The Body’s Natural Ways to Detox Itself
Every day, you are exposed to a wide variety of toxins that can damage your health. While toxins generally don’t cause adverse health effects right away, they can build up over time and contribute to a variety of health conditions. There are a lot of detox programs available to help keep toxins at bay, but your body has its own natural ways to detox itself that is continually working to keep you healthy.
Toxins We Are Exposed to Daily
A toxin is a poisonous substance that is typically unstable, toxic when introduced to tissues, and capable of triggering the immune response. (1) Every day, you are exposed to seemingly countless toxins, some of which you may not even realize are there. These are just some of the most common toxins that most people are exposed to on a daily basis:
- BPA: 93% of Americans have BPA in their body. This estrogen-imitating chemical is often used to manufacture plastics and has been linked to breast cancer, early puberty, heart disease, reproductive toxicity, and more. While BPA is banned in products for babies and children, it is still used in canned foods. (2, 3)
- Phthalates: Phthalates are everywhere. From perfume, nail polish, and other personal care items to food packaging and plastics, it’s nearly impossible to avoid phthalates. These colorless, odorless, oily liquids are in just about anything made with PVC, and they do not bind well to other materials, which makes it easy for your skin to absorb them. Many phthalates are clearly labeled on products; however, many are listed as part of “fragrance,” which makes it difficult to know whether or not the products you’re using contain phthalates. Exposure to high amounts of phthalates has been linked to hormone changes, obesity, lower sperm count, and more. (2, 3, 4)
- Dioxins: According to the World Health Organization, 90% of human exposure to dioxins comes through food, specifically animal products like fish, meat, dairy, and shellfish. Dioxins form when chlorine and bromine are burned in the presence of oxygen and carbon. They can live for a long time, which makes it easy for them to build up in the body. Dioxins have been linked to permanent effects in sperm quality and count, damaging the immune system, and cancer. (2, 3)
- Atrazine: This commonly used herbicide is used in a variety of crops, but it is mostly used in corn crops. Because it is used in agriculture, atrazine is also often in our drinking water — 94% of it, in fact! Atrazine has been linked to cancer in people. In animal studies, it has also been linked to delayed puberty and turning male frogs into female frogs. (2, 3)
- Arsenic: Commonly used in rat poison, arsenic is also found in food and drinking water, although in much smaller amounts. But even in these smaller amounts, arsenic may cause a variety of different cancers, and it can interfere with your body’s natural hormone functioning system that regulates how your body processes carbohydrates and sugars. As a result, you may experience immunosuppression, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and more. (2, 3)
- Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs): 99% of Americans have PFCs in their bodies. These chemicals can be found in many different products around your home, including your non-stick cookware, carpets, mattresses, and food packaging. PFCs have been shown to be completely resistant to biodegradation, which means that they never break down. Such a quality means that PFCs can easily build up in our environment and in your body. PFCs have been linked to ADHD, developmental problems with fetuses, kidney disease, high cholesterol, and more. (2, 3)
- Lead: Most commonly found in old paint, lead is a dangerous toxin that can be found in drinking water. Lead can harm almost every organ in the body, and it has been linked to a variety of health conditions, including brain damage, miscarriage, lower IQ, increased blood pressure, nervous system problems, and more. (2, 3)
- Perchlorate: Commonly used in rocket fuel, fireworks, and airbags, perchlorate is also found in a large amount of milk and other produce products. When in the body, perchlorate competes with iodine, which is necessary for your thyroids to make thyroid hormones. If you have too much perchlorate in your body, you can experience an imbalance in your thyroid hormones, which can result in issues with metabolism, as well as organ and brain development in children. (2, 3)
Obviously, there are so many more toxins out there than the few listed above, which means it is all the more important that your body stays healthy enough for its detoxification process to function properly. Doing so can help you avoid or reduce symptoms of a variety of health issues.
How the Body Detoxifies Itself
Even though your body is exposed to a wide range of toxins each day, it already has a robust toxin removal system. Without it, your body would have to rely solely on you participating in a constant and effective detox routine, which may or may not end up having the same cleansing effect as what your body can do on its own.
The body rids itself of harmful toxins and chemicals through excretion, particularly through bile, urine, and sweat. It may not sound very pleasant, but it works! Nearly all of the cells in your body produce detox enzymes to help with the process, which means that just about every organ in your body plays a role in the natural ways to detox process — although some organs do more work than others. (5, 6)
Here’s a quick overview of what the detox organs do to help remove toxins and chemicals from your body:
Did you know that the liver performs more than 500 different functions? The liver is perhaps the most important organ in your body’s natural ways to detox itself because its main job is to filter the blood to remove all toxic substances and excrete those impurities via the kidneys and intestines. (7) This makes the liver the main site for most of the detoxification process. (8)
Perhaps one of the most important things the liver does is prepare toxins and chemicals for excretion. Most toxins that enter the body are fat-soluble, which means that they can only be dissolved in solutions that are oily or fatty. In order to be excreted, the toxins need to be water soluble. The liver converts toxins into water-soluble solutions in a two-phase process called bio-transformation, thus making it possible for your body to eliminate the toxins. (9, 10)
Your kidneys’ main job is to filter and remove all toxins and waste in your body’s different fluids, including the now water-soluble toxins that come from the liver. What’s special about the kidneys is that they can detoxify themselves if there is enough water in your system. (11, 12)
In many instances, your gastrointestinal tract is the first contact that your body has with foreign substances. As a result, this particular bodily system acts as a physical barrier against toxins and is the next major site for detoxification. (8)
A large portion of your immune system is in your intestines, which means one of the intestine’s main roles is to help deliver nutrients to the bloodstream that are necessary for your immune system to work. When it comes to detoxification, however, your intestines rely heavily on Peyer’s patches. These tiny lymph nodes inside the small intestine help remove a variety of foreign substances, such as parasites and bacteria. As a result, they help prevent pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria from growing and ultimately being absorbed into the bloodstream. (5, 13)
Your skin is your body’s largest organ, and it plays a crucial role in both protecting your body from harmful substances and excreting toxins. By covering your entire body, your skin protects you against infections, cold, heat, and so much more. How? The skin has its own microbiome that is made up of millions of microorganisms. These microorganisms work with your body’s immune system to help fight off dangers and protect the body as a whole. Because your skin is porous, it provides an additional way for your body to remove toxins via sweating. (5, 14)
One of the ways that toxins enter your body is through the air you breathe; but that’s no problem for your body’s defense systems. Your respiratory system is designed to help filter and remove toxins with every breath you take.
When you exhale, your lungs expel toxic gases, such as carbon dioxide. Not only that, but if your liver, kidneys, and intestines fail to remove some toxins, your lungs can remove them as phlegm. (5)
Your immune system is a complex system of cells, organs, tissues, and proteins that all work together to identify and eliminate foreign, toxic invaders. Your immune system is constantly monitoring every cell within your body. If it detects an invader, your immune system will trigger the appropriate response, which typically involves sending antibodies to neutralize the invader. (14)
The lymphatic system is a group of organs and tissues that help your body flush out toxins and other wastes. It does this by transporting a fluid called lymph, which is filled with white blood cells. As the lymph moves throughout the body, its infection-fighting properties help your body cleanse itself of toxins. (15)
Living a Toxin-Free Life
By regularly and constantly flushing out toxins, your body’s natural ways to detox itself makes it possible for you to live a healthier life. As you continue to provide your body with the care it needs to function properly, you can increase your chances of avoiding illnesses related to toxins and more fully enjoy living each day.