Welcome to day three, everyone! Today the focus is on elimination. Not the most glamorous of topics, but important all the same, even critical!
As I mentioned in my introduction to this series, toxins are everywhere in today’s environment — in our water, food, air, carpet, cleaning products, skin products, fillings, nonstick cookware, nail polish, treated lawns, flame-retardant furniture and clothing, hair color, plastics, dry cleaning solutions and more! In fact, it is estimated that tens of thousands of manmade toxins have been introduced to our environment in the last century.
Our cells should be able to handle moderate levels of waste, but the abundance of toxins in our environment has led to toxic overload in our bodies. While not all toxins affect people in the same way, the over accumulation of these poisons in our cells can result in a form of cellular malfunction called toxicity.
To avoid storage of toxins in our bodies, our primary and secondary routes of elimination must be working properly. If this is not the case, the buildup of toxins can disrupt natural physiological functioning of the body, produce swelling in the body and lead to the generation of more free radicals — all of which can lead to chronic disease.
There are four primary routes of elimination in the body, all of which have direct access to the outside: skin, lungs, kidneys and intestines.
Many people look for a good anti-perspirant, but the reality is your body is designed to sweat and an anti-perspirant is counter-productive. If you are preventing sweating, you’re effectively reducing one of the four methods your body has for eliminating toxins! So instead of looking for an anti-perspirant, look for a natural deodorant. There are plenty of natural deodorants and deodorant stones without toxic chemicals and aluminum – you will find a decent selection here.
The skin gets rid of 20% of the finer toxins excreted by the body through sweat. This process can be stimulated by fever, exercise or environment (e.g., saunas, hot summer weather, crowded rooms, etc.). Sweat is “a way for the body to rid itself of toxins which are stored in adipose or fat tissues.” In addition, the skin is usually the overflow route if any of the other primary routes are not working adequately.
Drinking enough pure, clean water will help keep your skin healthy so it can do its job to the fullest! You can also help keep your skin healthy and reduce your toxin exposure by using the cleanest (purest) skin and personal care products you can find. What kinds of toxins are in personal care products? Plenty! Check out this article and infographic for a handy reference of all those chemicals you can’t pronounce and really don’t want to put on your skin.
Did you know that on average, your skin absorbs 64% of what it comes in contact with? Scary enough, this article from the American Journal of Public Health concluded that, “skin absorption of contaminants in drinking water has been underestimated and that ingestion may not constitute the sole or even primary route of exposure.”
Another way to improve elimination through skin is with dry skin brushing. Not a regular brush – there really is such a thing as a natural bristle brush made just for brushing the skin. Learn the proper technique of dry skin brushing in this video:
The lungs eliminate 70% of the finer toxins excreted by the body. Exhalation is the preferred route of elimination for volatile wastes, those that vaporize and leave the bloodstream as gases. For example, many byproducts of feces breaking down in a stagnant colon are volatile, especially if elimination isn’t regular. The gases of these byproducts in exhaled air is a common cause of bad breath in those that are constipated. The lungs rid the body of carbon dioxide as well.
To keep your lungs functioning optimally, try diaphragmatic breathing (deep into the lower lungs). At first, breathing from your diaphragm seems difficult. This video helps to explain the proper diaphragmatic breathing:
Proper breathing will aid in proper oxygenation of tissues and toxin elimination. And, don’t forget to drink enough pure water (and don’t get constipated!).
The kidneys get rid of 6% of the finer toxins excreted by the body. It is the primary system for excreting metabolic waste, mainly uric acid and nitrogen, and carrying out toxins, nutrients and water-soluble products. This happens through:
- Filtration, the process of pulling excess water and toxins out of the blood
- Redistribution, the process of restoring vital nutrients and water back into the blood
- Secretion, the process where the waste makes its way out of the kidneys and into the bladder as urine
To help your kidneys keep your body in balance and be efficient, drink enough pure water. Proper fluids (water) are key for kidney and bladder health.
When your urine is darker and has a concentrated smell, it means you are not drinking enough proper fluids. Generally, normal frequency for urinating is 4 to 8 times daily, mostly during the day. On a detox program, you definitely want to be in that range, if not on the high end.
Feces or stool carries the most waste and is the major route of elimination. Anything that hasn’t been absorbed through the digestive tract or that can’t be used by the body is eliminated in the stool. The body is protected from toxic accumulation by stool elimination – unless of course, the transit time is too long. If it takes too long to eliminate those toxins, they can be reabsorbed.
What is too long? The ideal transit time for stool is about 12-24 hours, according to several sources. There are tests to measure the transit time, but you can get a pretty good idea with a simple test at home. Consume a large serving of beets and take note of the time. You will notice your stool takes on the red color from the beets at the time you are eliminating that meal.
Yes, you need to look in the toilet. Observing color and shape of the stool can be helpful. I am including the Bristol Stool Chart here so you can get a sense of where you might fall on the transit time range and what would be considered more normal.
To aid in elimination, the bowel needs to be populated with healthy bacteria (probiotics) and be moving properly. Bowel irregularity can lead to several unpleasant problems.
Waste that is left in the digestive system too long can become a breeding ground for bacteria and lead to illnesses and irritations like hemorrhoids, diverticulitis and varicose veins.
To aid in regularity:
- Eat plenty of whole foods (organic, if possible), striving to consume 25 grams of fiber daily, ideally 35 grams for the healthy individual.
- Drink enough pure water, which will improve circulation and the digestive system, allowing your body to remove waste more efficiently.
- Exercise – movement can help get things moving too.
As with any lifestyle/medical change, consult with a healthcare practitioner before implementing a major change. Learn more natural ways to eliminate constipation in this article.
Routes of Elimination Support Each Other, Too
One important thing to note is that these primary routes of elimination work off each other as well. For example, sweat glands grow in size when the kidneys are damaged. When the primary elimination paths are overloaded with toxins, the secondary routes of elimination come into play. These include tears, hair, nasal discharge, ear wax, phlegm, mucus, etc. Makes you think, doesn’t it?
And there you have it — the body’s amazing elimination system! Like I said earlier, it may not be glamorous, but it is the star of the show in keeping us protected from toxins and disease. Remember to do all you can to keep it running smoothly!
In the next article, we’ll discuss Herxheimer reaction symptoms.
Good luck with your detox efforts today!
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