by Dr. Cheryl Cooper, ND
With multiple detoxification myths roaming the internet, it’s difficult to pinpoint who and what to believe in. While many anti-detox arguments are well-intended, they often miss the bigger picture of the purpose and benefits of detox. In this article, there are three commonly held myths about detox that I will dispel.
Myth # 1 – Our body can detoxify itself.
In this world of pervasive environmental toxins, supporting our body’s detoxification pathways has become important to maintaining good health and preventing disease. While our bodies are brilliantly designed to sequester, break down and eliminate toxins via the liver, kidneys, colon and skin, the number and types of toxins we are exposed to in our daily lives makes it almost impossible for these key organs to keep up.
From an evolutionary perspective, our bodies were not designed to break down the toxic man-made chemicals that are found in our air, water, food, personal care products, cleaning products…So, no matter how “clean” you live, almost everyone shows signs of toxic build-up.
In the ground-breaking report “Toxic Nation: A Report on Pollution in Canadians” (1), a cocktail of harmful chemicals were detected in every person tested in a cross-Canada study of pollution conducted by Environmental Defense. This report concluded that, no matter where people live, they are contaminated with measurable levels of chemicals that can cause cancer, weight gain and respiratory problems, disrupt hormones and affect reproduction and neurological development.
Another study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals (2), found some pretty shocking results. ON average, the CDC found 212 chemicals in people’s blood or urine, 75 of which had never been measured in the US population. These toxic chemicals included acrylamide (fried foods, cigarettes), arsenic (home building products), phenols such as BPA (plastic, food packaging, epoxy resins), and triclosan (antibacterial agent in personal care products), perchlorate (airplane fuel, explosives, fireworks), perfluorinated chemicals (non-stick cookware), poly-brominated diphenyl esters (fire retardants in mattresses and kids pajamas), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (paint, air fresheners, cleaning products…).
Based on this research, we can confidently conclude that our bodies are not effectively clearing these toxic chemicals from our systems and needs support to safely and effectively remove them.
Myth # 2 – Detoxification is harmful
Toxins that have accumulated in your body produce free-radicals and cause oxidative stress which leads to tissue dysfunction, degeneration and disease. This is very harmful to our bodies and can result in many serious health issues. Detoxification of toxins can be harmful if it’s not done properly. It is very important to detoxify the body slowly and gently especially the first few times. Getting a proper protocol from a naturopathic doctor can help to alleviate some of the risks of detoxifying the body too quickly. In addition, it is imperative to drink lots of water or herbal teas while detoxifying to ensure your body is eliminating toxins effectively as they are being mobilized.
Myth # 3 – Detoxification is complicated
Detoxifying the body can be done in many ways and to varying degrees. There are some detoxification programs that are complicated and difficult to follow. Generally speaking detoxifying the body can be done simply and effectively using a few key supplements in conjunction with diet changes that eliminate some of the foods that tend to cause oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.
Some of the best supplements to support the body’s detoxification pathways are listed below to ensure a safe and effective detoxification process.
Milk thistle is an example of an herb that powerfully supports the liver and enhances detoxification. Milk thistle has been used for over 2000 years to treat liver dysfunction and disease. It has anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and hepatoprotective qualities that make it “the King of the liver”.(4) The most active component of milk thistle is silybin and this supports liver regeneration and restores it to proper function.
Chlorella, considered a superfood due to its high nutrient value, is a blue-green algae with powerful detoxifying properties. In addition to mobilizing, binding and removing heavy metal from the body, chlorella is alkalizing and able to eliminate accumulated toxins in the liver, bowel and deeper tissues of the body where toxins are typically stored. (5)
NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine)
NAC is an amino acid that acts as an antioxidant in the body and is a robust detoxifying agent for the liver and blood. It also supports the production of glutathione, which is one of the body’s most potent detoxifying agents and anti-oxidants. (6) This is important because glutathione gets depleted by toxic stress and is not absorbed well when taken orally. As an antioxidant, NAC protects the body from environmental toxins known as aldehydes that are commonly found in air pollution, which has great impact on the health of those living in densely populated cities or regions of poor air quality.
From the evidence above, it’s safe to dispel the myths about detoxification and embrace it as an important and necessary process for preventing disease and ensuring good health toxin free. Learn more on how to detoxify your body properly with tips from Dr.Cheryl Cooper.
3. Review of natural products with hepatoprotective effects. PUBMED. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4209543/#B17
4. Milk thistle in liver diseases: past, present, future. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20883261
5. Christaki E, Florou-Paneri P, Bonos E: Microalgae: a novel ingredient in nutrition. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2011, 62: 794-799. 10.3109/09637486.2011.582460.
Dr. Cheryl Cooper B.Sc., ND
Dr. Cheryl Cooper is a Naturopathic Doctor and the owner and CEO of Vitallife Integrative Medicine based in Ottawa. She has 20 years of experience in the health and wellness industry, specializing in hormone balancing, women’s health, detoxification, stress management and sleep issues. Dr. Cooper uses a holistic approach to helping patients, involving educating and empowering patients to take control of their health. Recently moved to her hometown of Canmore, Alberta, she now practices out of Inner Balance Spa in Calgary.