Helping your Body ‘Detox’
Detoxing has become a bit of a fad these days and the word ‘detox' means different things to different people. The situation has not been helped by celebrity-endorsed fads and fasts or heavily marketed (and expensive) kits containing multiple concoctions that have strange sounding ingredients, incredible claims and result in you running to the bathroom every couple of minutes. Unfortunately, this hype clouds the benefits of a well-planned and executed detox. Let’s cut through the hype and get to the bare bone facts about detoxing.
To begin, it is true that our bodies detox on their own constantly. If they didn’t, as a species, we would have never gotten this far. It's also true that we are exposed to over 100,000 synthetic chemicals at any time. These chemicals constantly bombard our bodies every way possible: the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the cleaners we use, paint and furniture in our homes and even the gadgets and toys we love. Unfortunately, many of these chemicals (and the new chemicals resulting from the interaction between these chemicals) haven't ever been tested for safety. So our body's detoxification mechanisms are maxed out.
We all know that many man-made chemicals can be extremely hazardous to our health. These chemicals are found everywhere: plastics, pesticides, make-up, personal care products, pots and pans, dry-cleaning fluid, car exhaust, industrial pollution, perfumes, household products, flame retardants in furniture and clothing, paints, stains, preservatives, colours… the list goes on and on forever. Now, if you are in perfect health, eating a nutrient-dense, well-balanced diet and exercising regularly, then your body is probably (for the most part) doing at least a better than average job of clearing out these chemicals. However, if you’re missing exercise, eating so-so, overdoing caffeine, stressing out, missing sleep, having more than the occasional drink, etc. then your body needs to work harder and is more than likely failing at chemical removal.
A fact that most people are unaware of is the concept of 'chemical synergy' which means the more chemicals you are exposed to, the more they build up in your system, beyond what each individual total would equal. Essentially, the potential harm generated by multiple chemicals is greater than the harm from any one chemical. Manufacturers often say that the potential for harm in whatever chemical they’re using – say, fragrance in a cleaning product or colour in food - is minimal. If they tested the chemical, this may be true, but it’s not the only chemical you’re exposed to, and over long periods, small doses of multiple chemicals have a cumulative and detrimental effect. Even worse is the potential to interact. That is where two ‘potentially safe’ chemicals in your body interact with each other and form new chemicals that your body has never experienced and may have no idea how to handle. People who have trouble detoxifying are more prone to degenerative illness, including cancer. This is because toxins cause oxidative stress, enzyme inhibition, and damage to DNA and cell membranes.
You have multiple allies in your detox fight: your liver, kidneys, colon and bowels are a few key examples. Your liver plays a key role in detoxification. It is responsible for filtering, capturing and breaking down many toxins. This process is hard on your liver and man-made chemicals are particularly hard on it. Different foods and herbs can support your liver, so what you eat and what supplements you take can make a massive difference to how effectively your liver functions. Liver-helping ftdeoods (when eaten raw or minimally cooked) include beets, dill, carrots, apples, oranges and cabbage (not an exhaustive list). Add supplements including vitamin B1, vitamin C, and the big helper, certified organic Milk Thistle.
Your kidneys eliminate waste and toxins from your bloodstream. They constantly filter your blood, combining waste and toxins with water for elimination through your bladder in urine. Your kidneys are under tremendous stress, and “modern” diseases hit the kidneys quite hard. Diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking and old age take their toll. The best way to help your kidneys is to be healthy - control your weight, blood pressure and blood sugar. Exercise regularly and drink clean pure water throughout the day while avoiding drinks with sugar, caffeine or chemicals. Supplements that support your kidneys include Aloe Vera, magnesium, parsley and chlorella.
Your colon and bowel work together to eliminate solid waste and toxins from your body. A high percentage of that waste includes bacteria and dead cells which themselves can become toxic due to their content and putrification as they die. Your digestive system and liver dump waste into the colon where it is combined together and eliminated through bowel movements. The Western diet and lifestyle have played havoc on the functioning of everyone’s colon and bowel. Bad food choices, sedentary lifestyle, toxins and stress all contribute to their poor functioning. This is one reason that laxatives are always a large section in your pharmacy and health food store. You can help your colon and bowel by eating healthy, reducing stress, exercising regularly and drinking clean pure water throughout the day while avoiding drinks with sugar, caffeine or chemicals. Ensure you are getting a wide variety of fibre-rich foods and add a certified organic high soluble fibre supplement each day.
Whatever foods or supplements you use, ideally choose certified organic and certified kosher ones (where available). Certified Organic ensures you are minimizing the amount of chemicals you are putting in your body. Kosher ensures that all ingredients, no matter how small, are listed on the product label. Read your labels and ensure you are using clean foods and supplements. There are three supplements that you can take every day to support and help your body detoxify; liquid chlorophyll, soluble fibre and a good quality multivitamin and multimineral. As well, the benefit of daily exercise cannot be overstated.
Joel Thuna, MH, is a master herbalist with over 30 years of experience. Dr. Claude Gallant holds a PhD in Microbiology.