Why detox? We are constantly bombarded by toxins. Even if you consume the choicest food and sniff the purest air, your body still creates toxins as it turns the food into energy. These are called endogenous toxins. For most of history, our bodies have been more than capable of dealing with endogenous toxins. It is what we have evolved to do. However, our environment and our food supply are increasingly contaminated with other toxins. These are called exogenous toxins. Many people are able to adequately deal with these without experiencing noticeable effects. As time passes and people get older, their detoxification systems diminish in ability. This can be due to a multitude of factors and may be different for every person, which is why it is essential to assess and understand the obstacles to proper elimination. These can include anything from genetic differences in the metabolic liver enzymes to stagnant lymph flow to inadequate glutathione production. Each of these problems requires a different solution and none of the "all-in-one" detox programs can or should account for every possibility.
One very important aspect of detoxification is the ability to actually get the toxins out of your body. If you are not able to do this, then it is no longer DEtoxification, but rather REtoxification. In this case, you are just mobilizing all of the toxins without eliminating them and this has the potential to cause more damage than if you had done nothing at all. Ideally, someone interested in detox should see a doctor before they ever get started to see if they are healthy enough for the added stress that detoxification puts on the system.
One of the ways that detox can go wrong is if the person has a “leaky” blood-brain-barrier. This barrier is designed to keep toxins, bacteria, and cells that are in the blood from entering the brain, which should help to maintain the brain as a more pristine environment than the rest of the body. When this barrier becomes defective, this can lead to increased neuro-inflammation and neuro-degeneration.
Detoxification not only helps to eliminate the toxins that are in the blood, but it will also mobilize toxins that are stored in “long-term storage sites” in the body. The body shunts toxins to these sites when it is unable to completely metabolize and excrete them after an exposure. Many toxins are fat-soluble, meaning that the toxin can be stored in the fat droplets of adipose tissue. This is one of the reasons why fat-burning weight loss programs can have negative effects on the body, because it re-exposes the body to all of the toxins that are stored in the fat that is being burnt.
Another mode of re-toxification is the bone loss of the aged, or osteoporosis. In the body the element lead behaves similarly to calcium, and one of the main long-term storage sites of lead is the bone matrix. As people get older, this matrix tends to break down, re-exposing the person to the lead that was trapped. These two re-exposures are accommodated fine in someone that is healthy with a low toxic burden, but when the toxic burden is high or if the person is less healthy, this additional mode of exposure can be a significant stressor making someone feel less well.
This discussion has exposed just a few issues in the multitude of considerations necessary for a healthy detox program. From it, I hope that I have instilled in the reader the gravity of the process. It is not something to be taken lightly and is something that should be done with great care.
If you have any questions, please ask.
Thanks for reading my thoughts.