Do You Need a Detox?
It’s that time of year again! We have overindulged, perhaps put on a few pounds, and made resolutions to be healthy. A time of year where gyms are enticing you with 8 week challenges, and every clinic (mine included) or online forum is offering some sort of cleanse or detox. Is there any validity to this idea of detoxification and is it right for you?
Are You Toxic?
The reality is that we are all carrying some toxic burden in our bodies. It is impossible to exist in our modern world without being exposed to toxicants. From birth the chips are stacked against us; over 200 chemicals have been found in umbilical cord blood. In the past 100 years, over 75,000 NEW chemicals have been introduced to our environment.
Many chronic diseases can be attributed to the inflammation that comes from exposure to toxins. Common symptoms that may be associated with toxic burden include brain fog, gastrointestinal complaints such as constipation, diarrhea, nausea, heartburn, reflux, headaches, hormone imbalances, low libido, skin concerns, weight gain, bloating, chronic pain, high blood pressure, diabetes, dark circles under your eyes, menstrual irregularities, sleep disturbances, asthma, frequent colds and flus, fibromyalgia, sensitivity to chemicals, and the list goes on!
Where Do Toxicants** Come From?
(**A quick point of clarification; a toxicant is a chemical introduced into the environment, a toxin is actually a poison or venom that is created by a plant or animal.)
Chemical substances are ubiquitous in the environment. If you breath air, drink water, eat food, take a shower, and clean your home you are exposed to toxicants.
In addition to external sources of toxicants, our bodies create our own toxins. We produce metabolic biproducts via different metabolic processes in the body such as ammonia and carbon dioxide. We create inflammatory chemicals internally when we are exposed to toxins and foods that we do not properly digest. An often overlooked source of toxicity is stress. Storing negative emotions is detrimental to our health. It results in inflammatory chemical responses within the body that can result in a diseased state over the long term.
How Does the Body Detox?
The body is actively mitigating our environmental exposure on a daily basis. Detoxification is primarily carried out by our liver and kidneys. We eliminate toxicants through skin, sweat, urine, bowel movements, breathing and our lymphatic system. The kidneys are responsible for eliminating water soluble substances while our liver tackles the fat-soluble toxins. You can imagine why drinking copious amounts of water is critical to this process!
So Now What?
Come January 1st, we are bombarded with promotions and offers. Any program that promises weight loss, includes the word “miracle” or involves processed packaged foods is not likely a sound program. A detox program should help the body’s natural cleansing process. It should rest the organs through fasting or decreasing calorie consumption for a period of time. It should stimulate the liver to drive toxins from the body while promoting elimination through the intestines, kidneys and skin. It should refuel the body with healthy nutrients and should culminate with rebuilding and transition the participant to a healthy long term lifestyle.
A quality detox or cleanse must contain nutrients/provide dietary guidelines by explaining what foods to avoid and what foods are acceptable to eat. You must decrease the burden on the liver. No alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, chemicals, sugars, animal protein (1st phase). Decrease stress and decrease exposure where possible. Medical supervision is recommended to check for kidney and liver function and must account for adjustments in medications if taking any. Eliminate toxic chemical exposure by switching to natural products where possible. Change cosmetic and beauty products as well as household products.
Make sure you eat! Do not starve, juice fast or water fast without supervision. There are many quality programs available. Understand that simply changing your food or intake is not enough to truly cleanse. You must adjust your exposure, your stress level and make sure your elimination is on point. If you have chronic constipation, diarrhea or do not have daily bowel movements, correcting this prior to a detoxification program will ensure success. Working with a naturopathic doctor who can help you select a program based upon individual needs, performing labs prior to your program to ensure proper kidney and liver function, and determine the ideal length of a cleanse (typically 7 days up to 30) can help take the guess work out of the process. Be a critical consumer and don’t just jump on the bandwagon as it passes by this New Year. The most important thing about any detoxification or cleanse is what you do AFTER! Don’t stop after 14 days! Use a cleanse to jumpstart you on the road to optimal health.
Dr. Katy Firisin offers individualized Detoxification programs of varying length and incorporates individual health needs in each plan. She is a naturopathic doctor and medical director at: Coastal Natural Medicine in Southport, Connecticut. Call 475-999-2032 to set up a complementary 15-minute consult or book your appointment today. Some insurances accepted.