Detoxification is so much more than just having regular and efficient bowel movements. Our bodies are a complex machine and we have developed a complex system of organs to try and keep them in good working order.
It is the efficient operation of each of these organs and their inter-relationships which keep us healthy and prevent us from succumbing to ill health. The major organs involved are: the gut and bowel, the liver, the kidneys, the lymph system, the lungs and the skin.
The liver is the most important organ of detoxification in the body. Given the proper nourishment the liver is capable of regeneration both in the building of new tissue and in restoring its ability to detoxify substances. The body’s ability to rid itself of toxic substances from the environment is dependent upon proper function of the liver.
Steroid hormones, excess cholesterol and medical drugs are just some of the substances that the liver has to deal with. Unfortunately our lifestyle can often prove too much for the liver to deal with. Poor nutrition with excessive fat intake, or damage through alcohol abuse can lead to congestion and stagnation.
Phase I involves the activation of enzymes which begin the process of transforming toxic substances in readiness for excretion from the body. Toxic substances are often fat soluble and therefore need to be converted from fat soluble to water soluble substances. When a substance is bio-transformed, it is converted to an intermediate form. These bio-transformed intermediates then undergo a second conversion process.
Phase II involves the combination of the intermediate product with other substances in order to make them water soluble for excretion as non-toxic substances in the urine and bile. There are eight phase II processes, and in order to function optimally, each depends upon the presence of specific nutrients. If the liver can’t use the phase II pathways, the bio-transformed intermediates can accumulate and be more harmful to the body than if no detoxification has occurred. For this reason when people have an accumulation of fat then rapid weight loss is not advisable because the liver needs to be well supported in order to get rid of the semi-converted toxins.
The bowel needs to be working effectively to remove waste material from the body. But before this stage the gut needs to be healthy in order to reduce the amount of toxins getting into the body. Unfortunately there are many areas where this can go wrong, as follows:
- Proper chewing of food – digestion begins in the mouth with proper mastication and the production of salivary enzymes.
- Low stomach acidity and lack of enzymes – Low acidity which can be caused by medical drugs and poor food choices and rushed eating allows undigested food and potential toxic material to make its way to the rest of the intestinal area.
- Low pancreatic enzymes – food is not digested correctly leading to lack of nutrients and potential allergens reaching the bloodstream
- Poor bile function
- Poor nutrient absorption due to the gut lining being affected by gluten. The delicate mucosal membranes which line the digestive tract can be affected by stress, alcohol, drugs, infections etc. and this can lead to poor gut function and the prevalence of conditions such as IBS.
- Slow movement through the gut leading to build up of putrifying material
The kidneys are a major outlet for getting rid of water soluble toxins. They are also a vital part of the mechanism for maintaining the sodium-potassium balance of the body. This balance can be easily upset as a result of our modern day diets and lifestyles. Most people’s diets are generally overloaded with sodium.
Also the kidneys act as the ‘last line of defence’ for detoxification and elimination. They often have to deal with large amounts of toxins and chemicals to balance your blood fluids. If they don’t have enough of the correct nutrients and energy then they will struggle to perform efficiently. Plenty of water is required to ‘flush’ your system and keep the kidneys working well.
The Lymphatic system
Your lymph system is a second circulatory system which works along your cardiovascular system. It too has a network of vessels, but no pump, relying instead on the movement of the body and the contraction of muscles to move the fluids along. The fine capillaries of the lymphatic system are responsible for draining waste material at the smallest cellular level. A strong vital lymphatic system is essential for efficient detoxification and as such plays a key role in our immunity to disease. Physical movement is a key factor in maintaining a healthy lymph system.
This is an alternative route for getting rid of water soluble toxins. This is often used when the other organs such as liver and kidneys are overloaded. Skin conditions – eczema, psoriasis, spots etc are often a sign of the body struggling to detoxify. Don’t add to the burden by covering your skin with toxic materials such as lotions, potions and perfumes.
Like the skin the lungs are an alternative route for getting rid of water soluble toxins. This is often used when the other organs such as liver and kidneys are overloaded. Signs include coughs, bringing up mucous, wheeziness, asthmatic conditions etc. Make sure you get out into the fresh air frequently. Take time to breathe deeply and don’t pollute your lungs with substances such as tobacco or by spending more time than necessary in polluted environments.