Is Detoxing Really a thing?
I recently had a good friend of mine ask me, "Is detoxing really a thing? I mean, doesn't your body already do that?"
The short answer is yes. Your body has built in detoxifiers.
Now, most people only think about the liver and kidney when it comes to detoxifying, and they work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to do this. But actually your entire body participates.
Your liver packages things for disposal and sends stuff out through numerous outlets - kidneys via water soluble components in your blood, the intestinal tract via fat soluble components, lungs in the form of volatile chemicals like ketones and ammonia, and even a mixture of water and fat soluble components via your skin in the form of oils and sweat!
When I address this with patients, they'll tell me they've had lab work to let me know everything was fine, but the sad truth is that these lab tests only tell us when the majority of the organ is struggling, like when we've lost 60-75% of its functional capacity. How well does your 4 cylinder car run if it's only got 1 cylinder working?
Depending on your stress level, activity level, eating habits, age, and the amount of medications one takes, and presence of chronic illness, a little break may be good. We take vacations from work, but can our liver go on vacation? You wouldn't want it to! So, treating it nice goes a long way.
So what is detoxifying? Essentially, it's allowing the liver a lighter workload. One of the best means is intermittent fasting. A 24 hour fast is great for detoxing. The liver isn't getting slammed with work from the digestive tract, it's using stored components to provide energy (think of this as cleaning out the pantry), it's mobilizing fats to use for energy, and using some stored proteins and it's using glycogen stored in the liver and muscles. We can also see utilization of some components that we need to get rid of like homocysteine, and cholesterols that aren't good to have lying around for long periods of time.
Now we don't have to go to extremes to detoxifiy our bodies, but many practices help lighten the workload for our bodies. Regular activity, even if in 10 minutes increments, is actually much more beneficial throughout the day than the 60 minutes workout after sitting 8 hours. Activities that reduce stress and promote relaxation are beneficial like a bath in Epsom salt, or a massage. Taking 5 minutes to breath deeply with our diaphragm helps perfuse organs, aids in digestion, and helps circulate blood. Drinking water helps move fluids and toxic components out. Eating high fiber foods, especially vegetables, helps keep our digestive tract (and the microbes that live there) happy and moving. Eating foods high in antioxidants greatly helps the liver to reduce free radicals, and lower oxidative stress from being a living, breathing organism. Sleep helps the brain recover and reset, helps the body repair, and helps perfused areas of our body (like our vertebral discs) that don't get perfused during awake hours.
Some of the best things we can do to help our liver is to cut out alcohol, decrease use of medications like NSAIDS and Tylenol, and decrease consumption of high-fructose corn syrup, which is found in many sodas.
If we aren't doing these things regularly, or if things get out of balance, than a little spring cleaning in the form of a "detox" maybe helpful, and may even encourage one to adopt better habits. Be kind to your body, and it will be kind to you in return. Need help? That's what Dr. Diana is here for.
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