Dabbling into Detox

Detox… We have been hearing that word left and right.

The “detox trend” critics say that our bodies eliminate toxins efficiently and that there is no need for extra support. If you think about it, this does make sense. Our bodies are designed to efficiently remove toxins through a two-phase detoxification process. During Phase I, the chemicals are neutralized and later made water-soluble, in order to be eliminated during Phase II.

This is a great system and works so well that we don’t even really notice all the nutrients involved, such as important vitamins and minerals (including vitamins B6, B12, folate). As long as we are eating healthy, exercising and drinking plenty of water we are supporting our body’s natural ability to detox. However, what is the limit of toxic chemicals that our bodies can handle to eliminate? This starts becoming a problem when we are constantly being exposed to these at high amounts.

Environmental exposure to toxins can include chemicals present in air, soil, dust, food, and water. Levels of air pollutants are highest in areas of high traffic and industry activity. Indoor air pollution depends greatly on the products that we use as well as house dust. Soil pollution can result as legacy from industries. Drinking water can contain high amounts of disinfecting byproducts as well as geological contaminants. Food contamination can happen in processing, packaging, storage, preparation and let’s not forget about pesticides!

Many of these chemicals are fat-soluble and consequently are stored in our fat tissue. The problem with this is that they are not easily eliminated by our bodies and may be stored there for quite a while. These chemicals can be found in the blood, urine, breast milk and even hair and nails. You may not make much of this, but the truth is that it can cause quite the disturbance in our bodies including fatigue, poor memory, headache, and hormone imbalance.

Fatigue and constant headaches can interfere heavily with how we function on our day-to-day, but toxin accumulation may even interfere with how we look. The exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (one of the factors responsible for hormone imbalance) seems to be an additional contributor to the development of obesity and diabetes along with poor food choices and inadequate physical activity. It seems that there are quite a variety of environmental agents that affect insulin signaling in our bodies, impacting sugar and fat metabolism, which both can play a role in the onset of diabetes and obesity.

Some substances that disrupt the endocrine system are even described as obesogens since they regulate fat metabolism and adipogenesis (or the formation of fat tissue) inappropriately. It can do this by mimicking our own hormones (like estrogen, androgens and thyroid hormones) and/or blocking the hormone receptor by taking its place. These may act even in very low levels and can play a role in the formation of fat cells, permanently affecting their nature, altering metabolic processes in the body and consequently affecting weight. We must keep in mind however that toxin accumulation contributes to, and is not the main factor responsible for, weight gain.

Although aging is a key risk factor in the development of neurodegenerative conditions, we can also link toxin accumulation and constant early exposure to environmental toxins to conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The genetic mutation of our cells and the modifying of our epigenome, making one more susceptible to develop respiratory conditions such as asthma, can also be linked to a heavy presence of toxins.

So the better question is not whether we should detox since our bodies do this every day! We should instead be asking whether we need an extra push to eliminate the toxins that we’re constantly exposed to and making sure that we are listening to the messages our bodies are sending us.