In part one of this detoxification series, I talked about the chemical contamination of our environment, how these ubiquitous toxins affect our health, and ways that you can curb your exposure and avoid as many toxins as possible.
In this, part two, I will explain how we detoxify, signs that our detoxification systems may be sluggish or need support, and some naturopathic approaches to help you detoxify like a champ.
How We Detoxify
Your body is equipped with several detoxification organs and pathways. Your main organs of detoxification are the liver and kidneys, which rely on your main organs of elimination: the skin, lungs, large intestines, and bladder, to rid the body of unwanted toxins.
The liver is the largest gland in the body. It has several important functions. The main job of the liver is detoxification:
- It filters the blood to remove large toxins. The liver filters about 2 quarts of blood every single minute. The liver filters pathogens like bacteria, fungi, viruses and cancer cells, food additives, hormones, medications, and other toxins.
- It neutralizes fat-soluble toxins by excreting bile. Bile is made by the liver and stored in the gallbladder. As food and toxins pass through the small intestines, bile is secreted to help turn that fat and those toxins into liquid. Dietary fiber binds to that liquid and sweeps it out of your body through the bowels. This is why eating lots of fiber is so important.
- It breaks down toxins with enzymes in a two-step process usually referred to as phase I and phase II detoxification.
The kidneys are the other main organs of detoxification. The kidneys, like the liver, also filter and remove those toxins from the blood. The kidneys maintain the acid/base balance and the sodium and potassium concentrations. The toxins from the blood are moved into the bladder and excreted from the body in urine. A large toxic load in the body can slow down this detoxification process and cause damage to the kidneys, leading to the formation of stones, cysts, tumors, and kidney infections.
Signs That You May Need Detoxification Support
Health problems occur when there is a high exposure to toxins and also when the efficiency and functioning of your detoxification pathways are slow. A buildup of toxins in the body can contribute to many common symptoms like fatigue, difficulty concentrating, mood swings, digestive upset, and low energy. Common problems for poor detoxifiers might also look like adverse reactions to high sulfite foods (wine, dried fruit, food from a salad bar), caffeine intolerance (small amounts keeping you awake at night), feeling sick after eating garlic, intolerance to perfumes and strong odors, and asthma reactions after eating in a restaurant.
More severe toxic overload is associated with other diseases such as food allergies, chemical sensitivities, chronic fatigue, altered drug responses, atopic dermatitis, eczema, PMS, autoimmune diseases, and cancer.
How to Support Your Detoxification and Elimination
There are so many ways to help your body detoxify. There are myriads of detox programs, cleanses, and fasts that you can do, and I do think that focusing on avoiding chemicals and supporting detoxification is important. If a program will help guide you and keep you compliant, please ask me to recommend one for you. Here in this article, I encourage a more gentle and a more continual approach. Detoxification is occurring in your body all the time, and the goal is to support that process all the time.
In addition to chemical avoidance and all the things I talked about in Part One of this series, we need to treat the liver and kidneys, which actually detoxify, and the organs of elimination; the skin, lungs, large intestine, and bladder.
These natural routes of elimination may not be active and functioning at all times leading to an unnatural accumulation of toxins. These toxins in the body may be considered to be the cause of many different symptoms and diseases. That is to say that your present health concerns may be the result of toxic accumulations in your tissues. Below are some simple tasks that can be performed during a cleansing diet or at any time to aid these organs in eliminating toxic accumulation. It is important to do all of these tasks during a cleansing diet so that the cleanse brings you closer to health, rather than just freeing up toxic build-up without a way to exit the body.
ACTION: To support the liver
Eat an organic diet with a wide variety of foods to get all the nutrients needed to support enzyme formation (zinc*, selenium*, folate*, B12*, amino acids* from protein, and glutathione), cruciferous vegetables, foods high in b vitamins, egg yolks, foods high in collagen and gelatin. Avoid caffeine, sugar, non-essential and recreational drugs, and alcohol. Give our intestines and immune systems a rest by eliminating foods that cause allergies or sensitivities and foods that cause inflammation. Use herbs to improve the health of the liver such as milk thistle, artichoke, rosemary and dandelion.
ACTION: To support the kidneys
Promoting the circulation of blood to and through the kidneys will help the detoxification and elimination process work better. Beet juice, dark chocolate, blueberries, and ginger all support circulation to the kidneys, and the supplements Curcumin*, Gingko biloba, ginger*, gotu kola, and a multivitamin* can help as well. Ending your showers with a cold water rinse across the lower back can also drive blood flow into the kidneys.
ACTION: To support detoxification through the bladder
Drink your water! Water is needed for both the liver and the kidneys to function properly. Proper hydration will provide volume to the urine to help flush toxins out of the body. You should drink a minimum of 2 liters of water each day (maybe more if you are at high altitude and/or active). Remember that filtered, not bottled, water is best.
ACTION: To support detoxification through the lungs
We breathe toxic gasses out of our lungs. Some of the chemicals that are processed by the liver are circulated through the lungs and come out of our breath. Practicing paced, deep respirations can help support the lungs as an organ of elimination (in addition to helping support our nervous system!). Place your hand on your abdomen and inhale in such a way that your hand rises. At the peak of your inhale, try to inhale three more times consecutively. Now, forcefully exhale. At the peak of the exhale, try to blow out the remaining air in your lungs with three short exhales. Repeat this for five cycles.
ACTION: To support detoxification through the skin
The skin is actually the largest organ in our bodies. It is an incredible barrier and keeps us protected from all sorts of pathogens. Our skin is also incredibly porous so we can absorb many things, both good and bad, through our skin. One of the most important ways to aid in elimination of heavy metals and other toxins is by sweating, being that the concentration of most toxins is two to ten times higher in sweat than in blood. While exercise is an adequate way to induce sweating, research strongly supports the use of saunas as the best way to support the eliminations of toxins, probably because you can induce A LOT of sweating through saunas.
ACTION: To support detoxification through the intestines
Our large intestines are all about the elimination of waste. We cannot do this very well if we have irregular bowel movements. Fiber plays a critical role in binding toxins in the gut and helps to carry them out of the body. Most of us eat a woefully inadequate amount of fiber- increase the amount of high fiber foods like beans, vegetables and fruits, and you can add in a high quality fiber supplement as well.
If your bowel movements, and your digestion in general, is not optimal, I encourage you to make an appointment with me. Optimizing your digestion is essential for detoxification, but also for your whole body health and well-being.
We live in a time of industry and agriculture and because of this we are certainly overwhelmed by the volume of chemicals that our bodies have to constantly deal with. It is imperative that we pay attention and do what we can to avoid as much exposure as possible, AND that we support our bodies to be able to detoxify well and thoroughly.
There is quite a lot for us to do, but I encourage you to treat these action items as a form of self-care and love for yourself. You are worth the effort!
Call me today to if you have any questions about safely detoxifying or to schedule your appointment today!
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