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What Is Detoxification?

in Breastfeeding, Feeding, Health, Home Health, Know Your Food, Nutrition, Pediatric Health Concerns

Detoxification is a whole body process that involves the liver, intestines, kidneys, reproductive system, skin, lymphatic system, and lungs. Each of these organ systems are responsible for different aspects of detoxification and they all need to be working together to support good, glowing health.  

Detoxification is the process by which the body removes chemicals called toxins that can harm us. Most of these toxins are a product of the body’s natural metabolic processes; these are called endogenous toxins. Our bodies have evolved to neutralize and eliminate endogenous toxins efficiently. 

What Is Detoxification? - Dr. Green MomWe also consume toxins from the world around us in the form of pesticides, heavy metals, preservatives, pollution, and more. These are called exogenous toxins. Our bodies are able to process and excrete exogenous toxins as well, but sometimes our systems get overwhelmed when the toxins that need to be eliminated are more than our body’s ability to handle. When this happens, toxins build up and cause problems. These problems can be nonspecific like fatigue, pain, and brain fog, or they can be inflammatory symptoms focused on whichever organ systems are overwhelmed. 

To support detoxification we have two options:

  1. Reduce the toxic burden on the body to give the organs of elimination a chance to catch up.
  2. Improve the function of the organs of elimination so that they can process more toxins.

To reduce the toxic burden on the body, I usually prescribe a 1-4 week diet that eliminates sugar, caffeine, alcohol, wheat, dairy, soy, eggs, and food additives of all kinds while focusing on whole foods, hydration, and lots of plants. 

This type of elimination diet can be modified to fit the needs of the individual. For example, I don’t usually recommend strict elimination of food groups for children unless absolutely necessary and people who have a history of eating disorders require an approach that focuses more on foods to add rather than foods to avoid. 

Improving the function of the organs of elimination can be as simple as drinking more water and eating specific medicinal foods. If needed, a more focused approach can be taken that involves herb and nutrient supplementation to support elimination pathways. 

It is also important that the supportive aspect of detoxification takes into account the needs of the individual. Women who are pregnant and breastfeeding should focus on adequate hydration and healthy foods and avoid most herbs that promote detoxification. This is to avoid depositing excess toxins in the placenta or breast milk. Children can have herbal remedies that promote detoxification, but it’s important that the strength and type of herbal formulation take into account their more delicate systems. 

Over the course of the next few weeks I will be focusing on each of the organs of detoxification and covering ways to support each of them in ways that are appropriate for moms, babies, and kids. 

Detoxification is the process by which the body removes endogenous toxins that the body produces as a byproduct of normal metabolism and exogenous toxins that we consume from the world around us. We can support detoxification by reducing the quantity of toxins that we’re exposed to and by improving the health of our organs of elimination. The organs involved in detoxification are the liver, kidneys, intestines, reproductive system, skin, lymphatics, and lungs. Detox support can’t be one-size-fits all, especially because mothers, babies, and children all have different needs at different times of life. 

References:

Cline J. C. (2015). Nutritional aspects of detoxification in clinical practice. Alternative therapies in health and medicine, 21(3), 54–62.

Aronica, L., Ordovas, J. M., Volkov, A., Lamb, J. J., Stone, P. M., Minich, D., Leary, M., Class, M., Metti, D., Larson, I. A., Contractor, N., Eck, B., & Bland, J. S. (2022). Genetic Biomarkers of Metabolic Detoxification for Personalized Lifestyle Medicine. Nutrients, 14(4), 768. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14040768 

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