What does detoxification mean?
The definition of detoxification is: The metabolic process by which toxins are changed into less toxic or more readily excreted substances.
What is a toxin?
A toxin is basically a poison or something harmful to the body. We produce toxins during normal metabolic processes like protein digestion and transformation, bacterial degradation, inflammatory responses, and hormonal breakdown. Toxins are also VERY prevalent in our environment. There are pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, sprayed onto our food in addition to the preservatives, colorings artificial sweeteners, hormones, medications, and additives added. We drink alcohol, sometimes in excess, take prescription and over the counter medications. We drink and bathe in water treated with chlorine and we breathe air filled with pollution from industry, vehicles, aerosols, fires and small engines. We also use products with chemicals, ranging from cleaning to cosmetics. There are many more.
What happens to a toxin in the body?
Most cells of the body have detoxification capabilities that are continually working. The liver, however, take much of the toxic load. The liver first filters toxins out of the blood and then changes them into a less toxic and excreteable form. This is a two step process called Phase I and Phase II detoxification. Phase I directly neutralizes some toxins, but others are actually changed into a more toxic form. This form then can progress to Phase II where the toxins are made ready for excretion through the kidneys, skin, or intestines.
So if I detoxify all the time then why should I do a detox?
WE have a never ending toxic burden. Our physiology was indeed designed to detoxify continually, but mainly our natural, self made toxins. When lots of other toxins from our environment are also coming in then our detox systems become overloaded. When the body is burdened with toxins we are unable to detoxify and excrete toxins fast enough so they are stored inside the body, usually in fat cells. In addition, if we do not have a good nutrient intake then our detox mechanisms slow because they run on adequate amounts of certain vitamins and minerals and if our intestinal health is compromised by a high sugar, high fat, low fiber diet, inflammation, and food allergies then we will not excrete our toxins very well. Physical activity is also important to maintain a good detoxification system and many of us do not get enough.
What happens if toxins build up in my system and how do I know if they have?
Since toxins are poison or harmful to the body they will damage the body in some way. Some toxins are more poisonous than others and a small about will cause and immediate reaction. Many others do not affect us in small doses immediately, but over time can build and cross-react with other toxins in the system. Some toxins are mutagens or carcinogens which can damage DNA and lead to cancer, others mimic hormones in the body, others can slow metabolism by interfering with vitamin and mineral binding. Some damage collagen in the skin causing signs of aging; others target neurotransmitters and neurons and can lead to mental distress. The list can go on. Some common signs of toxic burden are unrelieved fatigue, weight that won’t budge digestive disturbances, general malaise, headaches and chemical sensitivity. In our day and age we can and should assume we have toxins in us and need to take measures to ensure optimal detoxification.
How can I keep my detoxification system running optimally?
Engaging in physical activity most days of the week stimulates your liver’s phase II detoxification system and promotes burning of fat cells where toxins are stored. Sweating is one route of excretion for toxins. Keeping you diet clean most of the time will keep large amounts of food sprays and additives out of the body. By clean I mean mostly organic produce, especially the “dirty dozen” (visit www.ewg.org), organic meats, whole foods (i.e. veggies, fruits, beans, brown rice, yogurt, etc.), limiting artificial sweeteners, food colorings, added sugars, nitrates, and preservatives. Use natural cleaners, water filers for the tap and shower to remove chlorine, air purifiers in the home. Purchase organic cosmetics. Consume lots of water, legumes, garlic & onions. Take a whole food multivitamin and extra vitamin C. Lastly, do a detox program one to two times a year where you strengthen your Phase I and II liver detoxification systems, Increase nutrient stores and promote proper elimination while keeping a very clean regime for 20-30 days.
Cheri Soraparu, MS, CCN
Certified Clinical Nutritionist & Certified Personal Trainer
Well Balanced Nutrition