Toxicity & Body Detoxification
Our environment is filled with toxic chemicals, some of them man-made and others which occur in nature. These environmental toxins often make their way into our bodies; we inhale them, ingest them in our food and water, and even absorb them through our skin. Expectant mothers may pass these chemicals on to their developing babies through the placenta.
While many of these chemicals are excreted during normal metabolic processes, persistent exposure to pollutants can cause them to build up in the system. The accumulation in our bodies of these harmful toxins (sometimes known as xenobiotics) is often referred to as "toxic load."
Nearly everyone has some degree of toxicity. Even people in a normal state of health test positive for hundreds of environmental toxins, and the average newborn already has 200 pollutants in its system at the time of its birth. Every part of the world is affected; airborne chemicals attach to dust particles, enabling them to travel and blanket the earth. Other toxic substances are widely distributed throughout our waterways. Those living in remote areas are just as likely to be contaminated as people in industrialized nations.
Some common toxins include:
- Heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium and lead
- Phthalates, which are added to plastics (including those used to wrap food) to enhance pliability
- Arsenic, which is present in many herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, wood preservatives, even tobacco
- Hydrocarbons from fossil fuels
- Dioxins, some of the most dangerous known carcinogens - formed by the burning of chlorine with organic substances present. Dioxins are present in incinerated waste, PVC, pesticides, and bleached wood pulp used in manufacturing paper
- Chlorinated chemicals in drinking water supplies.
Toxins are also present in personal care products, detergents, the dyes used in clothing and other fabrics, and the cleaning products we use to sanitize our homes; prescription and over-the-counter medications contain toxic substances that can build up in the body, as well.
While many pollutants come from outside sources, our own bodies produce toxic substances as well. Candida yeast, which is commonly present in the body, can cause symptoms of toxicity; various harmful toxins are produced in the intestines of people with digestive disorders (such as "leaky gut," which is often associated with autism). These chemicals have many of the same negative effects as environmental toxins.
Symptoms of Toxicity
Medical experts have long been aware that the build-up of toxic load in our bodies is responsible for a large percentage of the illnesses that affect the human race. Harmful chemicals are to blame for a wide range of diseases and disorders, from fatigue and weakness to stroke, heart attack, cancer, and even developmental problems. Pollutants from the environment and from within our bodies can impair the function of all of our biological systems. The symptoms of toxicity have been broken down by body system:
Toxicity of the Neurological System
Neurological system toxicity is a factor in several serious disorders. Heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and aluminum, which accumulate in the brain, have been linked to diseases such as Alzheimers, Autism, Parkinson's Disease, ADD and ADHD, Multiple Sclerosis, ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), and certain behavioral and antisocial disorders. Long-term exposure to pesticides has also been shown to negatively affect cognition.
Toxicity of the Immune System
The immune system is particularly compromised by airborne pollutants. Immune system toxicity is
associated with various infections, chronic respiratory issues (including asthma), certain cancers, lupus, autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory atherosclerosis (coronary artery disease).
Toxicity of the Endocrine System
Toxic contamination of the endocrine (hormone) system may lead to such health issues as diabetes mellitus, impaired function of endocrine glands (for example, hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism), obesity, sexual dysfunction, infertility, and early-onset puberty. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues can alsoresult from endocrine dysfunction.
Intestinal & Liver Toxicity
Toxicity of the intestines can be caused by internal factors, such as yeast infection or digestive disorders.
When the resulting toxins enter the bloodstream via the liver, a large number of unpleasant symptoms may be manifested:
> Diarrhea, constipation;
> Abdominal pain;
> Gas and bloating;
> Blood or mucus in stools;
> Fluid retention and weight gain;
> Joint pain and swelling;
> Food and chemical sensitivities;
> Chronic fatigue, weakness, lethargy.
Because symptoms of toxicity are so pervasive, and because they can often be attributed to other causes, positive testing is necessary to determine whether chemical pollutants are a factor and which ones are to blame.
Testing for Toxicity
There are a variety of tests available which can be used to evaluate your toxic burden. Tests for environmental pollutants are helpful in pinpointing the unhealthy toxins in your system, which can lead to serious health issues and compromise your general well-being.
- Urine and fecal analysis are used to determine the presence of heavy metals in the body by providing direct information about what types of substances the body is excreting.
- Biopsies of blood, fatty tissue, or organ tissue are useful for detecting the presence of heavy metals and other toxins. Fatty tissue, in particular, is a storehouse for toxic chemicals in the body.
- Hair analysis is one of the most accurate methods for detecting exposure to toxic substances like heavy metals, because unlike other tests, hair samples are capable of providing a view of possible long-term toxic exposure.
Body detoxification, or body detox for short, is the process of removing harmful toxins from your system. There are a variety of different methods for achieving the goal of body detoxification, ranging from the use of a cleansing diet to therapy with prescription medications.
Why Detoxify Your Body?
Through detoxification of the body, you reduce your risk of chronic or serious health issues that may arise due to the harmful accumulation of chemicals in your system.
