Cleansing And Detoxifying From a Naturopathic Perspective
The body has a unique system of detoxification that involves both primary and secondary organs of excretion. The primary organs of excretion include the liver and intestines, the kidneys and the lungs. The major secondary organ of excretion is the skin and when the primary excretion pathways are blocked we can see symptoms such as acne and skin rashes to signify that the secondary means are being used.
Most people associate detoxification with the liver and it is true that this organ plays a crucial role in the detoxification of harmful substances. There are two pathways of detoxification in the liver: phase one and phase two:
• First step in the breakdown of substances
• The byproducts can sometimes be more harmful than the original substance
• This pathway often produces free radicals which are substaces that damage liver cells
• It requires antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and amino acids for proper functioning
• Lack of antioxidants and excess chemical exposure can cause overload of pathway
• Environmental contaminants in our air, food products, personal care products, and drugs (including alcohol and pharmaceutical), can overload this pathway increasing free radical damage and toxic buildup
• Substances at the end of this phase are still fat soluble and if the system is overloaded or not functioning properly (i.e. deficient in essential vitamins, and antioxidants), toxins will not get eliminated and instead will be stored in fat cells (brain, endocrine glands: testes, ovaries leading to hormonal imbalance)
• Conjugation pathway: liver cells further break down substances (drugs, hormones, toxins) making them water soluble and ready for excretion via the intestines and kidneys
• This pathway also requires antioxidants, vitamins, amino acids for proper functioning
If either phase one or phase two pathway is overloaded, the result is a build up of toxins in the body. These toxins are usually fat soluble and therefore are stored in fatty parts of the body. These areas include the brain (result: depression, anxiety, mental fog), and the endocrine organs (result: hormone imbalance such as infertility, PMS, severe menopausal symptoms, adrenal exhaustion). The build up of toxins is also implicated in cancer.
Although it is very important to improve and maintain liver function, it is important to realize that detoxification requires a whole body efficient system. As waste accumulates in the body it gets stored in the spaces between cells. In order for our body to work efficiently as a multi system unit there must be communication between each system. As the space fills up between cells, communication becomes increasingly more difficult and the system begins to shut down. In order to maintain proper cell to cell, organ to organ and system to system communication we must continually detoxify. This involves ridding the body cells of stored waste and toxins, reducing toxic exposure via diet and lifestyle choices, and ensuring that all the primary organs of excretion are functioning at optimal capacity. Excretion can be monitored by regular bowel movements, frequent urination, and regular exercise to ensure efficient and optimal lung capacity.
As naturopathic physicians we look at the whole body as a unit that works synergistically to detoxify the body. Detoxification is not a two week diet that cleans us up for the year and gets us on our way until next spring. It’s great to take some time every so often and do a “cleanse” by making some diet and lifestyle changes; however, cleansing and detoxifying are not the same thing. To really detoxify can take months, maybe even years depending on the toxic exposure and accumulation of an individual person. Just think of the number of years you have spent subjecting your body to toxic exposure: pesticides on the foods you eat, pollution in the air around you, drugs, alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes; the list is endless. Having the right guidance and support can make detoxification an efficient and productive process that will get you on your way to optimal health and wellness.
There are many benefits associated with a detoxified body, and conditions that may seem completely unrelated often resolve once the body is cleaned up and the toxins removed from between the cells. Conditions such as acne, headaches, fatigue, premenstrual symptoms, chronic pain, menopause, insomnia, joint pain, digestive disturbance and many more, all benefit from a detoxified body.
To learn more about proper cleansing and detoxification, please consider booking an appointment with Dr. Anstett, Naturopath.
Have a great day,
The Vitality Team