WHAT DOES “DETOX” MEAN EXACTLY?
Our bodies have natural detoxification systems that work to filter and remove toxic substances from our bodies. Our bodies detox every single day through organs such as the liver, kidney, and the lymphatic system. While our bodies are incredible and smart, sometimes they need a little extra help with detoxifying due to toxin overload brought on by our lifestyle and environment.
Today we will dive into our body parts’ roles in detox, toxins in our environment, symptoms that our bodies are not detoxifying efficiently, and food and lifestyle tips that help our bodies detox.
WHAT DETOX IS AND WHAT IT IS NOT
Putting it simply, detox is a natural process that your body is doing all of the time. It involves your liver, kidneys, lymphatic system, lungs, and more! Detoxification is how your body metabolizes medicines, hormones, food, alcohol, fights infection, gets rid of environmental toxins like pollutants, pesticides, chemicals found in beauty and cleaning products, and more!
Social media likes to publicize detox as something that you need to do for your body, rather than a process your body does naturally! So to clear things up detoxification is not a fad, a juice cleanse, a detox tea, a fasting method, a quick way to lose weight, or even a way to override your overindulgent weekend.
BODY PARTS INVOLVED IN DETOX
The body’s detoxification system is complex! There’s a ton of different organs and components that go into the body’s detoxification system, so we are going to focus on a few of them!
The Liver – one of (if not THE most) significant organs when it comes to our body’s detoxification process. The liver helps filter and detoxify toxins in our body and safely remove them. Once these toxins reach the liver, they are filtered through the liver (“detoxified”) and passed back into the blood to be circulated throughout the body or sent to be eliminated through sweat, urine, or bowel movements.
The Kidneys – work to purify the blood from harmful substances by filtering them out of the blood and sending them to be excreted in our urine. If the kidneys are not filtering properly, it becomes problematic for our electrolyte and fluid balance, as well as our hormone levels, and our body’s pH (how acidic or basic we are).
The Lymphatic system – the lymphatic system is part of the circulatory and immune system and comprises a large network of lymphatic vessels, lymphatic organs, and lymphoid tissues. These vessels carry a clear fluid, called lymph, from the tissues into the blood and towards the heart to be circulated and processed. This process helps to keep blood and lymphatic fluid levels in check and helps to flush out toxins from the body. Not to mention, it carries immune cells throughout the body to help defend against infection! When the lymphatic system and its circulation begins to slow, toxins accumulate, and immune cells will not get to where they are needed, which is problematic.
In an effort to boost your lymphatic system, try drinking lots of water, exercising regularly to increase circulation, try dry brushing, jump on a trampoline, take an Epsom salt bath, get adequate sleep!, and if you can use an infrared or regular sauna.
TOXINS IN YOUR ENVIRONMENT
Unfortunately, we live in a time where escaping toxins 100% is nearly impossible. This is largely due to the environmental toxins we are exposed to daily and over long periods of time. Wondering what environmental toxins I am referring to? The big culprits (in my opinion) are plastics, man-made chemicals, pollutants, pesticides, and mold.
Plastics often contain chemicals like BPA, which is associated with endocrine disorders and even some types of cancers. Even BPA-free plastics can be harmful to your health as they contain other disruptive chemicals. I suggest aiming to remove plastics from your life as much as possible, starting with simple things like purchasing a reusable glass or stainless steel water bottle and swapping out plastic Tupperware for glass.
Thousands of different types of man-made chemicals are hidden in your everyday products such as household cleaners, make-up, toiletries, and even in your furniture. Making simple changes like switching to non-toxic cleaning products ( I love branch basics) and toiletries can make a huge impact on your health.
Pollutants are released into the air from things like factories, cars, trucks, and motor vehicles, making them hard to avoid (especially if you live in a big city like me). I recommend getting an air filter and water filter for your home and workplace so that you can minimize the number of pollutants you inhale.
Pesticides are a huge environmental toxin! They are used on conventionally grown produce and grains. Be sure to check out the “dirty dozen” and “clean 15,” which are lists by the environmental working group telling you which foods have the most pesticides and should be bought organic when possible and which fruits and veggies are in the clear!
Lastly and perhaps, most unexpected is mold. Often overlooked because of molds hidden nature, growing in and behind house/apartment walls, mold goes unnoticed. Mold is toxic and harmful to the body. Speaking from personal experience, I struggled with my own health and recently moved out of an apartment that had mold and into a new one. Since then, my health has rebounded significantly.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS YOUR BODY IS NOT DETOXIFYING EFFICIENTLY
When our bodies are not detoxifying efficiently, toxicity may occur when the amount or type of toxins the body is exposed to surpasses its ability to get rid of them. These toxins can come from our environment, diet, lifestyle, and more.
