Detoxing - how to make it work for you day to day

What really is detoxification?

Buzzwords abound in the health sector and one that has really gripped the nation is detoxing or detoxification.  Everyday this term comes up from articles, fitness gurus and all over social media, and like usual there is a degree of confusion in the marketplace about how to really detox your body.  Hopefully this article will break it down to its simplest points so that you can actually apply it to your life in a practical way.

What is detoxing?  It has to do with "toxicity".

toxicity is a term used to describe the level at which a certain molecule or nutrient becomes toxic.  Everything has a toxicity level, even water, where a once healthy nutrient becomes too concentrated in the body tissues and begins to go form bad.

Some things are just plain toxic and are not supposed to be in the human body, even in minuscule amounts.  These are generally what we refer to as "toxins".  The most prevalent are industrial chemicals such as oil and plastic based particles, like would be used to make styrofoam, plastic containers, harsh cleaning products, sulfate-based body products and other "synthetic" chemicals.  Our lives are literally saturated with these products, and perhaps the first step to detoxing, or atleast understanding the theory, is to become more aware of just how many synthetic materials you come in contact with daily.

Even helpful nutrients, especially fat soluble ones, can become toxic if we get too much.  Luckily, it is often very difficult to achieve these toxic levels with any "normal" diet.  Potassium can become poison, but you would realistically have to eat something along the lines of 7+ bananas every day.  Most people don't do this.  Vitamin A can become toxic and this is seen when people eating too many carrots get a small tinge of orange to the skin.

The key to understand is that toxins by and far are unavoidable.  We all must certainly find ways to clean up our surroundings and become more "green", but don't expect to avoid every toxin.  

Instead, we can focus on nutrition to help remove these harmful toxins that build up in our various tissues and cause damage and premature aging, and also are suspected in many different diseases, especially autoimmune.

That is detoxing.

How to properly detox

There are lots of methods to detox but what I'm going to suggest here is something simple that can be implemented daily to slowly and properly clean out your body's detoxification systems.  This is not a "week long detox" or "three day" or something like that.  Not that those are bad, they can just be a shock to someone if they aren't used to that kind of radical change.

There are four detoxification pathways, and we will simply address each pathway and how to optimize it.  Quickly you will realize that most people are not properly using these systems even when they think they are.

The four paths are: breathing, sweating, urinating, and pooping.

Many detoxing methods will not work optimally without this knowledge because if you remove the toxins from the cells but do not excrete them properly then you can simply reabsorb the toxins and you have failed to remove them!

Most people don't breath properly.  We are what are called "shallow breathers" or "mouth breathers" because collectively due to lifestyles we generally take more shallow breaths that fail to expand the lungs completely.  The proper way to deep breath is to take the breath into the belly button.  The chest should not expand, rather the navel area.  Breathing should go in the nose and out the mouth (obviously with a cold or some sort of blockage you can breathe mouth in and out).  This may not seem like a big deal, but we breath out toxins and debree along with CO2 on each breath.  One of the things CO2 does is transport spent cellular energy to the lungs to be expelled.  Too much C02 creates toxicity in the body.  

Try breathing this way:  breath in for a 7 count, and out for a 14 count.  This will show you how to properly exhale all of that stale air, and it has a noticeable calming effect which is great for anxiety and depression.  If 14 is too long, shorten the breath, but keep the ratio at 1:2 for your inhalations and exhalations.

Sweating is a primary way to detox.  Once the proper dietary changes are made, as in increasing antioxidants and free-radical scavengers, you then need to expel the toxins from the blood stream.  You do this by breaking a sweat!  You can use the sauna or you can exercise, although I'd recommend the exercise for the other health benefits.  Make sure you drink plenty of clean water because becoming dehydrated and detoxing are extremely conflicting ideas.  Dehydration will build up toxins fast.

Speaking of hydration, the third pathway to removing toxins is urinating.  The last time I checked statistics 70% of people were dehydrated at any given time.  The chance goes up in drier, hotter, and higher altitude climates.  Living in Denver, all three of these are against me.  I have to drink much more water than when I lived in Wisconsin, at sea level.

When you are dehydrated you don't urinate and so you do not use your kidneys to remove toxins.  Instead, they build up in concentrations, as they have nowhere to go.  Sometimes this can cause liver damage as the same toxins keep cycling through the body only to be reused by the liver!  Simply put you should be urinating clear liquid or near it, you should be doing this fairly often (5x / day minimum) and you should be pain free.  Slight burning in the urine can hint an infection but it can also just mean acidity because of dehydration.  

You need to also get electrolytes like sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium to properly "hydrate".  Note that these are also antioxidants.  Quality sports beverages help with this, but stick away form the imposters: soda with a pinch of salt (rhymes with hatorade).

The last pathway is # 2.  Not surprisingly constipation is a major problem, although not publicly so, in most Western nations.  Also not surprising is that this lack of proper bowel movements is impeding the removal of all the junk inside your digestive tract!

Therefore digestive friendly products are ideal for properly detoxing, in fact I would say these are the most important besides just drinking enough water.  The GI tract is like an engine in your body and its priority # 1.  Men need about 40 grams of fiber per day optimally, women 25.  Most people come up woefully short due to lack of raw vegetables and fiber in general.  Add raw vegetables slowly into your diet and increase until they become a staple.  If you try to switch from an average diet to 50 grams of fiber overnight you're going to be in a bit of discomfort.  

Again, the point here is to slowly implement changes to create a lifestyle and not just a "fad" diet.

There are many ways to help your digestive tract.  As noted above, adding some fiber rich vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, spinach or cucumbers helps.  Pre and probiotics may be necessary and the latter everyone should be consuming anyway.  Aloe vera is possibly the best single thing you can put in your body, with over 75 nutrients.  Beets and colorful berries like blueberry and cranberry are go tos.  You can make delicious recipes with these foods that help your gut!

So here's just a small loose plan for how you would institute detoxing into your everyday schedule.  

Pick one of these pathways to focus on consistently for 1 week.  You can institute more but make sure to nail one thing.  I would start with water.  For 7 days, you get at least 1 gallon of clean water into your body -- everyday.  Or, make sure you start to hit that fiber level, or, even harder in my opinion, focus on your breathing as often as possible for one week.  Anytime you can, breathe in the 1:2 manner.  It is much harder than it sounds, but you'll feel the difference.  Of course you could start your fitness plan, and sweat it out, everyday, 7 days for a week.  You would have to stay hydrated here as well, which is one reason it may be better to "prep" yourself by starting with water.

Making habits takes time and practice, but if you just use these guidelines and educate yourself further on what helps your digestive tract and detoxing systems, and you will notice more energy, better mood, lost bodyfat, increased muscle, better sleeping, maybe even better vision.  Its amazing what happens when we remove all these toxins that have been cooped up inside us all along!