Do you ever wonder about detox? Is it just hype? Do you need to do it? Is it just for people who want to lose weight? In this issue I am going to give you the lo-down on detoxing the – what, when, and how- so get a cup of tea (herbal of course!) and get ready for a good read – don’t worry this is not going to be too technical I’ve kept it as simple as possible.
What is detox?
Firstly, the body has always had a way of removing unwanted material from itself; a way of self cleaning. Otherwise the human race would have died out thousands of years ago. We have to have the ability to remove toxins from our bodies or we would be overtaken by them and they will eventually kill us. This is all that detoxification is in it’s simplest form.
We have several systems in the body that help to accomplish this removal of waste, obviously the bowels and the kidneys which help create faeces and urine. Although actually these could more correctly be seen as part of the elimination system of the body rather than the detoxification system. The main organ that actual does the work of detoxification is the liver.
The liver, a remarkable organ, is situated underneath the ribs on the right hand side of the body. It can take molecules that could harm us and render them harmless and ready to be eliminated. It does this via many different chemical pathways. It is like when you bag up your rubbish and your recycling and put it out for collection by the refuse collectors, except that the liver will actually breakdown or pair things up before putting them in the bin bag. The refuse collectors are like the elimination organs – bowels and kidneys.
What type of molecules will be broken down in the liver? The liver will handle many different molecules in this way, including ones that the body itself has produced such as hormones and blood cells. It will also handle chemicals that have come into the body from outside such as alcohol and nicotine and other poisons from the natural environment that we might have accidentally ingested. Our bodies are familiar with thousands of natural substances because our ancestors would have come across these substances over many generations throughout human evolution.
The problem is that the modern world contains many thousands more toxins than that which our ancestors lived in. We have invented and unleashed into the world over 84,000 new chemicals and continue to do so on a daily basis at a rate of 3 new chemicals per day! Now these chemicals are totally new to our evolutionary biology. Meaning we did not evolve alongside them and so our bodies do not have a mechanism to deal with them. Or at least they struggle to adequately deal with them.
Summary so far
There are 3 main types of toxin –
- naturally occurring from the body e.g hormones such as stress hormones
- naturally occurring from the environment e.g plant toxins
- synthetic from the environment e.g pesticides, plastic breakdown products
Now we all have all 3 of these sources of toxins in us all the time! The body’s detoxification mechanisms are trying to deal with them all, but the onslaught can be too much and overwhelm those mechanisms. This is not good, because this is when the toxins can go into hiding. The body will actively push any substances that it can’t get rid of into other tissues, such as the joints or the connective tissues . So we may experience this as aches and pains, fibromyalgia and arthritis. If however, the toxins get dumped in the brain we may start to have problems with thinking clearly and even start down the road to dementia/Alzheimers.
So it really is very important to make sure your precious detoxification mechanisms are not swamped on a daily basis and that occasionally, say once or twice a year you do a detox process.
What to do on a daily basis –
- Eat organic food – this one thing will mean you are no longer adding the load of pesticides and insecticides that are hidden but real on non-organic food. These pesticides are particularly difficult to break down and can wreak all kinds of havoc in the body, especially with our hormonal system (and as this is the system that governs everything else in the body this is not good news!).
- Filter your water – tap water contains more pesticides and insecticides, chlorine, residue from the birth control pill and much more. So get a water filter and filter your tap water. Ideally a filter that takes out as much as possible, but even a regular Brita filter will be better that nothing.
- Fit an in-car air filter such as the amaircare-xr100-car-air-purifier if you drive a lot, especially if you are stuck in traffic or on a motorway regularly. It is in our cars when we are exposed to huge amounts of air borne pollution from exhaust fumes, and general industrial dust such as break pad particles. A car air filter will go along way to cleaning your in-car air. Also make sure you press the button on your dashboard that recycles the car air and doesn’t draw in new air from outside, again especially if you are stuck in traffic.
- Don’t exercise next to busy roads – you will be doing yourself more harm than good!