In addition to reducing your toxic burden, the aim of detoxification of the body is to reduce exposure to toxic elements whenever possible, to evaluate your lifestyle and adopt healthier habits, to better manage stress, and to improve the overall quality of your life.
Before you make up your mind about how to detox your system, it is important to learn all of your options and choose the method that best complements your lifestyle and state of health.
How to Detoxify Your Body
In order to prepare for cleansing detoxification, it is important to address some basic aspects of your lifestyle. Appropriate sleep habits, exercise, good nutrition, and stress management are all vital to maintaining good health during your body detox.
When you are ready to start your detox regimen, you may want to take a few days off from work to allow your body time to rest. Make sure you are devoting enough time to sleep, and plan ahead what you are going to eat during your cleansing body routine. Make sure you have plenty of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables and whole grains; avoid any processed foods. Stay away from red meat, cheeses, bread, and junk foods.
Eliminate alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and any recreational drugs, as they will slow your detox process and compromise your chances of success.
Types of Detoxification & Body Cleansing
Body cleansing is a regimen of natural detox products designed to cleanse the colon, kidneys, and liver, and to remove any parasites that have taken hold in your body. These body cleanse products are taken over several days while following dietary and exercise guidelines.
Recently, there has been a great deal of media attention focused on colon cleansing. There is evidence that years of waste buildup form a plaque-like mass on the walls of the colon, retaining toxins in the body and preventing adequate absorption of important nutrients. A number of natural detox products are now available to cleanse the colon of waste accumulation and to remove harmful substances.
Colon hydrotherapy (enema) is another widely recommended approach to ridding the body of harmful
materials. Performed at home, or by a specialist at a clinic, hydrotherapy flushes the colon of waste products that have accumulated over time.
The liver is one of the most important organs; it's job is to filter the blood, removing waste products and unsafe chemical substances from the body. Proper liver function is critical to good health and to maintaining a sense of well-being. Liver cleansing is often performed along with a colon cleanse. Natural liver detox products are a safe and effective way to purify your liver and restore optimal function.
Proponents of body detoxification often recommend a cleansing diet to rid the body of damaging chemicals. A number of existing diets have been formulated to promote detoxification. It is important to keep proper nutrition in mind when contemplating any type of restrictive diet; if your diet is lacking in important nutrients, it can be more harmful than beneficial.
Some of the most widely used cleansing diets are described here:
- Elimination of caffeine, drugs, alcohol, and nicotine, while consuming only natural, unprocessed foods;
- Fasting, including juice fasting and water fasting;
- Raw food diets - consuming only raw fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts;
- Food combining - emphasizes specific food combinations and control of meal timing;
- Calorie restrictive diets;
- The Master Cleanse diet, or lemonade diet, combines fasting, a purifying lemonade drink, and a daily saltwater flush to detoxify the digestive system;
- The Martha's Vineyard Detox Diet, which involves the frequent drinking of liquids, including homemade fruit and vegetable juices and a homemade soup, and eliminating any solid food for a period of time. This diet is intended to purify the body and allow the digestive system to rest.
Used mainly under extraordinary circumstances such as extreme heavy metal poisoning, chelation
(pronounced kuh-LAY-shun) therapy involves the use of prescription medications derived from man-made amino acids, which bind to heavy metals and permit them to be excreted from the body. Because these amino acids also bind readily to calcium, chelation has been used to treat atherosclerosis (calcium plaque in the artieries), but its effectiveness for ordinary detoxification is a subject of dispute. Chelation therapy can be quite expensive, and it is only undertaken with medical supervision.
While you are implementing the cleansing body routine that works best for you, it is recommended that you adhere to the following guidelines for optimal results:
- Exercise. Physical activity is one of the ways your body gets rid of harmful toxins naturally, and
appropriate body movement will accelerate your detoxification efforts.
- Hydration. Drink plenty of water to help flush toxins from your system and retain healthy levels of fluid in your body.
- Massage - through massage therapy, your body is able to eliminate toxins up to 200 times faster.
- Sauna or hot baths. Sweating eliminates unwanted chemicals through the pores of the skin.
- Body purifying foot pads. Worn while you sleep, these pads are meant to improve circulation and help to remove toxins such as mercury, arsenic and nickel.
* Preventative Measures for Avoiding Contamination by Environmental Toxins
-Avoid exposure. While avoiding all toxic substances is hardly practical, by being aware of the ways we are exposed to chemicals, you can avoid unnecessary contact with harmful xenobiotics. Purchasing organic produce, using bio-friendly cleaning products and natural fabrics, and setting up an air filtration system in your home can cut down on toxins in your immediate environment.
- Correct system imbalances that impair the body's ability to eliminate toxins. By maintaining proper nutrition and including supplements for nutrients that are lacking in your diet, you can restore balance to the metabolic processes function to eliminate harmful substances from your body.
- Work towards a healthy lifestyle. By increasing your awareness of your overall health, including eating well, managing stress, and getting plenty of exercise and rest, you will boost your body's natural ability to heal itself and rid itself of damaging materials.