We often think about detoxification after a period of overconsumption (think too much sugar, alcohol, or junk food) or when experiencing a new health related complaint (skin issues, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, etc.). Many of us only think of detoxification during certain times of the year (like “Spring Cleaning”).
But did you know detoxification is happening in your body ALL the time? That’s right, every minute of every day your body is working hard to eliminate potentially harmful toxins from your body.
Detoxification differs from the more popular term “detox”. A “detox” is a program typically followed for 7 or 10 day periods. They can be a great way to start fresh or get back on track but doing a detox is never a long-term solution. Many program promise quick fixes for a slew of complaints but the real solution comes from supporting our detoxification processes on a daily basis.
Luckily there are many things we can do on a regular basis to help support our natural ability to detoxify. We cover those tips over several articles called Daily Detox Tips.
When it comes to detoxification, there are a few important organ systems doing most of the work. Everyday we are exposed to a variety of toxins and chemicals that need to be broken down and filtered out of our bodies. When these systems become overwhelmed (either too many toxins or not enough support to help the systems work) our health suffers.
The liver is an amazing organ and is the main detoxifier of the body. It also has MANY other functions. The liver is necessary for bile production, vitamin and mineral storage, metabolism control, and immunity.
When it comes to detoxification, the liver is not only responsible for breakdown environmental toxins such as pesticides, alcohol, and medications, but also our own hormones and breakdown products.
When overwhelmed by toxins, it cannot function optimally. Because the liver has a significant role in so many different functions, the result of an overwhelmed liver can affect pretty much every aspect of health and contribute to hormonal complaints, skin concerns, immune conditions, sleep disturbances, cholesterol issues and digestive complaints.
(I could go on… but I bet you get the point…the liver does a lot!)
The kidneys are small but mighty and perform such important processes that most of us have two! Kidneys play an important role in regulating blood pressure, pH levels, and electrolyte balance in the body.
The kidneys main role, however, is to filter blood. In fact, about 1/4 of our total blood volume is filtered thru the kidneys every minute!! What?! Here’s another one for you: that works out to our entire blood volume being filtered 60 times every day!!
The process of detoxification involves making toxins water soluble. As this crazy amount of blood is moving thru the kidneys, these toxins can be filtered out and eliminated in the urine.
(Thank you, kidneys!)
Supportive Organs of Detoxification:
The intestines do not play a direct role in detoxification processes but are an important organ for getting rid of those toxins.
The main role of the intestines is absorption. When is comes to toxin exposure, it’s the liver that takes the brunt of it. For example, when someone overdoses on Tylenol, it’s not the stomach or intestines that are damaged, but the liver. Or with long-term alcohol abuse, it’s the liver that will fail.
The intestines do play a very supportive role and can help the liver out. When moving properly, fat soluble toxins and other unwanted material get eliminated thru the stool efficiently and effectively. Constipation on the other hand can lead to absorption and recirculation of these toxins, putting additional burden on our detoxification pathways.
(Key point: keep it moving!)
The skin can be considered as another supportive organ in detoxification. By promoting healthy skin and reducing the amount of chemicals we absorb thru our skin, we can reduce the burden on our liver and kidneys.
The skin can be one of the first places symptoms of an overwhelmed detoxification system will show up. Many people experience rashes, acne, and itching when the liver becomes overwhelmed.
(Main takeaway: take skin symptoms seriously!)
We need oxygen for healthy cellular function (including detoxification processes), hence the importance of lung health and proper breathing techniques.
Lungs are also responsible for eliminating toxins in the form of gas.
(Tip: breath deeply!)
You gotta love the lymphatic system, it really does so much for us!
I often refer to the network of lymphathic vessels as the body’s sewer system. It basically picks up fluid that leaks out during oxygen exchange and filters it thru channels of tissue known as lymph nodes. These nodes are concentrated areas of immune cells. If the system detects a toxin or bacteria, the immune cells can target it and ideally eliminate the threat before an infection occurs.
The lymph system does not have a pump (unlike the circulatory system which relies on pressure generated by the heart) so it needs muscles to contract to move it. People often experience swelling, skin irritation, and fatigue when the lymph system is under-functioning.
(Seriously, love your lymph!)
It is obvious our detoxification systems work hard, every day. That’s a good thing because we are exposed to more toxins and harmful chemicals than ever before.
Check out the next several posts, Daily Detox Tips, for information on how to support these precious detoxification organs!