What is Bioaccumulation?
Bioaccumulation refers to accumulation of toxins in the tissues of animals as we go up the food chain.
Consider the element mercury (see picture) as an example. Mercury is a heavy metal that is prevalent in oceans and lakes all over the world. It has made its way into our water sources via industrial waste and pollution. When plants and small animals in water grow, they absorb a certain amount of this toxin. Bigger animals consume many of the little animals and plants. Then larger animals consume them……and it goes on and on up the food chain. Large fish, land animals, and humans that eat these animals, and end up being exposed to an accumulated amount of mercury. The same applies to any chemical, such as pesticides, heavy metals, and plastic byproducts.
How Do We Protect Ourselves From Bioaccumulation?
1. In order to avoid being exposed to dangerous levels of toxins we must consume foods lower down on the food chain. Vegetables have much less contamination than animals.
2. If you are going to consume sea food, avoid bottom feeders such as shrimp, crab, scallops, and lobster. Heavy metals are called “heavy metals” because they weigh 5x the weight of water and therefore sink to the bottom. Any organisms living at the bottom will accumulate these metals.
3. Consume small fish. For example, sardines, a very small fish, have much less mercury than tuna, a very large fish. Go to www.seachoice.org to find an up-to-date database of all safe fish.
4. Choose organic whenever possible. Organic food by definition uses less chemicals. I often get asked, “I can’t afford to buy everything organic, what do you recommend is the most important food to get organic?”. My response involves an explanation of what bioaccumulation is, and then the answer “all animal foods”.
5. Two times per year (spring and fall are best) put yourself on a detoxification program. There are many diets, supplements, herbs and superfoods that help the body eliminate built-up toxins.
Bioaccumualtion is something that people didn’t have to worry about before we polluted our environment. Now, if we want to keep the body healthy and functioning well, we must understand this concept and make food decisions accordingly.