What is detoxification?
Detoxification is the removal of toxic substances from both the body as well as the environment. A toxin is simply a substance that poisons or negatively affects the body in some way. Toxins include heavy metals, pesticides, food additives, GMOs and many commercial chemicals like plastic residues. A toxin could also be a substance that your body makes naturally during a metabolic process. For example, when you consume alcohol, the liver converts alcohol into acetaldehyde which is a cancer causing chemical. The liver then converts this toxic chemical into another safer substance before it is eliminated from the body.
Detox is a hotly talked about topic now due to our modern lifestyle of processed foods, sedentary lifestyle, and our food, air, and water drenched in industrial chemicals and other unwanted substances. Detoxification is actually a concept that has been around for millennia, including detoxification protocols practiced by the ancient Chinese cultures and Hippocrates who is noted as the father of Western medicine.
Our natural body’s detox methods
Your body has an innate detoxification system in place. The main detoxification systems are carried out by the liver, kidneys and intestines while the bowels, lungs, and skin play a role in removing toxins from body.
Under normal circumstances, the systems work in harmony to detox the body of unwanted substances. However, disease, distress, and environmental toxins overload your body’s natural mechanisms and result in bioaccumulation of toxins.
Steps toward a cleaner, toxin-free life
Limit alcohol use
Excessive drinking negatively affects liver function by causing inflammation, fat built up, and scarring. Because the liver is the main organ contributing to your body’s detoxification pathways, impaired liver function means that it cannot adequately remove toxins from the body.
Abstaining from alcohol is the best way to keep the liver functioning optimally but if you do drink it is best to limit intake to one drink for women and two drinks for men.
Eat organic whenever possible
When you consume meat that is not organic, you are also consuming pesticides that were sprayed on that animal’s feed, antibiotics and growth hormone given to that animal, as well as genetically modified organisms that were designed not as nature intended. Over time this can lead to a toxin over load that exceeds your body’s natural detox mechanisms.
As concerned customers have spoken up with their voices and their pocket books, supermarkets have listened and offer more organic options than ever before. When shopping for eggs, for example, look for cage-free, grass fed labeling.
Hydrate your body
We are made of water. Our liver, blood, and kidneys are among the organs that contain the most water (83 to 86%) and incidentally enough, all play major roles in ridding our body of toxins. Water is involved in nutrient absorption, digestion, body temperature regulation, joint lubrication, and transporting toxins out of the body through urination and sweating.
Cells break down food to be used as energy an during this process they release waste such as urea and carbon dioxide. These waste products may build up in the blood. Blood, which is over 80% water, circulates and ultimately removes toxins.
Adequate water intake is 125 oz for men and 90 oz for women but may vary depending on diet, activity level, and personal needs.
When you exercise you sweat, and when you sweat release toxins through the skin. One key benefit of exercise is the reduction of body-wide inflammation which weakens body systems and promotes disease. Exercise reduces the risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and certain cancers.
Additionally exercise increases endorphins which are our natural “feel good” chemicals. When we are unhappy and stressed, we are less adept at relieving our body’s load of toxins. Exercise may provide that natural mood boost and while strengthening our cardiovascular system and cleansing our body.
Use an infrared sauna
In addition to exercise, you can use a sauna to support excretion of toxins from your body. When using a sauna, your body increases the amount of white blood cells it creates by up to 60% which boosts the immune system and fights off disease. You may also experience a fever as your body ramps up its defenses.
Slowly and deeply inhale and exhale through the mouth. Your lungs are hard at work releasing toxins while they demand more oxygen due to the high temperature. It is recommend that beginners stay in the sauna for no more than 10 minutes so that they can monitor their body’s reaction to the sauna experience. Taking a cold shower after a sauna further increases circulation in the capillaries, further enhancing the detox.
Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night
Sleeping allows the brain to reorganize and retain new memories. Sleep also allows us to remove toxic waste that has accumulated throughout the day during normal metabolic processes.
A lack of sleep means no time to rest, renew and recharge so toxins remain in body. An important waste product that has gained attention by the medical community is the protein beta amyloid which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
If you have trouble falling asleep, one method you can try is to limit blue light emitted from cell phones and other electronic devices. Supplementing with the sleep hormone melatonin may also be a natural sleep aid.
