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How Toxins Affect Autoimmune Disease: A Functional Medicine Toronto Discussion


Did you know that our functional medicine Toronto clinic can tailor a treatment plan to help manage autoimmune symptoms? 

The causes behind autoimmune disease are unknown. But toxins have shown to contribute to the development or worsening of autoimmunity. How exactly? Read below to learn about these conditions and how toxic components can impact them. 

What is an autoimmune condition? 

Your immune function is essential for helping ward off viruses and infections, especially for long-term health. It should be able to separate healthy cells from unwanted pathogens to promote optimal wellness. But with autoimmunity, your immune system makes an “error”– it misidentifies healthy cells as harmful elements. Consequently, proteins called auto antibodies are let loose, which leads to the damage of different types of cells and tissues. 

There are a wide range of these conditions, as autoimmunity affects either a single body part or the whole body. Clinical symptoms may be experienced differently between patients, so severity can range. You may have already heard of some autoimmune disease conditions. In fact, there are over 80 types of these conditions, and some of them are chronic diseases. They include Crohn’s disease, type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, Celiac disease (irritable bowel disorder), rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and others.

We published a post about how functional  medicine may help with IBS, we recommend you check it out. It is also another condition that is commonly misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed.

What toxins have to do with this issue

The root causes behind autoimmune disease are unclear. However, scientists deem that these factors could potentially heighten your chances for forming autoimmunity: sex, genetics, lifestyle factors, certain medications, obesity, infections, and finally toxins. 

Heavy metals, pesticides, and pollutants from the air, water or food we eat are some environmental toxins we can be exposed to. If they gather in the body, they can instigate inflammation, poor liver detoxification, and weakened bodily functions. 

With autoimmune conditions, “Increasing evidence has linked environmental exposures, including trichloroethene (TCE), silica, mercury, pristane, pesticides, and smoking to higher risk for ADs [autoimmune diseases],” confirms a Frontiers in Immunology review. 

Overall, toxins can trigger a “flood” of events that can contribute to the progression of autoimmune disease. They can bind to your gut microbiome and lower your supply of antioxidants. Excessive inflammation can ensue, weakening immune function and cellular health. Furthermore, toxins can reconfigure proteins, which can lead to either activating or dysregulating immunity. 

If you already suffer from leaky gut or you’re immunocompromised, these harmful elements can further impair autoimmune symptoms. For instance, if your intestinal barrier is in poor shape, pathogens have efficient access to your blood stream; your immune system then responds with excessive inflammation, harming tissues and mistakenly slaying healthy cells.

Explaining personalized treatment options

So how do you know if toxins are exacerbating autoimmune issues? Core tests can help with this.

When you get a tailored comprehensive treatment plan from a functional medicine clinic, therapies are amended for your biology. But for this to occur, tests may be required to measure the contaminants in your body. For these circumstances, a functional medicine practitioner from our clinic might suggest these functional lab tests: 

    • Heavy metal toxicity profile: This urine test takes a “snapshot” of toxic metals from chronic or acute contact. By quantifying the number of metals in your body, we can customize a suitable detoxification plan. 
    • Organic acids test (OAT): As another urine test, it measures for organic acids. These are compounds that can reveal indicators for metabolic health concerns. The test can also quantify bacterial, yeast, oxidative stress, and other nutritional imbalances.

After lab results have been examined – and we understand your current lifestyle, environmental factors, medical history, etc. – we can tailor your functional medicine therapies into a plan. We might give the following advice for supporting toxin removal; in turn, these might also help lessen the severity of symptoms: 

    • IV therapy: “Increased oxidative stress and depletion of antioxidant activity is a key metabolic feature of autoimmune diseases…,” confirms a paper from Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal. Thus, we may recommend IV drips as adjunctive support to encourage detoxification. Some patients with autoimmunity require a custom nutritional formula through IV therapy, as oral supplementation may not be digested/absorbed properly due to chronic digestive issues. We may tailor adjunct IV drips with nutrients that contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory functions, such as glutathione, vitamin C, alpha lipoic acid or vitamin E. 
    • Lifestyle modifications: It’s possible to promote a healthy lifestyle and help amplify your natural detoxification system with a nutrient-rich diet. This means the removal of unhealthy foods, such as processed food items, is necessary. If you’re a smoker, please speak to us about strategies for quitting. “Smoke has been found to play a pathogenic role in certain autoimmune diseases as it may trigger the development of autoantibodies and act on pathogenic mechanisms possibly related with an imbalance of the immune system,” confirms an Autoimmunity Review paper. 

Toxins play a role in autoimmune conditions; but they can also affect several aspects of health. These range from your hormones and fertility to respiratory and cellular health. Please reach us to address your current health issues – let’s unravel your potential for optimal health!

About the Toronto Functional Medicine Centre

When you become a new patient with us, you get access to a wide variety of treatment modalities, including adjunctive intravenous drips from our IV Lounge. This helps you become educated about your health, and you get to draw from various treatments to help alleviate your current symptoms. The functional medicine model is applied to our customized treatment plans, which may encompass Western medicine, naturopathy, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, intravenous therapy, herbal medicine, and other modalities. 

Our personalized approach to health emphasizes your unique needs, as benefits may arise from tailored health care. For instance, a customized, proactive, long-term health plan can help manage chronic or autoimmune symptoms and offer improvement to your quality of life. Integrative functional medicine may be applied to numerous health issues, including heart disease, menopausal symptoms (i.e. irregular periods), weight loss, brain health, active thyroid function, and chronic pain.  

Functional medicine from Toronto could offer potential beneficial effects! Uncover your health strategies with the help of our personalized approach – call 416-968-6961 to request your DISCOVERY SESSION

Disclaimer: The information in this article is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting a doctor. Consult with a health care practitioner before relying on any information in this article or on this website.



Gallagher, C. M., & Meliker, J. R. (2012). Mercury and thyroid autoantibodies in U.S. Women, NHANES 2007–2008. Environment International, 40, 39-43.

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Khan, M. F., & Wang, H. (2020). Environmental Exposures and Autoimmune Diseases: Contribution of Gut Microbiome. Frontiers in Immunology, 10, 501043.

Kharrazian, D. (2021). Exposure to Environmental Toxins and Autoimmune Conditions. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, 20(2), 20-24.

Kraft S, Buchenauer L, Polte T. Mold, Mycotoxins and a Dysregulated Immune System: A Combination of Concern? Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Nov 12;22(22):12269. doi: 10.3390/ijms222212269. PMID: 34830149; PMCID: PMC8619365.

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