Last week we talked about how the toxic load in our bodies can spill over and cause disease. This is reason enough to take time to consider our toxic burden and find ways to reduce it.
Why Does Your Body Have a Built-in Detoxification System?
First, because everything our body is exposed to in our environment needs to also be eliminated from the body somehow.
Whether petroleum fumes from a traffic-filled area, smoke from a fireplace at home, chemicals from your garage, contaminants in food, or chemicals in personal care products that you use on your body, your body must remove these substances. If your body cannot accomplish the removal process, either because it is overloaded, or because it has become inefficient at doing so, these toxins begin to build up in your system.
Secondly, because our body actually MAKES toxins – as metabolic byproducts.
Toxins in our environment are not the only form of exposure that your body is busy dealing with. Metabolic processes in the body also create byproducts that must be removed. At the cellular level, every cell has its own energy factory called the mitochondria. As your cells create energy, they also make byproducts that are excreted from the cell and into the blood and lymphatic tissues.
How Does Your Body Detoxify?
Your body has several methods of ridding itself of substances that it doesn’t want. Through urine, feces, sweat, and even breath, your body is designed to get rid of what isn’t helpful.
Toxins that wind up in your bloodstream travel through your system to your liver, where your liver makes them water-soluble by a process called conjugation, and then puts it into bile. Bile then puts these substances into your colon. In the GI tract, bacteria further help the detoxification process until you defecate or poop them out.
Toxins in your lymphatic tissues are moved through your lymph nodes, the biggest of which is your spleen. We also have lymphatics in the skin, allowing us to sweat out toxins. Massaging your soft tissues can liberate some of these toxins so that they go back into the blood where the kidneys filter it, excreting the toxins through your urine. Dry brushing can also help with detoxification by physically moving substances through the lymphatic system.
Breathing is a less obvious way that we detoxify. It’s so interesting to think about how your body makes carbon dioxide and then you expel it with the breath. We also make VOCs, or volatile organic compounds. There is some interesting new research on these VOCs that we breathe out. In one study article I was reading recently, a hospital system created a device that can predict your risk of dying in the hospital. It measured how many VOCs the person breathed out. The more VOCs a person made was directly related to how ill they were and how likely they were to die. We can see that breathing is important in removing toxins from our system.
Our systems have to have enough excess capacity to not only remove the toxins that it makes, but also what your body is exposed to. It accomplishes this process mainly through urine, feces, sweat, and breath. What we eat, how we sleep and move, and how we manage stress can directly impact how we lift the toxic burden from our bodies to improve our health and wellness.
Next week, we’ll dive into some specifics about what we can do to actually help these systems work better.
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Take care and be well.
Since 2010, Richmond Integrative and Functional Medicine has been helping people to restore their health and hope with an integrative approach to conventional and alternative medicine that’s entirely science-backed. We at RIFM believe everyone is made for health. We offer a comprehensive, in-person patient membership program to ensure you get access to the care you need to thrive.
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