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The Best Detox Method: You

Hydration helps the body clear out waste. See more staying healthy pictures.
©iStockphoto.com/Catherine Yeulet

It seems everywhere you turn, people are buzzing about detox. The market has responded with a barrage of foot patches, specialty teas, herbs, pills, colon cleansings and countless diet plans, all claiming to purify your system. This has lead to confusion and certainly the risk for potential harm. What is the purpose of cleansing or detoxing and who needs it? Several questions surround this growing segment of the health and supplement industry.

The body has been given many mechanisms to cleanse itself and is constantly eliminating waste. As the body makes energy, by-products of the energy process need to be eliminated. Think of a log burning in a fireplace. As the wood burns, heat energy is given off. Ashes are left over as remnants of the process. The body has several organs that detoxify the "ashes" of metabolism, namely the liver, kidneys, lungs and skin. For the body to feel its best, these organs need to be functioning well all the time. As the health of any of the detoxifying organs declines, the health of the entire body slips as well.        

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The liver is considered the primary detoxifying organ. It is constantly eliminating chemicals from the body’s day-to-day functions, as well as medications, alcohol or other toxins. Once the liver has processed a given chemical or toxin, it is then moved to the bowels to be eliminated through your stool. There are things you can do to support this process.

Perhaps most important, the body needs plenty of vegetables (at least 3 servings a day). Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts and other veggies help the liver as it moves chemicals and toxins through the normal detoxification process. This also promotes hormone balance and cancer prevention. Avoiding constipation is just as important. If the bowels are constipated, toxins that would normally be eliminated are left in the stagnant colon. Toxins that sit in the colon too long can be reabsorbed, causing the liver to repeat detoxification, expelling much of the organ’s energy. Extra fiber from fruits and vegetables is actually part of the body’s detox plan because it helps to bind excess toxins and pull them out of the bowels.

The lungs and kidneys are also major players in detoxification. The kidneys constantly filter the blood, with a portion of what they filter becoming urine. The body is nearly 75 percent water. Hydration is important for cells in the body to communicate, but also to help clear out waste the body no longer needs. The kidneys can become damaged through chronically high blood pressure, toxin exposure or other issues. For the kidneys, liver and lungs, it's best to avoid direct exposure to toxins like pesticides, herbicides and strong cleaners. Chemicals with strong fumes should not be dealt with in small, poorly ventilated areas. Strong toxins can be easily inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Cigarette smoke is an example of a collection of many toxins that can chronically burden the lungs. In fact, cigarette smoke actually paralyzes the cilium, or filtration system of the lungs, decreasing their overall function.

Ready to clear out these toxins? Learn how to detox your organs on the next page.

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There are many simple ways to help detox your organs. Adequate sunshine helps boost vitamin D levels which supports several organs. Regularly consuming garlic and cilantro can also be helpful for detox  [Source: Omura, Lee, Cha]. These nutrients are simple, cheap and can be eaten in a variety of tasty dishes. Ancient teachings from India suggest adding lemon wedges to hot water or tea in the morning to detox. There may be little science behind this concept, but it is safe and inexpensive, and many patients report a sense of improvement. Eliminating sugar and junk food helps the body detox by not clogging the normal biochemistry with junk. Most prepackaged foods are food-like products that are stripped of any nutrients. They have added preservatives that are hard on the bowels and make extra work for the liver.  

Exercise is a great way to help the body detox. When our bodies move, the lymph system (part immune system, part filtration system) is stimulated in the blood stream. By exercising regularly, the lymph system is constantly pumping fluid through its channels, providing an extra filtration of the blood. The lymph system might also be helped by dry skin brushing, running a brush over the arms, legs and back to stimulate the lymph channels under the skin. Skin brushing may or may not provide a large benefit for detox, but the brushes are readily available, inexpensive and it can gently renew old, dry skin. Sweat is another method of detox. This is in addition to the heart, blood pressure, bone and strength building benefits of exercise.

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Stress can actually limit the body’s ability to detox. The body is made to handle stress in short spurts, not the week- or month-long burdens of today. The connection between stress and our emotions can be a tremendous burden on the body. Chronic stress can affect blood sugar, disrupt sleep and even lessen the integrity of the bowels. Balancing stress is a major way to gain control over your health. Exercise may be one of the cheapest and safest ways to combat stress. Green tea contains the ingredient theanine that helps relax the mind [Source: Kimura, Lu]. Our bodies are constantly exposed to potential toxins. If our diet and lifestyle habits are not in good shape, our ability to handle these toxins will be impaired. Since environmental toxin exposure is unfortunately now considered a part of life, we must practice diligence in preventing additional exposure. This means that the handling of any chemicals should be done with extreme caution, and none should be allowed to touch the skin. Consider avoiding antiperspirant due to its aluminum content.

Though strongly debated, many clinicians believe that aluminum should not be placed on or in the body. Avoid silver amalgam fillings, which are actually 50 percent mercury and considered unsafe [Source: Reuters]. Other choices for fillings now exist that are considered much safer. Please read the information regarding plastics. Plastics are also very much a part of daily life and should be used sparingly to prevent further toxin exposure. 

General day-to-day lifestyle habits enable the body to provide all the detox most of us will ever need. Every day the body works to cleanse itself. Give it the food, water, rest and sunshine it needs.

For more information about detox methods, see the next page.

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Sources

  • Omura, Y. (1996). Significant mercury deposits in internal organs following the removal of dental amalgam, & development of pre-cancer on the gingiva and the sides of the tongue and their represented organs as a result of inadvertent exposure to strong curing light (used to solidify synthetic dental filling material) & effective treatment: a clinical case report, along with organ representation areas for each tooth. Acupunct Electrother Res, 21(2):133-60.
  • Kimura, K. (2007). L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Biol Psychol, 74(1):39-45.
  • Lu, K. (2004). The acute effects of L-theanine in comparison with alprazolam on anticipatory anxiety in humans.  Hum Psychopharmacol.
  • Lee, JH. (1999). Protective effects of garlic juice against embryotoxicity of methylmercuric chloride administered to pregnant Fischer 344 rats. Yonsei Med J, 40(5):483-9.
  • Cha, CW. (1987). A study on the effect of garlic to the heavy metal poisoning of rat. J Korean Med Sci, 2(4):213-24.
  • Reuters. http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/news/20080605/fda-dental-filling-risk-possible.

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