight junctions in our gut and allowing homeostasis to take place in our body. Becoming aware of these hidden toxins in foods is a great place to start.

Be fearlessly brave…Feel confident….Do exactly what you need to do from that place

Many things we do don’t involve our conscious decisions; they are on autopilot.  Most of the decisions you make are not based on conscious decisions.

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein.

To learn more about hidden toxins in foods, join our FREE private Facebook group, the Tribe of Autoimmune Health Rebels.

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