We are told to live in fear of toxic substances and their effects on our health. But what makes something toxic? And how does our body process toxicants? What are the different types of toxic exposures in our daily lives, and do we need to worry about all of them…?
We know that the term ‘toxic’ is frequently used to describe a substance that is considered to be bad for your health. You have probably been told that a poor diet and lack of exercise can contribute to the build-up of ‘toxins’ in your body. But is it true? And where do these toxins come? Do you know what happens when a toxic substance enters your body? I mean…what is a “toxin” anyway?
Toxins are very complex
By definition, a toxin is a poisonous substance that is biologically produced (i.e., by a plant or animal). This term is often erroneously used to describe all substances that have the potential to be toxic to humans. Manufactured or synthesized chemical compounds (e.g., pesticides, chemicals used in plastics, solvents, and metals) that may be poisonous or toxic to humans are considered toxicants.
When discussing cleansing and detoxification, generally, any substance that does not nourish our cells or aid in the function of our cells to be toxic, i.e. not necessary and therefore a burden to some degree.
– Dr. Ben Kim
Don’t live in fear of toxic substances
Your body is equipped with detoxification systems that eliminate the toxic compounds you ingest. As an informed consumer, you are probably concerned with the toxic substances that may be found in your food or the surrounding environment. These toxicants can be anything from mercury in fish and some preservatives in food to cadmium in cigarette smoke and lead in paint. Because of this, it is unrealistic to think you will never ingest something that is ‘toxic’. However, while it is virtually impossible to be completely free of toxic compounds, you should not live in fear of them. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, a balanced diet, and moderation when it comes to consumption of alcohol, refined sugars, and heavily processed foods is the best way to support your body’s natural detoxification processes.
To better understand how substances may be toxic to us, we first need to learn about these chemicals and how they enter our bodies.
Most toxicants enter your body via ingestion, inhalation, or absorption. Examples of toxicants are pesticides, flame retardants, heavy metals, and chemicals used in common cleaning agents. This also includes chemicals such as acrylamide found in cooked or processed foods and acetone in cosmetics like nail polish removerOne of the primary means for supporting your body’s natural processes to eliminate potentially harmful substances is a healthy digestive system. If you maintain a poor diet over a long period of time, your liver and gut health are compromised and your body cannot properly eliminate them.
“Endogenous Toxins are toxins that are produced inside of your body. Some of these toxins are waste products from normal metabolic activities— carbon dioxide, urea, and lactic acid are examples of endogenous toxins that your body actively creates. Unless your health is severely compromised, you are well equipped to eliminate these endogenous toxins from your system” (Dr. Ben Kim).
As far as toxic substances are concerned, the primary issue is their ability to damage your healthy cells. Whether you inhale or ingest pollution, your body’s best defense is to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
How does your body process toxic compounds?
Your liver is the primary detoxifying agent. It is well equipped to eliminate toxicants that are ingested, absorbed, inhaled, or created by your body.
Your body protects itself…
We previously discussed your body’s ability to ‘cleanse’ itself in our article, The Truth Behind Cleansing. If you are eating well, exercising, sleeping, and avoiding significant toxic substances to the best of your ability, you can trust your body to protect itself.
The problem occurs when you are exposed to more toxicants than your body is able to eliminate. If you are taking in too much too quickly, your body’s elimination processes may break down. The more toxicants taken in (e.g., the dose you receive), the more likely your elimination systems will become overloaded— resulting in harmful health effects.
Our kidneys and liver are well equipped to handle the detoxification process for potentially harmful toxic substances. That is what they are there for!
Your kidneys’ primary function is to filter your blood. The organ contains millions of microscopic units called nephrons, which filter your blood to eliminate waste and regulate your body’s fluid and electrolyte balance. The liver, on the other hand, is the primary detoxifying agent. It is responsible for keeping pathogens from entering the bloodstream. It is well-equipped to eliminate toxicants that are ingested, absorbed, or inhaled, or created by your body. So, if you are careful about what cleaning products or pollution you might be exposed to on a daily basis and you maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle, your body has the tools to eliminate the substances that may be harmful.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
Eat nutritious whole foods, exercise, and hydrate. This will help facilitate healthy blood circulation and the elimination of unneeded substances from the body. If your body is being fed and hydrated properly, your liver and kidneys have the tools to detoxify on their own. In fact, recent studies have shown that the traditional recommendation of ‘8 servings of water per day’ is actually unsubstantiated! Nutritionists are now saying that you should aim to consume roughly half an ounce to one ounce of water per pound.
If you weigh 150lbs you should be drinking between 75-150 ounces of water per day. This recommendation can also vary depending on your weight, size, and exercise regime.
All in all, we need to be realistic. You are never going to be able to completely eliminate exposure to all potentially harmful substances in your daily life. The best way to protect yourself is to be good to your body. Be aware of the cleaning solvents and other chemicals used in your home, skip the cigarettes, and avoid second-hand smoke and heavily polluted areas when possible.
Your body is well-equipped to handle the day-to-day threats of the environment. The danger only comes from overexposure. Hydration and a well-balanced diet help your organs efficiently and effectively eliminate toxicants.
The Bottom Line:
Toxicants are dangerous when you are exposed to large enough amounts, especially in a continuous fashion. But don’t panic! Just be aware of the various sources of toxic substances that may negatively affect your health. Don’t eat junk food, be careful when handling household cleaning solvents, be aware of heavily polluted areas, and certainly do not smoke! But most of all, maintain a balanced diet, exercise, and drink enough water so your body can properly eliminate toxicants on its own.