The words “Detox” and “Cleanse have been irresponsibly thrown around by marketing gurus than qualified health professionals. These days it seems that everyone has a new detox plan or program that claims to remove toxins from the body. Certainly, there are people out there that know what they’re doing and saying when it comes to “Detoxing” and this subject is near and dear to my heart because I’ve spent nearly my entire career studying, practicing and treating toxicity and detoxification.
The more serious forms of toxicity include Heavy Metals, Molds & Biotoxins and Intestinal Parasites and viruses. Additionally, true detoxification or cleansing goes above and beyond what we simply put into our mouth. Technically speaking, a toxin can be defined as any foreign substance causing disease.
According to toxicologists themselves, the word “toxin” should be used if the foreign material in question came from a biological source. This means if it is only a poisonous substance produced by living cells or organisms such as snake venom or poison from a berry.
“Toxicant,” on the other hand, should only be used if the foreign material came from man-made sources, thus it is not natural. This means the poisonous substance is man-made and is not produced biologically. Today, the vast majority of health conditions experienced by humans is due to “toxicants” because of the large volume of man-made chemicals that now exist in our environment.
There are various indoor and outdoor environmental pollutants, pesticides and herbicides, and endocrine disrupting chemicals to contend with on top of heavy metals, which themselves can be found in numerous ways (1, 2, 3). A true detoxification program does not simply consist of a few nutritional supplements or shakes. True detoxification comes down to reducing exposure and setting up the body to properly eliminate toxicants.
Since the 1980s, research on the origin of diseases has focused on the genetic component. If you were to search Pubmed for “causes of diseases” you will find 764,469 publications relating it to “genetics” whereas only 74,055 for “exposures”. Research on origin of diseases had such a strong focus on the genetic part that we forgot that disease cases would be prevented if particular exposures were eliminated.
Nearly half of global mortality can be attributed to known exposures!
Nearly half of global mortality can be attributed to known exposures such as airborne particles, indoor pollutants, industrialized chemicals, artificial ingredients and foods, alcohol, active and passive tobacco smoking and even cell phone radiation. Breakthroughs in science are now asking us to quantify the exposure and understand its effects on health and this total of exposure is known as The Exposome.
The Exposome is defined as every exposure to which an individual is subjected from conception to death. The Exposome has conceptually been described to comprise three overlapping domains:
- a general external environment including factors such as the urban environment, climate factors, social capital, stress;
- a specific external environment including specific contaminants, diet, physical activity, tobacco, and
- an internal environment including internal biological factors such as metabolism, gut microflora, inflammation, and oxidative stress.
Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing both toxins and toxicants and how they impact the body and contribute to your overall exposure. For purposes of simplicity, from here on I will simply call them “toxins”. The distinction however, is important because we really are bombarded with generalized toxicants on a daily – even hourly basis. In fact, toxicants are now everywhere, regardless of your best attempts at avoiding them.
Yes. Even if you consume 100% organic food, purchase “organic” cosmetic and household consumer products or live in an igloo far from western civilization- you’re constantly being exposed to toxicants (4). Fortunately, our bodies come equipped with a fully automatic detoxification system that helps to prevent much of the harm that these compounds can cause. The problem is when we are overloaded day after day and these systems begin to malfunction. Before we can talk about how your body became toxic, we need to have a basic understanding of the body’s detoxification system.
The Body’s Built-In Detoxification System
The Skin – Your First Line of Defense
The skin is truly your largest organ of protection and defense. It is a sensory organ that helps your nervous system understand its environment. One of its primary functions includes thermal regulation which also controls secretion and excretion. This is why the skin plays an important role in the elimination of toxins and can assist other detox organs in their work.
Because the skin is so powerful at sensing external stimuli, not only does it physically stop harmful compounds from entering, but it also initiates a series of hormonal and chemical responses due to the intrusion. When compounds do manage to bypass the skin’s barrier, you still have other defenses in the soft mucous membranes of the nose, throat and lungs as well as defending cells that exist in your blood.
