A toxin is…
“a poisonous substance that is a specific product of the metabolic activities of a living organism and is usually very unstable, notably toxic when introduced into the tissues, and typically capable of inducing antibody formation.”
To simplify a rather abstract concept, the above definition is a very devious way to say they are bad and can be harmful to our organism. When toxins get ingested through our environment, they pile up primarily in our fat and connective tissue. Toxins can be classified into many different categories. But in order to keep it simple, I’ll divide them into the different ways our body can get polluted. This makes us more aware of where (exactly) we pick them up.
There are 4 sources of “pollution”:
1. Internal pollution through body’s own waste
Our metabolism converts nutrients and oxygen into energy for our body functions. At the same time, it also produces all kinds of waste matter such as urine, faeces, transpiration, … and a bunch of other intermediate metabolites of our body biochemistry.
By having bad eating and living habits, our body produces more and more toxins which become tougher to eliminate. First and foremost, we live in a society where we predominantly eat too much, at the wrong times, combining foods we shouldn’t (or, failing to combine the foods we should). Hypersensitivity towards certain foods, allergies and chronic fatigue are the first signs of internal pollution. We develop digestive problems and an overcharge of our liver, gallbladder and kidneys. What happens is that undigested nutrients get fermented in our intestines and gets converted into toxic substances. Fungi and bacteria will start to grow in our gut. The result is that these toxic substances get absorbed in the blood circulation, which can cause autointoxication. This process moreover has a bad impact on our immune system, making us too weak to protect ourselves against harmful microorganisms.
2. Psychological, emotional and mental pollution
Less acquainted, but certainly equally important as the physical internal pollution are the psychological, emotional and mental pollution. Waste materials can also have a psychic origin. Anger, hate, jealousy, sadness and, especially, stress are bad for our overall health. Emotions can get piled up in organs and joints and accelerate their deterioration. Stress burdens our digestive system and causes trouble in its functions.
3. External pollution through foreign substances
We ingest all sorts of unhealthy particles through air pollution, exhaust gases of cars and industries, polluted drinking water, radioactive substances, electromagnetic pollution. Now since these are external determinants, we need to differentiate the avoidable from the unavoidable ones.
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We (mostly) are in full control of the avoidable ones. These are things we choose to do such as smoking, excessive alcohol use, not ventilating the house etc. The biggest pollution is taken in through food. Think of the chemicals that come with it. Such as insecticide, herbicides and pesticides. Not to forget about antibiotics, the added pigments, fragrances and flavours, preservatives, emulsifiers, gelling and thickening agents, nutritional acid, stabilizers, acid regulators, raising and anticaking agents, coating agents, carborundum, fillers and emulsifying salts. This list goes on and on. If ingested frequently, all these substances pile up in our tissues and organs, and will eventually cause sickness.. Unfortunately, we still live in a society where the relationship between the use of superfluous additives and sickness often gets disputed.
Unavoidable pollution is an aspect in our environment we have little to no impact on. These are aspects such as exhaust gases, heavy metals (i.e. cadmium, lead), radioactive radiation, electrosmog, etc… A global collective consciousness can stop this pollution. And we all know where this change starts; with you.
4. Energetical, electrical and magnetic pollution
Our body works hard to keep up our energy levels up and make the energy available to all its extremities. There are a couple of interfering aspects that disturb its optimal function. Physical injuries and medication form the first and most important group. inflamed teeth, scars, antibiotics, corticosteroids. other negative sources are food irradiation.
Chemical pollution occurs in the form of deodorization products, cleaning products, construction materials with toxic substances such as asbestos, formaldehyde, all types of glue, phenol, styro, mercury, different colourants etc,… Magnetic pollution is derived from devices with engines such as fridges, mixers, and so on.
If there are so many ways to ingest or take in toxins, shouldn’t our body be in a very dysfunctional state by now?
We are programmed to detox… all the time.
The reason why our body is not drastically harmed by the toxins we ingest or come in contact with through our environment is because we are designed to detoxify these toxins. Our bodies are equipped with organs of which its most crucial function is to purify. Starting with our liver, our kidneys and our guts. Our skin and lungs play a major role in this process as well.
Your liver represents itself as the principal biochemical composer and our detoxifying organ. After your digestive system has broken down food, the small food particles enter your bloodstream from the intestines and are guided to your liver for filtration. There, your liver separates the nutrients needed for building blocks, from the waste chemicals that need to be removed from circulation.
Your kidneys help to purify your blood from toxins by ultimately routing them to your bladder, where they will be excreted through urine. Optimally, your kidney can purify your blood up to 60 times a day. Our lungs eliminate toxins by catching them into our mucous, which then will be either breathed or coughed out. If these organs are overloaded or not working properly, our skin is tasked with removing excessive toxins from our body, which happens in the form of skin rashes, acne, blackheads, cysts, etc.
