Our bodies are magnificent machines, making sure all of our organ systems, breathing patterns and energy functions are correctly working behind the scenes to keep us alive. We don’t consciously think about when to breathe, how fast our heart beats or when to filter acidic substances through our kidneys, it’s all part of the built-in regulatory system. So when something is not functioning at it’s highest capacity, compensations are made to make up for it. It’s survival of the fittest, and we have been equipped to overcome some harsh conditions or threats that we expose ourselves to on a daily basis. We have been designed to survive, and given the right materials, we have the capability to protect and heal ourselves from the inside out. What we put in our bodies directly impacts the output.
You wouldn’t expect a house built of cardboard to withstand the seasonal changes, or provide support and structure for your family, nor would you put sugar water in your car’s gas tank an expect it to take you very far – so why is it the norm to put over-processed, sugary filled substances in our bodies and expect it to work? It doesn’t. Much like when your house starts showing signs of repairs needed; the roof, the windows, the basement flood, or your car starts telling you that your oil needs changed, your gas is low, or the engine light comes on, our bodies have a similar signaling system. But have you been listening, looking and feeling the signs? Or are you riding out the light in your car hoping it will go away?
Seven Main Detoxification Pathways
- Lymphatic System
If any of the systems are failing to function at its highest capacity, the workload gets passed on putting extra stress on the other systems which already have a full daily workload.
The liver is one of the hardest working organs in the entire body, and in my opinion, one of the most underrated and highly abused. It is the most important detoxification organ in your body and performs over 500 functions. Just re-read that last part and take it in. Your liver is the most important detoxification organ in your body and performs over 500 functions.
I hear time and time again from people that they don’t drink so they don’t think they should have to worry about their liver. Your liver was around long before alcoholic beverages were consumed. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is one of the most common and growing conditions with a 75% risk factor in overweight/obese Canadians. Not only does your liver filter almost everything you put in your body, but it also aids in making digestive enzymes, hormones regulate your energy system, manufactures proteins and produces, stores and transports fat. If the liver is overburdened, fat synthesis and storage increases and is stored within itself leading to fatty liver disease. Even people who are not overweight or obese are at risk of developing this if they constantly overwhelm their bodies with toxins, chemicals, preservatives, pesticides, herbicides, synthetics and a lack of nutrients. Lack of movement and proper hydration will also cause stagnation and lead to the recycling of wastes, not elimination.
Wastes are excreted most efficiently from the kidneys and bowels. Ensuring that we are having a well-formed, easy to move bowel movement two to three times a day and our pee is a nice clear/faint yellow color throughout the day, is a good indicated that we are eliminating properly. In the mornings it is normal to have a more concentrated yellow color because during the night our body is in recovery mode, but continuing that throughout the day is a sign that we are not hydrated. The kidneys, along with the lungs are the great acid/base balancers. Excess acidity in the body leads to degeneration and leeches precious minerals like calcium, magnesium and vitamin D from the bones to aid in the repair of tissues. Gout is among one of the biggest complaints that are plaguing our society today, largely due to our over processed (acidic), over indulgent, over caffeinated and stressful lifestyles. Consuming adequate water intake and a highly nutritious diet will help improve the elimination pathway of the kidneys.
The lungs are another great pathway to eliminate wastes as we breathe in oxygen-rich air, which assists energy production and function and exhaling carbon dioxide, one of the waste products of metabolism. Constant inhalation of toxic substances such as air pollution, cigarette/e-smokes and recirculated air in planes and office buildings reduce the efficiency of the lungs detoxification.
The lymphatic system is closely tied to our cardiovascular system, filtering wastes and combating and defending our body against things like bacteria and viruses, but it relies on movement to transport the waste to other lines of elimination. Exercise, walking, vibrational movement and dry brushing or massage help to get the lymphatic system moving along. Stagnation in these areas lead to inflammation, and the trapped toxins and wastes (similar to the liver) contribute to many disease states, including cancer.
