Enhancing Normal Metabolic Processes with Detoxification
Many people are confused about what detoxification really means and why they should do it. Our bodies are “detoxing” from toxic substances all the time through the normal metabolic functions of digestion, respiration and metabolism that allow a toxic substance to be eliminated from the body via urine, feces, respiration or sweat. This occurs mainly in the liver, but the skin, lungs, lymph and kidneys are also involved.
To perform this metabolic process, we need specific nutrients such as vitamin C, the B vitamins, magnesium, trace minerals and more to power the reactions needed for detoxification and elimination. If toxins cannot be rendered benign or eliminated, they may be stored in fat cells, or continue to circulate in the bloodstream, creating symptoms such as fatigue, joint pain, allergies, autoimmunity and an overall foggy feeling.
Although the body is equipped to convert and eliminate toxins from the body, if the liver and other organs are not able to keep up with the amount entering or being generated by the body, they will accumulate. If we are exposed to a lot of toxins through our work, diet or environment, or are deficient in any of the required nutrients for detoxification, the liver will not be able to keep up with the load and toxins will accumulate, even with very low exposure.
Many people may be vitamin- and mineral-deficient due to the lack of nutrients in the food supply, poor digestion and other factors. Under these conditions, it is very difficult for the liver to detoxify toxins generated in the course of normal metabolism, let alone under the toxic burden we are exposed to in our environment—and our health is compromised.
A detoxification program is a lifestyle change intended to support, promote and accelerate the normal and natural detoxification process. The intent is to help support the body’s natural detoxification process and eliminate accumulated toxins, which then eliminates the symptoms or illnesses caused by the toxins. In this way, it is safe and effective. However, many people have a negative experience when doing a detox program, such as severe headaches, anxiety, intense fatigue, cold or flu-like symptoms and others.
These symptoms are likely to occur when we stimulate the release of accumulated toxins faster than the liver and other organs can detoxify and eliminate them. Just as someone that walks 15 minutes a day would suffer greatly if they tried to run a marathon, our liver cannot be expected to go from “zero to 60” overnight, especially if the necessary vitamins and minerals for detoxification are deficient.
Because everyone is detoxifying all the time, a program that stimulates the innate detoxification pathways is in theory safe and effective; but the program should vary based on the individual. First, overall health status and vitality should be assessed. Addressing nutrient deficiencies before the program is started is crucial. Someone with severe, chronic conditions should start with a gentle program that slowly increases liver function and detoxification while building up the blood and cells with the nutrients needed for detoxification. Someone that is healthy overall, but experiencing an acute illness, could be a candidate for a more aggressive program.
Everyone can benefit from lowering their exposure to toxins in the environment and increasing the nutritional content of the food they eat to support natural detoxification. The easiest way to do this is to choose foods with deep, rich natural color—those colors represent additional nutrients. Making a plate of mostly fresh cooked or raw colorful fruits and vegetables such as berries, cherries, plums, broccoli, sweet potatoes, red cabbage, greens, okra, sweet peppers and many others to give the liver the nutrients it needs to perform natural detoxification functions is a great way to increase detoxification.
Additional herbs and nutritional supplements can be added, based on the individual’s health and vitality. More aggressive programs include restricting the diet to specific medicinal foods or fasting from food altogether. Consult a health care practitioner knowledgeable about the assessment and creation of a detox program to achieve the individual benefits desired.
Leslie Cisar, ND, is the owner of Vital Naturopathic, 1217 McHenry Rd., Ste. 232, in Buffalo Grove. For more information, call 224-727-8340 or visit VitalNaturopathic.com.