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Detoxing the Body

By Wendi Williams, Editor & Extension Communications Specialist

water The global community has taken a greater interest in becoming healthier. That's a good thing because people are living longer, and in order to have the option of living independently in our own homes or in a retirement village, it's important for us to take care of our health. Living a long and healthy life usually involves preventative care through a physician, getting adequate rest, exercising, and eating healthy foods.

Nonetheless, have you ever noticed that many of the popular diet or exercise programs require you to first "detox" your body? But what does detoxing your body really mean and is it really necessary?

What are Toxins?

Toxins are chemicals or poisonous substances that adversely affect our bodies internally or externally, and are generally categorized as exogenous (made outside of the body) or endogenous (made inside the body) (DBK, n.d.). Exogenous toxins may include bacteria, pesticides, smoke, alcohol, drugs, parasites, and preservatives. Endogenous toxins may include carbon dioxide, urea, and lactic acid that your body normally produces.

Toxins are generally filtered through our lungs, kidneys, and the liver, and eventually eliminated through the urinary tract, the colon, the lungs, or the mucous membranes in the nose and ears. Naturally, the body reacts when too many toxins accumulate in the body causing anything from the growth of a tumor or cyst to physical joint pains, fatigue, headaches, mood swings, and a slower metabolism (DBK, n.d.).

Human Anatomy and Toxins

As stated previously, our bodies naturally process and eliminate toxins on a continuous basis. For example:

  • The lungs help to expel carbon dioxide.
  • The liver filters toxins in our blood. It also produces bile that helps to eliminate waste and fat in the small intestine during digestion (OSUMC, n.d.).
  • The kidneys help to remove waste and drugs in the body, while balancing our bodily fluids.

These bodily functions are also important in determining how our body stores fat, sugars, or impacts our metabolism, which are essential in maintaining a healthy weight. This is why many diet and exercise programs recommend following a detox regimen for a certain number of days.

How to Detox Naturally

First, do your homework and consult your physician before starting a detox plan. You don't want to do anything that might put your health at risk. While there are many detox plans available, Dr. Group from the Global Healing Center listed these items among the top ten foods that aid in detoxing your body naturally.

  • Fruits: Most fruits contain a large amount of water. They also have vitamin C that turns toxins into waste that is easily digestible. Fruits like lemons, oranges and limes help to flush toxins. Lemons appear on the menu of many detox plans.
  • Green foods and raw vegetables: Foods like spinach or greens contains a green pigment called chlorophyll that reduces the effect of environmental toxins in our body. You can purchase liquid chlorophyll at health food stores and it's known to reduce body odors and improve the health of the circulatory, digestive, immune, and detoxification systems. Some vegetables contain sulphur and glutathione that aids in breaking down toxins. Also, green tea contains an antioxidant called catechins that helps the liver to function properly.
  • Mung bean and Omega-3 oils: The mung bean, a more common staple in Asian countries, and foods that are high in Omega-3 absorb toxins in the intestine, which allows them to be easily digested and eliminated from our bodies.

And when all else fails:

  • Water: In a Mayo Clinic article (2011), it was suggested that men drink about 13 cups daily and women drink about 9 cups daily. However, in most dietary literature, it is advised that we drink at least 8 cups of water a day. Water helps to flush fat and remove toxins.

The Benefits of Detoxing the Body

There are many detox plans out there including regimens that concentrate on cleaning the colon or detoxing the liver, for example. In many ways a detox program has similar benefits to fasting. Other than the obvious benefit of removing toxins, it can help your body to function better. When the body functions better it is more likely to dispense of toxins and waste more easily. When waste is easily removed, then it's bound to aid in weight loss. Also, detoxing the body has been known to increase energy levels.

Note: Whether you decide to detox or not, be sure to talk it over with your doctor first.

References

Group, E. (2009, July 8). 10 foods the detox the body. Global Healing Center. Retrieved January 25, 2011.

Kim, B. (n.d.). A no-nonsense look at toxins and how your body deals with them. Natural Health Care. Retrieved January 25, 2012.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2011, October 12). Water: How much should you drink every day? Nutrition and Healthy Eating. Retrieved January 25, 2011.

National Kidney Foundation. (2012). How your kidneys work. Retrieved January 25, 2012.

Ohio State Medical Center. (n.d.). The liver: Anatomy and functions. Retrieved January 25, 2011.