- Analyse your workplace, if you are in a toxin ridden environment at work then this could be your major source of chemcials. Certain workplaces are more likely to be a source of problems such as anything in the petrochemical industry, car repair and spraying centres, printing, cleaning especially dry cleaners, dentists and dental assistants. You would do well to check your ventilation, work breaks, whether masks or extractor fans are needed etc.
- Analyse your home environment. Do you use non-environmentally friendly products in your home? If so chances are that they will not be human-friendly either! This is easy to switch to different brands.
- The same with toiletries and cosmetics.Apparently the average woman puts 515 different chemicals on her body every day! They will all be absorbed and will therefore need to be detoxified and eliminated – if it is actually possible (and with some it won’t be). Think about whether you really need that spray tan, nail varnish or false nail manicure (false nails are applied with toxic glue) etc
There really is no point ‘doing a detox’ if you haven’t addressed the amount of toxins going into the system on a daily basis.
When to detox?
Don’t detox in winter or early spring (no not January!) when the weather is cold. Spring and summer are the ideal months to detox as we need less energy to keep warm and the sun will keep our spirits up. We may also have more time off and could even do a mini detox in our summer holiday.
It is not a good idea to launch into doing a detox (e.g. after you have read about one in a newspaper or magazine), unprepared and without sufficient research, energy or time. Detoxíng takes a lot of energy and it is not good to do it when you don’t have the energy or emotional space to do it properly.
How to detox?
Now the answer to this question is going to be different for everyone. And that’s because we are all at a different starting point and have different constitutions. So if you are someone who is basically fit and well, with an excellent normal diet (i.e. 100% organic, high in fruit and veg and natural foods and low or no junk or processed foods) but wants to do an annual spring clean then things are going to be quite straight forward. Having said that you would need to decide how much time and energy you have to do the detox, are you still going to be working and looking after children or have you got the luxury of no dependants and being able to take some time off? Do you have the finances to take some time out and go on a detox retreat?
If like most people you want to do a cleanse at home and carry on light duties at the same time, you will be cleaning up your diet – cutting out all processed foods, all non-organic foods, alcohol, likely also dairy and wheat. You may want to include fresh juices (i.e. that you have made yourself from a juicer not shop bought) or herbal teas, and you may want to take an off the shelf liver detox support supplement. You may even want to add in the odd enema or two!
If however, you have a health condition already, say, an autoimmune condition, or cancer or inflammatory arthritis then you are going to need to detox even more than the ‘healthy’ person, but you are going to need to do it more gradually and carefully and ideally with help from a Naturopath or other professional experienced in guiding detox. Having said that you can start by getting in place any of the above general advice for the daily habits that you are not currently doing and this will start the detox process, simply by putting less toxins in.
If you suspect you may have had quite a lot of exposure to toxins in the past (or currently) then it is important to detox with great care. May be even testing before hand. It is not a good idea to stir up toxins that can’t be dealt with and eliminated.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Detox.
- Don’t do it in order to lose weight! Detox is NOT a quick fix to weight loss, yes you may lose weight doing it but that should be a side effect not a goal. Real detox is purely and simply about helping reduce the load of chemicals on the body and making sure they don’t therefore get deposited else where (where they will likely cause problems at a later date).
- Do have a preamble into a detox where you clean up your diet for a few weeks first, rest more, and address other factors on the above list.
- Don’t detox if you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant or breast feeding.
- Don’t detox if you are really sick unless under the guidance of someone experienced.
- Don’t detox when stressed, tired, emotionally drained or under a lot of work demands.
- Do listen to your own body and avoid foods and environments that it is telling you it doesn’t like.
- Do use herbs and supplements to assist in your detoxification process provided you know what you are doing. Using safe herbs such as milk thistle and dandelion root to aid drainage from the liver for example.
- Drink herbal teas from reputable brands such as Pukka which have detox blends.
Well that’s more than enough to get you started for any specific advice please do get in touch.