We live in a Detoxification Nation! … or so we should. Its such a ‘hot’ term, sometimes its unbearable to even hear the word “detox”.
A commercial I saw recently for some hair product or another featured a woman touting, “It’s the newest in detox, it’s for your hair!”. What the HECK is a hair detox? How is some chemical ridden product slathered on your head going to help? I may be overreacting, but I’m sure some of you know how I feel.
The reasons for this hype are genuine though; we are now living in an environment where chemicals, hormones, and resilient bacteria are everywhere! It is likely that almost everyone you meet would benefit from a vigilant detoxification regimen. Cleansing and detoxification can apply to many aspects of life, but physiologically-speaking the focus is on seven organs/systems. This general information is key to understanding the elimination channels of our bodies, and simply knowing more about them and being mindful of these areas can help anyone clean up!
Although helping these systems to perform optimally is important, the best way to aid your body’s detoxification channels is to simply prevent contact with, and ingestion of, unhealthy substances to begin with- act preventatively.
Lungs (respiratory system)– Through a process called respiration the lungs can trap bacteria, viruses, and chemicals in mucous, while expelling harmful CO2 and small amounts of other toxins.
A good way to keep healthy lungs is by using the diaphragm to breathe more deeply, filling the lungs with more oxygen and expelling more CO2. Also, make sure to breath through the nose to maximize your body’s air filtration process.
Skin– the skin is often the best indicator of excess toxicity in a body. When the primary detoxification channels (Liver, Kidneys, Lymphs) are overworked, toxins and bodily waste “leaks” into the epithelial tissues (skin & mucous membranes). These wastes accumulate in the sebaceous glands (oily pores) all over our skin to be excreted directly. Unfortunately, this can cause our skin to become inflamed or even infected, often causing acne and other painful and annoying problems.
Keeping the sebum flowing is the best way to help excrete those excess waste and toxins that move though our skin. Consistent bouts of sweating, either by sauna, exercise, or both, will help to push the toxins out of our skin. Keep your skin healthy and active by using gentle, chemical-free products that won’t damage or impede the skin’s functions.
Kidneys– one of our primary detoxification organs whose main function is to filter out waste products and re-absorb beneficial elements. Through an incredibly complex process that filters almost 200 litres of fluid per day, the kidneys remove a bulk of the blood’s water-soluble wastes and dumped toxins. Kidneys are very delicate and are easily effected by other chronic dysfunction common to poor diets and lifestyles.
Drinking a healthy amount of water (2-3L per day, depending on your size) and helping pump that water though the body are the best ways to improve your kidneys’ function. Some herbs are also well-known to tone and strengthen the associated tissues of the urinary tract, such as dandilion and milk thistle.
Liver– known commonly to be our “main” organ of detoxification, it serves to purify our blood by repetitively filtering out a ton of putrefying substances and synthetic toxins. The most emphasis is on this organ for the simple reason that much of the body’s resources head here first, and that concentrates plenty of energy and blood. The liver regulates hormones and energy, and cleanses the blood while producing bile: a critical constituent in detoxification. Being conscientious of your liver is central to growing vitality and keeping the flow of toxins out of the body’s fluids.
A note on Bile– Bile is an alkaline substance that is made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder, and has a yellowish green colour. Bile is secreted into the duodenum (upper portion of the small intestine) where is mixes with fats to break them down so they can become more easily affected by our intestinal enzymes. The liver is very keen and takes this opportunity to dump unwanted accumulated gunk into the bile -heading straight out of the body. Bile flow also destroys harmful bacteria and organisms as well as increases peristalsis (wavelike motions) of the intestines.
Bowels– here the focus is on digestive speed and absorption. People’s intestines are riddled with problems these days, and its mainly from what “food-like products” (aka junk foods) we allow to pass into them.
Intestinal mucous is a much-discussed topic of late, and for good reason. Mucous here is made to lubricate and protect the delicate configuration of the inner layers of the intestinal wall. Unfortunately, an overproduction or underproduction can have significant impacts by increasing the rate at which food moves through (diminishing absorption) or becoming thicker, preventing nutrients from being properly absorbed. How much mucous and its viscosity are determined much by the types of foods that we consume. Food sensitivities, low amounts of activity and fluid intake, and mucous-forming foods such as dairy, gluten, and rancid fats, also contribute to unhealthy gut activity.
Lymphatic System– an incredible system that returns bodily fluids back into the blood, using yet another filtration scheme. This system is made up of many vessels and nodes that are strategically placed around the body near joints so that they can benefit from the movements we make. Exercise, especially aerobics are of supreme aid in pushing the fluids into the lymphatic channels and their filters. Lymphatic nodes are hubs of immune cells that attack, destroy and trap bacteria and toxins that are a threat to the well being of the body’s tissues. Often, once contained, these toxins can be pushed out of the skin on site.
Blood– our transporting fluid, which moves almost everything in our bodies around. Maintaining strong blood vessels and a healthy blood pH is essential for ALL the other systems of elimination. The blood is the conductor of immunity and the procedural engineer of our bodies; this system is the backbone of detoxification. Keeping your blood clean is a task that requires vigilance, but again exercise and proper fluid intake are the best ways to regulate the constituents of our blood and keep it performing well.
What detoxification really comes down to is a combination of knowing what toxins are, and preventing them from entering your body, while working mindfully with your elimination channels to strengthen and optimize their functions.
In other words, your body knows what to do, just stay out of its way (by not consuming that which will have a negative effect). The importance of exercise is unparalleled in helping to move these unwanted, destructive toxins.
Slow down and think about what is going on in your body and consider the systems that are working within. It’s so amazing to me the complexity and capacity of our biology; the path of health is grounded in consideration and feeling. Pay attention and listen to what’s going on in your body and how you’re feeling, and you’ll be on your way to living cleaner!