Do We Really Need To Detox?12/02/2020, Samahita
Samahita Retreat in Thailand have given us a real insight into everything you need to know about detoxing and if it is really worth it.
The Scientific & Holistic Perspective of Detoxing
As people are getting more and more interested in their physical and mental wellness, the popularity of detox programs, products and gimmicks also increases. This also bring with it a warranted debate and push back around certain claims from the detox industry. It’s simple to dismiss the detox movement when so many companies are trying to promote this industry and so most of what is being sold to us has very little or zero scientific evidence to back it up. However, many are also unaware that cleansing practices have existed for thousands of years, so why is that? Are we even toxic? Is detoxification a real process in the body? Do any of these modern detox programs or products actually work? Valid questions in this debate.
The fact that inside our bodies we all have an in-built detoxification process, this is often noted as reason to dismiss many detox programs. This may be true but then the question arises, is that process working to the best of its ability to support our health to the fullest?
Everything you need to know about Toxins
Toxins can be grouped into a variety of categories:
- Toxic elements e.g. mercury, cadmium, arsenic and lead, generally transmitted through water, food, dust, dental fillings and various consumer products
- Naturally occurring toxins e.g. mold or aflatoxins (found on crops such as corn and peanuts), and any allergens from animals, plants or food
- Pesticides e.g. insecticides, fungicides and herbicides
- Persistent organic pollutants e.g. dioxins, furans, Teflon and polychlorinated biphenyls
- Volatile organic compounds e.g. gas or petrol, solvents, paint, formaldehyde or benzene
- Plastics e.g. phthalates, BPA and PVC which leach out via UV radiation, heat and chemicals
With approximately 140,000 chemicals on the global market that claim to detoxify the body, exposure in today’s world is unfortunately inevitable. According to UN Environment, the size of the global industry was over US$5 trillion in 2017 and is projected to double by 2030.
An interesting area of study that is growing is around the Exposome. The exposome is what measures the total impact of environmental exposure (pollution, toxins, stress, lifestyle, nutrition) to toxins even before you are birthed. Many studies have also been practiced on newborn babies with hundreds of these toxins showing up in their fetal cord blood. As an example, the Environmental Working Group study which found 287 toxic chemicals in fetal cord blood of 10 newborns.
Whilst these studies do seem to show that exposure to toxins is unavoidable, what will vary is an individual’s personal toxic load and how that effects their body. This will obviously depend on a number of factors including total exposure throughout their lifetime, current environment, diet and lifestyle, and their body's efficiency in processing and excreting toxins.
Why are Toxins an Issue for Us?
The human body is highly intelligent with built-in detoxification pathways within many of the tissues, not just the liver which is often known as the main organ of detox, but also in the kidneys, lungs, intestines, skin and testes. Toxins can only be excreted via these pathways when they are water soluble though, at which point they are excreted naturally via saliva, tears, urine, feces, sweat, or are exhaled. On the other hand, fat soluble toxins, tend to accumulate in the body, in fat cells but also in other tissues. Toxic elements such as metals, for example, tend to accumulate in the brain, kidneys, liver and bones. This is one issue.
Another issue which can impaired the body's detoxification abilities is a person’s detox capacity is their diet and lifestyle and will most certainly be impacted if any liver or kidney issues, gastrointestinal health issues or micronutrient deficiencies exist, or if there is toxic overload.
Not necessarily will our bodies naturally getting rid of these toxins which we are being exposed to. However, the real issue can be health problems including serious disease if toxins are allowed to accumulate. Persistent organic pollutants, for example, have been associated with diseases such as diabetes, obesity and endocrine disruption. Large global organizations such as the World Health Organisation and the Endocrine Society are actively studying the real risks of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, like the kinds found in plastics.
Shockingly, according to the WHO, “just over one third (35%) of ischaemic heart disease, the leading cause of deaths and disability worldwide, and about 42% of stroke, the second largest contributor to global mortality, could be prevented by reducing or removing exposure to chemicals such as from ambient air pollution, household air pollution, second-hand smoke and lead.” It is now understood that causes of complex diseases like cancer are not solely based on genetics but also the effect of environmental factors such as exposure to chemicals, as well as aspects of lifestyle.
This information helps us understand that toxic exposure is a real issue especially as it’s correlated with serious disease, and that even early life including fetus poses risk of exposure, meaning we most likely already have a burden that needs to taken care of. It might be in our best interest then to ensure we are supporting our bodies in doing its job of excreting that which is not needed.
How do we Support Detoxification?
The good news is that it is possible to get rid of fat soluble toxins that are stored in our tissues via a detoxification process. This process is essentially the biotransformation of fat soluble toxins into water soluble toxins so the body is able to excrete them naturally. The issue with most detox programs or products is that they do not considering the full detoxification process from mobilization to excretion, rather looking at one isolated area.
At a cellular level, the four phases of detoxification are:
- Phase 0, the intake of a fat soluble toxin into the cell.
- Phase I, the process of oxidation/reduction reactions which turns the toxin into a free radical
- Phase II, the addition of reactive metabolites with an endogenous compound e.g. glutathione conjugation, which creates a water-soluble toxin that is no longer a free radical
- Phase III, the excretion of the water soluble toxin from the cell
First the toxins must be mobilized. Then only after all four stages of detoxification are completed will the toxins become water soluble and so can be excreted via sweat, tears, urine, feces or breath.
As mentioned in a previous article, an effective detox program therefore must include:
- mobilization (removing stored toxins from tissues and cells)
- detoxification (biotransformation of toxins through the four phases)
- excretion (the elimination of toxins from the body)
All achieved by calorie restriction, very specific foods and supplements, as well as exercise and sweating.
This clear understanding of what detoxification actually is, as researched and taught by people like Dr. Bryan Walsh, gives credibility to the design of the detox program at Samahita which already includes all of these elements, while also lends to current upgrades. The research also unfortunately debunks many of the detox products and practices out there as they are either incomplete or with no evidence as to their effectiveness.
Prevention is Better than Cure
Samhita Retreat aims to prevent accumulation of toxins, and therefore the risk of disease from the inevitable exposure, with what we can control — our lifestyle. Traditional systems like Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine work towards prevention of disease with a more holistic approach than modern medicine, focusing on maintaining the body’s natural healthy state. Cleansing practices that are done daily, like breathwork, or as part of a detox program, have also always been part of Ayurvedic and Yogic traditions.
The key is really what we do every day to take care of our bodies. Naturally, a person who is active, eats well, stays hydrated, sweats, sleeps well, breathes well and spends plenty of time in nature will likely not accumulate as many toxins as a person with a terrible lifestyle living in a busy city. All these elements have to be managed.
We will continue to cover practices and tips for managing daily life in our educational blogs and articles, but specifically for detox some helpful practices to incorporate include:
- Eating a whole foods diet with plenty of cruciferous vegetables
- Intermittent fasting
- Exercise and movement
- Staying hydrated
- Sweating regularly
- Practicing breathwork
- Spending time in nature
The detox debate is important as who would want to waste time and money on something that doesn’t work? At Samahita we draw upon the holistic wisdom of ancient traditions and modern scientific research, to provide effective tools and practices, and the right environment to guests of Samahita so they can maintain or move towards good health and vitality. All that we offer is based on years of experience of working with guests, ongoing research and backed by science.
Bottom line is, we are exposed to toxins, we may need the help of a program to kick start detoxification, and lifestyle plays a big part in managing the effects of modern life. Let’s help our intelligent bodies do the work to detox, but let’s apply some discernment with our choices, also.
If this blog has got you interested in starting your wellness journey call our wellness advisors at 020 7843 3597 or enquire here.