As we move into February, we keep what we've learned of healthy hydration and explore the world of detoxification. Each month of Twelve Months to Wellness builds upon the previous months' learning. And detoxification is a prime example of this: it is impossible without water, among many other substances. There's a lot to learn this month. Enjoy!
p.s. We'd love to hear your experiences and thoughts on healthy detoxification support - you can visit our Twelve Months to Wellness Facebook page to leave a comment!
"Detoxing" has become a buzzword in our society, and there are many approaches and opinions out there. In fact, they can be quite confusing, as each one has it's own rules and regulations to follow. But what if this process could be simple?
This month, we'll take a look at the natural process of detoxification in the body, and things we can do to support this daily occurrence. Whether it's drinking more water (hello, January!), eating a diet rich in fiber and healthy fats, vitamin and mineral balance, or practicing traditional techniques that support detoxification, we must ensure our organs of detoxification have what they need to succeed. In this month of love, let's look at why we should LOVE this process called detoxification - what is, what it needs, and why it is so important.
If you're living on planet Earth in the 21st century, you are more than likely exposed to a wide variety of toxins on a regular basis. Between automobile emissions, the off-gassing of home and office furnishings, clothing dyes and chemical residues, contaminated food and water, body products, cosmetics, and more, it may seem like a huge job for the body to process it all! And it is. But the body is perfectly designed to detoxify and it does so on a daily basis. So while the level of toxins modern humans face is much larger than it should be, our bodies are resilient and strong when we give them what they need.
Even a cursory search for detoxification information brings many protocols for quick "detoxes" that promise amazing results. But before you experiment with one, understand that gentle is often better. If there is a lot of waste in the system, overloading the organs of detoxification with a flood of gunk is not the best thing we could do for our bodies.
So rather than forcing a big purge, perhaps a more moderate approach is in order. This is especially so considering many people have a considerable “body burden” – the physiological accumulation of the large number of toxic chemicals and pollutants that are part of our environment. But not to fear! Remember, the body already knows how to detoxify and has all the organs to do it. Why not simply support the organs of detoxification?
Let's take a look at how this might be done looking at three of the major organs of detoxification.
The liver cleans and filters the blood and metabolizes all chemicals in the body - good and bad. Given the liver is the body's holding tank for toxins, cleansing and supporting this magnificent organ is the #1 priority in any detoxification endeavor. But the liver is also a gland. This is due to its manufacture and secretion of bile, which it stores in the gallbladder for future use. Vitamins and minerals are key to supporting all three phases of liver detoxification, keeping the organ in top working order. B vitamins and antioxidant vitamins such as C, E, and beta-carotene support the liver. While minerals such as zinc and selenium help keep the liver healthy. Bitter herbs like dandelion and yellow dock are excellent liver cleansers, as are an array of foods including lemon, turmeric, garlic, leafy greens, grapefruit, beets, walnuts, cruciferous veggies, and apples.
These two wonder organs, which sit mid-abdomen and toward the back, filter about 180 liters of fluid each day. This means the entire plasma volume (about 3 liters) of the body is filtered 60 times a day! This filtered blood yields urine, which is how the kidneys remove toxins from the bloodstream. The kidneys work hard and need fluids to remain strong and balanced. Since good hydration is essential to proper kidney function, purified water (and herbal tea, if you like) taken throughout the day is a must. Recall from last month's focus that we need at least half our body weight in ounces of water per day for proper good hydration. Certain herbs taken as teas are excellent herbal kidney cleansers - specifically dandelion, nettle, parsley, marshmallow root, lemon, ginger, and turmeric. Making sure you get plenty of electrolytes and antioxidants (dark-colored berries and cherries) in the diet aids kidney function. Vitamin E, Coenzyme Q10, and B vitamins are also known to support the kidneys as they do their vital work. (1)
The skin is sometimes called "the third kidney," and for good reason. The skin and kidneys are intimately connected, and when one is unable to detoxify efficiently, the other must pick up the slack (uremic wastes are pushed out of the body through the skin every day). A great way to improve the skin's detoxification ability, while reducing the burden on the kidneys, is the simple practice of skin brushing. And, of course, water, water, water. Also, keep in mind that just as we ingest and breathe toxins from the outside environment into our internal environment, we soak them up through our skin. The skin is the largest organ and is a great visual barometer of internal health. Sage advice is to not put anything on your skin that you wouldn't put in your mouth!
