Detoxing on the Daily
For many people, spring is the time to clean up their diet, get more active and perhaps even try a detoxification program. But with so many books and websites offering different types of “cleanses” and “detoxes,” how do you choose the one that’s right for you? To answer that question, it helps to understand the basics –like what, exactly, is detoxification?
Detoxification is simply the process of eliminating toxins from the body. The human body contains seven different channels that are always working to remove toxins: the lungs, kidneys, liver, colon, blood, skin, and the lymphatic system. Each time we work up a sweat, use the bathroom or even exhale deeply, we’re naturally detoxifying. So how do toxins get into our bodies in the first place?
There’s a well-known expression: “You are what you eat.” To be more accurate, you are what you eat, breathe and absorb. Anything that goes in our mouths, in our lungs or on our skin ultimately becomes a part of us. In today’s world, it’s difficult to live a toxin-free life. We breathe in car exhaust. We use cleaning products with chemical irritants.
We eat processed foods containing artificial colors, flavors and other harmful additives. The average woman is exposed to 515 chemicals daily from her personal care products alone, according to a 2009 British study that looked at the routines of over 2,000 women. Further, over 90 per cent of these ingredients have never been tested for their effects on human health (http://lesstoxicguide.ca).
While we may not notice any immediate effects from exposure to these toxins, they can certainly negatively impact our health over time. In the field of environmental medicine, “total load” refers to the past and present genetic, dietary, environmental and psychological factors that influence a person’s health. Where you live, what you do for work, what you eat and drink, your stress level, what types of cosmetics or cleaning products you use and exposure to cigarettes all contribute to your total load.
Imagine your total load of toxins as a barrel. As you go about your daily routine, you’re exposed to toxins that build up in your barrel. Eventually, it can get so full that it starts to overflow. This is when you begin to experience symptoms such as food intolerances or sickness. The good news is there are things you can do to “drain” your barrel and limit your total toxic load.
1. Cleanse your liver by drinking a glass of warm water with freshly squeezed lemon juice first thing in the morning before you eat breakfast.
2. Eat whole, organic foods whenever possible. Consider having a weekly “detox day” where you avoid all refined sugars, caffeine, alcohol and other processed foods.
3. Stimulate your lymphatic system by getting exercise daily. The lymphatic system works like a drainage system, carrying excess fluids to the blood after filtering out bacteria and other foreign material. Unlike the cardiovascular system, there is no heart to pump this fluid through the lymphatic vessels. Instead, lymph is transported by the movement of skeletal muscles and pressure changes in the thorax during breathing. So the best way to stimulate your lymphatic system is to get moving! Go for a walk, run or bike ride, bounce on a rebounder or do yoga.
4. Avoid exposure to various chemicals by making your own household cleaners, using essential oils and other natural ingredients. It’s easier than you may think. To make an all-purpose cleaner, simply fill a spray bottle with water, add a squirt of dishwashing soap and three to five drops of three essential oils: lemon, lavender and pine. Shake well. Instead of doing an annual “spring detox” and ignoring your barrel for the rest of the year, you can incorporate these simple tips into your daily or weekly routine to manage your total toxic load and prevent illness, all year round.