The Respiratory Tract – Biological Air Filters
Your respiratory tract consists of the lungs and bronchi or airway tubes. These organs help to evacuate toxins in the form of carbonic gas. There is also the production of phlegm that binds these compounds and can be expelled. Healthy membranes of the alveoli do not let solid waste penetrate. However, due to constant irritation by infectious microbes and other irritants, the alveoli may become porous and act as an emergency exit for toxins that the liver, kidneys and the intestinal tract did not succeed in eliminating.
These substances are transported by the blood stream towards the lungs and bronchi, they squeeze through the alveoli and we cough them up as phlegm. This phlegm not only consists of microbes and the products of their activity, but also of waste resulting from insufficient digestion.
The Kidneys – Biological Blood & Water Filters
The kidneys purify your blood from toxic substances including alcohol, medications, artificial coloring, and many other man-made harmful substances. The primary form of excretion is via the urinary tract. In order to optimally perform this purification of the blood, the membranes of the renal filter should not be:
- damaged by irritating substances
- clogged by too high a concentration of waste products in the blood, especially those chemical and synthetic substances that are not part of the biological cycle and cannot be properly filtered.
For a sufficient filtration of the blood through the kidneys, the blood pressure should not be too low nor too high, nor should the volume of the blood which passes through the kidneys in a given time, be too low. Therefore, hydration is important to thin the blood and lymph.
The Intestinal Tract – What Goes In, Should Come Out (But Not Always)
The intestinal tract is really just one long tube that connects from the mouth to the colon and anus. This organ not only has the task of digestion, but also elimination of toxins. The digestion of food begins in the mouth and continues in the stomach, and in the intestines. The complex molecules of our food are transformed into simple molecules that our cells can absorb and then utilize for repair, growth and continued sustenance.
As soon as the different phases of digestion are completed, the nutrients, such as the amino acids, sugars, fats, minerals, vitamins, etc., penetrate through the intestinal mucous membranes into the venous capillaries that transport them to the liver. After detoxification, the liver redistributes the nutrients into the blood stream. The various chemicals, toxins, drugs, heavy metals and excess sex hormones that were extracted, are dumped by the liver into the bile.
Neutralized by the bile, these compounds pass into the small intestine and continue through the intestinal tract to exit the body in the stool. The bile, which is produced in the liver, plays an important role in the evacuation of toxins from the liver, in the digestion of fat, and in our overall health. Therefore, it is crucial to pay attention to proper bile production, secretion, and supplementation if you want to optimize detoxification.
The final phase of the transformation of toxins through the intestinal tract takes place in the colon. Whatever can still be used by the body, such as fiber, is broken down with the help of the intestinal micro flora, and is transported to the liver for detoxification. The mucous membranes of the intestines are able to absorb nutrients and also toxins. As long as they are healthy, they act as “intelligent” filters, which means that they absorb from the blood stream toxins to be excreted, such as heavy metals, and they let only well digested, well prepared nutrients penetrate into the blood stream. The insufficiently digested, large molecules and toxic residues remain in the intestines to be excreted with the fecal matter.
If the intestinal passage becomes delayed, the food that cannot be eliminated, ferments and putrefies. The healthy beneficial microorganisms of the intestinal microflora may mutate into aggressive microbes which excrete toxins on their own. Constant irritation of the mucous membranes by toxic metabolites, additives, pesticides, antibiotics, medications, etc., can damage the intestinal mucosa and render it porous. This is what leaky gut is.
The door becomes wide open for toxins to enter your body’s internal environment. Eventually, this onslaught of foreign invasion impairs the immune system and serves as a deeper cause for many diseases, especially chronic degenerative diseases and cancer.
The Liver – The Primary Internal Detox Organ
The liver's main job is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body. The liver is also primarily responsible for detoxifying chemicals and metabolizing drugs by changing them into substances that can be safely excreted.
