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Detox – Why You Should

Your detoxification pathway explained

The phrase “I’m doing a detox” has become commonplace these days.

A quick Google search will see you sifting through hundreds of detox diets and programmes- many promising quick fixes, weight loss, and eternal youth. An equal number of websites will tell you that detox diets don’t “work”, that they are unnecessary and they may be harmful.

So what is the real story?  The truth sits somewhere inbetween.

 

What is detoxification?

Detoxification, or “detox” for short, is the body’s process of removing toxic substances. Detoxification is not a food, or diet, or a pill – it is an ongoing, VITAL process that your body does (all on its own) in order to survive. It happens 24/7, 365 days of the year. Not just for a few days or weeks prescribed to “do a detox”.

Your main detoxification organs are the liver and kidneys. The bowels and urinary tract are extensions of these organs as wastes exit your body.

The skin (via sweat) and the lungs (via breathing/expelling CO2) are also considered detoxification organs.

All together, these organs are often referred to as detoxification pathways. In layman’s terms: the pathways that toxins take to move through and exit your body.

In this article, we focus on our two hero detoxification organs – the liver and kidneys.

 

The Liver

Your liver is one of the most amazing organs in the human body. It is a master multitasker – carrying out over 500 different roles. It is the only organ that can regenerate itself – that’s right, you heard us correctly! You can have more than half of your liver removed, not only will it grow back to its original size, it will KEEP FUNCTIONING during the regenerative process. How amazing!

Some of the major functions of the liver are:

  • Bile production: bile helps the body break down and absorb fats, cholesterol, and some vitamins. And don’t panic about the body absorbing cholesterol!  Despite all the information that “cholesterol is bad”, it is actually very important. Cholesterol is part of the makeup of our cells, our sex hormones (oestrogen and testosterone), our steroid hormones which regulate inflammation, and is part of our immune response. We need cholesterol!
  • Fat and carbohydrate metabolism: bile breaks down fats to make them easier to digest and carbohydrates are processed to maintain normal blood sugar levels.
  • Vitamin and mineral storage: the liver stores vitamins A, D, E, K and B12. It keeps significant amounts of these vitamins stored; in some cases, years-worth of vitamins are held as a back-up.
  • Immune function: the liver contains high numbers of immune cells called Kupffer cells. These cells destroy any pathogens which enter the liver via the gut.
  • Detoxification: The liver filters and removes compounds from the body. This includes toxins that our body produces as part of normal metabolism:
    • pathogens like viruses and bacteria
    • cholesterol
    • hormones that our body excretes once it’s used them eg. oestrogen
    • external toxins – alcohol, drugs, chemicals we encounter through food, breathing, personal care products and our environment

Because the functions of your liver are so wide-reaching, it is easy to see how an under-par liver could affect you in many different ways.

 

Signs your liver needs extra support: 

  • Allergies
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea after eating fatty foods
  • Fatigue, low energy, difficulty getting out of bed
  • Feeling bloated or sluggish
  • Food intolerances
  • Headaches
  • High cholesterol
  • Irritable moods – in the old days we called this being “liverish” and in Traditional Chinese Medicine the liver is related to anger
  • Liver and gallbladder diseases, yellowish skin
  • Nausea, extreme morning sickness
  • PMT, menopauseal and hormonal issues
  • Problems shifting weight
  • Skin problems such as acne
  • Sleep disturbances, especially waking during the night between 12-3am
  • Skin problems such as acne

 

Other reasons to support your liver:

  • Family or personal history of digestive issues, high cholesterol, hormonal imbalance, liver/gallbladder disease
  • Sub-optimal diet
  • Taking pharmaceutical medication – many of which are hard on your liver
  • Toxin exposure – for example, working in an area with pesticide or herbicide spraying, chemical use at work, travel etc.

Some of these conditions are serious and should be monitored under the care of your health practitioner.

The liver’s role in detoxification is to take toxins, many of which are fat-soluble, and make them able to be excreted. Sometimes, this means that they need to change the toxin so it is water-soluble. Once it is water-soluble, the kidneys are called to action.

 

The Kidneys

The kidneys are another set of amazing organs. Unfortunately, these organs don’t grow back!  However, they are so important that we have two kidneys, effectively giving you a “spare” should the other ever fail.

They are not large in size, yet their functions are mighty. The kidneys are master regulators and act as a massive filtration system.

 

Some of the major functions of the kidneys are:

  • Regulating proper fluid and electrolyte (mineral) balance in the body: this is vital for your cells to be able to perform their functions. Regulating fluid and mineral balance also means that they have a hand in controlling your blood pressure.
  • Regulating the body’s pH, or acid-alkaline balance: even small variances in pH can result in death.
  • Hormone secretion: the kidneys secrete a number of chemicals which initiates the release of hormones such as antidiuretic hormone and aldosterone.
  • Blood filtration: hence why they are a major detoxification organ. In fact, the kidneys receive and filter about 1200ml of blood per minute – about a quarter of our total blood flow. They do this every day, for our entire lives. To put that into perspective; imagine a water filter system that ran 24/7, 365 days, for approximately 70 years – without ever being cleaned or replaced. It gives you some respect for those little bean-shaped organs in your back!

Due to this combination of tasks, the kidneys also help control excessive blood glucose and mineral imbalances. They excrete wastes from muscle metabolism and urea from protein breakdown. They flush out urinary irritants (eg: bacteria) and excess fluid.

Once the kidneys filter the blood, waste products are excreted in urine. Just like the liver, if the kidneys can’t do their job properly, waste can re-circulate in the blood or become stored in the body, leading to all sorts of nasty symptoms.

The kidneys can become damaged through toxic overload, excess alcohol, high blood pressure, some medications and chemotherapy.  Unlike the liver, it does not regenerate. Dialysis is used when kidneys are severely damaged.  Protection and prevention is the best form of defence.

 

Signs your kidneys need extra support: 

  • Arthritis and gout
  • Blood in your urine
  • Dark circles or puffiness under your eyes
  • Dark, butty or smelly urine
  • Fluid retention, oedema
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney infections
  • Kidney stones or other kidney diseases (nephrotic syndrome, glomerulonephritis)
  • Painful urination
  • Low urine output
  • Skin problems such as acne, eczema or psoriasis
  • Urinary tract infections (especially chronic or recurring infections)

 

Other reasons to support your kidneys:

  • Family or personal history of high blood pressure, oedema, arthritis, diabetes, urinary tract infections, or kidney problems
  • Sub-optimal diet or fluid intake
  • Taking pharmaceutical medications, many of which are hard on your kidneys

Some of these conditions are serious and should be monitored under the care of your health practitioner.

Luckily, just like every other organ, your liver and kidneys function best when they are fed the right fuel. Certain nutrients, many found in plant medicines, can help support these vital organs and help them do their jobs!

Read our next article and learn how you can support your detoxification organs every day – easily.

 

Research is on file, please request if you’re interested.