Detoxing: How to support your body’s detox process

Published May 6, 2021

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What is detoxification?

Detoxification is a vital cellular task. The process of detoxification involves the mobilisation, biotransformation, and elimination of potentially harmful toxins.

What are toxins?

Toxins are chemical compounds the body absorbs from our environment or produces as a byproduct of natural processes in the body. Our body can absorb environmental toxins in several ways through the food we eat, the air we breathe and what we put on our skin.

How does your body detoxify & eliminate these toxins?

Your body has well-developed channels of detoxification and elimination. These include: 

  • The skin — The skin helps provides a barrier against harmful substances, from bacteria and viruses to heavy metals and chemical toxins.
  • The respiratory system — Fine hairs inside the nose trap dirt and large particles that may be inhaled. Smaller particles that make it to the lungs are expelled from the airways in mucus.
  • The immune system — The immune system recognises foreign substances and eliminates them from the body.
  • The intestines — The intestines screen out parasites and other foreign substances before nutrients are absorbed into the blood from the colon. The intestines also play a vital role in eliminating toxins from the bowel after they have been broken down by the liver.
  • The liver — The liver neutralizes harmful metals like lead, cadmium, and mercury to prepare for their elimination from the body. Liver cells also produce groups of enzymes that regulate the metabolism of drugs, harmful chemicals and other toxins.
  • The kidneys — The kidneys filter out waste substances and move them out of the body.

Can we help the body detoxify?

If you are wanting to support your body’s natural detoxification processes, recommendations include:

  1. Minimising exposure to environmental toxins
  2. Supporting the body’s natural processes of detoxification

Supporting your body’s natural detoxification process

To process and eliminate toxins, whether external toxins or toxins made by the body, these compounds need to be transformed and prepared for elimination. To help transform the toxin the body has different phases of detoxification and an intricate system of enzymes and proteins that work together to keep you healthy and reduce the impact of toxins on your body.

Natural ways to support detoxification

To help support the function of your naturally detoxification phases, you can eat a variety of plant foods. These include foods of the cruciferous family eg. broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, Brussel sprouts, curcumin from turmeric, garlic, green tea or black tea and the herb rosemary.

Research shows that plant foods not only act as antioxidants themselves in the body, but they also help to regulate important pathways involved in the first phase of detoxification. Foods such as Curcumin from turmeric, broccoli, broccoli sprouts, garlic, tea, ginger, berries, pomegranate, tomatoes and fish oil can help support this process.

Supporting the second phase of detoxification is essential to neutralise the oxidants created by the first phase of detoxification that occurs within your body. There are a number of complicated chemical reactions involved in phase two of detoxification, each involved in helping to metabolise different toxins including heavy metals, alcohol, mercury, chemical dyes, hormones and environmental toxins amoung many more. A varied diet rich in fruits and vegetables and protein will help to support your body throughout these processes. The final phase of detoxification occurs primarily in the liver, so it’s important to maintain good liver health to maximise your natural detoxification processes.

How do you support digestive health?

  • Probiotic foods — Research has shown that probiotics can support a healthy gut microbiome and prevent inflammation that can lead to poor gut integrity. Beneficial microbes can also help with detoxing by binding to damaging toxins to help with their elimination from the bowel. Probiotic foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, miso, natural yoghurt and tempeh.
  • Prebiotic foods — Prebiotic foods feed the good microbes in your GIT. Sources of prebiotics include asparagus, bananas, chicory, garlic, onions and whole grains.
  • Dietary Fibre — Dietary fibre helps reduce the absorption of environmental pollutants and helps facilitate the elimination of pollutants. Fibre is found cereals, oats, legumes, fruit, vegetables and seeds.
  • GIT boosting nutrients — Nutrients that support the GIT can help reduce local inflammation. Foods rich in zinc, l-glutamine and essential fatty acids will be beneficial. These include meat, chicken, fish, nuts, cabbage, spinach, dairy foods, legumes, beets and peas.
  • Protecting the good bacteria in your gut — You can protect the mucosal lining of your gut and nurture your good bacteria, by leading a healthy lifestyle. This includes avoiding smoking, exercising, reducing stress and eating a high fibre diet.

Detoxification is a vital cellular function and with the increase in environmental pollutants since the mid 20th century, our need to detoxify has never been more important.

Eating a healthy balanced diet rich in plant foods and quality proteins can help you support your body’s capacity to detoxify. Supplementation with St Mary’s Thistle and Curcumin can also help support the enzymes needed for phase II detoxification.  A multivitamin and mineral supplement can help provide the substrates you need to support detoxification and elimination.

Speak to your healthcare practitioner to see if supplementation is right for you.

 Minimising your exposure to environmental toxins will ease the burden on your detoxification pathways, helping them better metabolise endogenous toxins.

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