Not only does it inactivate or remove toxins that are ingested, but it extracts from the blood, the residues and waste material resulting from cellular break down, and transforms them so that they can be excreted by the intestines or kidneys either by urine or bowel movements.
The liver also provides a defense mechanism which filters and destroys foreign invaders such as bacteria, fungi, viruses and even cancerous cells.
For all the reasons just mentioned, this is exactly why any solid detox program needs to support the liver including removing any toxic metabolite (alcohol, nicotine, processed food, etc).
The Lymph – A Dedicated Immune System Patrol Highway
The lymphatic system plays a major role in detoxification of the body. Approximately two liters of lymph fluid circulate your lymphatic vessels that cover the body literally from head to toe. These two liters are formed continually from the fluid that surrounds each one of your body cells. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph fluid, which contains infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body.
The lymphatic system, similar to your veins and capillaries are connected to lymph nodes, where lymph fluid is filtered. The tonsils, adenoids, spleen and thymus are all part of the lymphatic system. These lymphatic glands are your body’s “Police Stations” where infectious agents are filtered and lymphocytes (white blood cells, “the police”) are produced. Other sites of lymphocyte production are the spleen, the thymus, etc. If infectious agents intrude into the body, the production of white blood cells increases rapidly and proportionally to the intensity of the aggression. The lymph nodes that are closest to the site react first: they swell, get warm and hurt. If the production of lymphocytes is insufficient, the filtering, the degradation, and the transport of the waste products will be impeded and the bodily environment will be more and more overwhelmed with toxic metabolites and toxins.
The lymph is also what detoxifies the brain. A new study found that when we sleep, special lymph channels in the brain called the “glymphatic system” actually open up and drain dangerous neurotoxins from the brain into the cerebral spinal fluid (5, 6, 7).
The human body possesses self-regulatory mechanisms which are self-healing. A healthy body is capable of eliminating the toxic substances generated by its normal functioning and imposed on it by an unnatural life style.
Your body does have an ability to cleanse (and heal) itself from harmful substances. But that does not mean that toxins are not building up in your body. Hearing the breaking news that the government has approved aerial spraying of a chemical that is banned in Europe all over Florida that is linked to neurological disorders and defects in the womb really opened my eyes. This pesticide – Naled – is “moderately to highly toxic” which degrades into dichlorvos, classified by the EPA as a “probable carcinogen”. Repeated exposures to Naled over time “may result in the same effects as acute exposure” such as respiratory problems, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, slurred speech, twitching, paralysis, convulsions and coma. It’s alarming that this toxic pesticide is routinely being sprayed all over our communities (not just in Florida) to kill mosquitoes – but this is just one example of what our regulatory bodies allow us to be exposed to on a daily basis.
Our kidneys, liver, lungs, digestive system, and skin are all working hard every day to process all of the substances that come into the body and to expel toxins – but they are being pushed to the brink. Even when we eat a good diet and surround ourselves with a healthy environment, the natural system in the body needs help. When our organs are overtaxed and overburdened with toxins, symptoms can creep up such as fatigue, digestion problems, bloating, and muscle aches and while we may appear “healthy”, this is not the true health that I’m talking about! When these symptoms go unchecked and our bodies are not able to detox optimally, we are at risk for greater health problems down the road.
This goes against the mainstream idea that our bodies can process all of the toxins that we are exposed to throughout our lives without any intervention on our part. Many doctors and scientists have been known to say, “your body can handle toxins on its own…” and that “detoxing is a myth…” – but that's BS.
Your body was not designed to filter varying amounts of toxic chemicals – pesticides, heavy metals, parabens, fertilizers, herbicides, and mold – during normal everyday life. Many of these set up shop in the body for months or years and are even showing up in human urine and blood tests.
If anyone tells you that detoxing is a “myth” or if you know someone who needs help or guidance on how to detox properly, please share this post with them!
Now… I’d like to hear from you.
Did this information help you to understand more about Detoxing?
Do you or someone you know need to Detox??
Share your opinion in the comments or email me!