Want to experience greater vitality, energy and overall health this year—and beyond? Detoxification, when done correctly, offers all of this and more. In fact, safe, effective detox is one of the most important strategies in integrative health and medicine. And the truth is, we’re already doing it, all the time, everyday. It’s a fundamental basis for our existence. But with the barrage of toxins we face in today’s world, our innate detox functions need help.
We need to make a good system work even better.
Detox has become a major buzzword, with countless programs and products promising a quick solution to the health-robbing chemicals and toxins we’re constantly exposed to as a fact of modern life.
Whether from the food we eat—yes, even “healthy” foods—the air we breathe, or just daily living, dangerous chemicals and toxins continue to accumulate in the body on a daily basis. Heavy metals, pesticides, industrial chemicals, plastic compounds, and radioactive isotopes are just a handful of the environmental toxins we face regularly. Add in the cellular byproducts and free radicals produced by our body’s daily metabolic processes, and it’s easy to see how an overabundance of toxins can build up in the body over time.
Bottom line: In order to achieve our key health and wellness goals, these dangerous compounds need to be removed.
Everyday Toxins and Disease
Toxins are linked to some of our most devastating conditions: Cancer, diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disease, neurodegenerative and endocrine diseases and many more.
One study by researchers at the National Institute on Aging found that air pollution accelerated cognitive decline in seniors.
Fire retardants found in furniture, electronics, clothes and other household items, have been found to alter brain chemistry. One in particular, BDE-49, causes damage inside the cells of the nervous system, by harming the mitochondria—the miniature power plants that make energy for our cells.
Plastic is a significant contamination source. Compounds, such as BPA and DEHP, have been linked to endocrine conditions. These compounds are called xenoestrogens, or estrogen mimics, since they stimulate estrogen receptors in sensitive tissues such as breast, uterus and prostate and disrupt hormonal signaling. Plastic is ubiquitous, so these chemicals can seem nearly impossible to avoid.
Helping the Body Cope
Just because we live our lives surrounded by toxins and environmental pollutants, doesn’t mean we are helpless against them. Periodic, gentle detoxification using targeted therapies and nutraceutical compounds offers us a strategic defense against toxins, and specifically, their detrimental effects.
The need to detox is even more urgent for people trying to overcome disease or gain the upper hand in prevention. For those facing cancer, neurodegenerative disease, or other inflammatory conditions, gently removing toxic substances over time can be a critical step towards regaining health.
Fortunately, we have some amazing allies to aid us in these efforts.
While complex chemicals may be more prevalent than they were even 50 years ago, our bodies aren’t novices at dealing with toxins. Specific organs and systems have intricate detoxification pathways that can work to neutralize and eliminate toxins, for example:
· Immune system
· Circulatory system
· Gastrointestinal tract
The skin is also a major pathway for toxin elimination. This is one reason why saunas and sweats are a key detox therapy.
But the problem is, these systems didn’t evolve to handle the magnitude of dangerous pollutants we face today. Toxic chemicals can nest in cells, making them difficult to remove. Many toxins such as pesticides, are fat soluble, so our body fat becomes a convenient storage depot. Other toxins, such as lead, can store in bone, brain and nerve tissue, and other areas of the body.
For long-term protection, we need a multi-targeted strategy that minimizes toxin exposure, prevents toxin absorption into tissues, and enhances the body’s natural abilities to neutralize and remove these toxins, safely and thoroughly.
That’s where a gentle detox regimen comes in. And in truth, it can be easier than you may think. In this first part of our detox series, I’ll discuss some of the most important first steps we can take to support an effective and pain-free detox program.
Food: The Best (Detox) Medicine
Diet is a great place to start because it’s one of the easiest factors to control. By making a few adjustments, we can lower our toxic load, reduce inflammation and improve numerous other areas of health in the process.
My first recommendation is to emphasize organic food whenever possible. This is the number one way to reduce pesticide exposure. Importantly, stay away from processed foods, trans-fats, alcohol, grain-fed red meat (grass fed is a better choice) and sugar, which are all pro-inflammatory and increase toxic body burden.
Replace these foods with lean organic proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lots of purified water. In addition, don’t ignore these important dietary factors that can mean the difference between a successful detox program, and one that leave you drained and depleted.
I cannot overstress the importance of water. Many of us are chronically dehydrated, and most biological processes rely on water. For example, immune cells signal each other through liquid. Ultimately, the body needs abundant hydration to flush toxins. Aim for 64 oz of water or a combination of water with herbal teas, daily.
Antioxidants are also important. Many toxins, particularly heavy metals, generate oxidative stress, which can damage cells right down to their DNA. Antioxidants help counteract this process. Again, look to fruits and vegetables for antioxidant support, particularly brightly colored varieties. Antioxidant compounds generate vivid pigments in berries, carrots, beets and many other foods. Many vegetables, particularly the green leafy varieties are rich in other protective phytonutrients as well.
Be sure to increase fiber, which supports an efficient gastrointestinal system, binding to toxins as well as providing a healthy environment for beneficial bacteria. High fiber foods include flax, chia seed and rice bran, oats, quinoa as well as low-starch vegetables.
Another way to boost gastrointestinal health, and help promote detoxification, is with probiotics. The body naturally harbors many species of these friendly bacteria, which enhance immunity, improve digestion and produce critical nutrients for gastrointestinal and overall health. Research continues to discover new ways that specific strains of beneficial bacteria promote health. A wide range of fermented foods provide probiotic bacteria, such as yogurt, kefir, miso, sauerkraut and kimchi.
Movement and Mind-Body
Exercise supports detoxification in a number of ways. First, it burns fat, which can help us get rid of any fat- soluble compounds. In addition, the metabolic acceleration and boost in circulation we receive from a good workout will help our bodies naturally detoxify. Exercise also boosts the immune system.
Another excellent way to support detoxification is to control stress. My top recommendation for this is regular meditation. By simply taking five or ten minutes each day to calm the mind, we can reduce stress hormones, lower inflammation and improve overall well being.
I also recommend moving meditations, such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong and yoga. These combine the benefits of exercise and meditation to improve muscle strength, endurance and balance, with an intent toward approaching life from a calm and centered place. One recent study found that yoga actually changes gene expression to enhance immunity.
These first key steps will help create a bulletproof foundation for thoroughly removing toxins that are stored deep within. In upcoming articles, I’ll share the top nutraceutical supplements that I recommend for safe, gentle and clinically proven toxin removal. These powerful yet gentle compounds help to bind and remove toxins, and enhance the body’s natural detox abilities—while at the same time, restoring healthy function to cells, tissues and organs through unique mechanisms of action.
Advanced, clinically researched detox methods are our best defense for protecting against the barrage of “Forever Chemicals” we face regularly.