“Much disease, especially degenerative disease, comes from congestion and stagnation in the body (in the organs, tissues, circulation, lymph and cells), and this congestion/stagnation state can be cleared from the body through cleansing and detoxification.”
-Elson M. Haas, MD
There’s a lot of hype about detoxing and detox programs nowadays. 30 days, 21 days, 14 days, even mini 5 day detoxes. I see them advertised everywhere; all over the internet, at the gym, at my local health food store and at my naturopath’s office: “improve your mood,” “lose weight,” “increase your energy,” “boost metabolism,” “support fertility” and “clear your skin.” The headlines often promise some amazing benefits. Who wouldn’t love more energy?! Maybe you’ve considered doing a detox yourself, but you’re skeptical. I’m with you. I research everything to death before I’m ready to dive in. Let me save you the hours of research.
My friend Katie and I have teamed up for a special FOUR-PART blog series all about detoxing. Plus, after you’re all educated on what detoxing is all about and the signs you may need to detox, we’ll be giving away a free guide containing some of our best detox tips to all our readers! Woo-hoo!
Okay, let’s start here…
Do I need to detox? Am I full of toxins? How did I accumulate these toxins?
Many common illnesses in our modern society are the result of overeating, excess use of drugs and medications and chronic low-dose exposures to chemicals and toxins every. single. day. To add to the burden, many adults (and even some children and youth) are addicted to sugar, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol and/or various drugs (prescription, over-the-counter and recreational) which heavily contribute to the body’s toxic load. But even those hard-core health nerds who follow a strict clean eating diet, get regular exercise, drink purified water and are blissfully stress free (yeah right, like those people exist) are unintentionally exposed to various toxins on a daily basis and can benefit from regular detox practices. I’ll explain where toxins can come from and how they can accumulate in the body in just a moment.
There are three main pathways that toxins can use to get into and accumulate in the body.
Toxins can find their way into the body through the pathways listed below. As you read through the points, I want you to think of the different substances you might be using on a daily basis and the pathway they may fit under.
- Absorption – integumentary system (skin)
- Inhalation – respiratory system
- Ingestion – digestive system
There are six main ways that toxins are removed from the body.
Now that we know how toxins get in, let’s talk about how the body naturally sweeps up and eliminates them. There are several mechanisms and organs of detoxification that our bodies use to eliminate harmful substances.
- Liver (the powerhouse of detoxification): The liver neutralizes many toxic substances as they pass into it via the blood circulation. It carries out an intricate two-part process that breaks down and then disarms toxins readying them for elimination through the bile and out through the intestines.
- Intestines: The small and large intestine play an important role in preventing toxic substances and allergens from entering the body in the first place. Technically, the entire interior of the small and large intestinal tract is outside the body. It’s kinda weird to think about, I know, but this is for good reason. This protective barrier defends the fragile interior environment of our bodies from outside invaders such as bacteria and viruses.
- Kidneys: The kidneys assist the liver in filtering the blood of toxins such as heavy metals and other toxins that are the result of normal metabolism. They also ensure the reabsorption of water and essential minerals that the body needs.
- Immunity & Lymphatics: Through physical and chemical means, our lymphatic and immune system are always on guard helping to fight off infection by directly responding to the presence of any pathogen in the body. As the lymphatic system circulates, it sweeps up and transports debris and toxins along the way and moves them towards elimination.
- Skin: Toxins can be excreted from sweat glands in the skin. The skin is also obviously a physical barrier between our internal and external environments.
- Lungs: The entire respiratory system is outfitted with defense mechanisms to protect our internal environment and remove foreign substances from the body. Think about coughing, sneezing, mucous production and secretions as elimination mechanisms. The respiratory system uses various antioxidants to protect the body from the inhalation of free radicals.
“The proper level of elimination of these toxins is essential to health. Clearly, a normal-functioning body is able to handle certain levels of toxins; the concern is with excess intake or production of toxins, or a reduction in the process of elimination”
-Elson M. Haas, MD
A Look at Modern Day Toxin Exposure and Accumulation
I want you to think of the entire human body (and its summation of detoxification organs and defenses) as a cup and the various factors that contribute to its toxic load as the liquid filling that cup. Now, let’s look at a typical modern person’s daily routine and carefully examine it for possible toxin exposure and buildup. Maybe this person is someone you know. Maybe she’s you! Let’s call her Sally.
- First thing in the morning, Sally hops in the shower and ‘cleanses’ with scented soaps and shampoos containing some questionable fragrance ingredients (phthalates)
- Next, she applies make-up with some difficult to pronounce preservative additives (parabens)
- Then she serves up a breakfast smoothie with strawberries from a non-organic farm (pesticides)
- Driving to work, she sits in gridlock traffic breathing exhaust fumes
- She takes her lunch break in a nice park with freshly cut grass treated with pesticides (organophosphorous pesticides)
- Later, for dinner, she has left-overs re-heated in a plastic storage bowl containing ingredients like bisphenol A
- And lastly, before hitting the hay, she tidies up the kitchen using some generic, scented, grease cutting, general purpose cleaning agent (anti-microbial agents)
Note: The studies referenced in the links above are just one study pertaining to the effects of that individual chemical/toxin. There are numerous studies corroborating their diverse and potentially harmful effects on health.
Looking at this list of just seven different modern-day exposures makes it really easy to see how the body accumulates toxins and buildup day after day. Before you know it, Sally’s cup is OVERFLOWING. It’s at this ‘overflow’ point that we typically start to see or feel symptoms in the body. By then, Sally has some real work to do to drain her cup. Yes, I believe that regular detoxification is a very important tool in maintaining health, but another absolutely essential step to take in reducing this toxic burden is actively avoiding these toxins to begin with.
5 Signs You May Be in Need of a Detox
As a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, I often encourage my clients to add the detox tool into their healthcare toolbox. I’m a big believer that periodic detoxification is a powerful tool that can help maintain balance (called homeostasis) in the body by giving it time for rest and recovery, clearing out internal build-up and optimizing the body’s vital functions thereby helping to PREVENT illness. What a novel idea, eh?! Viewing healthcare in terms of prevention instead of treatment. I just love that.
Stay Tuned for Our Next Posts!
In my next post in this detox series, I’ll be letting you in on juicy resources, tips and product swap suggestions to get you started on your detox journey right away. Make sure you check out Katie’s next post as well as she’ll be sharing some DIY detox drinks! And lastly, don’t forget, you’ll also get access to the free guide that Katie and I put together that includes our favourite detox tips.
While you’re eagerly awaiting our next posts, leave us a comment and let us know about your detox experiences. Or, if you have any questions, Katie and I are happy to chat!
Here’s to your nourished health journey!
About the Author
Laure is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist with a diploma from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. She lives in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley where she serves clients locally and offers online programs and consults for clients anywhere in the world. She found health and balance in her own life through holistic based nutrition and loves to share her enthusiastic passion for whole, natural foods and genuine self-care with her clients. She believes the key to optimal health is through preventative healthcare. Laure has also completed a course on environmental toxins for health coaches through Lara Adler, Certified Holistic Health Coach & Environmental Toxins Expert.