Why detoxify? Your body has five main channels of elimination which are responsible for removing waste products and toxic material. It is important to make sure all channels of elimination are functioning properly in order to reduce the burden of toxins. Toxins can include synthetic chemicals, heavy metals or compounds that your body makes as waste products. If the body cannot detoxify these compounds quickly, they are stored or continue to circulate causing free radical damage to cells and DNA which promotes cancerous changes in cells. Detoxing also reduces the effects of xenoestrogens (fake estrogens) which may lead to early-onset puberty and contribute to breast cancer.
1. The liver: The liver primarily functions as a processing and manufacturing plant for the body - producing, converting, repackaging, storing and sending out products for distribution. Many chemicals and hormones cannot get out of the body until the liver repackages them into a form that is easier to eliminate. Though the liver is a hardy organ (one of the few in the body that can regenerate) there is a limited pool of resources that the liver can use to transform the chemicals and hormones. Brassica family vegetables (like broccoli and chard) have some compounds that the liver can use to transform toxins. Acetominophen and some other medications can quickly use up these resources leading to excess free-radicals and liver damage.
2. The gut: The small and large intestines are organs of absorption, and are the primary filtering system to separate good nutrients for absorption from bad waste products for elimination. Regular bowel movements are important to remove toxins from the intestines and prevent them from being reabsorbed.
3. The Kidneys: Most water-soluble toxins are filtered and excreted in the kidneys and end up in the urine. Staying hydrated is extremely important because water flushes the kidneys and bladder, preventing the toxins from damaging cells. This is one reason why bladder cancer incidence is lower in people who drink enough water to urinate every 1-2 hours. Unlike the liver, the kidneys are a very sensitive organ that cannot regenerate. Many pharmaceuticals irreversibly damage the kidney, like long-term use of aspirin and ibuprofen and naproxen.
4. The Lungs: The lungs are essentially organs of tiny air sacs with very thin membranes separating the air from the bloodstream. Just as we can get oxygen from the air we can also inhale and absorb toxins by breathing. Toxins that are inhaled can be just as easily exhaled as long as we practice deep-breathing in clean, unpolluted air. Cigarettes and some other inhaled chemicals prevent the lungs from exhaling chemicals.
5. Skin: Our skin is the largest organ of detoxification in the body. Virtually every synthetic compound has been found to be effectively excreted by the skin. This makes the skin an organ of vital importance in our detoxification. As humans have progressed to a sedentary and predominantly indoor lifestyle our ability to detoxify has become severely limited. We must take steps to promote sweating - like exercise, saunas, and bathing. Some compounds can be reabsorbed by the skin, so it is important to shower and wash with mild soap after sweating.
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