How Does the Body Detoxify Itself?
Detoxification and cleansing have become “fads” that are being used to sell products, programs, books and seminars all over the world. Although we each need to set aside time to detoxify on a regular basis, the fact is that our bodies never stop working to neutralize and eliminate toxins. Our body puts a very high priority on detoxification and cleansing. This is why many signs of illness are actually signs of detoxification and show the body is working overtime to eliminate the toxins associated with the illness. For information on how to tell if your body needs detoxification, please read How to Tell You Need to Detox.
Our body’s detoxification process is far more complex than most people realize. The body uses five basic “organs of elimination” to neutralize and eliminate toxins. The organs of elimination all contain high levels of a chemical called Cytochrome P-450 which is directly responsible for neutralizing toxins. There are over 100 Cytochrome P-450 enzymes. Their job is to convert fat-soluble, non-polar toxins into polar, water-soluble chemicals that can be more easily broken down and eliminated from cells.
The organs of elimination include:
- Skin (Integumentary System): Our skin is an amazing two-way sponge that excretes toxins and absorbs toxins or beneficial nutrients applied to it. Sweat is one of the best detoxification systems our body has. Daily exercise, sweat-inducing activity or baths and saunas are good ways to help our body eliminate toxins. Signs of toxicity that appear in the skin include acne, boils, rashes, inflammation, etc.
- Lungs (Respiratory System): The lungs are constantly filtering the air we breathe. The lungs also ecrete certain toxins via exhalation. This is one of many potential causes of bad breath. You may notice that people who are sick or who have been exposed to excessive toxins (such as alcohol) may have exhalations that smell particularly offensive. The body may also use mucus as a method of trapping and expelling toxins from the lungs.
- Digestive Tract (Digestive System, including the stomach, large and small intestine): The digestive tract is miraculous in that its job is not only to absorb nutrients but is also to filter and eliminate toxins from food and drink. In cases where an extreme toxin is consumed (such as botulism), the body will quickly eliminate the toxin via vomit and diarrhea. Many people have the impression the digestive tract is a big, simple tube food follows as it is digested. In the simplest sense, that is true, but the digestive tract actually contains multiple structures and performs a wide variety of duties. Digestion starts in the mouth, where enzymes in saliva begin breaking down carbohydrates. In the stomach, enzymes continue the digestive process.
The small intestine has three sections: the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum. As food passes from the stomach into the small intestine, hormones in the small intestine stimulate the liver, gallbladder and pancreas to secrete digestive enzymes and bile to help digest the food so that cells in the small intestine can absorb the food’s nutrients. The small intestine’s main job is to absorb the nutrients from food and drink and to separate the nutrients from the toxins. The large intestine contains six sections and is primarily responsible for absorbing water from food and drink. After the water is absorbed, the remaining waste (feces) is then excreted.
- Kidneys (Excretory/Urinary System): The kidneys are responsible for multiple transactions related to detoxification and cleansing. In addition to serving as a filter to remove toxins from the blood stream, the kidneys are also responsible for maintaining a healthy balance between sodium, potassium and water. After the kidneys filter the blood, they return the essential minerals to the blood stream while sending the removed toxins to the bladder for elimination via urine.
- Liver (Digestive System): The liver is the body’s master organ of detoxification, responsible for an amazing number of highly complex chemical reactions that neutralize toxins and prepare them for elimination. In the simplest terms, two phases of detoxification occur in the liver. Phase 1 detoxification involves the Cytochrome P-450 enzymes and is the phase that sets the stage for toxins to be broken down into water-soluble chemicals the body can more easily eliminate. Some toxins are able to be turned into water-soluble chemicals during Phase 1, whereas others wind up having a reactive site created that enables them to bond with other chemicals during Phase 2 detoxification. Unfortunately, some toxins actually become more toxic after Phase 1 detoxification, which makes it important for Phase 2 detoxification to occur efficiently and to not be hampered. .
Phase 2 detoxification finalizes the process of breaking toxins into water-soluble, polar molecules that are easily expelled from cells. Phase 2 detoxification relies heavily on a process called Methylation. Methylation is responsible for activating genes and enzymes essential for cellular detoxification, repair of DNA, and creation of new cells. Obviously, Methylation is necessary for good health. Methylation can often be impaired by a lack of methyl groups, by various nutritional deficiencies, and/or by genetic anomalies.
In my next post, I will finally start sharing ways you can help your body detoxify and help each of the elimination organs function more efficiently.
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