Updated: Sep 12, 2022
The role of toxins and detoxification in maintaining health is very often overlooked by us. We do not realize how often the disease develops due to excess toxins accumulation. Especially, the man-made pollutants have an enormous negative effect on our health (you can read more about them here). Many of us probably have symptoms of chronic toxicity, but do not associate them with detoxification problems. Excessive accumulation of toxins in the body can manifest as: fatigue, headaches, difficulty concentrating, sleep problems, muscle and joint pain, gastrointestinal problems, skin problems, premenstrual syndrome and others mentioned in my previous post.
Our health and well-being depend on how well the body removes and purges toxins. As the environment becomes more toxic, we are becoming more and more overloaded with different contaminants. As a result, we are sicker than we have ever been. What we eat, drink, absorb, think, breathe, put on our skin, and how and where we live has a fundamental effect on our health. Fortunately, we have appropriate mechanisms responsible for maintaining cleanliness in our body. This sophisticated way of eliminating toxins involves the liver, kidneys, digestive system, skin, and lungs. Their malfunction contributes to the formation of inflammation giving rise to the disease. Diseases that may begin with toxicity include: arthritis, autoimmune diseases (e.g. Hashimoto, lupus), cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, digestive system diseases (e.g. Crohn's disease, ulcers, colitis), diseases of the heart and circulatory system (e.g. hypertension), fibromyalgia, food allergies/intolerances/hypersensitivity, menstrual problems (e.g. heavy bleeding, cramps, PMS, PCOS), neurodegenerative diseases (Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, dementia). The key to success is finding out how to increase our body's ability to detoxify and get rid of waste, while minimizing exposure to toxins. Here are some evidenced-based ways to boost our body’s natural detox system:
1. Get more sleep
Sleeping allows the brain to recharge itself, as well as facilitating the removal of toxic waste products that have accumulated throughout the day (Eugene et al., 2015). Sleep has a critical function in ensuring metabolic homeostasis (Xie et al., 2013). Poor sleep has been linked to short- and long-term health consequences, such as stress, anxiety, high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity (Medic et al., 2017). Get seven to nine hours per night on a regular basis to promote good health (Watson et al., 2015). Limit blue light, emitted from mobile devices and computer screens, prior to bed (Shechter et al., 2018). In order to maximize sleep hygiene limit caffeine, nicotine and alcohol consumption. Light exercise, noise reduction and stress management techniques are also encouraged (Irish et al., 2015).
2. Drink more water
Water is the major constituent of the human body. It allows the body’s detoxification system to remove waste products which cause harm if allowed to build up in the blood. Water transports these waste products, efficiently removing them through urination, breathing, or sweating. So, staying properly hydrated is important for detoxification (Popkin et al., 2010). Drink an adequate daily intake of water. Health authorities commonly recommend about 2 liters. You may need more or less depending on your diet, where you live, and your activity level. During high heat and exercise, make sure to drink enough to compensate for the lost fluids.
3. Reduce intake of sugar and processed foods
Ultra-processed foods are linked to a higher risk of death among middle-aged adults (Schnabel et al., 2019). Moreover, increased consumption of processed food and sugar is linked to a higher risk of coronary heart disease, obesity, diabetes and several types of cancer, including colorectal and stomach cancer (Khan and Sievenpiper, 2016; Fiolet et al., 2018). These diseases hinder body’s natural ability to detoxify itself by harming organs that play an important role, such as your liver and kidneys. Limiting consumption of processed food will help to keep your body’s detoxification system healthy.
4. Reduce alcohol consumption
While studies have shown that low alcohol consumption is beneficial for heart health, excessive drinking can cause a myriad of health problems, including cardiovascular risks (Roerecke and Rehm, 2014; Mostofsky et al., 2016). Alcohol is mainly metabolized in the liver to acetaldehyde, a known cancer-causing chemical (Mizumoto et al., 2017). Toxic acetaldehyde is further converted to a harmless acetate, which is later eliminated from the body. Excessive drinking can severely damage liver function by causing fat build-up, inflammation, and scarring. This leads to decline in liver function, including filtering toxins from the body.
5. Eat antioxidant- and sulfur-rich food
Alcohol, tobacco smoke, a poor diet, and exposure to pollutants can produce excessive reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS are highly reactive molecules which can damage cell structures and alter their functions. These molecules are now thought to make a significant contribution to all inflammatory diseases (arthritis, glomerulonephritis, lupus erythematous), asthma, ischemic diseases (heart diseases, stroke), gastric ulcers, hypertension, neurological disorders (Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, muscular dystrophy), and certain types of cancer (Lobo et al., 2010). Antioxidants help neutralize these harmful oxygen species. Thus, eating antioxidant-rich food helps to prevent the potential negative health effects of ROS. Examples of antioxidants include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, manganese, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, quercetin. Berries, fruits and vegetables, nuts, cocoa, herbs and spices (e.g. allspice, cinnamon, basil, oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, saffron, tarragon, ginger), and beverages like green tea have some of the highest amounts of antioxidants (Carlsen et al., 2010). Foods high in sulfur, such as onions, broccoli, and garlic, enhance excretion of heavy metals. Season your dishes with coriander leaves. Coriander enhances excretion of certain toxins, such as heavy metals (e.g.mercury, lead) and chemicals (e.g. phthalates, insecticides).
6. Keep digestion system healthy
Intestinal cells have a detoxification and excretion system that protects them and the body from harmful toxins, such as chemicals. Gut health depends on its microbiota. So called “good bacteria” (probiotics) produce short-chain fatty acids that are beneficial for our health (Markowiak and Slizewska, 2017). Unbalanced intestinal microbiota (due to the use of antibiotics, poor dental hygiene, diet quality, environmental pollutants, and stress) can weaken immune and detoxification systems and increase the risk of disease and inflammation. Eating foods rich in probiotics and prebiotics (a type of fiber that feeds the good bacteria) keeps immune and detoxification systems healthy. Some of the best probiotic foods include miso, kombucha, pickles, sauerkraut, kefir, and yoghurt. Good food sources of prebiotics include tomatoes, artichokes, bananas, asparagus, onions, garlic, and oats.
7. Exercise regularly
Exercise keeps our body moving, increasing blood circulation and allowing the cells to better detoxify a large amount of ROS (Simiono et al., 2018). Studies have shown that exercise assists the lungs, kidneys, immune system and intestines in becoming more efficient at naturally detoxifying the body. Moreover, regular physical activity lowers inflammation (Silverman and Deuster, 2014).
8. Get sauna sessions
Long sessions in sauna can be used very effectively as a means to enhance the mobilization of heavy metals and fat-soluble xenobiotics. Sauna detoxification protocols were successfully used to reduce the chronic symptoms and improve the quality of life of patients exposed to chemicals at work (Krop, 1998; Ross and Sternquist, 2012) and Gulf War veterans (Kerr et al., 2019). Saunas are safe and effective and should be used more frequently.
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