What does going on a ‘detox’ or ‘cleanse’ mean to you? Fasting? Following a boxed detox kit? Going on a lemon juice cleanse?
Messaging from the growing detox industry implies that without such measures, detoxification won’t occur. The truth? Our bodies detox 365 days a year, sweeping our cells clean of toxins and removing them from our bodies.
But that doesn’t mean we should ignore these detoxification pathways. Let’s look at why detoxification is so important to overall health, and what you can do to support your body’s natural detox efforts.
Why We Need to Detox
Toxins are now omnipresent in our environment. An Environmental Working Group study found an average of 200 toxins in newborns. If our babies are starting life so heavily laden already, Imagine the toxic burden the average adult carries!
Where Do These Toxins Come From?
These days, sources of environmental toxins that can negatively affect our body go beyond air and water pollution to include:
Non-organic foods (pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, hormones and additives)
Personal care products
Home cleaning products
Home building materials and furnishings
Our normal metabolic processes also produce toxins. These are the natural byproducts of life that when healthy, are quickly and efficiently removed from the body through natural detoxification channels such as the bowels, urinary system, lungs and skin. But there are more toxins in our environment today than our system was designed to handle.
What happens when toxins accumulate in our cells and organs?
Toxic buildup can have serious effects on overall health. An overload of bodily toxins has been linked to several types of cancer, cognitive dysfunction, fatigue, neurodegenerative diseases and a variety of chronic diseases.
Imagine if you didn’t take out the garbage for a month. Mold and other dangerous microorganisms would develop, putting your entire household at risk of disease. It’s the same within our bodies – not taking out the cellular trash regularly means those toxins can be reabsorbed and cause damage. Let’s look at a few health impacts of high toxic load.
If we can’t get rid of toxins fast enough, our body locks them away in fat cells. Like jail cells, these ‘toxin prisons’ prevent them from escaping into the rest of the body and causing damage. The more toxins you have, the more fat is needed to imprison them. This is why undergoing a weight loss program without the right support can sometimes be dangerous: fat loss means stored toxins get released into your bloodstream, and need to be removed quickly before they are reabsorbed.
Toxins can also be a causative factor in insulin dysfunction, contributing to obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic issues.
Many neurodegenerative illnesses such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s have been linked to a high toxin load. Prenatal exposure to bodily toxins is thought to contribute to ADHD in children, with heavy metals such as mercury, lead and cadmium being considered the worst offenders. Toxins are likely to enter the abundant fat in neurological cells. Unlike some other fat stores in the body, this is where they can cause real damage to neurotransmitter function and communication.
Reproductive Issues and Cancer
Endocrine disrupting chemicals which include solvents, BPA and phthalates from plastics, can cause serious hormone dysfunction, unbalancing key hormones like estrogen and testosterone. This contributes to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, breast and prostate cancer. It can even decrease fertility in both men and women. This effect is so strong, that prenatal exposure can reduce adult fertility.
How Does Detoxification Work?
Detoxification is a real team effort, featuring the hard-working liver and kidneys. Working closely with the colon, urinary tract and skin, they release enzymes that break down toxins, then filter and excrete them from the body. Some toxins are eliminated as stool, while some are sent to the liver for conversion to safer, water-soluble forms. The liver sends them into the bloodstream, where the kidney escorts them out of the body as urine. Toxins can also be excreted through sweat.
Detox Pathway Dysfunction
Like any team process, success depends on everyone doing their part. If liver function is weakened, toxins may not be properly neutralized. If the kidneys are not at their best, they may not be able to remove toxins through urine. And if colon function is compromised, toxins may remain for too long in the body before removal. In this delicate balance, any detoxification pathway dysfunction can result in toxins sticking around long enough to damage organs, cells and DNA.
Genetics Impact Detoxification
Genetics play a strong role in how well our bodies detoxify. Detoxification involves three main stages, and genes that impact each stage have been identified. Depending on your genetic profile, you could be great at neutralizing toxins, but less efficient at excreting them from the body. Or vice versa.
7 Ways You Can Support Your Body’s Detoxification
When we give our body the tools and resources it needs to do the job. Here’s how!
1 - Reduce Your Exposure to Toxins
The fewer toxins you absorb into your body, the easier detoxification will be. Try these strategies to stay toxin-free:
Eat Organic As Often As Possible
If you can’t afford to go 100% organic, prioritize meats, fish and dairy products as the conventional, non-organic forms may contain pesticides, antibiotics and hormones. Learn which conventional fruits and veggies are highest and lowest in pesticides with the Environmental Working Group’s 2020 Dirty Dozen List and Clean Fifteen List.
Reduce Your Use of Plastics
Eliminating or reducing the use of plastic wraps and containers for food and drink storage is a great way to drastically reduce your exposure to BPA, phthalates and other toxins that plastic products off-gas. Opt for glass or stainless steel containers and beeswax wraps instead.
