To Detox, or Not To Detox - Pt. 1
by Melissa Pancini - Melissa Pancini
Toxic substances are everywhere, in the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink.
Even our bodies and the bacteria in our intestines produce toxic substances.
Toxins can damage the body in an insidious and cumulative way. Once the detoxification system becomes overloaded, toxins accumulate and we become progressively more sensitive to other chemicals, some of which are not normally toxic. This accumulation of toxins can destroy our normal metabolic processes.
The body eliminates toxins either by directly neutralizing them or by excreting them in the urine and feces (and to a lesser degree via the lungs and skin). Toxins that the body is unable to eliminate, build up in the tissues, typically in our FAT STORES! The liver, intestines, and kidneys are the primary organs of detoxification.
Our body is able to do the detoxification process by itself but the problem is that we are exposed to more toxic substances than ever before and most of the time our organs are not able to do the detoxification naturally… we need to help them out using specific foods and supplements.
What are toxins? A toxin is defined as any compound that has a detrimental effect on cell function or structure. Some toxins can cause minimal negative effects while others can be fatal. Toxic substances can be heavy metals, liver toxicants, microbial compounds and breakdown products of protein metabolism.
Lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, nickel and aluminum are the heavy metals that tend to accumulate within the brain, kidneys, and immune system, where they can severely disrupt normal function.
Most of the heavy metals in the body are a result of environmental contamination due to industry. In addition to industrial sources we can get exposed to heavy metals from pesticide sprays (lead), cooking utensils, and the solder in tin cans; cadmium and lead from cigarette smoke; mercury from dental fillings, contaminated fish, and cosmetics; and aluminum from antacids and cookware.
Early signs of heavy-metal poisoning are vague or attributed to other problems.
Early symptoms can include headache, fatigue, muscle pain, indigestion, tremors, constipation, anemia, dizziness, poor coordination and inability to concentrate.
This category of toxins is primarily dealt with by the liver and includes toxic chemicals, drugs, alcohol, solvents, formaldehyde, pesticides, herbicides, and food additives. They bring a tremendous load to the liver as it detoxifies the incredible quantity of toxic chemicals it is constantly exposed to.
Most common symptoms that indicate this kind of toxicity are psychological and neurological such as depression, headaches, mental confusion, mental illness, tingling in the hands and feet, abnormal nerve reflexes and other signs of impaired nervous system function. The nervous system is extremely sensitive to these chemicals.
Toxins produced by bacteria and yeast in the gut can be absorbed, causing significant disruption of body functions. These toxins have been implicated in a wide variety of diseases, including liver diseases, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, psoriasis, lupus, pancreatitis, allergies, asthma, immune disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and so on.
To reduce the absorption of toxic substances, it is recommended that the diet be rich in fiber, particularly the water-soluble fibers such as those found in vegetables, guar gum, pectin, and oat bran. Fiber has the ability to bind to toxins within the gut and promote their excretion. Don’t forget to drink a lot of water when eating a high amount of fiber.
Breakdown Products of Protein Metabolism
The kidneys are responsible for the elimination of toxic waste products of protein breakdown (ammonia, urea, etc.). Drinking adequate amounts of good quality water and avoiding excessive protein intake can support the kidneys.
The Diagnose of Toxicity
For heavy metals, the most reliable measure of exposure is the hair mineral analysis.
For determining exposure to toxic chemicals, a detailed medical history by a health professional experienced in these matters is essential. When appropriate, the laboratory analysis for this group of toxins can involve measuring blood and fatty tissue for suspected chemicals.
The best recommendation to help you determine if your liver is functioning well is to look over the following list. If any factor applies to you, I recommend consulting a Nutritionist or Naturopath for guidelines in improving liver function.
- More than 20 pounds overweight
- History of heavy alcohol use
- Natural and synthetic steroid hormone use: anabolic steroids, estrogens and oral contraceptives
- High exposure to certain chemicals or drugs: cleaning solvents, pesticides, antibiotics, diuretics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, thyroid hormone
- History of viral hepatitis
To determine the presence of microbial compound, naturopathic physicians use a number of special laboratory techniques including tests for the presence of abnormal microbial concentrations and disease-causing organisms (stool culture), microbial by-products (urine) and endotoxins.
To determine the presence of high levels of protein metabolism and kidney function breakdown products, both blood and urine measurements of these compounds are performed.