The lungs, colon, and lymph are also vital parts of the detoxification system; supporting each through nutrition and lifestyle makes detoxification speedier and more efficient.
How well do you know the largest gland in your body? Considering that toxic materials are detoxified in the liver, it is worth paying attention to how this gland/organ does its job for you, day in and day out. As we saw above, the liver is responsible for removing chemicals from the bloodstream and dealing with them so they don't cause issues for the body. The liver cleanses itself by making bile, excreting toxins into the bile for elimination. Toxin removal is also carried out via the kidneys, which eject chemicals that have been prepared by Phase II liver detoxification. (1)
Since the liver receives a majority of venous blood from the lower body - spleen, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract - a large number of the body's toxins flows through the liver every minute. As Jaqueline Krohn, MD, and Frances Taylor, MA in Natural Detoxification: A Practical Encyclopedia write, "The liver is the main organ for biotransformation of chemicals. However, it is susceptible to tissue injury from the toxic effects of chemicals...some chemicals are toxic to specific parts of the liver." They go on to explain that "even when 80% of the cells of the liver are damaged, the liver can continue to function, but with reduced efficiency. It has the ability to restore and replace these damaged cells, and can recover if the sources of the toxins are removed." (2)
A good first step is to remove offending toxins from the environment. As we've seen, this can be a big task in today's world, but every bit removed counts! The goal here is progress, not perfection. Second, support the liver so that it can do its job of cleaning house, proceeding through the three phases of liver detoxification. While there are many liver cleanse protocols out there (often variations on a theme), we like fresh, raw whole foods as our allies in liver support - include more lemon, olive oil, asparagus, cruciferous vegetables, green tea, apples, walnuts, and avocados into your diet. Avocados, in fact, are wonderful in helping the body produce glutathione, a compound necessary for Phases I and II of liver detoxification. In fact, there are many whole foods that are great sources of the master antioxidant, glutathione. Enjoy them daily!
(1) Jaqueline Krohn, MD, and Frances Taylor, MA. Natural Detoxification: A Practical Encyclopedia. p. 51.
(2) Ibid., 49.
While many approaches to encourage detoxification focus on introducing a substance to the body (juice, fiber, homeopathics, etc.), there are other ways of removing toxins from the body. And one of the most pleasurable of these is massage. Humans have always employed the use of friction, rubbing, vibration, and other types of direct touch to move fluids and energy in the body for balance and wellness. It just feels good!
As we learned in December, the Trager Approach was created over a period of sixty-five years by Milton Trager. At its foundation is that it can help release deep-seated physical and mental patterns, while facilitating deep relaxation, increased mobility, and mental clarity. The Trager Approach consists of two practices: table work and gentle exercises, called Mentastics (short for “mental gymnastics”).
During the hands-on table work session, the practitioner uses his or her hands to rhythmically rock, jiggle, and stretch various parts of the body. This is a very pleasurable experience for the client, creating deep relaxation within the whole body. Additionally, the lymphatic system is stimulated, carrying off waste product being excreted by cells of the body.
As we know, lymphatic system is an important part of the immune system. When it is working properly, immunity and detoxification are heightened.
By offering soft encouragement of the muscle tissue, the Trager Approach allows for oxidation and rehydration to be achieved with greater ease. This brings the body back into a state of balance. And for each movement experienced on the table through the hands of a practitioner, there is a Mentastic movement that empowers and supports the client in the daily care of the body. The Trager Approach is kind, nurturing way to support detoxification and bring aliveness back to the body.
At Texas Biological Medicine, Inc., we are proud to partner with resident Trager practitioner, Tricia Wade, LMT. Sessions are available at our office Sunday-Wednesday. Call our office at 972.233.8339 to book a complimentary 10-minute Trager experience.
To learn more about Tricia and the Trager approach, visit our website at https://www.texasbiologicalmedicine.com/about-texas-biological-medicine.
While it may not be something you think about very often, lymph is vital to detoxification and wellness. Lymph, a colorless fluid containing white blood cells, constantly bathes the tissues of the body. The entire body is literally soaked in lymph. And as this vital fluid moves throughout the lymphatic system it feeds each cell, picks up cellular waste with white blood cells, and directs this fluid to lymph nodes where it is filtered. After filtration, clean lymph flows back into the blood stream at certain points in the body. When lymph moves well, detoxification is carried out well. And when it stagnates, so do bodily toxins.