Use Natural Personal Care Products
The skin is our largest organ. Show it some love! The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database has hazard ratings for over 80,000 personal care products.
Use Natural Cleaning Products
Did you know that conventional home cleaning products are chock-full of toxins? The Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning rates over 2,500 products.
Clean Up Your Air
Did you know that indoor air is two to five times more polluted than outdoor air? More time at home means it's more important than ever to assess your home and furniture for toxins like flame retardants and PVC. The Environmental Working Group’s Healthy Home Guide lists potential home toxin sources and how to find healthier alternatives.
2 - Eat Daily Detox Foods
Your body detoxes daily – why not provide daily detox support through your diet? The following foods can help support your liver, increase antioxidant levels and bind toxins for quick removal:
Berries: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries
Brassicaceae family greens like broccoli, brussel sprouts and kale.
3 - Take Antioxidant Supplements
Glutathione is called the ‘master antioxidant’ with good reason, it neutralizes free radicals and toxins produced within the body. It is also known for its ability to remove environmental toxins from the body, and low Glutathione levels have been linked to many chronic and autoimmune diseases. Our bodies produce glutathione naturally, but additional supplementation in oral, inhalant, topical or IV form can help to improve the function of the body’s detox pathways.
Known as the compound in red wine that’s good for heart health, Resveratrol’s powerful antioxidant action helps to rid the body of free radicals and supports other antioxidant enzymes. It can decrease the volume of toxins our body creates during metabolic processes, and increase the excretion of toxins. This also reduces cancer risk by slowing the reproduction of cancer cells including breast, prostate and colon cancer.
4 - Reboot with a Seasonal Cleanse
For centuries, many cultures have integrated seasonal fasting into their traditions. Here in North America, seasonal cleansing has become a ritual for many interested in maintaining overall health.
It can be as easy as eating clean, light foods that are easily digested for 1-2 weeks a few times a year. Avoid all sugar, alcohol, gluten and dairy. Get lots of sleep, drink lots of filtered water and reduce stress during this period.
5 - Get Into Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting means restricting the times you eat during the day to 8 – 10 hours. This gives your body a break from heavy digestive activities, and frees up energy for the body to focus on detox functions. Different IF schedules work best for different people, so be sure to connect with your healthcare practitioner to determine the schedule that is best for your body.
6 - Enhance Elimination
How can off-the-shelf detox kits turn you into a hot mess of irritability, headaches and brain fog? They may help you get toxins out of your cells, but not help you excrete it. Here’s how to encourage toxins to leave the body quickly.
Drink plenty of fresh water to keep toxins moving towards the exit. Water helps bulk up fibre to sweep your colon clean, and supports kidney function to excrete toxins through the urine.
Increase Your Fibre Intake
Some types of fibre such as freshly ground flax seeds can bind toxins. This means that when the flax seeds leave your body via stool, so do the toxins. Be sure to increase your fibre intake slowly.
Try Skin Brushing
Like the circulatory system, the lymphatic system plays a fundamental role in removing metabolic waste and toxins. But without a pump and valve system, the lymphatic system sometimes needs some help to move lymphatic fluid to the lymph nodes, where immune cells can filter out the toxins.
Using a natural bristle long-handled brush, start at your feet and brush your skin in a sweeping motion up your legs. Continue brushing the skin of your legs, arms and torso, always sweeping towards the heart.
Put on your fave high-energy music and move those toxins out through sweat. Studies show that more heavy metals are excreted through sweat than urine, making sweating one of the best methods of detoxing available to us. Cardio exercise such as jogging or jumping rope work well for building up a sweat, but be sure to stay within your optimal range. If you're under stress this may include doing less heavy cardio. Try an infrared sauna if cardio isn’t for you.
Get Proper Sleep
Many of the body’s regular detoxification functions take place while we’re sleeping, from liver and kidney activities, to brain chemical clean-up processes that can affect your mood. These natural detox processes need to happen while you sleep, so even if you’re genetically set up for efficient detox and are living a clean lifestyle, good quality sleep is key. Chronic poor sleep means chronic poor detoxification.
7 - Seek Out Professional Detox Support
If your detox pathways are particularly sluggish, a gentle DIY seasonal cleanse won’t be enough (such cleanses are better seen as good maintenance habits). Working with a skilled healthcare practitioner means undergoing a complete health history and functional testing that will allow you to target the organs and systems that need the most support. Your practitioner may recommend a targeted detox focusing on your liver, kidney or colon, or a substance-specific detox focussing on heavy metals like lead and mercury. Professional detox support options can include IV infusions, acupuncture, colon cleansing, herbal or homeopathic medicine, or professional grade supplements.
Are you ready to get toxins out of your life safely and effectively? We can help! Let’s meet to do some testing, and see how well your detox pathways are functioning. Together, we can come up with a treatment plan including key supplements and lifestyle recommendations. Let’s meet and discuss how we can help you be your best, toxin-free self.
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