It seems as though everywhere we go there are detox programs, products and diets. Is detoxification really necessary? After all, aren't our bodies designed to detoxify naturally? And if so, what is the most effective way to detoxify?
What is a toxin? - A toxin is a substance that has the potential to interfere with cellular function, affecting both short-term and long-term health. Toxins are ubiquitous in our environment and we are constantly exposed. They are ingested, inhaled and dermally absorbed (absorbed through our skin). We also create toxins internally due to normal metabolic processes.
Our bodies are designed to detoxify environmental and dietary toxins via important elimination channels including our digestive system, liver, kidneys, skin and lungs.
In the modern world our exposure to many different toxins can overwhelm our organs of detoxification, leading to many different health issues. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that many of the chemicals present in our environment potentially play a role in conditions such as diabetes and obesity, male and female fertility issues, hormone sensitive cancers in women and prostate cancer in men, thyroid dysfunction and neuro-developmental disorders.
Our ability to deal with these toxins depends on;
Toxic Burden - your level of exposure to environmental and lifestyle generated toxins. for example, work-related toxins like chemicals, heavy metals, cleaning products, pesticides, pollution etc. Or lifestyle toxins such as cigarettes, alcohol, recreational drugs, prescription drugs and toxins found in make-up. Within food there are toxins too, such as preservatives and food additives, and also hidden food allergies can create a more toxic environment within the body too. Abnormal bacteria in the bowel can contribute to higher levels of toxins in the body, and instead of excreting toxins from the bowel we can re-circulate them back into the bloodstream.
Toxic Resistance - this is your ability to process and eliminate toxins effectively from your body. Some people have a reduced capacity to clear toxins from their body due to genetic variations, stress, illness, poor gut health or just a complete overwhelm of toxins in their environment. It is worth remembering that the man-made toxins we have in our environment today are not at all like the naturally occurring toxins our bodies were originally designed to process, and industry continues to pump out more and more toxins, which re-circulate within our environment due to our atmosphere. This is not exactly a cheery thought, but certainly explains why we have so much chronic illness today.
WHAT PROFESSIONS ARE THE WORST FOR TOXIN EXPOSURE?
So, is detoxification necessary for everybody? Given the level of toxins in our environment now, I would say yes. Studies have shown that the cord blood of babies born today, on examination contain over 200 chemicals. So, it seems we are not even safe whilst in utero! Based on that research I certainly advise parents to detoxify for at least 3 months before trying to conceive. The less toxins Mum and Dad have, the healthier baby will ultimately be, potentially lessening the risk of allergies, behavioural and neuro-developmental disorders and even the dreaded childhood cancers.
There are certain occupations where it is advisable to regularly undergo a detoxification program, such as;
- Beauty therapists
- Carpet layers
- Petrol station attendants
- Printers/anyone who works with glues/solvents
- Professional cleaners
- Anyone who works with metals; plumbers, gas-fitters, welders etc
It is also worth under-going a detoxification program if you have recently bought a new car, moved into a new house, if you live by a busy road or live in a city, if you cycle or exercise a lot where there is a lot of traffic, live near an industrial area or a mine, or if your occupation is on the road or in car-parks, for example a parking inspector.
"WHAT DO I TAKE? THERE ARE SO MANY SUPPLEMENTS OUT THERE!"
Which herbs and nutrients are the best to help with detoxification?
Different products from different companies vary greatly in price. That is often due to the quality of the product. Herbs will have an active constituent which is what makes that herb act in a therapeutic way. The higher the active constituent the more expensive the product. In saying that, not all companies will look at the active constituent, meaning that you might be buying a “high dose” herbal product (which might still be expensive), but it may have little active constituent, rendering it fairly weak and inactive! Confused? That is what the less ethical companies are counting on…. I always suggest good quality products and ethical companies. Your Naturopath or Health Food Shop will be able to point you in the right direction if you ask for the best quality supplements. The following herbs and nutrients have been extensively studied for their efficacy in helping the body to detoxify;
- Milk Thistle
- Globe Artichoke
- N-Acetyl Cysteine
- Broccoli sprout
This list is just the tip of the iceberg as there are many nutrients and herbs that assist the liver and kidneys to detoxify. However, we also need to consider the lymphatic system, the skin and the digestive system including the bowel when doing a detox. The list of herbs, nutrients and foods to support all the above is too large to list! However, having a healthy diet, exercise and drinking lots of quality filtered water go a long way to help you do a full body detox.
So which detox program is best? I believe a personalized program is the best. There are many different liver detox products on the market for example, and some are better than others. But what is the point in detoxifying the liver if your gut is compromised and as fast as your liver is processing the toxins the gut is re-absorbing them back into the blood-stream? And what if your problem is a heavy metal problem? Detoxing the liver won't necessarily get the metals out of your body, as they tend to be sequestered into the tissues and organs, requiring chelation for removal.
At Bayshore Naturopathic Clinic we spend the time with you to work out;
- Do you need to detox?
- What substances do we need to detoxify from your body?
- What specific organs of elimination do we need to support in order for you to detoxify safely and effectively?
We also provide you with the tools you need, including dietary and lifestyle guidance to safely complete the program. And importantly, provide you with strategies to try to reduce your exposure to toxins to reduce your toxic burden for the future.
What if you are unable to do our personalized detoxification program? You can certainly reduce your toxic burden by following a healthy diet. Including lots of coloured fruits and vegetables in the diet increases the number of antioxidants, which have a protectant effect on the body when exposed to unavoidable toxins. Taking that one step further and eating organic produce, especially when it comes to the “dirty dozen”, is even better.
The following looks at produce – fruit and vegetables that are high in chemicals, for example pesticides, and food that are relatively low in chemicals. I feel it’s beneficial to eat organic food wherever possible, as it’s also grown in soil that is higher in nutrients, but understandably that is not always possible, and financially can be out of reach. So if you can, focus on trying to go organic wherever possible when buying the foods from the high chemical range.
Foods higher in chemicals (eat organic if possible)
- Nectarines (imported)
- Cherry tomatoes
- Snap peas (imported)
Foods lower in chemicals
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Paw Paw
- Kiwi fruit
- Sweet potato