Detoxing the Body

By Bonnie Jenkins, Advanced Natural Wellness

I’m a firm believer in spring cleaning. But I don’t limit my enthusiasm to cleaning my house. I also think it’s important to periodically clean the body, too. And spring is a great time to lighten your toxic load.

Detoxing can do just that – eliminate toxins, boost energy, and help you lose weight. But the Internet is filled with quick and radical detox plans that require fasting or harsh laxatives. Not only are these hard to stick with, they can be extremely hard on your body. Fortunately, you don’t have to do an intensive detox. Gentle everyday strategies can minimize your exposure to toxins and support your liver – the body’s primary cleansing organ.

The Downlow on Detoxing

In a perfect world, your body could flush out any toxins you encounter. But as industrial compounds, pollutants, and other chemicals from our environment build up, the body has trouble keeping up. The resulting contamination, or “body burden,” has been linked to cancer and reproductive problems, among other health issues.

Toxins, substances that damage the structure or function of body cells and tissues, exist in the foods we eat, the liquids we drink, and the air we breathe. Some come from external sources, such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs, pesticides, heavy metals, processed foods, preservatives, additives, and airborne allergens. Others are created internally, like free radicals and metabolic waste.

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Even the most health-consious among us can be overwhelmed by these everyday toxins. Consider this: Before we are even born, synthetic chemicals and heavy metals of all kinds begin building up in our bodies. Once we do make our arrival, everything we use and everywhere we go contributes to our toxic load. But the following measures can help your body remove these toxins – and prevent the accumulation of future pollutants. As a result, you’ll feel lighter, think more clearly, and have more energy within a couple of weeks to a month.

Clean Your Plate

The foods you eat can either add to your overall body burden or support your body’s innate ability to detoxify itself. A high-sugar, high-fat diet – which is standard American fare – makes toxins stay in the bloodstream longer, and the more energy your liver expends to process high-fat foods, the less energy it has to complete its detoxification work.

One easy way to replace toxins with life-supporting foods is to go organic. Eating organic food when possible lowers your exposure to pesticides. Which conventional foods harbor the most toxins? According to the Environmental Working Group’s “dirty dozen,” the 12 most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables are peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, imported grapes, pears, spinach, and potatoes. If you just opt for organic over conventional when buying these 12 foods, you’ll be making great strides toward halting the buildup of agricultural contaminants in your diet.

It’s also critical that you eat the recommended five to nine servings a day of fruits and vegetables. Dark leafy greens come packed with cleansing antioxidants and toxin-eradicating chlorophyll, while cruciferous vegetables are especially powerful because they stimulate production of the detox enzyme glutathione-s-transferases (GST). GST binds to heavy metals, solvents, and pesticides, and then ushers them out of the body through the stool.

What about protein? Conventional beef and poultry can be packed with growth hormones and antibiotics. But organic versions can be pricy. If you can’t buy organic at the meat counter, opt for “natural” meat and poultry, which is raised without dubious additives – and cut back on the amount you eat. You can fill in the gap with heart-healthy fish. A word of warning though: Avoid contaminated fish, such as farmed Atlantic salmon, flounder, or striped bass, which have high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and orange roughy, swordfish, and Chilean sea bass, which contain mercury. Wild Alaskan salmon, pacific halibut, trout, and albacore tuna, on the other hand, have low levels of mercury and high levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. For a complete list of the best and worst fish, go to oceansalive.org.

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When healthy, your body works like a well-organized sanitation system to clean out accumulated toxins. The liver acts as the body’s filter, removing impurities from the blood and producing bile, which carries pollutants out of the body through the lungs, intestines, skin, or urine. This hardworking organ also produces essential enzymes that help break down toxins, rendering them harmless.

But because the liver doesn’t always show outward signs of sluggish operation until matters get serious (think cirrhosis and hepatitis), this hardworking organ needs the most love. Support the liver by taking cleansing herbs like artichoke leaf, which stimulates the production of bile; milk thistle, which strengthens liver cell membranes and promotes the production of glutathione; and tumeric, which boosts detoxing enzymes in the liver.

The liver also thrives with ample supplies of certain vitamins and minerals. To be sure you’re getting enough – at least the recommended daily amount – supplement your diet with vitamins A, C, and E, as well as the B vitamins, zinc, calcium, and selenium. A good-quality multivitamin/multimineral supplement will give you plenty of these essentials.

One Last Thing …

What you drink can also aid in detoxing your body. Downing plenty of water – at least eight 8-ounce glasses per day, and more if you’re active – help flush toxins out of your body. But don’t rely on the tap, or even bottled water. Municiple water can be the source of numerous contaminants, and bottled water often harbors bisphenol A, a hormone-disrupting chemical that accumulates in the body’s fatty tissue. Instead of worrying about what may be in your water, I’ve found that distilling the water yourself using a distiller designed to fit on your countertop is an easy and economical solution to providing a source of clean, pure water. Look for a distiller that vaporizes the water to remove contaminants and comes with a removable carafe that will fit in your refrigerator.

It’s also important to drink at least three cups of green tea a day (the equivalent of about one green-tea supplement capsule). One study recently found that green tea’s catechins boost production of glutathione enzymes, which help the liver get rid of cancer-causing toxins. As an extra bonus, the polyphenols in green tea also improve heart health, guard against certain types of cancer, boost overall immunity, and may even help prevent tooth decay.

Research Brief …

Ok, so this isn’t something you’ll hear about often, but the buildup of earwax could be keeping you from, well, hearing. Earwax – technically known as cerumen – is a mixture of secretions from glands in the ear canal, dead skin cells, and bits of hair that help clean, lubricate, and protect the ear. But sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. In fact, about 12 million Americans suffer from impacted earwax.

When wax becomes impacted, you can experience a reduction in hearing, the feeling that your ear is clogged, pain, and itching, and even an odorous discharge. But before you reach for that Q-Tip, be aware that trying to clean your ear often pushes it deeper into the ear canal. Instead, you can soften and liquefy hardened earwax by warming olive oil to body temperature. Hold your head to the side and place a few drops in your ear. Rub your ear gently, then tilt your head to let the oil run out. The drops should carry the excess wax out with them. You can also use a baby syringe to suck out the oil and wax. (If the wax doesn’t come out easily, see your doctor for professional removal.)

Done monthly, these techniques can keep earwax accumulation under control. Sounds like an easy and economical way to improve your hearing!


References:

Chow HH, Hakim IA, Vining DR, et al. “Modulation of human glutathione s-transferases by polyphenon e intervention.” Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. 2007;16:1662-1666.

Gebhardt R. “Prevention of taurolithocholate-induced hepatic bile canalicular distortions by HPLC-characterized extracts of artichoke (Cynara scolymus) leaves.” Planta Medica. 2002;68:776-779.

Ramakrishnan G, Jagan S, Kamaraj S, et al. “Silymarin attenuated mast cell recruitment thereby decreased the expressions of matrix metalloproteinases-2 and 9 in rat liver carcinogenesis.” Investigational New Drugs. 2008 Jul 30. [Epub ahead of print]

Verma RJ, Chakraborty BS, Patel C, et al. “Curcumin ameliorates aflatoxin-induced changes in SDH and ATPase activities in liver and kidney of mice.” Acta Poloniae Pharmaceutica. 2008;65:415-419.

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