Why Detoxification is Important

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Gas fumes, paint, second-hand smoke, plastics, pharmaceutical drugs, pesticides, food additives, hair dyes, household cleansers, lawn chemicals—these are just some of the toxins our bodies are exposed to on a daily basis. In fact, our bodies process 14 pounds a year of food preservatives and additives, pesticides, and herbicides alone. Added to that, stress, fear, and anxiety produce more toxins. Researchers at New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine found an average of 91 toxins in each person, including PCBs (which cause cancer and nervous system problems); dioxins (which disrupt hormones); lead, mercury, and arsenic (which decrease IQ and delay children’s development); and DDT and chlordane (which cause reproductive difficulties and cancer).

Our bodies have the ability to detoxify themselves, through our liver, bowels, kidneys, lymphatic system, and skin, but they can’t always keep up. When that happens, our bodies store these toxins mostly in joints and fat cells. The release of these toxins from fat cells is one of the reasons why dieters often feel jittery and get headaches.

These toxins stored in our bodies form “free radicals.” Free radicals are unbalanced molecules with an extra electron. These molecules try to balance themselves by bombarding other molecules in the body in order to capture another electron. This then causes a chain reaction, with the free radicals attacking other molecules. This chain reaction is known as oxidation, and ultimately results in the breakdown of cells, tissues, and organs within the body.

Common signs that your body is harboring too many toxins include: feeling “out of balance”; skin, intestine, and sinus problems; headaches; poor digestion; constipation; insomnia; depression; adult acne; allergies; weight gain and bloating. In particular, heavy metal toxicity has been implicated as a contributing factor in cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, infertility, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Detoxification is an important first step in the treatment of obesity. Since toxins are stored in fatty tissues, the more obese you are, the more toxic you are. The fatigue from this toxicity makes it difficult to exercise, which is a necessary step in losing weight. It becomes a never-ending battle. Also in this catch-22, is the phenomenon of “obese malnutrition”: we eat too much, but not enough of the foods needed to protect our cells.

Detoxification of your body first starts with your living area. Use filters on  your HVAC and water systems; use organic clothing and bedding (processing most fibers uses a lot of toxic chemicals); use alternative cleansers, such as lemon juice and vinegar; avoid reheating food in plastic containers (the plastic will break down into the food); and avoid the use of aluminum pots and pans.

After that, detoxify your own body. It must be noted that bodily detoxification should not be undertaken if you are pregnant, nursing, elderly, weak, underweight, diabetic, or have ulcers. Detoxification can be as simple as decreasing your intake of sugar, nicotine, alcohol and caffeine, or as in-depth as going on a prescribed diet and supplement program.

An easy way to remove bodily toxins is to check your health food store for a detoxification formula. A good one will cleanse your system, especially the gastrointestinal tract, bring your body into balance, provide adequate energy to counteract the fatigue that comes with detoxification, and have anti-oxidants to fight free radical formation. You should also include a cleansing diet for seven to 21 days. This is a diet composed solely of juices, fruits, vegetables, cooked whole grains, and filtered water.

High-fiber foods are very important, as fiber reduces “leaky gut” syndrome (food molecules crossing the intestinal barrier) and the inflammation associated with it. You need two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibers work to eliminate toxins, and are found in oats, rice, barley, beans, peas, apples, and citrus fruits. Insoluble fiber, found in whole grains, is used as a bulking agent in the intestine, which stimulates the bowels to remove wastes before they can be reabsorbed by the body.

Some people will also fast for 2-5 days. If you do fast, be sure to break the fast slowly with initial meals of vegetables or vegetable soups only. Heavy metals are released through the skin when you sweat, so sitting in a sauna or hot bath, or exercising, will also help your detoxification efforts.

There are also many herbs that can be used in conjunction with detoxification. Dandelion is a diuretic and increases bile flow from the liver, thereby processing toxins faster. Fenugreek stabilizes blood sugar, which will help decrease the jitteriness often felt with detoxification. Garlic has been shown to decrease oxidative stress on cells. Milk thistle is another common liver stimulant. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory and also an anti-oxidant. Yellow dock has been used for a long time to increase bile release by the liver, cleanse the blood of toxins, and is a very gentile laxative to promote bowel movement.

A good detoxification program can produce amazing results. Many people look and feel younger, more vital and healthier. There are fewer aches and pains, and they tend to sleep better. Cleanse your body, and let detoxification bring more harmony and renewal into your life.

Dr. Jessica Heller is a chiropractor and certified strength and conditioning specialist.

This article first appeared in the June 2007 issue of The Phoenix Spirit. Please check any medical advice here with your physician.

Last Updated on September 25, 2023

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