The blood is your life force; it carries nutrients, transports substances, protects you against foreign invaders and repairs physical attacks (clotting) to name a few. Lack of blood flow to an area will cause necrosis or death to a tissue. Many of us have experienced the bitter cold leaving our faces, fingertips and tootsies feeling numb or white during the cold months of the year with the lack of blood flow (or maybe all times of the year in many women with the cold hands and feet). This is a preservation method we’ve come equipped with to protect the inner organs. Unfortunately, stagnation or lack of circulation in our body will reduce the ability of our blood to carry waste products to areas like the liver, lungs, kidneys for filtration and excretion. It is incredibly important to keep your blood circulating and flowing properly. Things like edema (inflammation) and varicose or spider veins are signs that your blood flow and cardiovascular system is not working well. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, poor blood circulation to the scalp is associated with thin, lifeless and dull hair.
As mentioned previously, the bowels are the best lines of detoxification. How is it do you think you lose weight when you go on a diet or exercise? Weight doesn’t just magically disappear, the excess waste products made from shrinking fat cells and energy production are eliminated through places like your bowels and kidneys. It is crucial to take care of your digestive system, and especially to make sure that you have proper, bowel movements. Digestive disorders such as IBS, Crohn’s, Colitis and food sensitivities have been exponentially increasing in recent years and will continue to ride if we don’t address some of the issues supporting their proliferation.
If we are not ridding our body of the waste products, they will recirculate and cause havoc. Think about it like cleaning your dishes in the sink, and having a drain that is partially clogged (house repair sign). You keep adding plates and bowls, but the stagnant water gets dirtier and even adding some good clean soap only masks the dirt underneath. Maybe you give up and leave it for a day or two, letting the water sit in its own filth. Soon enough when the drain finally empties, you’re left with film and sludge that wasn’t washed away, and you have more to clean. This is what’s happening in your bowels. If the lines were open and you could wash the dirty water away 2-3 times when doing your dishes for the day, there would be no build up, no film, no extra work for you after it was done. Focus your attention on opening your bowels 2-3 times a day. High fiber and pre/probiotic friendly foods like vegetables, berries, kefir, sauerkraut, nuts, seeds, and fresh lemon or lime water help to facilitate movement.
This brings us to the skin, one of the last lines of detoxification, the skin. The skin’s job in detoxification is to perspire. Perspiration includes water as well as salts, ammonia and uric acid to name a few. Not only is it our way of cooling down, but it also is alkalizing. Running a fever and sweating during the flu is one of the ways our body eliminates toxins automatically, but stepping into an infrared sauna or essential oil infused steam room also help our body eliminate. Sweating increases blood flow as well as assists in the transportation of nutrients and oxygen to our skin.
If any of the lines of elimination are not working properly, the skin is the last ditch effort to purge out wastes. That person with excess body odor may have a build up of bacteria and a blocked/stagnant lymphatic or blood system. The red spots that look a lot like razor burn on your legs may indicate kidney issues as the blood is not able to eliminate. (apply slight downward pressure with your fingers to the area, and if the red spots clear and then come back after the pressure subsides, you may want to look at kidney drainage remedies). The dry/Oily skin may be a lack of proper hydration, lack of omega 3 essential fatty acids or stagnant blood flow. Acne is one of the most life-altering conditions, leading to emotional upset. Acne is a clear indication of inefficient waste elimination and is largely connected to the bowels. A lot of my clients who suffer from skin issues also suffer from digestive issues; especially constipation, gas, bloating and overall irritability. Excessive moles and growths like skin tags or warts may indicate some candida or fungal overgrowth as well as the body’s inability to slough off old cells and manage new cell growth.
Your face can also tell a lot about how your organs are doing. In my practice I also look at the facial markers like dark circles under the eyes which tell me there could be lung issues, deep lines above and between the eyes let me know if there may be liver/gallbladder issues and fissures in the corner of the mouth may indicate digestive upset.
Where to Go Now?
Have you been ignoring the signs your body is trying to tell you? It may be time to tune up, reset and restore yourself.
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