Yes, it’s true that our bodies DO naturally detox but there is a big “but”. Unfortunately we live in an ever-increasingly polluted world and these pollutants are accumulating in us. We must ask ourselves; are we detoxing fast enough to keep up with all the toxins that are entering our system on a daily basis? If we aren’t then we are essentially “re-toxing”.
There’s a lot of stigma surrounding the word “detox” these days but I want to clear the air. Our organs of elimination – skin, lungs, liver, kidneys and intestines – are struggling under the burden of the toxins in our modern day world. There are about 80,000 chemicals commonly used worldwide. In the past, some FDA approved chemicals have been shown to be very unsafe such as DDT, glyphosate and triclosan. As for the rest we just don’t know what they are doing to us yet because only 2% have been assessed for safety according to a report by the U.S. President’s Cancer Panel.
It can be quite harmful to sit back and assume our bodies are capable of effectively detoxifying all the varies chemicals we come into contact with on a daily basis. What we need to do is support our body and its ability to detox so we can give ourselves the best chance possible of avoiding disease.
Chronic disease is on the rise – could environmental pollutants be playing a role?
We are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of people suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Autism, ADD/ADHD as well as many other degenerative diseases. According to the book Feel Good Nutrigenomics by Dr. Amy Tasko, the prevalence of ADHD has risen from less than 10 in 100,000 in 1988 to almost 60 in 100,000 in 2009. Additionally, in 2002 the Center for Disease Control estimated that autism affected about 1 in 150 children. By 2013 it affected 1 in 50 children, a 300% increase in 11 years.
When you combine the stress we are under on a day to day basis – be that mental and emotional or physical such as poor diet, lifestyle or even parasites in the body, (which are a lot more common than you might think) – with underlying genetic susceptibility we can create the perfect storm for these types of above mentioned conditions to rear their heads and this is in large part due to the pressure on our detoxification pathways. For example, there is a gene called MTHFR. Up to about 50% of the population carry some type of polymorphism (“mutation”) for this gene (including myself). Detoxification can suffer greatly in these people, which puts them on a back foot to start with when it comes to their health. Adding environmental, diet and lifestyle stressors on top can turn these gene mutations on, leading to disease and other health complications.
Heavy metals and xenoestrogens play a big part in burdening our detoxification process. In the case of heavy metals, these accumulate within the brain, kidneys, liver, immune system and other tissues where they can cause significant damage. It’s estimated in the US that 25% of people suffer from heavy metal poisoning to some extent. And in the case of xenoestrogens, these are “endocrine disrupters”. They increase the risk of estrogen dominance and associated conditions such as ovarian and breast cancer, endometriosis, fibroids and more. Xenoestrogens can also lead to estrogen dominance in males, and this can play a role in prostate cancer development.
Up to 90% of all cancers are thought by some researchers to be due to the affects of environmental carcinogens such as those in cigarette smoke, the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Danger strikes when these toxins combine with a lack of nutrients (from a poor diet) that are required for optimal detoxification and poor lifestyle such as stress or lack of exercise. This is when we see our detoxification pathways start to struggle.
Where are all these pollutants coming from?
Pollutants come at us from the air we breathe, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the furniture we use, the personal care products we put on our face and bodies, the cleaning products we use and more. All these toxins must be eliminated from our body and it’s the amount of toxins in our system that will dictate how effectively our system is able to eliminate them. This “amount” is called our allostatic load.
Think about the products you use to clean your house. What about the products you put on your skin every day? Then there are the shampoos you use to wash your hair and even the smells of new carpets (which is called “off-gassing”) is just another toxin in the air you’re breathing inside your own home. Are you using those air fresheners that mount on the wall in your home and puff out toxic chemicals every few minutes? Or maybe you’re sitting in your car constantly breathing in a chemical soup from those clip-on car air fresheners. Don’t kid yourself – these nice smelly things might seem harmless but those floral scents can actually be seriously contributing to your body’s toxic load, which accumulates over time. On top of all of this, if your food isn’t organic then you’re adding insult to injury when it comes to the amount of toxins accumulating in your system.
I don’t mean to be a fear-monger but we have to open our eyes to the reality of life in the 21st century. Life isn’t like it use to be 50 years ago or more. We have no choice but to pay attention to how our environment is impacting our health. But the good news is, there’s a lot we can do to support our health in these hectic, fast-paced times.
In 1950 there were 40 million cars on the road. This number is expected to be close to 2 billion by the year 2035. Think about the increases in carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, benzene, formaldehyde and polycyclic hydrocarbons that come from the exhaust of these cars that we are breathing in on a daily basis.
Listen to your body and preserve it as best as possible
Think about how some people treat their cars. They wouldn’t ignore an oil change light or strange noise. Some even use the cleanest source of fuel they can afford so as to keep their car working in tip-top shape. So why ignore your body when it’s trying to tell you it needs a clean up of its own? Or why not fuel your body with the cleanest, most pure ingredients you can afford? Take a look at some of these telltale signs below that are likely your body’s way of trying to say it needs some detoxification support:
- Lack of energy
- Stubborn weight
- Cloudy thinking or poor memory
- Feelings of depression
- PMS, fibroids or fibrocystic breasts
- Sore, achy muscles for no apparent reason
- Bad breathe or foul-smelling stools
- Sensitivity to certain smells
- Psoriasis or other skin issues such as acne
- Chronic fatigue
In newborn babies we’re seeing over 200 toxins in their umbilical cords – before they’ve even entered our modernised world! This is shocking, and really demonstrates the need for us to support our detoxification pathways the best we can.
How nutrition and supplementation plays a role in detoxification and what you can do to boost your detoxification process
Detoxification is happening all the time in the body but it uses up a ton of nutrients in the process. If you’re not eating a nutrient-dense diet then you’re detoxification pathways are likely suffering. We need to support our detoxification systems by consuming the right foods and nutrients. In particular, we want to eat foods and take supplements that have been shown to support phase 1 and phase 2 liver detoxification. Some of these supplements include:
- B vitamins
- Vitamin C
- Milk thistle
- N acetylcysteine (NAC)
Some of the best foods you can eat to amp up your detoxification process include:
- Cruciferous veggies
- Dark leafy greens
- Bell peppers
- Leeks and onions
- Citrus fruits
- Good quality, pure protein
- Nuts and seeds
If you can’t afford to eat all your food organic then at the very least make sure you check out the Environmental Working Groups Dirty Dozen list of foods you should always consume organic verses the ones you can eat non-organic.
Additionally, we are about 70% water so you must be drinking clean, filtered water in order to detoxify properly.
I also suggest you get your indoor air and your water quality checked. Definitely install a water filtration system if you can afford it and purchase air-purifying plants such as those tested in the NASA Clean Air Study.
Finally, doing a detox a few times a year is super important for maintaining good health. It doesn’t have to be hard or crazy but giving your system a break and re-boot is definitely a good idea in this modern world we live in. For this very reason I have created a 7 Day Detox Support Plan. In it I outline the foods to eat, the foods to avoid, lifestyle factors to consider (they can be very important when it comes to detoxification) and supplements that can boost detoxification and support our bodies in eliminating the harsh chemicals we are constantly infiltrated by. Click here to find out more about my detox plan and please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below or reach out if you have any questions.
- The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine – Michael T. Murray, N.D. and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D.
- Feel Good Nutrigenomics – Dr. Amy Yasko
- Staying Healthy With Nutrition – Elson M. Haas, MD