Detoxing – the body’s housekeeping

Every day, our bodies are exposed to pollutants and chemicals (external) and endogenous (internal) waste products. We process and eliminate most of these toxins as part of normal detoxification and elimination processes, via the liver, kidneys, intestines, skin, lungs and lymph. However, sometimes detoxification and elimination is impaired due to lifestyle, environmental and/or genetic factors.(1)

Impaired detoxification and/or elimination can trigger a range of symptoms, including:

  • poor concentration,
  • headaches,
  • fatigue and bloating.

An accumulation of toxins has also been linked with more serious diseases, such as:

  • diabetes,
  • cardiovascular disease,
  • cancer,(2) 
  • chronic fatigue syndrome,
  • fibromyalgia,
  • immune dysfunction and
  • Parkinson’s disease.(1)

To enhance detoxification and elimination, it is vital to support what are arguably the two most important organs involved in these processes: the liver and digestive system (gut).

Liver and gut detoxification

The gut is the body’s first point of contact for food, drinks and oral medications(1), and breaks them down so the body can use or excrete them.(3) It is a physical barrier, limiting how many toxins enter the blood stream to help regulate the liver’s toxic load.(1,4) 

The gut wall comprises ‘junctions’, which hold it together and maintain its integrity. When they become ‘loose’, for example due to inflammation from disease or food allergy/intolerance, the gut wall weakens, increasing its permeability so more and larger toxins can pass through it into the bloodstream (“leaky gut“).(3,4) 

Gut flora also play a key role in detoxification.  An imbalance in gut flora (dysbiosis) has been linked to a range of health issues, including:

  • allergies;
  • immune,
  • gut and cardiovascular disorders;
  • and diabetes.(3) 

Gut dysbiosis may also trigger gut inflammation and permeability, increasing the body’s exposure to toxins.(3)

The liver and other detoxification organs require nutrients in order to carry out these important processes.  Detoxification stages can also be inhibited or induced by other factors, including medications, food, smoking, disease, stress, genetics, age and gender.(1,2)

How to support detoxification

Herbal medicine

There are numerous herbs that support gut and liver function, and help clear toxins from the body.  Herbal medicines should be prescribed by qualified practitioners.

Diet 

Probiotic supplements and fermented foods, such as yoghurt, sauerkraut and tempeh, help balance and restore gut flora.(3) Fibre in the form of fibre-rich foods or supplements will also support gut flora, as well as regulate bowel movements to better eliminate toxins.(14,15) Including bitter foods will further improve digestion and stimulate bile production.(12,16)

Consuming foods like cruciferous vegetables, beans, watercress, berries, grapes, apple, grapefruit, garlic, onion, turmeric, rosemary, and black and green tea, can support detoxification.(2)

Ensuring adequate water intake will help prevent constipation and regulate bowel movements, and ‘flush out’ toxins via the kidneys (urine) and skin (sweat).(17)

 

Reducing or removing toxin-containing foods, for example, foods containing artificial colours, flavours, sweeteners and preservatives, will reduce exposure to toxins and associated health risks.(18) In addition, removing foods and drinks that trigger an intolerance or allergic reaction will support gut mucosa health.(19,20) This is because gut mucosa contains many immune cells.(19,20) When the immune system perceives a food or drink to be a pathogen, it triggers an immune response.(19,20) This response increases inflammation in the gut and in the long term, can weaken the gut membrane,(19,20) allowing toxins to pass more easily into circulation.

Lifestyle

Being physically active supports detoxification in several ways. It makes us sweat, eliminating toxins through our skin pores,(21) and encourages deeper and more frequent breathing, which stimulates the lungs and increases elimination via breath. It also moves our muscles, which stimulates the lymphatic system.(22,23) The lymphatic system moves fluid through lymphatic vessels to its nodes and spleen, where toxins and other debris in the fluid are captured and destroyed before the fluid is returned to the bloodstream.(22,23)

The Australian Government recommends people aged 18–64 years do 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75–150 minutes of vigorous physical activity, or the equivalent combination, each week.(24) They also recommend that people are active on most, if not all, days of the week.(24)

Dry skin brushing is another way of stimulating the lymphatic system to increase toxin elimination.(25) It also improves surface circulation and opens the pores to help the skin eliminate toxins.(25)

Ideally, skin brushing should be done daily, using a natural bristle brush on dry skin. Each stroke should go toward the heart.(25) Brush the whole body, including the bottoms of feet, up legs and arms, and in circular, anti-clockwise movements on the abdomen, then shower.(25)

Environment

Making small, gradual changes around the home and workplace will help to reduce the body’s exposure to environmental toxins.(2)

For example, as chemical-based cleaning products run out, they can be replaced with more natural products. Likewise, plastic containers and drinking vessels can be replaced with glass or metal (food-grade stainless steel not aluminium) ones. Air filters and ventilation can be used to improve air quality inside, and water filters can be used to remove impurities from drinking water, especially where contamination is a risk.

Conclusion

While our bodies do process and eliminate toxins naturally, sometimes toxins can build up due to lifestyle, environmental and/or genetic factors. This can lead to a range of health problems and increase the risk of serious disease. There is a wide range of things that can be done to support our body with detoxification, including enhancing liver and gut function, and changing our diet, lifestyle and environment. By doing these things, we can experience better overall health, energy and vitality.

For advice and guidance on how to detox your body efficiently and safely, contact True Medicine on 07 5530 1863.

References

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  3. Lin CS, Chang CJ, Lu CC, Martel J, Ojcius DM, Ko YF, Young JD, Lai HC. Impact of the gut microbiota, prebiotics, and probiotics on human health and disease. Biomed J. 2014 37(5):259–268.
  4. Döring B, Petzinger E. Phase 0 and phase III transport in various organs: Combined concept of phases in xenobiotic transport and metabolism. Drug Metabol Rev. 2014 46(3): 261–282.
  5. Langmann T, Moehle C, Mauerer R, Scharl M, Liebisch G, Zahn A, Stremmel W, Schmitz G.Loss of detoxification in inflammatory bowel disease: dysregulation of pregnane X receptor target genes. Gastroenterology. 2014 127(1): 26–40.
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  13. Schutz K, Carle R, Schieber A. Taraxacum—A review on its phytochemical and pharmacological profile. J Ethnopharma. 2006 10 (2006): 313–323.
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  16. Marco Valussi. Functional foods with digestion-enhancing properties. Int J Food Sci and Nut. 2012 63(sup1): 82–89, DOI: 10.3109/09637486.2011.627841.
  17. Popkin BM, D’Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, hydration and health. Nutr Rev. 2010 68(8): 439–458.
  18. Williams P. Food Toxicity and Safety. In: Mann J, Truswell A, editors. Essentials of Human Nutrition. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2012. [pp. 449–466].
  19. Johnston LK, Chien KB, Bryce PJ. The Immunology of Food Allergy. J Immunol. 2014 192(6): 2529–2534.
  20. Berin MC, Sampson HA. Mucosal Immunology of Food Allergy. Current Biology. 2013 23(9): R389–R400.
  21. Sears ME, Kerr KJ, Bray RI. Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, and Mercury in Sweat: A Systematic Review. J Envir Pub Health. 2012 [cited 2018 Sept 30]; 2012: 1–10. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2012/184745
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  23. Tortora GJ, Derrickson B. Principles of anatomy and physiology. 12th ed. USA: John Wiley & Sons; 2009.
  24. Department of Health. Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines [internet]. Canberra ACT: Australian Government; 21 November 2017 [cited 30 September 2018]. Available from: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines
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