Eat less processed foods and sugar
The fast food avalanche of the western nation has been dubbed the “Standard American Diet” or the “Sad American Diet.” This lifestyle has been linked to obesity and chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Disease hinders the detoxification process by harming organs that filter, cleanse, and remove toxins. The liver – being the master detox organ – is greatly affected by high amounts of sugar and processed foods and is less able to perform key cleansing functions. Consuming a typical western diet filled with proceed foods and saturated fats may cause fatty liver disease.
Eat foods high in antioxidants
Consume high anti-oxidant foods such as leafy green veggies, nuts, fruits, and green tea.
Antioxidants protect cells against damage caused by free radicals. You can think of free radicals as damaging particles that ping-ping on healthy cells and cause distress. The body naturally produces free radicals during normal processes like extracting nutrients from food and even during breathing. The key is to avoid oxidative stress which is the excessive production of free radicals.
An unhealthy lifestyle such as a poor diet, alcohol and tobacco use, and exposure to environmental irritants such as pollution and industrial chemicals in water increases the amount of free radicals. Free radicals are also implicated in a number of diseases such as asthma, liver disease, heart disease, dementia, and some types of cancer.
Consuming antioxidants such as Vitamin A, C, and E shields against oxidative stress. It’s important to note, however, that it is better to get antioxidants from food and not from supplements. Consuming too much supplements may even have an unwanted, opposite effect of being pro-oxidants.
Focus on gut health
The stomach, intestine, and bowels are key parts in our natural ability to process and remove toxins out of the body. Good bacteria, or probiotics, in the gut is negatively affected by antibiotics and a poor diet. Prebiotics are a type of fiber that support and nourish the good bacteria. Sources of prebiotics include asparagus, tomatoes, garlic, and bananas.
Consuming yogurt fermented with live bacterial strains is another way you can support gut health. The three most widely researched strains are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Streptococcus and research suggests that they may boost immune and digestive health and reduce yeast infections in women.
Consume less salt
Part of an effective detox system is to remove excess water from your system. When you consume too much salt, your body tends to retain extra fluids. This excess fluid buildup can cause discomfort and bloating. Drinking more water can counteract the excess salt buildup. When you have too much salt and not enough water, your body releases an anti-diuretic hormone, which causes you to retain water instead of release it through urination.
When you retain water instead of releasing it, this is not good for detoxification. Instead of releasing the toxic substances in your system, you are holding on to them. By increasing water intake, your body reduces its antidiuretic hormone, and therefore increases urination.
You can also balance high amounts of salt or sodium by consuming more potassium rich foods such as bananas, potatoes, and spinach.
Destress your life
Stress produces hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine. During ancient times of acute stress (e.g. cave man running away from the lion) the cortisol spike was important to redistributing blood flow away from digestion and to the limbs to ensure a speedy escape from imminent danger.
Now in our modern day lifestyles, we are no longer worried about saber tooth tigers chasing after us but rather about the daily troubles of daily life such a fuming boss, mounting bills to pay, and more. Even though our troubles are different, we have retained our caveman or cavewomen biological stress response. And over time, chronic elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol causes wear and tear on our ability to fight infection and detoxify our bodies.
Meditation and deep breathing techniques will not only allow the lungs to expel out toxins through the respiratory system, but also calm down an overactive stress response
Avoid commercial products laden with unknown chemicals
Consider using natural and DIY cleaning products like vinegar and baking soda over commercial products. Also consider using natural health and beauty products such as shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, and makeup. Commercial chemical cleaning products contain substances in which there are no long safety studies done. The U.S government leaves it to the individual companies manufacturing and distributing these chemicals to do the safety testing. There are obvious conflicts of interests here and there are currently over 80,000 chemicals registered for commercial use in the United States.
Filter your air and filter your water
It is surprising to note that indoor air is two to five times more polluted than outdoor. Consider buying a HEPA filter air purifier in your home and office. Such a filter is able to filter out over 99% of airborne bacteria, smoke, dust, and other unwanted particles.
In the same token, our municipal water sources are tainted with not only heavy metals but also unwanted pharmaceuticals that are unable to be filtered using standard equipment. Water filters installed on home faucets and showerheads is another shield against living in a toxin filled modern environment.