Spring inspires us to think about cleaning – whether it’s our homes, gardens or bodies. Detoxification isn’t a new practice, despite it often being sold to us as a quick fix in the media. But do we really need to detox ourselves?
In our daily lives, we encounter a barrage of everyday chemicals. Benzene in petrol fumes, bisphenol A (BPA) in cans, plastic packaging, chemicals in paints, dry cleaning chemicals, Scotch guard for carpets, furniture, wood & /floor finishes, cosmetics, toiletries, cleaning products, printing ink, dust, heavy metals, cigarette smoke, artificial sweeteners, caffeine, food additives, prescription drugs, non-stick cookware and pesticides. It’s estimated over 85,0000 chemicals can be found in our household products alone.
Own bodies generate toxins daily. By breathing or digesting food, our body creates toxins, such as urea, carbon dioxide and lactic acid. Our microbiome, the 1.5 to 2 kg of mostly friendly bacteria that live in our intestines that produce essential nutrients for us, also generates some hard-core toxins in the process, including aldehydes and alcohols. These need to be detoxified from our system daily.
Toxins and Chronic Disease
There is growing research showing the impact of toxin exposure on chronic health conditions such as fibromyalgia, atherosclerosis, chronic fatigue, and multiple chemical sensitivity. A USA study in 2020 found BPA, an endocrine-disrupting chemical in plastics, disrupts thyroid signalling and the metabolism. Our thyroid is a vital endocrine gland in our body, driving our metabolism and many other key activities for good health. Sadly, one of the highest sources of BPA toxicity is seafood and fish, according to a European Food Safety Authority report.
Signs that you may benefit from detoxing?
Some signs and symptoms that you may have a toxic load and therefore benefit from detoxifying are as follows:
- Chronic immune system depression.
- Low energy
- Contact dermatitis (skin reactions)
- Aches and pains
- Chronic fatigue
- Mineral imbalances – especially calcium and zinc.
- Multiple chemical sensitivities.
- Recurrent yeast infections
- Sensitivity to supplements & medications
Why and how to detoxify?
Detoxification is an essential and complex process that our bodies naturally undertake daily. To aid and optimise this process, we should support this with dietary and lifestyle practices. Ideally, we should incorporate these practices into our daily routines, rather than embark on occasional intensive detox programmes for a week or month.
First, it is important to assess your current exposure to toxins. The exposure questionnaire is a useful tool to assess this:
What steps can I take to reduce my toxic load?
In isolation, each potential environment toxin can be handled by the body’s detoxification system. But when there is a constant onslaught of multiple toxins, it's easy to see how the body’s systems can become overwhelmed, with symptoms of toxicity arising.
Take Action in what you buy and use daily
- Switching to as much organic food as possible can be a great start if your budget allows that. This is because of residue pesticides that are found in many foods. Pan-uk.org lists the dirty dozen pesticides in our food chain.
- Invest in a good water filter – there are lots of toxins in tap water
- Move to natural cosmetics and face/body cleansers
- Use natural household cleaning products
- Avoid regular deodorants and antiperspirants that are usually high in aluminium (alum)
- Avoid aluminium cookware — aluminium is linked to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease
- Add more plants to your home to help purify the air
- Reduce your coffee intake- it puts the detoxification process out of balance.
- Reduce your alcohol and nicotine intake.
Support your Digestion & Elimination
- Supporting your gastrointestinal function with lots of natural fibre and water is vital for regular bowel elimination. Healthy bowels should eliminate at least once, ideally twice, a day. This is the most important, simple and effective way of ensuring toxin elimination, and reducing toxin re-absorption or recirculation.
- Eat a rainbow-coloured diet, full of fruit and vegetables, containing prebiotic fibre to encourage the growth of good bacteria in gut, which also nurtures a diverse microbiome.
- Support detox with essential macro, micro and phytonutrients. Most toxins dissolve in fats and require conversion to water-soluble molecules in order to be effectively eliminated from body via urine, faeces and sweat.
Natural antioxidants in our diet can help protect our tissues from being oxidised/damaged by toxins.
Catechins in green tea help the detox process by boosting essential enzymes. H.H. Sherry Chow, who has been researching green tea compounds, has stated that, “they actually convert known carcinogens to non-toxic chemicals”.
Other key nutrients to support detoxification are:
- A good balance of protein & carbohydrates
- Fatty acids (EFAs)
- Fibre, fibre, fibre.
- Green tea catechins.
- Sulphate donors - such as brassica vegetables and alliums.
- Methylation support
- B-complex vitamins.
- Vitamins A, C, E and D
- Water – aim for 2 litres/day
Support your detox with foods and natural supplements
It is vital that before embarking on any cleanse or detoxification programme that you ensure all parts of detoxification system are supported — Phase1 & Phase II and a constant supply of antioxidants too. The antioxidants mop up the free radicals created during the detoxification processes. These processes are happening constantly and require lots of energy and nutrients, which requires a balanced and healthy diet.
In today's constant toxic environment, the only way to really support optimal health is to encourage balanced detoxification each and every day.