Let's first take a look at what lymph is, then at ways we can move it!
Just as the system for moving blood throughout the body consists of the heart, veins, arteries, blood vessels, and capillaries, our lymph also relies upon a complex structural system for full-body circulation. Tiny blood capillaries flow past, but to do connect to, cells. Given this set-up, something else is needed to deliver nourishment to the cells.
This is where lymph comes in.
As lymph forms from blood and seeps from the capillaries, it flows around the cells, bathing them in nourishment. Remember that the lymph vessel system is just as complex as the blood vessel system; lymph is recirculated throughout the body through a vast network of lymph capillaries and vessels. It is important to note that unlike blood, lymph does not have an active pump to initiate circulation - no "lymph heart"! Rather, lymph vessels have one-way valves that rely upon muscle movement to propel lymph to the roughly 100 lymph nodes throughout the body. As we've seen, it is in the nodes that the work of detoxification occurs, as the white blood cells of the immune system filter debris from the lymph. This is why, when you are ill, you may notice your lymph nodes enlarge as they accommodate an influx of white blood cells. An astonishing seventeen liters of lymph is produced by the body daily, with much of it returning back to the bloodstream. Three liters remains as lymph each day - a considerable amount!
Now that we have an idea of what lymph is and what it does, how do we move it?
Rebounding, or bouncing on a small trampoline, is highly effective for moving lymph, which can become stagnant with little or no exercise. Since the lymphatic system has been termed the "garbage can of the body," it is important that it moves for detoxification to occur. "Lymphatic flow requires muscular contraction from exercise and movement, gravitational pressure, and internal massage to the valves of lymph ducts. Rebounding supplies all three methods of removing waste products from the cells and from the body." (1)
Deep diaphragmatic breathing is an excellent way to circulate the lymph. Breath in slowly and deeply, filling the belly with air. Then exhale slowly and fully, emptying the lungs. The dramatic pressure variance with the lung expansion and contraction moves the lymph and also helps to open the ducts to allow the lymph to reenter the bloodstream at the subclavian veins at the base of the neck. Deep, slow diaphragmatic breathing for 10 minutes a day will oxygenate the blood and also circulate the lymph. (2)
Body work is wonderful for moving lymph! Lymphatic drainage is a special type of massage that offers excellent results. But good, old fashioned massage is also good for lymph congestion (remember to massage toward the heart). The Trager Approach is one of our favorite forms of massage for lymph circulation.
Lymph vessels run just below the skin, so the ancient practice of gently brushing the skin with a dry, medium-bristle brush is very beneficial for lymphatic flow. Brush your dry skin in circular motions upward from the feet to the torso and from the fingers to the chest. Work in the same direction as your lymph flows, always toward the heart. This practice is best done daily, followed by a cleansing shower.
The movement of the arms swinging does a lot for moving lymph throughout the upper body, specifically the lymph nodes in the armpits and the chest/breasts.
Dancing or Yoga
Like walking, movement of the arms and legs gently pumps lymph throughout the body. But the bouncing that happens when dancing to a good song, or the twists that occur when performing a twisting yoga pose, add to this movement. Each time the abdomen twists, organs and muscles are squeezed, releasing lymph. Turn up the stereo and let loose!
As we saw last month, without proper water consumption the body suffers. And one of the areas that takes the greatest hit is lymphatic fluid. By ensuring you get plenty of purified water throughout the day, you can know you are allowing for your lymph to flow freely, aided by the miracle of water.
Breast tissue holds a large portion of lymphatic tissue, so it makes sense that
the tight underwire in bras hampers the free movement of lymph throughout the breasts. Ladies, if you can’t see yourself removing the underwire from your existing bras, or switching to non-underwire bras, there are still steps you can take to increase lymph flow to the breast region:
As much as possible, support detoxification by keeping the breast tissue unconstricted. Your lymphatic system will thank you. (3)
With so many great books related to detoxification out there, it was a challenge to settle on a few. But we did! Here are some of our favorites.
Gabriel Cousens, MD, There is a Cure for Diabetes