The word “detox” has become a huge marketing tool used to sell supplements, teas, treatments, and yo-yo style diets. We have been bombarded with the message that we need some purchased product or treatment that make no specific claims regarding which toxins they are removing and no proof that they are doing so. Our bodies have a proven and highly sophisticated system for removing toxins. Instead of buying the quick fix that may or may not work, let’s look at what toxins are, where they come from, and what we can do to support our bodies’ natural detoxification process. A few daily habits are the key to a lifetime of health and wellness by letting our bodies do what they were made to do.
What Are Toxins?
We have both internal and external toxins. Internal toxins include lactic acid, pathogens, parasites, bacteria, fungus, viruses, and waste products from microbes in the gut that occur during natural metabolism. External toxins come from outside the body and introduced by eating, drinking, breathing, or are absorbed through the skin. Daily, we face countless exposures to external toxins like chemical compounds and environmental pollutants. It’s estimated that more than 80,000 chemicals fall into the category of food additives, food packaging, and environmental chemicals.
Where Do We Encounter External Toxins?
- Outdoor air – pollutants in the air including exhaust, tobacco smoke, particles from industrial emissions, etc.
- Indoor air – pollutants trapped in the air including mold, tobacco smoke, chemicals released from cooking, furniture, carpet, construction materials, etc.
- Drinking water – tap water contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals (lead, mercury, arsenic), and chemicals from agricultural runoff.
- Food – chemicals such as pesticides and heavy metals consumed through food due to agricultural practices and environmental contamination. Overconsumption of processed foods, food dyes, preservatives, drugs, and alcohol.
- Household products – food containers, cleaning products, fertilizers, weed killers, bug spray, etc.
- Beauty products – skincare products, makeup, deodorant, hair products, etc.
We are exposed to numerous toxins throughout the day. Research shows a link between certain toxins and chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases. Why? Because our natural detoxification pathways aren’t functioning optimally, which affects our digestion, energy, mental clarity, anxiety, and especially, our skin. Since your skin is a key player in detoxification through sweating, a build-up of toxins can appear on the skin in the form of acne and rashes. Now that we know about toxins, let’s discuss the detoxification.
What is Detoxification?
Detoxification is the body’s process of removing toxic substances. It’s also about resting, cleansing, and nourishing the body from the inside out. Detoxification is an ongoing process our bodies handle automatically to survive. The main detoxification organs are the liver and kidneys. The lymphatic system, digestive tract, skin, and lungs also play a part in how your body detoxes. Together these organs create detoxification pathways in the body. In my opinion, the proper path to detoxing is to make lifestyle choices that support the bodies’ natural detoxification pathways.
- The liver is the master detoxifier acting as a filter removing toxins that our body produces as a part of normal metabolism.
- The kidneys filter waste and undesirable substances like medical by-products and harmful chemicals. They also regulate fluid and electrolyte balance which is vital for maintaining our body’s pH balance.
- The digestive tract helps expel toxins through bowel movements. For this system to work properly, we must maintain gut health by eating enough fiber and probiotic foods (not a pill) to keep the good bacteria living in our gut.
- The lymphatic system circulates lymph fluid through the body. It’s part of the larger immune system whose essential role is to protect our cells from foreign substances and eliminate them from our bodies. The lymphatic system consists of the spleen, thymus, adenoids, and tonsils – all connected by a web of capillaries, vessels, and hundreds of lymph nodes. This unique system plays a large role in detoxification, with its main job being the transportation of white blood cells that help fight infections and protect against harmful toxins.
- The respiratory system starts protecting our bodies in the nose when the hairs inside our nostrils filter out particles like dirt, dust, and allergens like pollen. The mucus coating our nose and lungs is our next line of defense. As we breathe in oxygen, the lungs and bronchi help convert toxins into carbon dioxide which we exhale.
- The skin is our defense system and largest organ. It creates a barrier protecting us from bacteria, viruses, and chemical toxins that shouldn’t enter our bodies. The skin is also a part of the detoxification process, cleansing toxins by sweating.
How do we support the natural detoxification process?
Below are a few ways to support detoxification on a daily basis.
Eating a balanced diet including fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein is the perfect way to help fuel our bodies.
For detoxification, focus on antioxidant and fiber-rich foods while reducing excess sugar and processed foods. High-fiber foods like greens, vegetables, lentils, and nuts and seeds can also help support proper digestion and bowel movements reduce which removes toxins.
The intake of high-sugar foods, processed foods and sugar filled beverages leads to poor liver function. There are an estimated 10,000 chemicals allowed in our packaged foods. All of these chemicals distract the liver from its normal function.
