Can we talk about detoxing for a minute?
I’m not talking about the kind of detoxing everyone does after New Year’s, although I will mention that here briefly.
What I want to talk about is the detoxing happening in your body every single day. Did you know your body is detoxing every single day? True Story!
I’m going to keep this as simple as I can because detoxing can get pretty complicated. I love science and learning how things work, but if you start too big, it can be overwhelming.
Your body has 3 main detox systems. They are: the liver (your primary detox center), your lungs, and your skin.
The liver gets the first pass of detoxing all the food, drink, medicine, and vitamins you put into your mouth. The liver works hard to keep all the bad stuff out of your blood and organs and flush it out of your body mostly through your poop. You can do your liver a favor by reducing the amount of bad stuff you put in your mouth. Things like alcohol, and processed foods are the easiest to remove, or at least cut back on.
I have to pause here in our detox talk to mention poop. The toxins your liver is trying to eliminate from your body mostly end up in your poop. It is important to poop EVERY DAY, maybe up to 3 times a day to keep this process of elimination going. I cringe when I hear medical professionals say pooping once every 3-4 days is normal. It’s not normal!! If that poop is sitting in your intestines for days, your body can actually reabsorb some of those toxins waiting to leave. You don’t want that, do you? You wouldn’t leave a garbage can full of food scraps sitting around your house for days, right? If you’re not pooping every day, just sign up on the Home page and you can get my top 15 tips for Kicking Constipation to the Curb.
Back to detox…if you have too many toxins for the liver to process, do you know what happens? Those toxins end up get stored in your fat cells! That’s right…fat is basically your body’s toxic waste storage. If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s important go “slow and steady” with that approach. When you start to melt those fat cells, toxins can be released back into your system. Melting too many fat cells at once can release a lot of toxins that make you feel sick.
Since we’re talking about fat, let’s talk about the lungs next. Wait…what? That’s right, fat and your lungs are linked! When your body burns fat, it leaves through your lungs when you exhale it as carbon dioxide!
So how do the lungs help with detoxing?
Your lungs filter and catch toxins you breathe in every day. Your lungs and respiratory tract are lined with mucus that acts as a barrier between the outside world and you. Anyone who has had a cold has surely experienced a runny nose or maybe ended up coughing up some “gunk”. That’s your lungs trying to get rid of germs or allergens so they can’t cause any further harm inside your body. When you sneeze, it’s because your body is trying to clear out some irritant. Not everything gets coughed or sneezed out. Some things do make it past the mucus. So do your lungs a favor and avoid breathing in toxins like cigarette smoke, air fresheners, and other chemical fragrances.
And finally, we have the skin. The skin is your largest organ and protects your body from everyday threats you come into contact with. Skin detoxing is important, especially if you have skin problems like acne, eczema, or psoriasis. Believe it or not, this all relates back to what you eat and how well your body is at processing toxins. These problems, while annoying, can actually be a good indicator that you have some unchecked inflammation in your system. Skin problems are often linked to a leaky gut barrier, meaning something you are eating is able to process into your blood stream without being fully digested in the small intestine.
So how does the skin play into detoxing?
Two words…sweat and lymph. When your skin sweats, it’s actually clearing toxins out of your body. Sweating is healthy and good for you! But it’s important to drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated and keep things flushing out of your sweat properly. And if you need to replenish electrolytes-don’t reach for artificially/chemically colored and flavored sports drinks…go for coconut water which is your best natural source for electrolytes.
The majority of your lymph system sits just under your skin. The lymph helps to further detoxify your blood and transports toxins out through your sweat. Your lymphatic fluid doesn’t pump like your blood does. It needs you to move it through things like exercise, massage, yoga, or dry body brushing. (Who’s not down for a massage, am I right?!)
So these are the basics of how your body detoxes itself. Now about those New Year’s detoxes…they aren’t all bad. It’s actually a good idea to “detox” a couple times a year to help support your liver. But that doesn’t mean you do something crazy like restrict your calories or only drink lemonade. A good detox program ensures you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs and temporarily eliminates some foods that make your liver work harder.
I’m working on a post holiday detox program, so stay tuned for more on that in the coming months.
Finally, let’s talk about 6 simple ways you can reduce your toxic load and help support your liver, skin, and lungs.
Alida Wagner, MSN, RN