Linear Vs Nonlinear Toxicology

What Are Toxins?

A toxin is typically thought of as skull and crossbones, something that can kill you.  A toxin has what is called an LD50, that is the amount that will kill half (50%) of the population of species it is exposed to. Toxins typically have a very specific mechanism of action unique to the toxin. Which is why, just like snake venom has an anti-venom, a toxin has an antitoxin. Antitoxins are antibodies (or proteins) produced by the body that counteract a toxin. However, anything, even something as essential as water, can be toxic at excessive amounts. That is a different mode of toxicity. For that mode of toxicity anything can be a toxin if it overwhelms our body’s ability to process, absorb, balance, metabolize or eliminate it. Most substances that go by the term “toxin” however, have very specific action of detriment. There are over 700 known toxins.

Primary and Secondary Actions

There are two different ways to look at toxins. The typical toxicology as stated above is that a toxin can kill you. This is the primary action of a toxin, the very direct and linear action. There are also secondary actions of toxins. This is both the amount of oxidative (or nitrosatic) stress the toxin creates in the body AND also how the body senses and reacts to the toxin. When the body senses that a toxin becomes a threat to the system it creates a stress adaptation response. The primary action of a toxin is subdued by an antitoxin, but the secondary action of a toxin is subdued by adaptation, stress reactions and antioxidants.

The differences between linear and nonlinear approaches

It also helps to understand that there are generally two major ways to approach scientific problems. One is call a linear approach and the other is a nonlinear approach. As you might be able to infer from the names one is very straight and direct and the other is much more inclusive of multiple variables and outcomes. Much like the primary and secondary actions of toxins.

The nonlinear approach not only looks at multiple variables but also looks for initial conditions (individual differences). In a nonlinear perspective one cause could lead to many outcomes, whereas in a linear perspective we expect one cause to have the same outcome.

In a linear model of toxicity there is primary and single source and action of a toxin. We measure when that substance becomes dangerous via the rule of thumb of “the dose makes the poison”. The higher the dose the greater the impact, below a certain point there would be no impact. That is a linear model. As the dose goes up, the influence goes up. A linear perspective tells us that a certain amount is toxic.

Whereas a nonlinear model of toxicity the amount is more variable depending on the state of the system, timing of the assault, gender of the individual, the nutritional state and current state of epigenetic programming.  Epigenetic programming can come from early life or even before life.  An earlier stress can create a greater response to future stresses.  This is described in research showing that multiple “hits” to a system can create greater reactions to otherwise innocuous stresses.

A nonlinear perspective tells us that toxicity depends on the person and the situation as to what amount is toxic.  In a nonlinear model we look at the action from a stress perspective.

Nonlinear Systems from Wikipedia:

Nonlinear problems are of interest to engineers, physicists and mathematicians and many other scientists because most systems are inherently nonlinear in nature. As nonlinear equations are difficult to solve, nonlinear systems are commonly approximated by linear equations (linearization).

This is an important concept because linear solutions aren’t wrong necessarily, they just aren’t whole answers. They are parts of a larger whole.

Definition of Linear vs Nonlinear Dynamics from the Free Dictionary:

Unlike a linear system, in which a small change in one variable produces a small and easily quantifiable systematic change, a nonlinear system exhibits a sensitive dependence on initial conditions: small or virtually unmeasurable differences in initial conditions can lead to wildly differing outcomes.

While we think of stress as social stress that creates anxiety, the linear perspective. Stress is also a framework. It is new rules to apply so that we can understand how stress creates many of the outcomes in chronic health issues. Instead of looking at particular toxins as culprits, we look instead at the reaction and state of the individual as to why that substance became stressful enough to create reactions and adaptations that shifted the system into an unbalanced state.

Current mainstream medicine takes mostly a linear approach to disorders, while stress, which is the core of most modern disorders, is a nonlinear concept.   So we are very absent in our ability to communicate about this next level of science… but we are getting closer.  Nonlinear models are very important for understanding autism and many other chronic lifelong stress adaptation disorders. A Stress Model for Autism is necessary to move the conversations forward and provide adequate and comprehensive solutions for those on the spectrum.

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