Glyphosate has been the most commonly used herbicide since the 1970s. Because it is highly soluble, when it is sprayed on crops, it is rapidly absorbed into the ground, contaminating the soil and the groundwater along with the roots of plants. Genetically modified plants are designed to be more resistant to herbicides, so higher amounts are sprayed on them leading to more contamination of our food supply, soil, and water.
What about organics? USDA Certified Organic foods cannot be grown with pesticides and herbicides. Unfortunately, even organic foods can become contaminated. Glyphosate residues have been found in our air, water, and soil. Our groundwater and, therefore, our drinking water also contain glyphosate. Because we are exposed to this toxin in many unexpected ways, it is important to know where our produce is coming from and how it is grown. Find a local farm and learn to eat with the seasons.
Support your Gut Microbiome
A healthy gut has a diverse microbiome balanced with good and bad bacteria.
Focus on eating fiber-rich whole foods at each meal, include prebiotic foods like garlic, onions, seaweed, flax seeds, and cocoa also include probiotic foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, Miso, and sauerkraut, kombucha, pickles, or buttermilk into your daily diet.
Drink Your Water
Your body is made up of 70% water. If not properly hydrated, it’s impossible for your body to function optimally. This includes the detoxification process.
Staying adequately hydrated helps flush out toxins through your kidneys. It also helps remove harmful cell byproducts like urea and carbon dioxide from the bloodstream. Once filtered from the blood, water pushes out toxins through other detox channels like breathing and sweating.
Moving daily is a great way to increase lymphatic circulation and support how our bodies detox. Try low impact movement like walking, a rebounder, or yoga. Breaking a sweat is key because we release toxins through sweat and increase circulation.
Support the Skin Microbiome
Don’t over-exfoliate. It disrupts the skin’s microbiome and could compromise its barrier function. Exfoliating once or twice a week is sufficient and good for the skin.
Avoid the use of antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers. Antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers containing man-made chemicals such as triclosan, triclocarban, and several other ingredients are designed to kill pathogenic microbes thought to cause flu and the common cold. These compounds also kill the beneficial microbes and have been found to be ineffective against many of the microbes (mainly viruses) they were intended to kill. Overuse of these products has led to an increase in mutated strains of resistant bacteria like MRSA which now occur epidemically in places such as hospitals and schools. In 2016, the FDA banned triclosan, triclocarbon, and 17 other chemicals commonly used in antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers. However, products containing these chemicals are still in circulation, and it is unknown whether what manufacturers are replacing these ingredients with will be any less detrimental to the skin’s microbiome.
Our answer to antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers: Long before Covid, there was MRSA (Staph infection) and lots of other icky germs and viruses. As formulators, we knew the power of Greek Yogurt Probiotics, so we developed a delivery system to get probiotics, topically, into your skin. Our Yogurt Probiotic Body Veil is serious armor for your skin (your last line of defense between you and everything that’s not you). By providing a probiotic barrier function, yogurt helps keep germs, toxins, pollutants, chemicals and so much more at bay. Think of it as an invisible shield for your face and body. It’s deep hydration and creamy texture will make you forget it’s a cosmedical.
Apply plant-derived oils to the skin regularly. Carrier oils such as jojoba, evening primrose, sweet almond, and more are comprised of essential fatty acid chains that closely mimic those within the skin’s own lipid pattern. They also contain antioxidants, and prebiotics, which help to nourish and protect the microbiome and the cells beneath. Oils also help to keep the skin hydrated.
Use small batch herbal skincare products topically. They contain fewer ingredients that provide bioavailable nutrition to the skin and its microbiome. Synthetic ingredients overstimulate the skin, and cause irritation or unnatural inflammatory responses, both disruptive to the skin’s microbiome. These products also contain strong preservatives and may sit on shelves in warehouses for several years before ever being sold. These preservatives, like the antibacterial compounds in hand sanitizer, are intended to kill microbes. They do not distinguish between beneficial ones and pathogens. Products made in small batches, using herbal preparations, hydrosols, and carrier oils contain natural antimicrobials which are less disruptive to the skin’s microbiome. These products have a shorter shelf life, which means they are fresher, and the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, prebiotics, and other phytonutrients are likely to be more intact and therefore, more beneficial to the microbiome and to the skin itself.
As you can see, our bodies are always in some state of detox. Since we face countless exposures to toxins daily, the body constantly works to cleanse itself from toxins that can negatively impact our health. Toxins can drastically affect our skin, digestion, energy, and more.
Rather than focusing on the highly marketed detox item of the week, try focusing on nutrition and lifestyle practices to support the body’s natural detoxification pathway.
Diet and Detoxification (todaysdietitian.com)
A List of Toxins, Where They Are Found, And How I Can Protect Myself From Them (immune-health-solutions-for-you.com)
“Detoxes” and “Cleanses”: What You Need To Know | NCCIH (nih.gov)
The dubious practice of detox – Harvard Health