detox,  Integrative Mental Health,  mental health,  wellness

Detoxification…an Introduction 

Our bodies are exposed to thousands of chemicals and toxins every day; some of them internally, some externally.  While our bodies are created to be able to process some of these exposures, the environment we find ourselves in today is much more saturated with chemicals that can exceed our body’s natural capacity to neutralize and eliminate this toxin load.  Detoxification occurs through a series of chemical reactions by enzymes to neutralize and make toxins soluble so that they can be excreted from our bodies through our urine, sweat, and feces.  This process occurs in our liver, kidneys, lymphatic system, intestines, and sweat glands.   When our body becomes over-burdened by too much exposure and our detoxification capacity becomes overwhelmed, toxins can begin to accumulate and negatively effect our overall functioning and well-being.

So what exactly is this “body burden”?  It is the residual exposure of toxins and chemicals over time as it relates to our body’s ability to process and eliminate these harmful chemicals. When not transformed and eliminated, these chemicals build up and ultimately impact our body systems.  Many things effect our body’s ability to detox: high levels of toxin exposure, impaired elimination (the process by which the body neutralizes and transforms chemicals so that they can be excreted from the body), insufficient and depleted nutrients needed for processing, stress, lack of sleep & exercise, inflammation, constipation, as well as genetic variations/SNPs (including COMT, MTHFR, & CYP enzymes). 

Symptoms of increased body burden can include fatigue, inflammation, hormone imbalances, chemical sensitivities, headaches, cognitive impairment, allergies, and weight gain.  Medical conditions that have been associated with body burden imbalances include autoimmune conditions, Hashimoto’s, obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, ADHD and behavioral changes, Alzheimer’s & Parkinson’s diseases, fibromyalgia, and cancer.

What are these toxic chemicals? They are substances known to be harmful to humans and can come from our environment as well as the things we put in and on our body.  They include heavy metals (mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, and aluminum), plastics (phthalates), phenols (including BPA), organophosphate & organochoride pesticides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins, PCBs, PFCs, and PBDEs (organobromines). We are exposed to these potential health threats in our home, our work, in the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink.  We are further exposed by the chemicals we use in our soaps, shampoos, cosmetics, and household cleaners.

While we can’t change the world overnight, there are a multitude of things we can do right now that can change the balance and help our body burden.  From choosing safer cleaning products, organic foods, using pure water, and minimizing plastics, we decrease our toxin exposures.  By staying hydrated, eating nutrient-rich foods, getting plenty of sleep, and getting sweaty through saunas and exercise, we increase our body’s ability to heal naturally.  The idea of detoxification is certainly not new.  Indigenous cultures all over the world have traditions of using herbs, mud, and sweat to cleanse and heal the body. Detoxification has been a part of medicine from the time of Hippocrates and ever further back through Ayurvedic and Chinese systems of medicine.  In the next few weeks, I will take a deeper dive into the realm of detoxification. I hope that this causes you to take a closer look at the things you are putting in and on your body and I look forward to answering any questions or addressing areas where you may have concerns.  Together, we can make a difference.

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