Scientists have discovered up to nine different types of plastic in the faeces of every person who took part in a world-wide study. Researchers included subjects from Finland, Holland, Poland, the UK, Austria, Italy, Japan, and Russia in their study (1)
It was a very small study but they found a variety of different microplastics (tiny particles of plastics from food and environment) in all participants, highlighting the very real possibility that we can assume that there are likely microplastics in us all.
This is likely a major health concern moving forward so it is time for us all to consider ways to keep our bodies free from or at leas less vulnerable to plastic contamination and explore ways to detox our system from microplastics
Your shoes, your clothing, your contact lenses, your chewing gum, your phone, your water, food containers, mattresses - all are made with plastic. It's everywhere. It's in our salt and it's in our water. Plastic may be the most insidious and enduring product we've ever produced. While plastic improves our daily life in countless ways, it is also the cause of catastrophic environmental pollution, potentially hazardous to health, much of it hidden and microscopic. The European Parliament has just voted for a complete ban on a range of single-use plastics across the union.
Do not confuse microplastics and BPA and BPS which are constituents of plastics in our food chain that mess up out hormones – generally mimic female hormones – not good.
Polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) are the most common form of microplastics we are contaminated with. The adverse effects on health are currently unclear – but in my opinion are certainly not good. The main concert would be microplastics causing inflammation in our gut and modifying or microbiome. If very small microplastics make their way into the bloodstream then they will likely damage other organs. The smaller the particles – the worse they are.
Scientific research to date
In a 2018-study by Jin et al. submicron polystyrene particles (size 0.5µm) increased the intestinal inflammation in lab animals(2). There may be (small) changes in the microbial composition of our microbiome and corresponding downstream effects on our gut and metabolic health. But potentially obesogenic and pro-diabetic effects due to changes in the microbiome cannot be excluded for either very small or rather large microplastic particles.
The increase in intestinal inflammation is caused by increased mRNA levels
of IL1α, IL1β, and IFN, observed in the guts of those animals that were
exposed to very small microplastic molecules. Also very worrying was the
plastics effects on the microbiome (gut microbes that generally keep our
immune systems healthy). The scientists from the Zhejiang University of Technology in China observed that
microplastic particle exposure reduces the abundance of Bacteroidetes and Proteobacteria at the phylum level, while
increasing the abundance of Firmicutes significantly - and that
within only 1-2 weeks of exposure at high concentration of polystyrene
Note : This is a relevant effect, because previous studies have linked high Firmicute levels to the development of type 2 diabetes and obesity. (3)
A leaky gut means microplastics can get into your bloodstream
There are many people with compromised gut today that can loosely be termed
leaky gut, this may leave us more susceptible to microplastic toxicity. Research by
Schmidt et al. (2013)
strongly indicates that the translocation of microplastics across the brush border of the intestines will be significantly increased in patients with intestinal diseases such as IBS or Crohn's.(4)
In view of the potentially pro-inflammatory effects of MPs that means that - provided that there's sufficient exposure to small enough particles - the microplastic particles may (figuratively speaking) burn their way through your intestinal wall i.e. polypropylene particles will increase the inflammation of the brush border of your gut, which will then become 'leaky' and allow ever-increasingly larger microplastic particles to cross the intestinal wall and appear in your bloodstream, where they will possible wreak havoc on your organs - primarily the liver.
A German study by Schymanski 2018 highlights the concentration of microplastic particles in mineral waters, as well as our poop, is 4-6 magnitudes smaller than the concentrations in the water that has been shown to elicit ill health effects in animal studies(5). Not good!
Other surprising observations from the Schymanski study was that water from
glass bottles is actually more polluted than water from one-way bottles.
This may be counter-intuitive, however it is not unlikely that the
contaminations the scientists observed in water from glass bottles arose
over the course of the production process with the micoplastic particles
coming from plastic pipes, valves, tanks, and/or the detergents that are
used to clean the inside of the reusable bottles.
How to Detox from plastics
- Keep your home clean, and vacuum regularly
- Filter tap water
- Always avoid artificial fragrances
- Stay away from warm or hot plastics, don't even breathe near them
- Avoid canned foods as much as possible
- Avoid conventional personal care products like shampoos, soaps, moisturizers, makeup
- Avoid conventional non-organic produce (pesticides and herbicides have plastic residues)
- Cook your own foods using whole food ingredients
- Purchase food, like cereal, pasta, and rice from bulk bins and fill a reusable bag or container
- Use paper or your own reusable shopping bags, bulk goods bags, and bring your own mesh produce bags
- focus on products that are not wrapped or otherwise packed in plastic when you're doing your groceries,
- don't use soaps, creams, and toothpaste or detergents that contain microplastic particles as a "scrub" (banned in Europe as of September 2018),
- review your seafood intake (esp. mussels and co seem to accumulate significant amounts of microplastics),
- prefer pottery over plastic containers for left-overs and ceramic cups over plastic cups for hot beverages,
- do not store your foods or beverages in plastic containers over long time periods, as this will promote the accumulation of microplastics,
- try not to scratch the surface of any plastic dishes and containers you may be using - while the scratching itself will probably produce much larger particles, the increased surface area of the plastic containers will increase the risk of microplastic leakage,
- make sure that the surface of any plastic containers you use is still intact, and recycle older plastic containers in regular intervals,
- closely read the package insert of your medications, pharmaceutical preparations are often coated with a polymer (=plastic) that influences the timing and location of drug delivery in the gastrointestinal tract,
- don't buy plastic toys for toddlers who will still stick them into their mouth,
- stay away from PVC floors, as well as rugs, etc. and vacuum any rugs and carpets you may have frequently - with a vacuum cleaner with proper filters (otherwise you will just increase the particle concentration in the air) - to limit your plastic exposure from dust in the air,
- Herbal medicines can be used to aid in the removal of toxins from the liver, gut etc, all toxins in general we are exposed to on a regular basis, microplastics are no exception. Used judicially every few months is a good idea IMHO
1 Schwabl, P. et al, 2018. Assessment of microplastic concentrations in human stool - Preliminary results of a prospective study, Presented at UEG Week 2018 Vienna, October 24, 2018
2 Jin, C.Y., Xia, J.Z., Wu, S.S., Tu, W.Q., Pan, Z.H., Fu, Z.W., Wang, Y.Y., Jin, Y.X., 2018b. Insights into a possible influence on gut microbiota and intestinal barrier function during chronic exposure of mice to imazalil. Toxicol. Sci. 162, 113–123.
4 Schmidt, C., Lautenschlaeger, C., Collnot, E.M., Schumann, M., Bojarski, C., Schulzke, J.D., Lehr, C.M., Stallmach, A., 2013. Nano- and microscaled particles for drug targeting to inflamed intestinal mucosa: a first in vivo study in human patients. J. Control. Release 165, 139–145