23 Everyday Toxins that Destroy Thinking

Toxic Brain

Smoke and other types of air pollution contain dangerous toxins that can harm the human brain and raise the risk of mental health disorders. According to 2019 research in Environmental Health Perspectives and Plos Biology, areas that have higher levels of environmental pollution are associated with more cases of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Despite the emerging evidence, the effects of environmental toxins on mental health remain virtually ignored in traditional psychiatry.

Amen Clinics, however, which has the world’s largest database of functional brain scans related to behavior, has been aware of the association between environmental toxins, brain health, and psychiatric and cognitive problems for decades.

The team of neuropsychiatrists at Amen Clinics call this phenomenon Toxic Brain.


Toxic Brain occurs when environmental toxins harm the brain and contribute to psychiatric or cognitive issues. Environmental toxins impact nearly every aspect of your body and can damage the brain.

Toxic Brain occurs when environmental toxins harm the brain and contribute to psychiatric or cognitive issues. Click To Tweet

On brain SPECT scans, a “scalloped” appearance and overall decreased cerebral blood flow is a sign of possible toxicity. At Amen Clinics, when this pattern is seen, it prompts our team of neuropsychiatrists and integrative medicine (also called functional medicine) physicians to investigate why. Additional testing and a detailed clinical history help determine the root cause of Toxic Brain.

Caption: SPECT (single-photon emission computed tomography) is a nuclear medicine study that evaluates blood flow and activity in the brain. Basically, it shows 3 things: healthy activity, too little activity, or too much activity. The healthy surface brain SPECT scan on the left shows full, even symmetrical activity. The Toxic Brain scan on the right shows scalloping and decreased overall activity and blood flow.


Exposure to toxins is associated with a variety of physical and psychiatric symptoms. On the physical side, issues can include autoimmune diseases, diabetes, cancer, fatigue, numbness, tingling, tremors, allergies, abdominal pain, diarrhea, smelly stools, bad breath, weight issues, skin rashes, sweats, and more.

Research shows that from a psychiatric standpoint, exposure to toxins can increase the risk of:

If you’re already struggling with mental health disorders, brain fog, or other cognitive issues, exposure to toxins may worsen symptoms.


Wildfire smoke is only one of many environmental toxins that damage the brain and contribute to mental health problems and cognitive issues. Every single day, we are exposed to a host of chemicals, pesticides, fumes, and products that poison the human brain. Common toxins in the air we breathe, the foods we eat, and the products we rub on our skin are absorbed into our bodies via our lungs, digestive system, and pores and can eventually impact the brain. The more exposure you have to these everyday toxins, the more you’re putting your brain at risk and increasing your chances of mental health issues.

Take the following quiz to get a better idea of your brain’s toxic load. The more questions you answer “yes” to, the more toxic your brain is likely to be.

  1. Do you smoke, or are you around secondhand smoke?
  2. Do you smoke marijuana?
  3. Do you use conventional cleaning products and inadvertently breathe the fumes?
  4. Have you been exposed to carbon monoxide?
  5. Do you travel on planes more than six times a year?
  6. Do you pump your own gas or breathe automobile exhaust?
  7. Do you live in an area with moderate to high air pollution or are you being exposed to smoke from wildfires?
  8. Have you lived or worked in a building that had water damage and mold in it?
  9. Do you come in contact with flame-resistant clothing or carpet, or with furnishings sprayed with chemicals to prevent stains?
  10. Do you spray your garden, farm or orchard with pesticides or live near an area with pesticides?
  11. Do you paint indoors without ventilation?
  12. Do you have more than four glasses of alcohol a week?
  13. Do you regularly eat processed or fast foods?
  14. Do you regularly eat conventionally raised produce, meat, dairy, or farm-raised fish?
  15. Do you eat large (i.e., mercury-contaminated) fish, such as swordfish?
  16. Do you eat non-organic fruits and vegetables on a regular basis?
  17. Do you consume foods with artificial colors or sweeteners, such as diet sodas, or use artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame (NutraSweet), sucralose (Splenda), or saccharin (Sweet’N Low)?
  18. Do you use more than 2 health and/or beauty products per day? (Most people never read the labels and don’t realize how many chemicals are included)
  19. Do you live in a house that contains lead pipes or copper plumbing soldered with lead (built prior to 1978)?
  20. Do you wear lipstick or kiss someone with lipstick made with lead (60% of the lipstick sold in the U.S. contains lead)?
  21. Do you have mercury amalgam fillings? How many?
  22. Do you work in a job where you are exposed to environmental toxins, such as firefighting, painting, welding, longshoreman?
  23. Have you had general anesthesia? How many times?


If your brain has been chronically exposed to environmental toxins and you’re experiencing psychiatric or cognitive symptoms, it’s important to investigate further. SPECT imaging can help determine if there is the telltale scalloping pattern and reduced overall activity typically seen in Toxic Brain and can provide valuable insights into other conditions. Even if your brain does look toxic, don’t despair. There is hope.

