Do We Need Detoxification?
When you question the need for detoxification, you should consider that there really is no denying that we live in a toxic world. Toxins can come from a variety of sources such as:
- Heavy metals like mercury and lead
- Persistent Organic Pollutants from pesticides
- Opportunistic organisms such as mold and micro toxins
- Energetic toxins from devices such as cellphones
- Emotional toxicity (what you think and feel affects your body)
- Foods such as GMO’s, hybridized grains, irradiated foods, chemicals and food additives
- Environmental toxins such as skin care products, cookware, car exhaust and plastics
You may argue that our body has natural mechanisms for detoxifying and that is quite true. Our bodies are amazing at continually detoxifying themselves. However, when the toxins that are coming into our bodies outweigh our body’s ability to eliminate them, our organs have to work harder and may not be able to keep up. We then can move into a chronic toxic state.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), there are currently over 80,000 chemicals used in North America. These contribute to a large increase in the amount of environmental toxins that we are exposed to. Many of these chemicals are designed for convenience and to improve profitability without any thought of their long-term effects on human health and the environment.
In a study spearheaded by the EWG in collaboration with Commonweal, researchers at two major laboratories found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood from 10 babies born in August and September of 2004 in U.S. hospitals. Tests revealed a total of 287 different chemicals in the group. So, not only do we have a heavy exposure to toxins after we are born, sadly we already have them in our bodies at birth.
Signs That You Could Benefit From Detoxification
The following are some of the signs that your body may be overloaded and in need of some support:
- Cravings for sugar
- Chronic fatigue
- Digestive problems, bloating
- Frequent ‘colds’
- You eat healthy but you don’t feel healthy
- Seasonal allergies
- Hormonal imbalances
- Chronic pain and inflammation
- Skin issues such as rashes
- Brain fog
- Unexplained weight gain or hard to lose weight
- Unexplained feelings of anxiety and depression
- Problems sleeping
Primary Mechanisms Your Body Has to Detoxify
Your liver is one of the hardest working organs in the body and it is responsible for over 500 known processes. It is also one of the primary organs of detoxification. Your blood circulates through your liver every 3 minutes, which pulls toxins out and breaks them down so that they can be excreted by the kidneys and the digestive tract. Giving your liver a break from handling things such as chemicals, preservatives and over the counter drugs will help it to rest and respond to its important jobs, such as detoxification.
Skin provides a protective barrier and is the first defense against environmental pollutants getting into your body. It also allows the body to eliminate toxins through sweat. It is always a good idea to shower off after sweating in order to wash the toxins off your skin and prevent them from being reabsorbed. Dry brushing, saunas and Epsom salt baths are all good methods to help detoxify through the skin.
Your mouth and nose are filters that keep a decent amount of toxins, dust and pathogens out of your body. What does get in, goes to your lungs or to your digestive system. Your lungs can produce mucous which can be coughed out. In addition, you expel gas when you exhale. Exercise and deep breathing helps with this detoxification process.
The kidneys process 200 quarts of fluid every day. Waste and toxins are extracted and expelled as urine. Drinking lots of clean water and detoxifying herbal teas such as dandelion will help support the kidneys.
The colon absorbs materials such as various chemicals and toxins and eliminates them as waste in your stool. It is important that you are eliminating at least once a day. Drinking lots of water and eating high fibre foods helps with this.
The lymphatic system is part of the vascular system and an important part of the immune system. It is critical for removing waste from the blood. However, it doesn’t have a pump like the heart so it can become sluggish. The best ways to stimulate the lymph system is dry brushing, exercise, jumping on a rebounder and taking hot/cold showers.
Foods, Herbs and Spices that Support Detoxification Naturally
The best thing that you can do to help your body’s detoxification systems is to eliminate as much of the toxins in our environment as discussed at the beginning of this post. You can also give your body a break by just eating a clean diet for a period of time. This includes food such as vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, gluten free grains, beans, organic tofu or tempeh and herbal teas. Foods to cut out of your diet would include foods that are harder for the body to digest such as sugar, meat, dairy, gluten, processed food, alcohol and caffeine. You should also choose food and beverages that are organic in order to reduce the toxic load.
To boost the detoxification process even further, you can add in foods, herbs and spices that assist the processes of clearing toxins from the body or neutralizing and transforming them. A summary of some of these are provided below.
Lots of Clean Filtered Water
Clean water is necessary to flush out toxins. We get our water (in Ontario, Canada) from Cedar Springs. They deliver fresh spring water in glass containers. This water also has the benefit of being naturally high in minerals. We also filter any tap water for tea, coffee and cooking.
Organic Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre, which all help the body’s detoxification process. We purchase as much local organic fruits and vegetables as possible through a weekly delivery service called Mama Earth. This also helps us to eat more seasonally.
Green foods contain chlorophyll, which helps rid the body of harmful environmental toxins from heavy metals, herbicides and pesticides. They also aid the liver in detoxification. Greens should be included in everyone’s diet daily. We also add an organic chlorophyll powder to our green smoothies. Check out our Super Greens Smoothie.
Lemons and Limes
Citric fruit helps to flush out toxins and support the digestive tract. Even though these may seem acidic, they are actually alkaline to the body and also help to reduce inflammation. Try starting the day with a glass of warm water with the juice of half a lemon or lime. Citric acid can be damaging to the enamel on your teeth though so it is a good idea to rinse your mouth with water after drinking this and before brushing your teeth.
Garlic stimulates the liver into producing detoxification enzymes that filter toxic residues from the digestive system. Garlic is easy to add to cooked dishes or in raw salad dressings and dips. Try our Creamy Roasted Garlic Hummus!
I read somewhere that sprouts are the explosion of life! Sprouts bear the largest relative amount of nutrients per unit of intake of any food known to man. This is probably why they are a staple at the Hippocrates Institute known for their healing programs. It is a good idea to include a variety of spouts such as broccoli, alfalfa and sunflower. We make a weekly batch of sprouts in our home.
Beans are high in resistant starch and fibre as well as antioxidants which will all aid in the detoxification process. Read our post on the health benefits of beans for more info.
Herbs such as milk thistle, dandelion root and nettle help to support the organs of elimination such as the liver and urinary tract. Be cautious when using herbs and supplements though, as they may interfere with medications and can also have a negative affect on some health conditions such as high blood pressure. Herbs can be powerful medicine and have been used for thousands of years in Chinese Medicine.
Always consult with a health practitioner or doctor prior to engaging in any strict detoxification plan and be wary of some plans that you can find on-line. Ensure that they are from a knowledgeable and reputable source and are well researched.
Tune in for Part 2 of the Detoxification topic when I will look more closely at the detoxification process. I will discuss how often you should detoxify and how to protect yourself throughout the detoxification process. I will also provide details of my own 26-Day Spring Detox experience!
Most of our recipes are detoxifying by nature because they are plant-based, but you can check out our Spring Detox Soup for a clean and healthy addition to your diet.