Why Detoxify?

It is no secret that we live in a world full of toxins. Never before in human history have we been exposed to such high levels of toxins. The air we breathe, the chemicals in our foods and the release of chemicals in our homes and workplaces all add to our toxic load. Therefore, on a daily basis, it is important for our bodies to break down these toxins and clear them out. Our detoxification organs, such as the kidneys, liver, lungs and skin have a lot of work to do every day.

To do this, they need a variety of nutrients to support the detoxification process. If these nutrients are not available, the body will have a difficult time detoxifying. If the detoxification process is slowed down, the toxins are not effectively eliminated. As time goes on, the toxins accumulate and eventually the cells are not as able to receive nutrients and the energy factory of the cells, the mitochondria, become impaired. Symptoms of toxicity appear along with identifiable health issues.

Toxicity may present with unexplained symptoms, such as:

  • headaches or migraines
  • bitter, metallic taste
  • brain fog
  • circles under the eyes
  • constipation
  • digestive discomfort
  • excessive mucus
  • fatigue
  • gas, bloating
  • joint and muscle aches
  • nausea or vomiting
  • poor concentration
  • ringing in the ears
  • skin rashes
  • strong body odor or bad breath
  • weight gain

Health issues related to toxicity:

  • arthritis
  • chronic fatigue
  • fibromyalgia
  • leaky gut
  • multiple chemical sensitivity
  • obesity

Symptoms may result from conditions other than toxic exposure, which may require appropriate conventional medical management and drug administration by a physician. Where symptoms are more frequent or severe, seek appropriate medical management.

How the Body Detoxifies

Detoxification is primarily performed by the liver, which has the job, along with the immune system, of identifying these foreign substances and transforming them into something harmless and preparing them for elimination. The liver accomplishes this by turning these harmful toxins into water-soluble intermediate chemicals. Then, through different metabolic pathways according to the type of toxin, amino acids, sulfur and other natural substances bind (conjugate) to the toxins so that they can be eliminated. If the nutrients needed to conjugate the toxins are in low supply, the toxins may recirculate as new toxins that are sometimes more toxic than the original substance.

It is not only toxins that are broken down, but also hormones, natural waste products, medications and fat-soluble vitamins. Some of the nutrients needed for better detoxification are sulfur (cruciferous vegetables, onions, garlic, eggs), vitamin B6 (avocado), zinc (shellfish) and protein (fish* and poultry).

As the toxins are being eliminated, free radicals are produced, which must be cleared as well. Antioxidants disarm these harmful oxidants. Thus, it is important to eat a variety of colored fruits and vegetables that contain compounds involved in antioxidant processes on a daily bases, especially when detoxifying.

Effective elimination is another factor in detoxification. It is through our urine and bowel movements that harmful substances are eliminated. Eating a good amount of fiber and hydrating with purified water every day will assist in this elimination process. Fiber is found in such foods as vegetables and fruits. Consuming at least 25 grams of fiber every day will greatly improve your detoxification capacity. Filtering out chlorine and the typical chemicals found in the water supply before you drink the water will lower your toxic load.

*When using fish, use species from locations that are less prone to toxic exposure.

from Detox 360 Handbook, by Linda Clark, MA, CNC

Portion Control

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As a rule, we eat too much. For those in affluent nations, food is more convenient not than in any generation of the past. We have easy access to food and more opportunities to indulge. This overindulgence is true for all age. Families are perhaps even more challenged by this issue. A growing teenage requires more calories that an adult, but watching a teenager pile their plate with a mound of spaghetti may make your large portion seem small by comparison. And how often does the partner of a pregnant woman gain weight during the pregnancy? The caloric needs of each family member are determined by their age but are also influenced by their activity level, basal metabolic rate and overall health. Given this complex mix of needs, how can a family consistently eat individually appropriate portions?

One of the first steps to achieve healthy portions is to determine just how many calories each person needs to maintain their optimal health. While there are many equations, such as the Harris-Benedict equation, that can be used to calculate caloric requirements, it is often easier to use a smart phone or computer application or website. These tools calculate caloric needs from straightforward input (age, sex, weight, BMI and activity level) and advance the generalization that most adults require between 1200-1300 calories per day. Once basic caloric needs have been determined, the next step is to match food intake to meet those needs.

People need help figuring out what and how much to eat. Again, web-based programs and phone applications are a helpful way to determine the caloric content of foods and to keep track of calories throughout the day. However, knowing how much one should eat and how much one is eating still falls short of day-to-day strategies to reduce intake. 

Portion control can be one of the hardest dietary changes for a person to make. We get used to eating too much both physiologically and psychologically. It takes time to make this downward adjustment and implement them in a family.

Some strategies to help with portion control are:

  • Use small plates and bowls for meals.
  • Have meals at regular times and without too much delay in order to avoid ravenous eating.
  • Eat slowly, chewing each bite to the consistency of oatmeal. Sip water between bites.
  • Include vegetables with lunch and dinner - vegetables are filling, take up more room on the plate, take longer to eat and are nutritious.
  • Since everyone has different caloric needs, meal portions should not necessarily be equal among all members of the family.

Once you have mastered controlling your food portions, you will be amazed at the the improved health of your family. An emerging body of evidence suggests that consuming fewer calories and being height/weight proportional is associated with lower incidence of major chronic disease, longer life and improved quality of health.