When you think of a detox, what do you think of?
Maybe it’s health gurus promoting juice cleanses, yoga, clean living and abstinence from alcohol. This might make you feel better, but the real meaning of detoxification goes a lot deeper and supporting detox can help to recover from chronic health conditions.
As toxins are, well, toxic, the organs of your body, such as the liver, kidneys and lungs, are always working to clear toxins from the body. This going on 24 hours a day. Detoxification is a natural process. So why then, would we need to do anything to support the process?
This comes down to two reasons:
- Our world has becoming increasingly toxic so that the quantity of toxins often outweighs our ability to clear these toxins from the body
- And our ability to clear toxins from our body can be affected by our genetics, poor diet and lifestyle, and health conditions
What is Detoxification?
Detoxification is far more than the popular media would have us believe. It is an essential process responsible ridding the body of toxic compounds, preventing harm and inflammation.
We can support this process both by reducing our exposure to toxins, and also by supporting the pathways the body uses to clear toxins.
Increasingly Toxic World
Every day, our liver, kidneys, lungs, large intestine, lymphatic system, and skin (sweat glands) are working to eliminate toxins. These toxins come at us from our environment, pollutants, plastics, heavy metals, and toxins in food itself. We take in these toxins through water, foods, products we put on our skin, the utensils we cook and store food in, and the air in the home, work environment, and even in our cars! To top all of that off: toxins are produced by the body itself (e.g. used hormones once they have fulfilled their purpose) and the body also needs to clear these.
There are too many sources of these toxins to list here, but they include air pollutants, plastics, heavy metals, and phthalates (they are in everything from cosmetics to paper coatings). Toxins can come from materials used in new construction, chemicals in carpets that can oﬀ-gas into the air, paint, household cleaners, air fresheners and fragrances, synthetic materials used in dental products, and even personal hygiene products applied to face, skin, and hair. Depending on where you live, these chemicals are typically poorly regulated, if at all.
Food is another of the biggest sources of toxins that your body has to contend with. Some of the most common toxic chemicals are from agricultural production (pesticides, herbicides, and fertilisers) that find their way into our food system. Our body then has to transform these toxins into in-active forms so that they can be eliminated from the body through our urine, stool or sweat.
You may note that we’ve been eating toxins in food and the bacteria in our guts have been producing toxic by-products for millennia so what’s changed?
Well, in the last few decades, the rate of exposure to environmental toxins has dramatically increased – we’re now subjected to more than ever before. The level of toxins we come into contact with has truly been increasing at an alarming rate!
Your Toxic Burden
The number of toxins you come into contact with everyday is called your total body toxic burden. The toxins that make up this burden are cumulative, and so it’s not just a case of monitoring individual toxin exposures. In the world of toxins, 1+1 does not equal 2. Often 1+1 can equal 10, or even 100!
A combination of different toxins can increase damage that they do, overpowering our detoxification systems. Scary, right? Unfortunately, chemicals are rarely safety tested together, and even if they were, an individual’s ability to detoxify varies greatly.
A person’s toxic body burden is a result of three main factors.
- First, there is the toxic exposure over a lifetime. This includes ongoing and current exposures, including those previously discussed.
- Second, each person’s physiology and state of health has a big impact. This includes their genetic predisposition which significantly eﬀects the ability to produce detoxification enzymes to process these toxins. This can vary greatly from person to person, but can always be supported with nutrients from food and supplements. Chronic illness, poor nutrient intake over a lifetime, emotional and psychological stress and trauma, and auto-immunity also have an impact. A history of reactions to medications, supplements, and skin care can also indicate poor detox capacity.
- Lastly, proper nutrition and helpful nutrients support the body’s natural capacity to detoxify and to reduce the levels of toxins in the body.
Medical researchers are now finding associations between the toxic build up of chemicals in the body and health conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, auto-immune diseases, cancer, fatigue, infertility, allergies, behaviour and mood disorders, neurological conditions, as well as diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
How to detox the liver and body of toxins
The goal of a detoxification protocol is to reduce both our ongoing exposure to toxins and support our detoxification processes in order to eliminate some of the toxins stored in the body.
In most cases, this detoxification process needs a helping hand (through nutrients and lifestyle) as the detoxification system simply can not process all the toxins within our increasingly toxic environment.
Preparing for an Active Detox
As most of the detoxification process happens whilst we sleep, ensuring a sound night’s sleep is a priority. We consider other factors such as ongoing psychological stress, dental health, physical activity and at least a 12 hour overnight fast.
Reasons for impaired detoxification include:
- A system that is overloaded with toxins
- Being constipated and thus unable to excrete toxins in the stool
- Being deficient in specific nutrients, eating a nutrient-poor diet or not eating enough protein
- Psychological stress or trauma
- Chronic disease and excessive inﬂammation
- Not getting enough physical activity
- Not enough restorative sleep
Before anyone performs a detox, particularly when using supplements to release toxins from toxin stores, a number of factors need to be considered:
- Optimum vitamin and mineral levels (minerals compete with toxins for absorption from the gut and so having adequate minerals can limit this)
- Diet and supplemental anti-oxidants to deal with the oxidative stress associated with the detoxification process
- A fully functioning gut (don’t attempt a detox when constipated as the body can’t get rid of the toxins)
- A healthy liver that is functioning well
An Active Detox Process
Only once the preparation has been done, can we then focus on providing nutritional support to push the detoxification process and encourage the release of toxins from where they are stored in the body.
At the same time, we can also use natural compounds to bind toxins and pull them out of the gut and the body. Detoxification is about using nutrients as medicine (these nutrients act as co-factors that enable detoxification reactions), and not just about abstaining from alcohol and meat as is commonly believed.
If you are interested in doing an active detox, I apologise that I haven’t gone into great detail here. I do suggest working with a practitioner to support you through this process and provide a personalised protocol. You can get in touch with ourselves if you would like a free chat about your health situation.
The detoxification process can be powerful when done correctly with good preparation. Following a thorough process, most people find their energy and wellbeing is increased and the clarity of their thinking is improved. Many also see an improvement in chronic health conditions and long-standing complaints.