It's not uncommon to just bombard our bodies with toxic substances without really thinking about it.... One of the main reasons we do this is because our bodies are just so damn good at 'dealing with them'. Everything that happens within us or at a subconscious level can be really hard to manage or understand because quite simply, it's out of sight, out of mind.
Personally, I think are bodies are TOO good at dealing with toxic overload. Unfortunately it's not until we becomes severely ill or unwell that we actually stop and reflect on our lifestyles and what is happening to us.
So what are toxins?
Toxins are substances which are absorbed (or created) within our bodies which have the potential to be very harmful depending on the type and the dose of the toxin.
Toxins vary dramatically and can include everything from cigarette smoke, and processed sugar, right through to the substances in your body lotion and even how stressed you are!
Some common toxins found in every day life include:
How do our bodies deal with these toxins?
When we digest food, drugs or any other substance, it travels from our mouths, down our oesophagus and into our stomach where it is churned and moved along into the small intestine. If a substance is highly toxic or even poisonous, our bodies will quite cleverly tell it to throw up so that it can't progress any further.
If it successfully manages to reach the small intestine, it is here where the villi and microvilli which line our small intestine, break down the food into even tinier pieces so that it becomes small enough to be absorbed into our blood stream. From here the blood goes to our heart, where it then pushes the nutrients (and any toxins) absorbed around our body and into our liver.
Anything undigested moves to our large intestine where it is further broken down by our gut bacteria, and then pushed along to be excreted in our faeces along with excess water, dead red blood cells, and other unwanted substances, such as cholesterol or food additives.
Going back to the liver... when your heart pushes the blood to your liver, it then goes into sorting the good from the bad - separating nutrients from toxins and thus commencing the 'detoxification process'. It magically converts and balances your blood level of amino acids, it produces bile which is secreted back into your digestive tract for the breakdown of fats, it breaks down certain hormones, it converts Vitamin D into a more usable form within the body, and it even stores glycogen for later use when we need the extra energy.
So what does it do to the toxins? Put simply, when the liver comes across toxic substances, it firstly alters them to make then more water soluble, and then secondly, it combines those partially processed toxins with sulphur or amino acids in order to be safely excreted through your bile, urine or sweat. Pretty impressive hey!
If our bodies are SO good at doing this, why does it matter what we eat or what we are exposed to?
Yes our bodies are incredible.. but we aren't super humans (unfortunately!). Like with anything, too much can become overwhelming and throw the whole system out.
If we are absorbing TOO many toxic substances on a daily basis one of two things can happen - either the body can't break down the toxins quickly enough and therefore they keep circulating around our blood or get wrapped up and stored in our fat unless your liver is ready for them... OR they do manage to get broken down but the liver cannot keep up with combining them with the sulphur or amino acids that are required for them to be successfully excreted. Basically, if you're constantly bombarding your body with toxins, it just cant produce what it requires at a fast enough pace to keep up with you and therefore it becomes over worked. When this happens, the partially broken down toxins (also known as free radicals) can re enter the blood stream wreaking havoc on the rest of our body and causing excess inflammation.
Eek! I definitely consume too many toxins - what can I do to love my liver better?
It's not hard to support your body better or to give your liver a deserved break so that it can clean itself out, and clean out excess unwanted toxins circulating around your body.
Put simply - you just need to stop bombarding it. By reducing your toxic load and introducing high antioxidant foods (which bind to free radicals and prevent them from doing further damage), as well as drinking plenty of water, taking some herbal liver supporting supplements, introducing more movement (and sweat) and opting for some natural therapies such as massage, you can start to remove what has been built up within your body, and fuel it with cleaner, healthier ingredients so that it's not becoming so stressed out.
Sometimes when people go on 'detoxes' after leading quite a highly toxic lifestyle, they can experience 'detox side effects'. If you think about it literally, your body FINALLY has a chance to break down all of those stored toxins in your fat and in your blood and with that you can feel tired and sluggish and your moods might fluctuate. You can often experience withdrawal (like you do with any other drug) and therefore suffer from headaches and intense cravings. All these things pass within a week or two once your body is used to the new foods you are eating and the healthier lifestyle you are leading. The additive effect that drugs, sugars, even some fats have on your mind, body and gut bacteria are a different story all together!
Your Liver Loving Goals for next week:
1. Drink plenty of filtered water - if you don't like water, add a slice of lemon or cucumber to flavour it
2. Introduce plenty of good fibre from fruits and vegetables to start clearing out your digestive tract
3. Eat foods high in antioxidants - think green tea, beetroot, dark leafy green vegetables, turmeric, garlic, berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes.
4. Move your body - whether it be yoga or boxing, moving your body not only stimulates digestion and gets your body sweating, but it also gets your blood pumping faster. All helpful in releasing excess toxic substances
5. Get a massage - massage can help to stimulate your circulatory and lymphatic systems
6. Sauna - a short visit to the sauna can help to clear out toxins through your sweat - just be sure to hydrate during and after!
7. Liver loving supplements - green tea, liquorice root tea, dandelion root extract or tea, milk thistle, antioxidant & liver supporting essential oils such as rosemary or geranium.