What is detoxification?
The first step to beginning a successful detox program is to understand how our bodies change toxins into less toxic or more readily excretable substances.
Many people equate detoxification only with the liver, but it is important to look at our systems of elimination and detoxification as a whole, including the kidneys, liver, and gastrointestinal tract. Setting up the body to efficiently eliminate toxins is the first and most important step for a successful cleanse. Toxins can have damaging effects on the body if they are too rapidly released without being safely eliminated, so it is important to focus on improving and optimizing the function of your body’s own detoxification systems.
Our kidneys help to maintain fluid balance, remove toxins and waste via the urinary system, regulate blood pressure, and control red blood cell production. Kidney function supports many areas of balance in the body: acidity and alkalinity for pH regulation, salt and water for blood pressure regulation, and sodium and potassium concentration for healthy circulatory and neurological systems.
The kidneys also play an important role in vitamin D activation, which is essential for energy production, cancer prevention, bone health, immune system support, and anti-inflammatory benefit.
Liver function involves cholesterol regulation, breaking down and filtering toxins, storing sugar, minerals, and vitamins, and producing blood cells.
One of the most important roles of the liver is to break down and remove harmful substances out of the blood, while filtering out non-beneficial bacteria and viruses. The liver is also involved with digestion by producing bile, which is then stored in the gallbladder. After eating, the gallbladder then releases the bile to help break down food for more efficient digestion and absorption.
The gastrointestinal system supports detoxification by evacuating waste containing toxins, bacteria, and parasites, while absorbing necessary minerals and nutrients from the food we eat.
The colon works together with the skin, liver, and kidney to flush toxic matter out of the body. After the liver breaks down harmful substances, they are then transported to the intestines via bile. When fecal matter moves through the colon, the colon’s lining absorbs vitamins, mineral salts, and water from the waste, and excretes the toxins.
A common benefit of a successful detox program is weight loss. Our fat cells contain stored toxins, including heavy metals and excess hormones, so it is especially important to encourage functional detox pathways as fat cells are released when losing weight. While undergoing a cleanse, other important physiological considerations include:
- Cell membrane fluidity to allow toxins to exit the cell for removal by the liver, kidneys, and digestive tract.
- Blood sugar balance, which is regulated by the pancreas (secreting insulin) and the liver (stores and releases glucose in response to blood glucose levels)
- Healthy cholesterol levels, which depend upon proper synthesis and metabolization in the liver.
- Limiting inflammatory foods such as gluten and dairy, and focusing on nutrients from whole food sources
- Appropriate digestion and absorption of food
- Sufficient water intake for kidney health and function
- Daily exercise to support liver function, healthy digestive patterns and gastrointestinal elimination of toxins.
Eating nutrient dense whole foods and juices, along with proper supplement support, will ensure that you are giving your body the tools needed for successful detox and ongoing optimal health.
Advanced Naturopathic Medicine Inc. DBA Spark Health Naturopathic Medicine.