Products such as juices, teas and shampoos that claim to have “detoxifying abilities” have taken this term out of context. There is NOT a product or cure that has been proven to be more effective in detoxing our bodies than our liver or kidneys. There has never even been a cure or product proven that truly detoxifies. The only thing that can be done is supporting your own detoxification system. The reason why it really is important to know what toxins are and what they do is utterly important before you even think about getting rid of them.
Our bodies work in very mysterious ways and therefore we should not assume a food or product that is considered to be overall healthy, to also be able to support our liver in the detoxification process. For instance let’s take all the juices and fruity potions that get to wear the name ‘detox’, let alone all the existing cures that tell you to detox by only eating fruit and veggies for a certain amount of time.
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Fruit is NOT welcome during the detoxification process. This has to do with the fact that fructose (a substance mostly found in fruit and honey) obstructs the fat-burning process. Knowing toxins pile up in the fat tissue, this is a reaction you’d want to avoid when wanting your body to purify itself from toxins or a toxin pile-up.
Are all of these popular products and cures scams or marketing stunts? The sad answer – a lot of them are. Once new scientific research is made public, companies and brands simply need to create a trend in the form of a new product based on something that contains little truth. And if they want to take this further, confusion and doubt are there to make them really successful. In the Information Age, the sheer volume of information available makes it easier and easier to fool them. We have become prone to these marketing-based tricks because we assume that we can give out responsibility to others of whom we think might understand better than ourselves. The decisions a consumer makes is very often ignorant and rarely questioned at all.
When people encounter a new product righteously trying to brand itself as the next cure, many people tend to blindly follow. Certainly if ‘everyone else’ does it.
Luckily not all are scams. There are some products out there that truly support the cleansing of organs during the detox process. For example, take the very famous green powder found on many shelves in the health sections, spirulina. Very popular and yes, it does the job. Spirulina contains a type of bacteria called cyanobacteria. This bacteria has been proven to compile heavy metals toxins in our tissue and reduce them. Other products proven to help the liver for better detoxification are zinc, copper, biotin, ginseng, milk thistle, garlic, schizandra, dandelion and rosemary. And here’s one we tend to forget: WATER. After the liver accumulates all the toxins, they need to be flushed away. So drinking a lot of water is one of the most crucial keys.
Old but gold … fasting!
The oldest trick around still does the job. Taking a little break from your normal eating habits and take in nothing but WATER for a short amount of time (3-4 days) is not an easy thing to do. But is proven to be beneficial to our detoxification process. So how can only drinking water for a couple of days be a good thing? Let’s simply have a look at our body mechanism when we fall sick or catch a fever. We experience pain, fatigue, heavy sweating, and even a lack of appetite. This is a natural mechanism that occurs when our body is fighting toxins and is ready to flush them away. Our body naturally puts us in a fasting state to cleanse itself. Does this mean that every time we get sick we should just let it be and suffer? Frankly yes. But if we keep our body system clean there will be no need to get sick. This very same mechanism works when we want to support our cleansing organs during the detox process. Water fasting gives our liver and kidneys the chance to detoxify our blood and get rid of a great amount of the toxins. It’s like doing the dishes. It’ll be clean and done when you stop piling up more and more dirty dishes. Once clean, we have more space for new dishes to be cleaned.
More convenient than a 3-4 days water fasting is an intermittent one. This means that you pick one day a week where you have a 24 hours water fast. It is very important to drink a great amount of water. This does not only flush down the toxins in a proper way but also makes the fasting period lighter.
Preventing is still better than cure
We are devoted to undergo intoxication. So how do we deal with it? If you want to avoid a pile-up and all its chronic consequences, you need to maintain a lifestyle that is favourable for the detoxification processes. We can control what we eat, we can control when we go to bed, we manage our exercise schedule, the way we look at life, the way we cope with stress…
Helping our organs cleanse our system more thoroughly can even be a part of preventing some diseases caused by a pile-up of toxins. But prevention can only be done if there is knowledge of the causes and consequences. Most people, however, aren’t aware of the intake of these substances and even less when it comes to the severity of the consequences. The time has come to take responsibility for our own health and truly believe that we can heal ourselves. If we allow ourselves, we have the right and full power to do so.
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Marleen Verschroeven is a certified food and nutrition expert who has devoted her passion to explore the relationship between what we eat and how we feel on a biochemical, mental, emotional and also on a spiritual level. Food to her is art, a functional one that is. She wants to create a masterpiece with everyone who is willing to join her on this journey of exploring our taste buds and becoming the masters of our own health.