When you hear the word “detox,” what goes through your mind? There is SO much information out there that is confusing, weird and sometimes, unsafe. When I talk about detoxification I’m NOT talking about fasting or juice cleansing or cayenne pepper concoctions. What I AM talking about is supporting pathways and processes that our bodies are performing at all times to eliminate toxins we are exposed to regularly.
Because of the burden of toxins we face, there is a higher than ever need for our detox pathways and organs to be functioning optimally. Pair this with the fact that our food supply, at best, is lacking the full spectrum of nutrients that we need, and, at worst, contains toxins in itself--it becomes clear that our detox pathways need our support!
“When it comes to being healthy, implementing detoxification techniques should be right up there with diet and exercise. “ Jill Carnahon, MD
Let’s dive into the WHY, WHAT and HOW of detoxification!
Why bother with intentional detoxification? Our bodies are designed to detoxify the substances we encounter, weren’t they? But could they possibly have adapted to ALL the toxins that we are currently exposed to? In truth, changes in our environment are happening faster than our biology can keep up.
As a citizen of an industrialized country, you carry the burden of hundreds of synthetic chemicals in your body. The chemicals we are exposed to have rapidly changed in the past 200 years. These chemicals are found in food, textiles, plastics, personal care products, cookware, drinking water, herbicides, pesticides, carpet and furniture. In the U.S. there are over 80,000 chemicals in use with little or no testing!
Over time we bioaccumulate these toxins. Since most of these chemicals are fat-soluble, that’s where they live in our bodies...in our fat cells. Not only do they accumulate in fat cells, but the presence of toxins may lead to obesity. In a study on mice, two groups were fed high-fat diets and one group was additionally exposed to flame retardant chemicals. The group exposed to toxins gained 30% more weight, thus the label of these chemicals as “obesogens,” affecting blood sugar and contributing to metabolic disorders.
Let’s take a quick dive into how detoxification occurs. The 4 main systems for detox are the Liver, Kidneys, Skin and Digestive System. Let’s focus on the liver as that is the powerhouse of detoxification!
The liver’s job is to transform and clear toxins. There are two major pathways called Phase I and Phase II.
Phase I takes toxins (often fat soluble) and turns them into water-soluble chemicals that are easier to excrete. This process creates a lot of damaging free radicals (oxidative stress). The liver protects itself with its own antioxidant system.
Phase II involves taking these intermediate substances and binding them to other molecules to excrete. The importance here is that these processes have specific nutrient requirements and the liver stores vitamins and minerals for just this reason. But nutrient depletion over time can hinder this function and prevent the liver from completing the process, leaving intermediaries that are often more harmful than the toxin itself.
Common myth: It is often said we have “sludge” in the liver from built up toxins, that’s just not true. The liver acts more like a filter than a sponge. Think of detox and changing your filter!
Nutrients needed for Phase I & II: B vitamins, folate, lycopene, polyphenols, glutathione, vitamin C, magnesium, essential amino acids.
So how do we support our bodies amazing detox pathways?
Here are a few tips:
Regularly eat leafy greens, broccoli sprouts, cruciferous vegetables, raw fresh vegetable juice, beets, tomato sauce/paste, garlic, onion, sweet potato, high quality whey protein, apples, turmeric, ginger.
Work on gut health--an entire topic in itself!
Dry brushing to stimulate the lymphatic system.
Increase water intake.
Choose organic if possible, especially “Dirty Dozen.”
Find a more comprehensive list here.
Additionally, we recently added infrared sauna to the detoxification tool box at Vitality Chiropractic. We chose Sunlighten, the brand of sauna that partners with fire stations across the country to help firefighters detoxify after the significant exposures they receive.
In addition, periodic intentional detoxification is beneficial. We offer detoxification kits with high-quality professional-grade nutraceuticals and specific short-term diet changes to reduce intake of toxins, reduce inflammation and allow the liver to do its job with efficiency. I recommend spring and fall supported detox protocols. You will be amazed at how good you can feel!
Stacy LeQuire, DC