What is Detoxification & Why Do I Need to Do It?
Sadly, over the last century, human activities have changed the chemistry of our environment with chemical by-products of modern agriculture, industry, power generation, and transportation. Scientists have found evidence of pollution literally everywhere on the planet - from big cities to the South Pole. In the United States, there are more than 10,000 different food and chemical additives in our food supply with the average American eating about 14 pounds of additives each year. In addition to colorings, preservatives, flavorings, emulsifiers, humectants and antimicrobials, we consume on average 120 pounds of sugar and 8 pounds of salt each year!
As if that's not enough, we have more than 10,000,000,000 bacteria in our colons per gram of fecal material and while much of this has healthful effects, some is toxic and should not linger. As a result, our bodies' detoxification processes are asked to deal with a significantly greater toxic load. Because of these changes to our environment, it is no longer safe to assume that our bodies can get rid of toxins adequately.
When our bodies are struggling to eliminate toxins we often suffer from symptoms like:
- fatigue, brain fog
- muscle aches, joint pain
- menstrual disorders, PMS
- sinus congestion, stuffiness
- Heartburn, GERD, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, foul smelling stools
- trouble losing weight
- skin problems including rashes, eczema, psoriasis, acne
- canker sores, bad breath
As if these kinds of symptoms are not bad enough, many diseases develop due to the combination of our unique genetics and the toxic load our bodies are under. Scientists have started to link many diseases and conditions to toxicity including:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Digestives diseases
- Dementia, Alzheimers
- Heart disease
- Menstrual problems
- Autoimmune diseases
What can be done?
Detoxification is an important part of any nutritional wellness program. In our industrialized world, our bodies are faced with responding to numerous chemicals in our environment. Our bodies are constantly undergoing processes by which they transform dangerous substances into compounds that can be excreted through our lungs, skin, kidneys and bowels. Unfortunately, not all toxins get excreted efficiently and so some recirculate back into the bloodstream and are stored in various tissues such as fat. Toxins are stored in part due to the increased toxic load our bodies are under and the lack of nutrients in our regular diets that are needed to fuel the detoxification process. In addition, genetic differences contribute to a wide range in our abilities to detoxify.
Periods where you allow your body to heal by eliminating toxins and providing nutrients that support detoxification processes can help to keep us vital. The primary organ of detoxification is the liver. Detoxification can be maximized by fueling the liver to do the job of cleansing and eliminating toxins, while reducing the number of toxins we take in.
How does it work?
Although self-managed programs like juice fasts can certainly be useful, they only address one side of the equation by providing a simple way to reduce our intake of toxins. Although this is beneficial, detoxification can be more effective by simultaneously addressing the other side of the equation: fueling the liver (and other detoxification organ functions) to eliminate more toxins than under normal circumstances.
Fasting for prolonged periods can slow liver function down, therefore providing a beneficial period of rest, but not as much internal cleansing as possible. The most effective detoxification protocols provide the liver with the nutrients that it needs to amp up Phase I and Phase II detoxification, as well as provide nutrients for the mechanisms that transport toxins in and out of the cells for Phase III detoxification.
How do I know if it worked?
Detoxification programs that are based on the functional medicine model, use science to optimize all natural nutrition based protocols. The functional detoxification model has been scientifically tested and researched in the same way as synthetic pharmaceuticals. As a result, many are classified as "medical foods." This means that a scientifically verifiable effect can be expected. In addition, non-invasive biomarker testing can measure before/after improvement, as well as general health condition at the cellular level.