Sunday, February 3, 2013

Aluminum: In my pits and in my colon

I am a sweater.  Always have been.  Big wet circles under my pits are not uncommon.  Therefore, antiperspirants have been an important part of my daily routine.  And I have tried every kind with varying amounts of success.  I even keep an extra stick in my work bag, just in case.

Antiperspirants work by causing water to be drawn into the cells near the sweat glands.  The swelling of the cells squeeze the sweat ducts closed so that they cannot excrete sweat.  As the antiperspirant wears off, the swelling shrinks and the sweat gland can begin releasing sweat once again.

The active ingredient in all antiperspirants is aluminum, in the form of either aluminum chloride, aluminum zirconium tricholorohydrex glycine, aluminum chlorohydrate, or aluminum hydroxybromide.

Aluminum is also a primary ingredient in vaccinations as well.  It serves as an “adjuvant;” that is, to increase the immune response to the vaccine.  The problem is that aluminum is believed to have a negative affect on the immune system in diseases like Crohn’s.   One study in 2007 linked exposure to aluminum to the “induction or the maintaining of inflammation” in Crohn’s. (1) The study suggests that inflammation may increase in the colon with increased exposure to aluminum.  Aluminum is also thought to “stimulate bacterial virulence,” (2) which, according to some theories in regard to Crohn’s, is one of the main culprits of the disease. 

Aluminum is the most abundant metal on the planet and its use in everyday products have increased over the years.  Aluminum is found naturally in some foods, such as tea and other leafy herbs.  However, it is also now used to a greater extent in processed food.  It can be found in flour and baking powder as an anti-caking agent.  Most processed foods with flour, such as tortillas, cakes and bread have very high levels of aluminum.  Medicines, such as buffered aspirin, antacids and vaccines contain large amounts of aluminum as well.  It is found in shampoos, soaps and antiperspirants.

I do not plan on getting all processed food out of my system, but close examinations of labels can reduce one’s exposure to aluminum and other ingredients.  One of the biggest sources of aluminum that is absorbed directly into the bloodstream is from the use of antiperspirants.  This is something that I can have direct control over.

So, last week I decided to ditch my antiperspirant for a “natural” deodorant.  I chose a Tom’s of Main product that contains only natural ingredients.  I wasn’t expecting much, actually.   In fact, I was expecting to sweat like crazy and smell like a hobo.

But that didn’t happen.

In fact, I have noticed that I have actually produced less sweat on a mere deodorant than I did using an antiperspirant.  Weird, eh?

So, I have been aluminum-free in the armpits now for over a week.  My overall aluminum levels must be down.  But have a noticed a difference when it comes to Crohn’s?  No.

Not in the least.

However, reducing the amount of aluminum in my body is not a bad thing, regardless of the Crohn's.  And as long as my sweat glands cooperate, I will continue to avoid the aluminum-containing antiperspirants.

And who knows?  Maybe in weeks or months I may notice a difference. 


(1) Aaron Lerner, “Aluminum is a potential environmental factor for Crohn's diseaseinduction: extended hypothesisAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences (2007 Jun;1107:329-45)

(2) R Balfour Sartor, “Mechanisms of Disease: pathogenesis of Crohn’s disease andulcerative colitis” Nature Clinical Practice Gastroenterology & Hepatology (July 2006 Vol 3 No 7)