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Detoxification: A path to wellness

Almost every day we hear or see an article, blog, podcast or tweet regarding the concept of toxicity and detoxification, but what does this really mean? Living in today's world we are exposed to a variety of toxins from different sources that can have a potentially negative impact on our health. This exposure to toxins can be through our air, water, food and basic household items. *The National Institute for Health estimates that over 1 billion pounds of pesticides and herbicides are used per year in the U.S. in our food sources, and yet another 5.6+ billion worldwide. This amounts to about 9+ pounds per year for each man, woman and child. Air pollution comes primarily from automobile exhaust and industry waste. Waste products from industries make their way into our water supply and we are also potentially exposed to many chemicals like heavy metals, plastics and solvents from items such as carpet, paint and household cleansers, in addition to exposure to naturally occurring toxins such as mold.

What affect does this have on our health?

Exposure to toxins can cause cell damage, deplete vital nutrients that are needed for good health and toxins can accumulate in our bodies over time, increasing our risk for chronic illness. Increased cell death due to toxins leads to faster "turn over" of cells and the increased possibility of genetic mutations which can potentially lead to production of cancer cells.

What are the symptoms of toxicity?

Illness from toxicity occurs when toxic exposure is greater than the body's ability to eliminate those toxins. Symptoms can vary according to the individual and level of toxic exposure but common symptoms could be headaches, skin rashes, fatigue, allergies, and unusual response to medications or supplements, sensitivity to odors, perfumes and chemicals, muscle pain, mood swings, fertility issues and decreased immune function.

How do we get rid of these toxins from our bodies?

It is important to limit exposure as much as possible. Avoidance of chemical additives, preservatives, pesticides and coloring in our food is helpful. Also avoiding exposure to chemicals in makeup, skin care products, detergents, household cleansers, carpets and paints and environments conducive to mold growth is vitally important. Environmentally friendly products are available for use and organic food that is free of pesticides and herbicides is becoming more popular and readily available.

Limiting exposure is important, however, eliminating toxins that are already in the body is equally vital. There are four main routes of elimination of toxins from the body. These include the liver and gastrointestinal tract, lungs, skin and kidneys.

1) The liver and gastrointestinal tract: The liver is the main organ of detoxification in the body. It utilizes very specific detoxification pathways that require various co-factors (vitamins and minerals) for proper functioning. The liver is also responsible for hormone metabolism, so if the liver is overloaded with toxins, then hormone related conditions, such as PMS and menopause can be worsened as a result. Liver support and providing the necessary co-factors for detoxification and healthy hormone metabolism are vital for good health and balanced hormones. After toxins are processed by the liver they are eliminated in the stool, so regular bowel movements are vitally important and a detoxification protocol should be discontinued if constipation occurs.

2) The skin: Toxins are released through the skin and this process is amplified when the body sweats with activities such as exercise, saunas and also with dry skin brushing. This is why regular exercise is so important, especially while doing a detoxification program.

3) The lungs: Toxins are also released through the lungs. Exercise and maximizing lung function with increased activity and long, deep breathing with yoga or tai chi are vitally important to enhance detoxification.

4) The kidneys: It is important to drink plenty of water so that the kidneys are efficient in flushing toxins and metabolized medications from the body as well.

There are an unlimited variety of detoxification protocols, supplements and foods that are effective in assisting the body with detoxification. These detoxification plans need to be individually formulated according to a person's health, sensitivities and level of toxicity. It is important to be supervised by a physician for optimal results as well as safety.

If you are interested in creating an individualized detoxification plan for yourself, please inquire about it at your next visit! Detoxification is an important part of achieving optimal health and this time of year is perfect for doing a little "cleansing" for the body!

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