Toxins are essentially molecules that get into or are produced by the body and have no place hanging around because they can cause disease and disfunction. They can be by-products of the body’s own processes or they can be breathed in, eaten, drunk or absorbed through the skin or other external-facing body parts, like the eyes. Some of these molecules are ‘xenobiotic’, that just means they don’t exist in nature; so the body can have a hard time recognising and utilising them and will work hard to eliminate them.
In light of the abundance of food detox ‘faddery’ you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s only junk food and drink that toxifies us. But most of us use chemicals on our skin or hair several times a week or inhale fumes from cleaning products, perfumes, scented candles, wood burners, traffic or agricultural sprays or have tattoos or have our hair dyed or still have mercury fillings in our teeth. We eat pesticides in our food (unavoidable), we store food and drink in plastic that leeches chemicals, we drink alcohol, take drugs (recreational and medicinal), smoke, kiss people, touch germs then touch our mouths, drink water and come into contact with bazillions of other foreign invaders in our everyday lives.
Thankfully we are all in possession of extraordinary set of detoxification tools. The body recognises, breaks down and eliminates toxins using enzymes, transporters and physical expulsion. The liver is phenomenal with its detox powers, literally disarming toxins and rendering them powerless and limp, but we have other means of fighting the baddies, such as the little hairs that line our airways (destroyed by smoking and will never grow back) or the mucous that protects certain bits of us, or the skin that gives us a barrier against the world (not entirely impermeable though)
While food and lifestyle are no match for something as formidable as a liver, they can enhance the process, influence the detoxification pathways and give a huge helping hand. When we eat and drink nutrient-dense foods – vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, healthy fats and oils and all the other ‘Nuush’y’ goodness and when we support our organs (including the brain) by doing regular activity (improving circulation, keeping body fat at a healthy level) and by sleeping enough, we maintain our bodies’ detox tools and give them the fuel and care that they need to function well.
On the other hand, if we eat a load of junk all the time and don’t move, get fat. smoke, drink loads of alcohol etc we’re basically dissing our detox tools. A bit like a partner who doesn’t help around the house or with the children, the other partner eventually (quickly) burns out and gets sick. It’s really sad that so many people don’t know what an incredible set of tools they own and just abuse them thinking the tools can get on with everything on their own. And it makes me quite mad when I read on social media that it basically doesn’t matter what we eat or drink because the body can eliminate it and ‘everything has some nutrients’. Gah! Yes and yes but you can put rubbish fuel in a car and its exhaust system will still work but the car won’t run very well or last very long.
Apart from eating nutrient-dense foods most of the time (all of the time would be unrealistic) we can all do something else to help our bodies with the detox process and that is avoiding toxification as much as possible in the first place. Not smoking or drinking too much alcohol are no-brainers but so is choosing organic food when you can, avoiding chemical additives in food, avoiding built up areas as much as poss (if you don’t live in one), avoiding being near fields when they’re being sprayed, avoiding constant use of unnecessary cosmetics or lighting scented candles and so on. We can all take at least some avoidant action. This is where I get accused of privilege so let me just say that I know people can’t avoid certain things, we can’t all do all of these things by any means but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about them and raise awareness.
So the closing message is, love your body, find out how it works and what you can do to help it. Do those things as much as you can. And 7-day juice cleanse is not worth the social-media page it’s written on.
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