Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Eliminating Toxins - Top 5 Things to Remember

By Dr. Iva Lloyd, BScH, BCPP, ND

In its most basic form, the body is like a bucket. The "bucket" stays healthy when it can sort through whatever is put in and keep what it needs and eliminate what it doesn't. Generally speaking, there are really only two problems that affect health. One- you don't get what you need to be healthy. That is, you are lacking nutrients, clear air, nurture and other essentials to health. Or two- you cannot or choose not to eliminate what you don't need.

The ability to eliminate toxins is a reflection of the body's ability to sort through what it needs and what it doesn't-to keep anything that is essential to health and to excrete what is harmful or unnecessary. The better you are at living a clean life and being an efficient eliminator, the better.

The primary routes of elimination in the body include:

Secondary routes of elimination include nasal discharge, coughing, ear wax, tears, hair, vaginal secretions, phlegm, mucous or blood in the stool, gas or flatulence and sneezing. 

Eliminating waste and toxins is important in order to prevent chronic disease, to aid in the treatment of acute diseases, to support organ function and to decrease aging and the slowing down of metabolic processes.

Proper daily hygiene is an important habit to support the body's ability to eliminate toxins.

Factors that affect an individual's ability to eliminate toxins include:

  • Water is the primary carrier for all toxins. Bowel movements, urine, sweating, menses and even breath require water. If a person is dehydrated, their ability to eliminate toxins is greatly reduced. 
  • Breathing is one of the innate ways that the body eliminates the waste products of cellular metabolism, including carbon dioxide. Learning how to breath properly and efficiently aids the body in eliminating and reducing phlegm, nasal mucous and will help to protect the body from inhaling environmental toxins found in the air.
  • Movement helps to eliminate toxins. Regular movement is associated with better bowel movements and with circulation. When an individual is too sedentary, toxins or waste products are more likely to "sit" in fat, lymphatic tissue, muscles and organs.
  • Lifestyle determines your exposure to toxins. Smoking, alcohol and drugs add to the toxic burden of the body and can consume a lot of energy and nutrients as the body tries to negate their toxic effects. Many people have jobs that expose them to toxins, such as mining, construction, certain types of manufacturing, farming and others. Where you live also determines your toxic exposure. Living in the country with a lot of trees and clean air is less toxic than if you live in a densely populated city. The important thing is to understand what your exposure is, and to work with your naturopathic doctor to determine how to support your body's ability to eliminate the toxins.
  • Mood and emotions impact health. We are all going to have good days and bad days.  Having negative emotions or periods of stress primarily affect health when we hold them in. The important thing is to learn how to express emotions and how to eliminate holding onto negative situations.
  • The environment that you live in greatly affects both your toxic exposure and your ability to eliminate toxins. Spending time in nature is beneficial and helps the body to eliminate toxins. Spending a lot of time indoors or exposed to urban life can increase your exposure to toxins. Taking measures to minimize exposure in your direct environment is a beneficial way to decrease your toxic burden.
  • Personal care products, such as cosmetics, perfumes, soaps etc. often contain synthetic chemicals which can be toxic to the body. These toxins accumulate over time and put stress on the body. Choose natural, chemical free personal care products as a way of decreasing your exposure to toxins and ensuring that your skin is free to work as an organ of elimination.
  • Drugs, such as prescription medications, influence the body's ability to excrete toxins and they, themselves, are often toxic to the body. Most drugs put added stress on the liver and the kidneys, two of the key organs for filtering out toxins in the body.
  • Supplements are often beneficial in assisting the body in eliminating toxins. Unfortunately, many supplements are designed to circulate toxins within the body.  To determine what supplements you require to actually support the elimination of toxins, work with your naturopathic doctor to find what supplements are best for you.

The Top 5 Things to Remember With Respect to Eliminating Toxins

1. Ensure daily bowel movements

Bowel movements are a major route that the body uses to eliminate toxins. As food is ingested, it passes through the digestive tract and is continually broken down. Ideally, the nutrients that are required for health are absorbed while anything that is not essential is eliminated through the stool. The elimination of toxins and wastes protects the body from accumulating or storing the toxins.

Ideally you want as many bowel movements as you have meals. Aim for at least two bowel movements a day. A normal bowel movement should be shaped like a banana, not too hard, not too soft.  Your bowel movements will fluctuate with your diet.  The aim is to achieve a healthy diet that supports normal and regular bowel movements. An active mind, dehydration and prescription medications are common causes, outside of diet, that affect bowel movements. If these factors are a concern for you, work with your naturopathic doctor to determine a healthy solution.