You can heal your brain. Here are some of the recommended interventions:

1. Limit or eliminate your exposure to toxins.

You can’t completely avoid toxins—especially during times when massive wildfires are spewing unhealthy toxins into the air you breathe—but you can limit your exposure. Here are some of the best ways to detox your brain, your body, and your life.

  • Quit smoking, stop using marijuana and limit alcohol to 2-4 glasses a week.
  • Remove “silver” dental fillings.
  • Reduce your consumption of toxin-contaminated foods.
  • Choose organic foods when possible.
  • Always wash your fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid processed foods and those with chemical ingredients.
  • Choose meat and dairy that is antibiotic and hormone-free.
  • Drink 3-4 quarts of clean water a day.
  • Check your home for mold and eliminate it.
  • Use an air purifier.
  • Do a bathroom cleanse to eliminate unsafe cleaning and personal care products (use the Think Dirty app).

2. Start a brain rehab program.

  • Fall in love with your brain.
  • Avoid things that hurt your brain.
  • Adopt habits that help the brain.
  • Consider neurofeedback.
  • Try hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), which can speed the healing of the brain.
  • Take brain-enhancing supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids.

Toxic Brain and the psychiatric and cognitive health issues associated with it can’t wait. During these uncertain times, your mental well-being is more important than ever, and waiting until life gets back to “normal” is likely to make your symptoms worsen over time.

At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.


  1. I would love to have a SPECT exam if it was FDA approved and if Medicare would pay for it.

    Comment by Joan Buckle — September 30, 2020 @ 3:50 AM

  2. Is there a way to color your hair that is nontoxic?

    Comment by Evelyn Murray — September 30, 2020 @ 5:58 AM

  3. Do you have spanish translator or asistant?

    Comment by Giselle — September 30, 2020 @ 8:08 AM

  4. How can I get HBOT, because I need it?

    Comment by Helen Myers — September 30, 2020 @ 8:18 AM

  5. Why is general anesthesia bad for the brain?

    Comment by Laura — September 30, 2020 @ 8:49 AM

  6. It’s the primary time I’m gaining knowledge of approximately mind detox.however, the vitamins defined are so technical for a layman like me. In easy phrases what must i clearly feed directly to detox my mind…or what must I now no longer feed directly to intox the mind

    Comment by Naturedblend — September 30, 2020 @ 8:50 AM

  7. Are there any non toxic hair colors?

    Comment by Dana Carlson — October 1, 2020 @ 12:17 PM

  8. Why are fire pits and recreational burnings allowed? The people near the California fires are suffering trying to breathe yet idiots around here are joyfully sitting in their fire pit smoke.

    Comment by Cathy Murphy — October 1, 2020 @ 7:57 PM

  9. Tried to contact your clinic for a condition that my 34 year old son is dealing with, but unfortunately your clinic does not accept his coverage and it is also very very costly to have to pay out of pocket.
    However, thank you for the information above! Good to know!

    Comment by Lroufeh — October 3, 2020 @ 6:17 PM

  10. I got my scans last week, and am concerned about the lack of coordination and communication internally. I also just noticed that the doctor I requested is not on my schedule.

    Comment by Ron Huxtable — October 5, 2020 @ 3:10 AM

  11. Do I qualify for a brain scan with Medicare and Tricare For Life.

    Comment by Gail — October 7, 2020 @ 7:19 PM

  12. Hello Gail, Amen Clinics is an out-of-network provider. We’d be happy to go over insurance, reimbursement, and financing options with you. We can contact you directly. Thank you for reaching out.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — October 9, 2020 @ 8:26 AM

  13. as a woman i find it inconceivable that women still dye their hair and worry about lead in lipstick – what is the matter with you all get a life and stop worrying about what you look like and understand your own body and its health

    Comment by penny waters — February 28, 2022 @ 5:31 AM

  14. I am a salon owner. There are organic, less toxic hair dyes. They cover nicely. Look for salons in your area that advertise “organic products and services “.

    Comment by Angela — January 2, 2023 @ 3:26 AM

  15. We all gonna die of something. I live in Cleveland, OH. Most of us are exposed to every one of these things on a daily basis and impossible to avoid. We can't afford to live anywhere else or buy organic or environmentally friendly cleaners, not pump our own gas etc., etc… and expensive brain scans that are not paid for by health insurance other words, we all have toxic brains, maybe, and especially, the very rich, like people who own brain clinics who haven't a clue about how the other 99% live. We can possibly avoid the big ones, i.e smoking, alcohol, and drugs, and I do. And I take my vitamins. I am a healthy 70-year-old with well-controlled bipolar disorder. Maybe I won't die of cancer or heart disease, or suicide. I might, however, be caught in the crossfire of a gunfight, or be run over by a ride share. You all get real, already.

    Comment by E Gray — January 2, 2023 @ 4:34 AM

  16. Hmm it looks like your site ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I'll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I'm thoroughly enjoying your blog. I too am an aspiring blog writer but I'm still new to everything. Do you have any points for first-time blog writers? I'd definitely appreciate it.

    Comment by zoritoler imol — November 14, 2023 @ 5:34 AM

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