So you think because you’ve quit smoking and you enjoy a mostly vegetarian and totally organic diet that you don’t need to detox? If that is the case, you would be wrong. Toxins are everywhere in our daily lives. Toxins come in primary methods which are those that you ingest or absorb directly due to your own actions, and secondary methods which are environmental and occur without any action on your part.
But before we get too deep into where toxins exist in your life, we need to talk about the word ‘toxin’ or ‘toxic’. When we talk about toxins we don’t necessarily mean something that will instantly make you deathly ill or send you straight to your grave. Toxins are unhealthy substances that get into the body through any one of the elimination systems. What makes these toxins, toxic is that they make the elimination systems work inefficiently, which means these toxins seep into the blood stream and that is how we end up with short term or chronic illnesses.
Now that you understand toxins it is time to talk about how they get into your body so you can start cutting them off before they get close to you!
Not Just Dietary Toxins
If you have ever done a detox then you know that the focus is often on what we eat and drink and it should be because ingested toxins occur with more frequency and get inside the body most efficiently. But it isn’t just our favorite sugary drinks and fluorescent orange puffs of cheese dust that our bodies need to get rid of; it is the toxins which we cannot control that can do the most damage.
We’ll talk more later about just how many toxins are lying in wait inside your favorite supermarket or restaurant but you need to know that toxins in your life extend far beyond the dinner table.
5 Elimination Systems
The body has its own filtration system that helps kick toxins out of the body. You should know these systems because they are also the ports of entry for these toxins to enter the body as well. Too many toxins can make these systems run inefficiently, which means the toxins sit in the body and often times seep into the blood. That is where the real trouble starts.
- Bowels. This is the breeding ground for the majority of toxins since most of us consume a large amount of toxins every day. The bowel is the starting point for many toxins—Dr. Bernard Jensen calls the bowels the “king of all elimination organs”—because it is here that they can seep out of the bowel walls and into the rest of the body, causing illness and disease. The more toxins you ingest, the fewer the bowels can get rid of and the MORE toxins that have the chance to attack your body.
- Skin. The skin is the largest organ in the human body, which makes it a crucial port of entry and exit for toxins. Your skin is absorbing an untold number of toxins on a daily basis, but if you enjoy regular physical activity, the simple act of sweating can help you get rid of plenty of toxins naturally. Those with an abundance of skin toxins are advised to use skin brushing (3 to 5 times per week according to Dr. Jensen) to help get rid of dead skin cells and toxins excreted through the skin.
- Kidneys. The kidneys are so important to the human body that it was equipped with two of them, but can function naturally with just one. The job of the kidneys is to filter the blood of toxins and excess water. As effective as the kidneys are however, they cannot work as well if the other elimination systems are not functioning at maximum capacity. For example if the skin isn’t doing its job properly, the kidneys will have to work overtime to take up the slack. The kidneys are why water is such a crucial element to a successful detox diet.
- Lymphatic System. This is where the body can pick up what Dr. Jensen calls ‘intracellular’ waste and dumps it in the bloodstream so it can be process and filtered by the liver and kidneys. Are you starting to see how this filtration system is like a well-oiled machine? If the lymphatic system doesn’t pick up all of the waste that has made its way in—which can be inevitable to a certain extent—then the liver and kidneys cannot possibly eliminate it all. In fact this system requires regular physical activity because unlike the kidneys or liver, it has no pump action to force it along. Most of our lymph nodes are located in places that are the source of human movement: extremities and large muscles. The more active you are, the more you are encouraging the lymphatic system to work as efficiently as possible.
- Lungs. The lungs play a role in helping us get rid of toxic waste that generates in the body due to ineffective bowels or the inefficiency of another elimination system. But these toxins are passed through the lungs in small portions, as gas during exhalation. We trade carbon dioxide for oxygen during breathing, which is (yet again) why exercise is such an integral part of any detox diet. The more rigorous you are breathing during exercise, the more of those toxins you are kicking out of your body.
If each of these systems is working properly, then they are all working together to help your body get and stay healthy. If one system isn’t functioning properly the others will have to work harder to do the same work, and that overexertion will cause them to work less efficiently than they would if they were healthy.
So how are these toxins in your life getting into your body and compromising your health? First there are the toxins you encounter regularly that attack your body through the skin. The main culprits here are cleaning and cosmetic products that are a necessary evil to modern life. You have to clean the home, the office, the yard and even the car. Unfortunately the products that help us perform these tasks are packed with chemicals, which we absorb through our skin and inhale into our lungs.
Then there are the cosmetic treatments we use from make up to lotion to facial and body cleansers and hair products. These are all filled with chemicals that our skin absorbs into the body, the bloodstream and other elimination systems. The best way to at least reduce the amount of environmental toxins is to make the switch to all natural or organic cleaning and cosmetic products. This way your body will be able to quickly and effectively rid itself of these substances.
Then there are the toxins over which you have very little control like second-hand cigarette or cigar smoke. Although many cities have banned smoking in public venues one only needs step just outside the doors of a restaurant or office building to be assaulted by large plumes of smoke. This is another double-whammy that gets into the body through the skin and the lungs.
There are other similar toxins that include car fumes and other external pollutants that have become part of our lives. If you live near an industrial area, large farms or any other big production facility, toxins in the air from these products will also affect your health.
Foods & Drink
Then there really is food and drinks. As much as we think we “eat healthy” the truth is that the great majority of food products on the market are filled with toxins. Let’s take so-called healthy foods like low calorie and fat free snack foods and prepared meals. These foods are not made with natural ingredients starting with the sugar. Artificial sweeteners are used to reduce the calorie and fat content of these foods, including your favorite diet sodas. These artificially sweetened food products have been linked to brain tumors, cancer and weight gain.
There are also the serious toxins that go in food to make it taste like food, last longer on the supermarket shelf and produce a greater yield. These toxins come in the form of chemicals injected into beef and poultry to keep them free of disease; antibiotics. Then there are the pesticides and herbicides that allow fruits and vegetables to grow even in less than ideal conditions. You ingest the apple but your body is also absorbing the chemicals sprayed on that apple to keep the bugs and rodents away.
Finally there are the chemicals added to junk food that include food coloring, flavor chemicals to make a burger taste like a burger or a lollipop taste like a green apple or a blue raspberry.
You ingest these things every day, forcing your body to work harder than necessary to get rid of these toxins. But the good news is that there is something you can do!
Some of these toxins are unavoidable unless you can construct a bubble to carry you out into the world. So the plan should always be to eliminate harmful toxins where you can so that your body is able to properly get rid of those you can’t avoid such as air pollution and secondhand smoke.
In the next week, reduce the toxins in your life by doing the following:
- Replace primary cleaning products with natural, organic cleansers.
- Add 20 minutes of mild exercise to your day. When that is no longer a challenge increase the time and intensity of your workout.
- Get rid of 5 processed foods and replace them with fresh, organic foods.
- Add 2 cups of water to your diet each day.
- Look for all natural organic replacements for your cosmetic products, starting with soap or body wash and lotions.
- Reduce your intake of artificially flavored and colored foods & drinks.
Good luck and good health!