I think the term ‘Detox’ is thrown out too much and often in the wrong context. Here’s something you will find out about me, I’m a huge advocate for regular support of the body’s detoxification systems. Why? Over the course of a lifetime, we will be exposed to thousands of foreign compounds that can enter our bodies through food we eat, air we breathe, water we drink, and directly through our skin. On top of this, many have substituted healthy meals with a poor, nutritionally-void diet. All of this impacts the body’s detoxifying capacity and can contribute to an accumulation of toxins, or toxicity.
Toxins come from various places such as from chemical pollutants, heavy metals, pesticides, drugs, alcohol, cigarette smoking (active or passive), food additives, etc. Your day to day normal metabolism, leaky gut, or an imbalance of unhealthy bacteria can also produce toxins that can produce symptoms. There are a number of symptoms associated with possible exposure to toxins or toxicity, including: headaches, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, chemical sensitivity, etc. If you experience any of these it may be a good idea to see a functional medicine provider to address this.
Your body is very intelligent and is always trying to protect you from harm. It has the ability to remove toxins and/or store them. Analogy time: think of filling a bottle using a funnel. The funnel typically transfers the liquid substance slower than you would like. This makes it important for you to not pour too much too fast otherwise you run the risk of overflowing the funnel. With your body, you want to remove toxins first and foremost, however if your liver cannot keep up, it’s going to overflow and store those toxins, typically as fatty molecules in your fat cells. This is your body protecting itself from letting toxins roam freely inside, thus damaging your body.
As mentioned, your body can remove toxins. The term detoxification (detox for short) refers to our body’s natural ability to transfer and eliminate toxins. Majority of detoxification occurs in the liver. There are 3 important phases a toxin needs to go through in order to be removed from the body including; Phase I and Phase II detox (liver functions) and excretion. I’m going to keep this in as simple of terms as possible when explaining what these phases involve.
Phase I (occurs in the liver): This phase involves transforming toxins into an intermediate substance, which can be more harmful and reactive before going to phase II.
*Therefore it is important to have both Phase I and Phase II working properly since the
reactive intermediates can attack healthy tissues and cause damage
Phase II (occurs in the liver): Reactive intermediates from Phase I now form with water-soluble molecules to make them harmless and ready to be excreted out of the body.
Excretion: The now water-soluble toxins are removed from the body via:
- Urine via the kidneys
- Bile/Feces through the intestines
Other ways of removing toxins
- Sweating through the skin
- Breathe through the lungs
The detoxification process itself is heavily nutrient-dependent. It requires a lot of energy to work properly. Each phase requires very specific key nutrients to fuel the process through vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants, and other food components.
I’m a stickler when I hear people saying they are doing a ‘detox’ because most marketing product claims out there aren’t supporting Phase I and Phase II detox pathways. Once again if Phase II isn’t working optimally and Phase I is being pushed too fast, you can cause more harm than good. There is also a difference between a detoxification (actually supporting your liver to remove toxins) versus a cleanse (rid the body of waste). I think of people sitting on the toilet while on a cleanse, which has its benefits, but it’s not supporting your liver to remove toxins from the body.
What can you do to help support your body’s detoxification systems? I recommend you work with a provider who is well versed in the detoxification pathways to support you through it. Personally, I would be leery and cautious when someone is advertising a product or program geared towards detoxing. If you’re not detoxing properly you can feel worse when mobilizing toxins out of the tissues and you can disrupt other systems and hormones.
Practical lifestyle changes you can implement now to decrease your toxic load:
- Eat clean and healthy foods
- Eat organically grown produce
- Check out EWG’s website to see what foods are more ‘dirty’ than others
- Eliminate food sensitivities
- Avoid processed foods, foods high in additives and preservatives
- Drink filtered/purified water
- Take probiotics
- Reduce sugar intake
- Eat organically grown produce
- Use natural skincare products
- Shampoo, cosmetics, detergent, soaps, deodorant (aluminum free!), etc.
- Use natural household cleaning products
- Keep your air clean
- Use an effective air purification system
- Replace furnace and air conditioning filters regularly
- Stop using air fresheners and/or candles that are dirtying up your air with chemical scents
- Wear protective clothing and/or apparatus when working with toxic materials
- Make sure you’re having regular and daily bowel movements
- Get sweaty!
- Epsom Salt baths
A great place to start is to eliminate exposures to toxins as much as possible to reduce your livers burden. Find a provider to get you on track to support your liver because without optimal detoxification, your body will not efficiently remove harmful toxins.
I will be posting more on this subject in the future!
In good health,