Detox, Toxins and Your Liver - Taking the Mystery Out of Detox

Does anyone know what detox is?

Some people do, but there are a lot of misconceptions out there.


Just because things are coming out of your body, it doesn't mean you are detoxing

Detox, Toxins and Your Liver - Taking the Mystery Out of Detox

So many so-called detox products have laxatives in them. Taking laxatives, having more bowel movements, having diarrhea and getting 'cleaned out' is not detoxing anymore than vomiting or hemorrhaging is detoxing. (Sorry to be so blatant, but I want you to understand this.)

Detoxing bars of soap, face washes etc., etc.

Marketing gimmicks. That's all.

Detoxing shampoos.

There are shampoos that completely strip your hair of product build-up, remove chlorine from swimmer's hair and so on. Kind of like floor stripper. Taking product build-up and the like off your hair is good. But you are not detoxing anything. You don't need to detox your hair; hair is dead tissue once it leaves your scalp.

Detox is slang

The word detox is short for detoxification. Our body has naturally occurring pathways of detoxification. To detox or to detoxify is the verb that comes from this.

Wherefore art thou detox pathways?

In the liver. Our body's natural pathways of detoxification are located in the liver.

This is not an alternative health concept; look up p450 system in any physiology book (or on Wikipedia for that matter) and it will be there.

These pathways function 24 hours per day, 7 days per week in everyone, except in cases of genetic abnormalities and some liver disease, to put it very simply.

Where the alternative health industry steps in and confuses everyone

The idea of detoxing came from this:

Our liver's pathways of detoxification can only do so much - they are chemical pathways and like any chemical pathways they have a limit on how much they can do.

Many people have more toxins coming into their system than their liver can handle. Over the last few hundred years there has been a huge increase in pollution, chemicals on and in our food, pharmaceutical drug use and stress levels (a high stress level also causes our body to produce toxins).

Since this increase has been fairly rapid (in terms of evolution a few hundred years is practically nothing), our system has not correspondingly evolved.

That is, the amount of toxins coming into our body has drastically increased, but our capacity to detoxify them has not correspondingly increased.

So things get backed up. (I'm not taking about constipation here.) Think of it as a line up of toxins, waiting to get into the liver to be processed. Waiting and waiting.

Are toxins impatient? Is waiting a problem?

Yes they are and yes it is.

As they wait, they cause damage to tissues and cells.

They create free radicals that speed up aging and wrinkles.

They often get deposited in our tissues - organs, glands, muscles, fat cells. As they sit in our tissues, things in general just don't work as well.

All things being equal, all livers are not so equal

Some people have a liver that detoxifies much more effectively than others. This is just genetics.

Some things slow the liver detox pathways down

Eg. Sugar, alcohol, junk food, skipping meals, fasting (yes, fasting), stress, not enough vitamins and minerals.

Some things speed the liver detox pathways up and/or let them function properly

Eg. Fruits, vegetables, exercise, relaxation techniques, certain herbs, certain supplements.

At some point am I going to tell me what detoxing is versus what it isn't?

Yes; here you go:

Detoxing, in the alternative medicine sense of the word, is using any combination of herbs, supplements, dietary and lifestyle changes to maximize the efficiency of the liver's natural detoxification pathways in order to

(1) Get the backlog of toxins processed.

(2) Allow the body to take some of the toxins from the tissues and process those as well.

Once processed, the toxins can be safely eliminated through the kidneys and bowels.

Detox, Toxins and Your Liver - Taking the Mystery Out of Detox

Tina Christie ND, is a licensed naturopathic doctor and health educator.

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