What exactly does it mean to detox? Simply put, when you detox, you go through a series of changes in your life in order to cleanse your body of toxins. A detox regimen can be a simple as adding some lemon juice to your daily water, to as complex as a detailed meal plan with many dietary restrictions and lifestyle changes. Detoxing has become increasingly popular in our culture, but don't discount it as being just a fad. Detoxing can be vital to living a healthy lifestyle. We all accumulate toxins, and here's why.
Why We Accumulate Toxins
Toxicity doesn't always come from taking drugs, though that is one sure way of doing so. Here are a few examples of why, even when we think we are living relatively healthy lives, toxins still accumulate.
1. Our Diet! Eating what is easily accessible could mean that you are eating a lot of processed foods. What's a processed food? Well anything that is not a fresh/raw fruit or vegetable, that comes in a can or a jar or a bag, or sometimes even frozen, has probably been processed.
The processing of food nearly always adds something to food to 1. extend the shelf life (ever thought about how a loaf of bread can last more than 2 weeks in a bag sitting on a shelf at room temperature? 2. Enhance the taste - monosodium glutamate, calcium diglutamate, inosinic acid! While they make food "taste better" they may also have carcinogenic properties. yummm. 3. Improve the appearance: FD&C blue, yellow, red, they may make a piece of Salmon look fresher and more appetizing, but don't be fooled, these chemicals are just that--chemicals!
Even if you eat perfectly clean, did you know that nearly all vegetables and fruits, regardless of their "superfood" or "antioxidant" or other nutritional properties, contain some sort of toxic alkaloid compound? But we don't die from eating them, at least, not unless you ingest humongous quantities. The reason is because our Liver and Kidneys basically function as internal filtration systems to trap and break down these toxins so that they are not harmful for the rest of your body.
2. Our Environment is also a huge contributing factor to toxicity build up. Even the air we breathe and the water we drink have certain amounts of toxins that can start to accumulate in our bodies. Case in point: scientists can actually determine where you were born and where you have lived based on the degree of trace mineral buildup in your teeth!
3. Bodily and mental stress, muscle pain, and excessive exercise can lead to excess toxicity in the form of too much lactic acid build-up in your muscles, elevated Creatine Kinase (the indicator for heart attack or extreme muscle breakdown), and even kidney insufficiency can all be the end result.
Symptoms of Toxicity
Some of my patients tell me "I just feel so toxic!" When your body feels that way, it is probably trying to send you a message. But there are more subtle and unknown signs of toxicity accumulation as well. For example, do you have a hard time losing weight even though you are dieting and exercising? Try a detox first! Often the body hangs on to fat cells because many toxins can be stored there, so not being able to lose weight is actually the body's way of trying to protect itself against a sudden release of extra toxins.
Do you have bad skin? Do you often have breakouts, discoloration, or uneven skin appearance? It is very possible that your skin is manifesting some kind of toxicity build up. Think about your diet and exercise habits. Have they changed? Or have you added some new products to your daily life, such as a new laundry detergent or carpet cleaner, or even a new brand of makeup?
Or maybe you are just constantly tired, have poor digestion, constipation, and can't seem to sleep. These are all possible signs and symptoms of toxin accumulation.
Methods of Detox
Our bodies can store accumulated toxins in our fat tissue (sequestered in "long-term storage"), muscles, skin (think cystic acne or rashes and bumps), and even in your intestines (chronic constipation problems anybody?). What is important to remember is that just because you are doing a "juice cleanse" doesn't mean that the toxins are able to be flushed out of your body. The means of detox must also enhance or provide an outlet for getting rid of the toxins! (through your liver, your kidneys, your intestines, your lymphatic systems, or your skin!)
Here are some great Detox methods that you may think about trying.
Cupping is an ancient Chinese medicine modality that helps to pull toxins from the surface layers of the muscle and fat tissue. Cupping also helps to bring better circulation and improves lymph drainage. So if you have just gone through a detox diet or juice cleanse, cupping would be a great option to help your body release those toxins. Not to mention, you'll go around sporting some fashionably athletic hickeys for a few days (thank you Michael Phelps for being a trendsetter!). Call or visit Simple Health Acupuncture for more information about detox cupping.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar
Not only can apple cider vinegar improve digestion, lower blood sugar, and help make you feel fuller for longer, the high malic acid content of apple cider vinegar can help to soften cholesterol stones in the gallbladder, as well as help dissolve/digest fat particles, helping with overall liver and gallbladder function.
3. Oil Pulling
Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic medicine technique that can help the body in many different ways. It involves holding and/or swishing about 1 tablespoon of oil (coconut oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, etc.) around in your mouth, first thing in the morning (on an empty stomach), for about 15-20 minutes. This process is supposed to help draw the toxins out of your body, improving dental hygiene and oral health, and even boosting your immune system. And yes, you must spit out the oil afterwards into a trash can, then brush your teeth thoroughly.
4. Sun Salutations - Yoga!
Did you know that millions of Indian people have been doing this daily classical yoga sequence for thousands of years? The Sun Salutations are a series of yoga poses that help to promote optimal health. Through a series of simple movements, it activates the body's breathing and digestive system, improves circulation, and helps restore flow to the body's functions. While this is not a direct detox method, doing daily sun salutations over time can certainly help contribute to living a clean, healthy lifestyle.
Simple Health offers weekly yoga classes on Sunday Mornings! You can start your detox regimen out the right way by joining us each Sunday!
5. Infrared Sauna
An oldie but a goodie! Sometimes there is no better way to detox than to sweat it all out. It doesn't have to be Infrared, but the dry heat provided by an Infrared Sauna deeply and evenly penetrates the body, allowing your pores to totally open, and sweat out the impurities. Just remember to thoroughly hydrate before and after!