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Detoxification: Not Just for Sick People Anymore

We are on the brink of a major health challenge. Never before has the human race been so bombarded by chemicals in their daily lives. Every day we are faced with hundreds of exposures to chemicals in our toothpastes, our water bottles, our dry-cleaned clothing, the pollution in the air around us, and pesticides used in our neighborhood, parks, and schools, not to mention those that are put directly into our food and beverages for consumption. Fortunately, as we go through our days, many of us can withstand these multiple exposures without noticing them.  For many people, however, there is something called a toxic threshold — a point at which the toxic load becomes so high that symptoms develop. For each person the symptoms may vary, but in general, they range from fatigue, brain fog, physical pain, migraines, cognitive decline, constipation, infertility, hypothyroidism, obesity, cancer, and more.

Everyday, we are slowly accumulating heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, arsenic, nickel, and aluminum in our bodies. We are exposed to chemicals called “Endocrine Disruptors,” which can interfere with every system in the body, including reproduction, metabolism, digestion, energy production, immune function, neurologic function, and more.  (see The Endocrine Disruption Exchange).
There is a tipping point for each person, and unfortunately, we do not know how or when that patient will experience his/her threshold for exposure before a health crisis ensues. Picture this: an empty barrel. That is you as a fetus. Then imagine that fetus being exposed to numerous chemicals in utero. Suddenly, the barrel is already filling up with toxic substances before the fetus has taken its first breath. This has been demonstrated numerous times by umbilical cord sampling on newborns.  In 2005, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested umbilical cord blood from 10 children and found over 200 chemicals: 180 of them were carcinogens; 217 were neurotoxic; and 208 caused birth defects or abnormal development in animal studies. (Environmental Working Group. Body burden: the pollution in newborns. July 14, 2005. http://www.ewg.org/reports/bodyburden2/execsumm.php). Ironically, there have been no studies conducted on the effects of such a cocktail of exposures on the newborn.

We often think that the newborn is free from such exposures and that toxicity comes to those who have been alive for a long time. Unfortunately, this is not true. Children are exposed at the same rate as adults to toxic insults and can actually be more damaged by these exposures because they have smaller livers and kidneys through which to excrete and eliminate toxins.  As we travel through life, our barrel fills up with toxins. Once the toxin barrel is full, it spills over the top and that is when symptoms develop.

Detoxification is the process of removing the excess and unwanted toxins and lowering the total toxic burden on body.

The process of detoxification can be done on a short term basis for people who are not terribly sick but are starting to show symptoms of toxicity or for those who are concerned with their exposures and want to do something proactively before a health crisis necessitates it.  You should be aware that the process of detoxification can vary in length, depending on the degree and seriousness of the illness. Obviously, the greater the toxic load, the longer the detox process. The most important thing for us to realize and understand is that everyone has some level of toxicity, and eventually, we will all need to address it.  If you are alive and breathing air on planet earth, you are toxic. That is the bad news. The good news is that there are many strategies to remove toxins and restore your health.

Guidance on your first detoxification endeavor is advised. I cannot tell you how many patients I have talked to who actually get MORE toxic by incorrectly approaching detoxificationl!

For example: Phase I detoxification takes chemicals and toxins and turns them into MORE toxic metabolites for removal by Phase II detoxification.  Phase II takes these very toxic intermediaries and makes them water soluble for excretion. Phase I and Phase II both require macro- and micro- nutrients for them to work efficiently- for example, Phase II detox requires protein for its smooth functioning. Without protein you cannot excrete the toxic metabolites from Phase I, and the toxins will build.  So a juice fast is not a good idea for someone who is toxic as it does not have enough protein to drive Phase II detoxification, and thus, it could potentially increase the risk of further toxicity!!

TAKEAWAY: Detoxification is critical step to achieve optimal health and wellness, and it is strongly advised to get guidance for your first and/or second phase detox protocol to have the safest and best results.

Stay tuned as I blog this spring about many topics on detoxification!