The Hollywood Cleanse
Detoxification and cleansing programs get a lot of publicity with every other celebrity toting the next great cleanse or how they lost 20 pounds for a movie role. I am sure that many celebrities use healthy ways to achieve this but the ones that get the publicity, and thus the public’s interest, are the aggressive programs like the master cleanse, the miracle diet, juice fasts, cabbage soup diets, starvation diets, raw food diets, tea cleanses, colon cleanses (ie. they include laxative agents), etc. Unfortunately, many of these diets are simply starvation strategies targeted for weight loss and advertised as ways to get healthy. Most of these cleanses/detox programs are overly aggressive and a stressor on an already overtaxed body (at least for most people). You see, the average North American is exposed to vast amounts of synthetic and natural toxins on a daily basis through food, water, air pollution, toiletries and cleaning products, while at the same time being deficient in many nutrients (due to industrial/packaged foods) that the body requires for proper detoxification. So, adding a reduced calorie/nutrient diet on top of sub-optimal detoxification pathways can be dangerous. Furthermore, once the short duration of these cleanses are over, it’s back to your previous lifestyle, stocking up on toxins once again.
What is Detoxification?
The truth about detoxification is that it is a 24/7 process requiring vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and ongoing avoidance of as many toxins as possible to function optimally. Therefore, a true detoxification program is one that contains a permanent lifestyle change, as its foundation, including ample amounts and variety of real whole foods such as vegetables, meats, fish, fruits, nuts and seeds, while also avoiding as many toxins as possible. Did you say meat? I sure did because sufficient amounts of amino acids (proteins), easily obtained from high quality meat, are required for optimal detoxification pathway and antioxidant system function.
What are Toxins?
Toxin is simply a word used to describe any substance that can have detrimental effects on our body. Believe it or not, a toxin can come from our own body (endotoxin) or from outside our body (exotoxin) and can be natural or synthetic. Just because something says “all natural” doesn’t mean it’s toxin free (ex. Alcohol is natural). Since our detoxification pathways must be able to neutralize the endotoxins produced by our body’s metabolism as well as those exotoxins we get exposed to on a daily basis, it’s very important to avoid as many exotoxins as possible so we don’t overload the system.
Our main detoxification systems/pathways are the liver, kidneys, digestive systems, urinary tract, lungs and skin, all working together to neutralize and remove toxins.
- Liver & Digestive Tract: Majority of detoxification takes place in the liver. The liver converts/neutralizes toxins and excretes them into the digestive system via bile. The digestive system contains the same detoxification enzymes and functions as the liver but it works slower. Acid and pepsin in the stomach also help to break down/neutralize toxins.
- Kidneys: The kidneys convert/neutralize smaller toxins and excrete them in the urine.
- Lungs and Skin: The skin and lungs contain antioxidant systems and detoxification enzymes that neutralize toxins to either be excreted via sweat, exhalation, or through the liver and kidneys via circulation.
Future posts in the series will cover topics such as the type of diet to eat to ensure proper detoxification function, organic vs conventional food, how to avoid household cleaning toxins, how to avoid personal care product toxins, the dangers of tap and bottled water, exercise and stress, and finally, I will discuss some short term detoxification interventions that can be very helpful for someone who’s detoxification and immune systems are functioning efficiently.