Some people think that detoxification is a “new age” idea. For me it isn’t, but I decided to at least look and see what shows up. First stop, PubMed, an Internet site put out by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health. Entering detoxification into their site search brings up 15,823 citations of studies done on detoxification. Pretty impressive. Next stop, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. A quick look brings up 981 citations of studies involving detoxification. Not as impressive, but still noteworthy. Last stop, the World Health Organization’s website. A quick search here brings up 1250 citations. All-in-all, detoxification seems to be a worldwide concern.
So, is detoxification an issue? If detoxification were not an issue, then we could eat all of the mercury laden fish that we wanted to. We could breathe polluted air without consideration. We could smoke 10 packs of cigarettes each day for a life time and not suffer as a result. We could dump all the waste that we wanted to into the oceans, rivers, and streams. We could do away with water filtration plants, waste recycling, and all the controls surrounding pollution. We wouldn’t need life-saving antioxidants in hospital and clinical settings. I think that it is self-evident that detoxification is an issue. It is a primary function of all cells, tissues, and organs in the human body and all other living organisms, as well as the planet itself.
Detoxification is a necessity for life on the planet to go on existing. Without detoxification, we would suffer and die in our own wastes. The largest organ in the body is a detoxification organ, the skin. The next largest organs – the liver, lungs, large intestine, and kidneys – also deal heavily with detoxification. Detoxification sites and pathways are everywhere in our body’s tissues. As an organism, we come armed for detoxification.
Some people think that the body is adequately equipped for detoxification, but if it were, we wouldn’t have words like carcinogen, teratogens, reproductive toxicants, and endocrine disruptors. These are chemicals that create disease and dysfunction in the body because the body isn’t able to remove them. The human body was not made to handle the toxic load that it has to handle in today’s environment, and the environment wasn’t made to handle the toxic load that humans have dumped upon it. Of the 100,000+ chemicals in use worldwide, some 5000 of them are produced in high volumes in excess of 1 million pounds per year. Only a small percentage of these have been tested for environmental and human impact.
The human body is like a sponge that soaks up hundreds, perhaps thousands of chemicals. In testing done on babies, the number of toxins present at birth has been shown to be around 200-300. Scientists estimate that everyone alive today has a toxic load of at least 700 contaminants. Chemicals that have been outlawed years ago can still show up in the body’s tissues decades later. What goes in, doesn’t necessarily come out.
How we manage the toxic load of the body can have a great impact on our health and the health of our children. Reducing exposure to toxins is a great place to start. The home should be a safe place for us to retreat to and renew ourselves. We should eliminate, or greatly reduce, our exposure to chemicals through the foods we eat, the beverages we drink, and the air we breathe. Lotions, shampoos, conditioners, detergents, and household cleaners should be organic or biodegradable. Our water and air should be filtered whenever possible. Food should be our medicine. Routine sweating via saunas and hot baths is an established practice in many cultures that makes use of the skin and its detoxification abilities.
One can work with healthcare practitioners to investigate ways to assist the body in reducing its toxic burden. Nutrients can be useful in boosting the body’s resources for antioxidants. A supplement like N-acetyl-cysteine helps to replenish the stores of one of the body’s most abundant antioxidants, glutathione. Glutathione help to decrease the oxidative stress created by the toxic load we carry and expose ourselves to continuously.
So, perhaps detoxification is a “new age” concept, but more importantly, I believe that it should be a part of a new age of personal responsibility for our health and how our choices play a role in determining the quality of the life we live.