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Detox Defenses

You are what you don't excrete.

By Stacey Austin, Louise Cash and Kathryn Brown

Remember going through the cafeteria line in school? You might have hot dogs on Thursdays, fish on Fridays and so forth. Often a big poster displayed pictures of meat, milk, cheese and vegetables, highlighted by the slogan: "You Are What You Eat." Many of us are dealing with the bad choices we made in that cafeteria line, undoing the harm caused by what we consumed years ago. It remains true: You are what you eat. But it's equally true that you are what you do not excrete.

There is a lot of buzz these days about detoxing, cleansing and fasting. Those embracing such approaches are on the right track — in part. The stated goal of many diets, shakes, bars and juices is to discharge toxins as a way to create healthier bodies. But such strategies are expensive, complicated and make it virtually impossible to dine out at restaurants. Missing from all this hype is any mention of the body's own built-in detoxifying mechanisms.

The human body has several methods of elimination, collectively called the emunctories. They include the skin, liver, intestines and kidneys. This is where most "detox/cleanse" products fail. Instead of supporting or facilitating the emunctories, such interventions often clog them up. It's like a clogged drain: It is futile to pour in more water because the drain will simply overflow and create more damage.

Our skin can be opened up through sweat that occurs with exercise, sauna baths, massage and chiropractic work. The lymphatic system does not have a pump and depends on skeletal muscles to move waste out of the body. Herein lies another reason to exercise: You are detoxifying (cleaning) your lymphatics as you elevate your heart rate and sweat. But skeletal muscles need nerves to tell them what to do. Lasering and chiropractic adjustments help "turn on" nerves that have been "turned down" by stressors. This brings renewed strength to weak muscles, making it easier and healthier to be in your body.

The liver is more complicated, since it filters blood to remove impurities through two phases of detoxification. Phase I renders a toxin more soluble. This may or may not make a substance less toxic to us, perhaps just easier to move around. Phase II is a conjugation phase whereby impurities become less toxic and ready for excretion. Phase II is slower than Phase I and very dependent on having all the right vitamins, minerals and excretory pathways wide open. If all is not in order, we may "re-toxify" and re-absorb the offending material.

The intestines are probably the most important feature in this process and for most of us are probably our weakest link. We often lack adequate bile and/or fiber to absorb ready-to-expel toxins. Since we eat and drink every day, we are continually re-exposed to new toxins. Yet our body is likely still trying to excrete toxins from the preceding day(s). Exercise, healthy food, fiber, colon hydrotherapy, chiropractic adjustments, massage and nutritional supplements can all help improve digestion and excretion.

Internal cleansing really does help our immune system function at a high level. About 75 percent of this system is in and around our intestines, which are adversely affected by toxic overload. The immune system is also intertwined with our nervous system and having strong nerve flow strengthens organs and muscles to maintain optimal health.

In order to digest and eliminate well, nerves serving abdominal organs must be in good working order. Specific chiropractic adjustments to the low back area and lasering of nerve roots in the low back increase the efficacy of the organs, muscles and nerves of the lower body. Here's a self-test: Rest your arm with your hand outside your thigh. Without moving your hand, press your middle finger into your thigh. Is it sore? If so, this may indicate dysfunction in your large intestine.

Colon hydrotherapy also stimulates and strengthens the nerves, muscles, glands, circulatory and immune components of the digestive system. It stimulates peristalsis while cleansing the large intestinal wall. This process allows better nutrient absorption and detoxifies while it hydrates. An excellent combination is colon hydrotherapy with massage to not only relax but stimulate nerves, muscles and glands in order to release toxins.

"Detoxification" refers to the alteration of a toxin while removing it from the body. "Depuration" refers to the actual removal of toxins. Our own physiology and biochemistry are amazing resources, carefully designed to get things out. The key word here is "out." If we don't excrete toxins, they get stored in our bodies and this is how damage is done. An infamous adipose (fat cell) tissue study undertaken in 1982 confirmed that adhering to society's "better living through chemistry" maxim increased our toxic burden. Our systems get so laden with toxins that they're unable to keep up through a normal detoxification rate.

Our air, food and water are primary sources of toxic exposure. Avoiding these entirely is impossible and no detox formula will prevent such contact. We must all fight hard for cleaner air and water, and we can eat organic foods while filtering impurities from air and water in our homes.

Toxins are tricky. Our bodies are so intelligent that they will take a toxin such as mercury out of our blood and store it in fatty tissue (sometimes in the brain) as a way to protect us from negative effects. Why don't we simply excrete such toxins through our urine or feces? Because we are so overloaded that our bodies simply can't keep up.

Chelated minerals and amino acids are excreted by our kidneys through the urinary tract. Kidney function must be optimal in order for this to occur adequately. If not, organs may get damaged. Hydration is the primary tool here.

Many naturally occurring biochemical pathways create metabolites and by-products that are toxic. Most people are deficient in antioxidants that help counteract the oxidative damage created by this biochemistry. But simply opening up the emunctories will help our bodies excrete many of these toxins. Overall, our "toxic burden" creates a stressor probably greater than the worst day at work you can imagine.

Our marvelous natural detox mechanisms struggle harder than we can fathom. They make noble, marvelous efforts to store toxins far from vital organs, to protect the body from harm, and to help us function. Nevertheless, the ongoing health cost of toxic overload is astronomical. With each passing decade, we tend to suffer from chronic diseases at younger ages. Many of us have trouble handling medical treatments because our toxic burden is so high.

An array of resources can help detoxify and re-purify. But any strategy is flawed unless we also try to excrete toxic burdens by avoiding certain foods, remaining hydrated, getting proper exercise, and taking other steps that support our healthy biochemistry and remarkable physiology.

Stacey Austin is a doctor of naturopathic medicine. Louise Cash is a chiropractor and intuitive healer. Kathryn Brown is a licensed massage therapist, RN and colon hydrotherapist. All three practice in Silver City, where they will host an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 6, from 12-2 p.m., at 309 E. College Ave. A light lunch and refreshments will be provided.


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