Excerpt from "Detoxification...Restore Your Core"
Our health is one of the most valuable things we possess and yet most of us spend little time understanding how to maintain our bodies in optimal health. Sometimes we don't pay attention to our health until it begins to fail. Thankfully, our bodies are forgiving. They can withstand quite a burden before they begin to fail and, given the appropriate support, our bodies can recover from amazing amounts of damage. Unfortunately, we often don't recognize the combined burden our environment, diet, lifestyle and metabolic processes place upon our bodies each and every day.
Exposure to potentially harmful substances comes from many sources. Our skin is designed to protect us from contacting many of these substances. However, we unknowingly expose ourselves to substances in our environment everyday-most often by what we apply to our skin, what we breathe and, most commonly, by what we ingest. Within our lifetime, we will consume between 30-50 tons of food. Our gastrointestinal (GI) system is responsible for breaking down these foods, digesting and absorbing those components which are potentially useful and eliminating the rest. The liver, in close association with the GI system, works to remove toxins that we encounter from the food we eat as well as toxins produced by our bodies. When the GI tract is not functioning optimally, additional burden is placed upon the liver. Periodically, it is important to restore the body's ability to cleanse itself and eliminate toxins.
WHAT EXACTLY ARE TOXINS, AND WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?
A toxin is defined as any substance that causes harmful effects to our body. Normally, the immune system, liver and kidneys work together to remove toxins at the same rate as they are encountered. When toxin levels are in excess of our body's capacity to remove them, they build up and are stored until they are removed. We can have toxins stored in our bodies for years without experiencing any negative symptoms, but once the burden of toxins becomes too high, we start to feel ill. We tend to think about toxins coming from environmental sources such as exhaust fumes, solvents and inhalants, but it is important to consider the other numerous, less apparent toxin-producing sources we are exposed to on a daily basis. These include toxins from our lifestyle, toxins created within our bodies (internal toxins) and toxins created from our emotions.
We are exposed to more pollution today than any other period in history. During the past 100 years, approximately 75,000 new chemicals have been released into our environment. Although very few long-term safety studies have been done on these chemicals, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants us to believe that they are safe. Industrial and technological advancements have resulted in many new and stronger chemicals, air and water pollution, radiation, pesticides and herbicides. These are just some examples of what we are exposed to on a daily basis. Your body was not designed to deal with the considerable onslaught of these toxins. By lowering the amount of exposure to these environmental toxins and taking steps to cleanse out those that have accumulated in your body, you can feel better and reduce your risk of illness This can help your body function at an optimal level.
Many of us have unhealthy lifestyle habits which introduce significant toxins into our bodies. Today, we use more prescription drugs, eat more sugar and highly processed foods and turn to addictive substances such as caffeine, alcohol and tobacco to help us deal with the daily stresses of life. A majority of diet foods sold in the market today have little nutritional value because of over-processing and the addition of ingredients used to help make the food appear more attractive and taste fresher. These ingredients include artificial food additives, colors, flavors and preservatives. Certain types of meats that we consume contain hormones (used to fatten up cattle and poultry) as well as antibiotics, both of which can cause hormonal disruption in our bodies. To cope with the increasing levels of daily stresses, some of us turn to addictive substances such as caffeine and other stimulants, sedatives, alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs, all of which have to be filtered out of the body through the liver and kidneys. In today's fast-paced society, we also do not get the proper amount of sleep and exercise needed to stay healthy. Both of these lifestyle factors play a critical role in relieving stress and eliminating harmful toxins from our body.
In addition to toxins from our environment and lifestyle choices, there are different types of toxins that are produced within our body. Three main categories of toxins are created within our bodies.
1. Metabolic reactions:
Countless metabolic reactions are occurring in our body at every moment of every day. These reactions occur at the molecular level and are necessary in helping us break down proteins, fats and sugars into energy during the digestive and metabolic processes. Each of these reactions creates toxic waste products (such as carbon dioxide and ammonia) that must be eliminated. Another important example is hormones such as estrogen and androgen, which must be broken down and excreted by the liver after they are used. If they are not properly broken down and excreted, then hormonal imbalances result and cause symptoms such as weight gain, skin disorders and blood sugar imbalances. In addition, toxic build-up can occur when elimination mechanisms are inadequate due to poor nutrient intake or improper absorption of key detoxification nutrients. In most cases, it is the combination of excess toxin formation and poor toxin elimination that leads to toxic build-up.
2. Intestinal microbes:
The intestinal tract is full of bacteria and yeast. Often called gut flora or intestinal microbes, these bacteria and yeast are highly beneficial. They assist in the digestion of some vitamins and play an important role in the body's immune response. Although most of these microbes are beneficial, overgrowth of certain strains of bacteria and yeast can be harmful to our health. These harmful flora constantly absorb nutrients and produce waste that can be absorbed into our body's blood circulation. Long-term production of these toxins can lead to inflammation, a weakened immune system and a slower metabolic rate. It usually takes about 12-20 hours for the food we eat to be digested and eliminated from our body, but when we have digestive problems such as decreased enzymes to digest our food or slow peristaltic movement (rhythmic contraction of smooth muscles to move food through our GI tract), undigested food can remain in the large intestine for a prolonged period of time causing harmful bacteria and yeast to grow. This build-up produces high levels of toxic compounds that are absorbed into the body's blood circulation which requires detoxification and elimination from the body.
3. Emotional toxins:
Research has shown that there is a connection between our emotions and well-being. When experiencing a traumatic or stressful event, it is common for us to react with anger, fear, grief, sorrow, resentment and other related emotions. Repeated cycles of these types of emotional stresses have a direct effect on the nervous and hormonal systems, which can indirectly affect our body's ability to detoxify. Rather than accepting these as normal or natural emotions, we might suppress them and not deal with them directly. Ignoring or suppressing these emotions (such as leaving a spouse or job, avoiding a relative or neighbor, etc.) will not make them go away and only prolongs the damaging effects on our bodies.
Keesha Ewers is the owner of Fern Life Center and is a Certified Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) with a specialty in primary care or family practice (FNP). She also has a Master's degree in Ayurveda and is a certified Functional Medicine Practitioner.