2. Sweating is good for you.

Sweating is a very efficient way to rid the body of toxins that are stored in adipose or fat tissue. As most environmental toxins are stored in fat, sweating is something that you want to support. Sweating is stimulated by exercise, fever, warm temperatures and saunas or steam rooms. Encouraging the body to sweat is a great way to achieve healthy skin.

During perimenopause it is common for women to have hot flashes or night sweats. As one route of eliminating toxins is shut down, i.e., menses, the skin will often act as the overflow route. Similarly, if your kidneys, liver, lung or digestion system are taxed or stressed, you will often find that the body reacts with skin lesions or itchiness on the skin. The skin is the largest organ of detoxification. Encouraging sweating, taking Alkabaths, doing hydrotherapy, doing saunas or steam baths are all beneficial at helping the skin support overall health.

3. Express Your Emotions.

Emotions themselves are neither healthy nor unhealthy. Healthy emotions are those that are felt and expressed. Unhealthy emotions are those that are held in or suppressed. The expression of true emotions and organic feelings through voice allows the body the opportunity to share experiences and to release anything that is "toxic".

Expressing emotions does not always mean talking to (or yelling at) the person that you have an emotion about. Expressing emotions can be done by through breathing, writing, painting or other forms of art, physical activity and emotional release activities. A cleansing breath can be effective in releasing the tension associated with frustration or anxiety. Learning to talk out loud, when you are alone is quite effective. For your health, the person that you have emotions about doesn't have to be in front of you when you express. For your emotions to have less of an impact on your health, you just need to focus on releasing them.

Using voice as a route of elimination is often forgotten when health professionals are listing the routes of elimination for the body. My experience is that emotions are one of the key toxins that people hold on to. Holding onto emotions can subsequently result on holding onto other toxins, resulting in constipation, urinary urgency or increased risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs), chronic cough and other conditions. Working with a health practitioner who can assist you in finding effective ways of releasing your stored up emotions is an essential aspect of overall health.

4. Eliminate Your Exposure to Toxins

In today's society one of the main concerns is the amount of toxins to which we are exposed. There are toxins in food (herbicides, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, food colouringsadditives, genetically modified foods, etc), environmental toxins (heavy metals, chemicals, EMF radiation, polluted water and air, etc), toxins in personal care products (thousands of chemicals, preservatives, fragrances,etc), and then there are toxins or waste products that the body produces through its metabolic and biochemical processes.

Neutralizing, balancing and eliminating toxins requires a lot of nutrients and energy. Many people today are exhausted simply because their body is overwhelmed with dealing with all their toxins. In order to achieve optimal health and to prevent chronic diseases or cancer, the best thing you can do is to eliminate your exposure to toxins as much as possible.

5. Look, Listen and Investigate

The body is designed to naturally release toxins. Symptoms are a way that the body gets your attention.  Paying attention to how your body talks to you is your best strategy. If you are constipated, have skin rashes or lesions, a chronic cough, nasal congestion, difficulty breathing, chronic fatigue or a chronic disease, then you are best to work with a naturopathic doctor to figure out the cause of these symptoms.

On an acute basis, look for the cause of periodic symptoms. The acne, cough, itchy skin or constipation that wasn't there today, but has now shown up, is probably a reflection of what you ate yesterday. Any symptom that you have periodically is going to be in response to something that overwhelmed the body. Mentally go through a checklist - what was different in what you ate, what you put on your skin, your activity level, your stress, your environment - to help determine what your body is trying to tell you.

 Unfortunately, it is not possible to live a life that is completely clean of toxins. Achieving and maintaining health involves always supporting the body's ability to eliminate toxins on an ongoing basis.

Naturopathic doctors excel at assessing and supporting the elimination of toxins in the body. In our clinic, all of our practitioners focus on this aspect of health.  If you have any questions, please give us a call.

2015 Guide to Health Series

Check out the other topics on our Guide to Health Series. Each month we will he highlighting the top five things you need to know about each topic. The topics that will be covered include:

January - Water
February - Breathing
March - Movement
April - Sleep
May - Healthy Eating
June - Elimination of Toxins
July - Alignment and Posture
August - Alkaline lifestyle and personal care products
September - The Power of the Mind
October - Time Spent Outdoors
November - Addressing Environmental Factors
December - Healthy Relationships

As part of our Guide to Health Series, we will be offering in-house seminars on each topic. If you are unable to attend our seminars, we will be providing video highlights of some of the seminars on our website.

If you have any questions about nutrition that you would like us to address, please contact us at 

Let us know if you are joining us on the Guide to Health Series by sending us an email or by hitting the "like" logo on our blog.