The list of symptoms associated with toxicity is seemingly endless and presents differently in everyone depending on the root cause.
In my practice, I find the most prevalent symptoms of toxicity to be:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Systemic inflammation
- GI distress (constipation, diarrhea, infrequent bowel movement)
- Skin complications (psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, dermatitis)
- Food intolerances
- Weight gain/loss
- Elevated cholesterol levels
- Chronic fatigue
- Brain fog
- Hormone imbalances
- Joint pain
If toxicity is suspected, you can work with a health professional (like me) who will likely order blood work, urine tests, and stool tests.
FOODS/SUPPLEMENTS THAT AID IN YOUR BODIES ABILITY TO DETOX
To aid in your body’s ability to detox and avoid toxins when possible, I recommend lifestyle changes. Cleaning up our diet and purchasing high-quality foods (organic when possible, grass-fed meat, and wild-caught fish) can drastically decrease our exposure to pesticides, heavy metals, and other toxins. Engaging in exercise is super helpful in detoxification, especially forms of cardio because it increases our circulation of blood and lymph and promotes sweating, eliminating toxins. Lastly, I would suggest cutting way back on smoking and alcohol consumption as both promote toxin build-up and reduce the body’s natural ability to detoxify.
No one is perfect, so below are foods, herbs, and supplements that help boost your body’s natural detoxification processes.
These foods include:
- Cruciferous Veggies ( broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts)
- Dark Leafy Greens
- Allium vegetables (garlic, onions, leeks, chives, shallots)
- Cilantro and Parsley
- Green Tea and Dandelion Tea
- Flax Seeds
Supplements to aid in detox:
- N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
- Milk Thistle
OTHER WAYS TO SUPPORT YOUR BODY’S DETOXIFICATION PATHWAYS
Diet aside, your lifestyle choices expose you to toxins and impact your body’s ability to detox efficiently. Your environment matters. Some things are out of your control like the pollution in the air, or poor water quality in your city (unless you decide to move – that’s commitment!), however, you can still take steps to help mitigate these factors. For example, you can buy an air filter for your home, make sure to keep windows closed, leave shoes at the door to avoid tracking in any unwanted pollutants/chemicals, and buy a high-quality water filter. As mentioned earlier, other factors like the beauty products and household cleaning products you use are completely in your control and can make a big difference!
Other controllable lifestyle factors that impact your body’s detoxification include your sleep quality, stress levels, and exercise routine.
Although your body is naturally detoxifying all of the time, when you are sleeping your body is especially busy, specifically your brain! This is getting adequate sleep (at least 7 hours a night with minimal disruptions in sleep) is critical.
If you are chronically stressed, your mind is not the only thing impacted, rather your whole body feels the effects! Stress not only interferes with your sleep but likely encourages poor decision-making relating to your food choices and other lifestyle factors. Not to mention that for many stress can affect people’s bowel movements and breathing which are critical for detox! We cannot stress enough how important it is to incorporate daily practices to destress. You may want to try meditation, journaling, yoga, a walk outside, or even a nightly bath and see what works best for you!
Lastly, but definitely not the least important, is movement! When you move your body you are aiding your body in so many processes that support detox. For example, exercise encourages the movement of lymph (which is critical for detox) around your body, encourages bowel movements, makes you sweat (which can help eliminate phthalates, BPA, and heavy metals), deepens your breath (which helps to expel more toxins into the air), and improves circulation (which just helps get everything moving!).
When we refer to movement, we literally mean anything that will cause your body to increase its heart rate, deepen your breathing, and hopefully make you sweat. While engaging in heart-pounding exercise can be beneficial, we get it is not for everyone, which is why we are encouraging something as simple as going on a twenty-minute walk a few times a week (even better if it’s daily!). We should also mention that jumping up and down on a rebounder or mini-trampoline is great for moving the lymph around and aiding in detox.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Our bodies have a natural ability to detox primarily through sweat, urine, and bowel movements, but sometimes our body’s detox systems get sluggish and need our help. Removing toxins entirely from our life and environment is impossible, but reducing them through lifestyle changes like diet, exercise, and supplements, plus purchasing non-toxic products and helpful devices, can do wonders for our health.
Think you may suffer from toxicity and need my help? Click here to work with me!