Detoxifying is one of the more common health trends today, and it’s also something I’ve seen more patients ask me about when they come in to the clinic. There are tons of juicing systems, supplements, and services out there all claiming to “promote detoxification”, but what does this mean exactly? For some of us, “detox” means losing weight, sweating, or recovering from indulgent food and drink. For others, it’s just something they feel they need do because, well, it just sounds healthy! Now, none of these are totally wrong, per say, however the concept of detoxification is actually quite complex. So, this entire month we are going to talk about it.
Let’s start simple. A Toxin is any substance that can create harmful effects in the body (commonly microorganisms), which can hinder biochemical and organ functions. They can come from almost anywhere: the air we breathe, anything our skin is exposed to, the food/drink we consume, and even byproducts created by our own bodily processes. Some examples of toxic sources include:
- Industrial waste
- Household cleaners and pesticides
- Plastics and heavy metals
- Certain hair and skin products
- Pharmaceutical and recreational drugs
- Food additives and preservatives
- Metabolic and cellular waste
Toxicity has become a serious problem and unfortunately our society has managed to drastically change the biochemistry of our environment through toxic overload. In an average year almost 6 billion pounds of chemicals are released into the environment polluting our air, water and soil etc., and we are de-nourishing our food with artificial coloring, flavors, and preservatives. Unfortunately, this means that there is almost no escape from being exposed to toxins; in fact U.S. EPA studies of chemicals stored in the fat of humans show that 100% of people turned up positive for dioxins & PCBs (two very dangerous toxins) while another study on breath analysis showed carcinogenic toxins in almost 90% of participants. As a result, our bodies have become harbors for harmful toxins, and because most of them are fat soluble, they accumulate in the body for years and can cause, facilitate, and exacerbate an array of disease states such as:
- Chronic pain or weakness, including fibromyalgia, headaches and migraines
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Insomnia
- Anxiety and mood instability
- Poor concentration and memory
- Weak immunity
- Depleted response to stress
- Inability to lose weight*
- Indigestion & Irritable Bowel
- Infertility or abnormal pregnancies
- Numerous cancers and neuro-degenerative diseases
- Developmental and Learning Disorders
- Dermatitis, Acne, & Rashes
*Weight Loss & Toxicity: Difficulty losing weight is a multidimensional issue, but excessive toxin buildup is often a contributing factor. Weight gain is primarily a result of lifestyle habits (diet and exercise), genetic tendencies, and our body’s ability to detoxify. As I mentioned above, toxins can disrupt the body’s metabolic processes, which can effectively disrupt your ability to burn fat, decipher hunger, and maintain a healthy body composition. This is because the body stores toxins in fat cells, like trash bags, to keep the toxins from wreaking havoc. So when we’re exercising and trying to burn fat, the body is attempting to prevent itself from releasing the toxins into your blood stream.
How We Detoxify: The good news, is that we have the natural ability to detoxify reduce many of the symptoms listed above. The detoxification systems are the body’s cleanup crew, transforming harmful chemicals (often fat soluble) into less harmful compounds (water soluble) that the body can eliminate. All of our cells have some detoxifying abilities, but the most active detoxification organ is the LIVER, and given proper support, it does an amazing job of detoxifying the body, and it does so in 2 Phases.
- Phase 1 Biotransformation: specialized enzymes alter the compositions of toxins to create a reactive compound, in order to prepare it for further breakdown. Ironically, this compound is usually more toxic than the original compound and will produce free radicals.
- Phase 2 Conjucation: A series of chemical reactions work to make the reactive compound water-soluble. Once this is accomplished the product can be easily flushed out of the body via sweat, urine, and the bowels.
HELPING OUR BODIES DETOXIFY: Even though our bodies have natural detoxifying abilities, with the contemporary diet & the nature of our industrialized society, our bodies are OVERLOADED with toxic exposure. With so many new chemicals introduced each year, our bodies are having trouble recognizing & properly detoxifying the many toxins they are exposed to, not to mention the heavy indulgence in junk foods, alcohol, caffeine etc.
The body might be able to handle all of this if we ate nothing but healthy food, drank pure water, exercised regularly, and remained emotionally stable & adjusted
…but for most of us this is not the reality.
And this is where we come in! Over the next 3 weeks we’ll talk to you about all the ways you can help your body detoxify through services like acupuncture and massage, as well as lifestyle changes you can make through exercise (yoga!), nutrition, supplementation, and other habits.
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- Liska, D. & Rountree, R. (2002). The role of detoxification in the prevention of chronic degenerative disease. Applied Nutritional Science Reports.
- Liska, D. (1998). The detoxification enzyme systems. Alternative Med Review 3(3), 187-198
- Minich, D. & Bland, J. (2007). Acid-alkaline balance: role in chronic disease & detoxification. Alternative Therapies 13(4) 62-65.
- Muir, T. & Zegarac, M. (2001) Societal costs of exposure to toxic substances. Environmental Health Perspect 109(6), 885-903
- Rogers, Sherry. (2002). Detoxify Or Die. Prestige Publishers