Last week’s article described the major pathway through which the body detoxifies itself: the liver and associated organs (gall bladder and intestines). The importance of the liver cannot be overstated; not only is it responsible for upwards of 500 functions daily, but it is the organ through which almost every single toxic substance must pass on its route to being neutralized and excreted from the body. Now that we are aware of the complexity with which Phase I and II detoxification alone must operate, it is hopefully more apparent how hard the liver works for us every minute of every day, and why, if we are not supplying our bodies with the proper building blocks in the form of nutrition (or utilizing supplements to bridge the gaps), our liver becomes backed up and bogged down with these toxins and can no longer detoxify with the efficiency in which it was designed.
Fortunately the liver is not the be all end all when it comes to detoxification. Though it does so much for us, being the sole bearer of toxin neutralization and excretion would be as the expression goes, putting all of our eggs in one basket . . . then throwing that basket off of a 100-foot cliff. With only one detoxification system or pathway, the body would be setting itself up for catastrophic failure should anything happen that would impair its functioning in any significant way. Just as the morning commute to downtown Seattle would collapse into a state of complete pandemonium if, instead of multiple bridges providing access to the city, there was only one – and if a multiple car pileup during rush hour caused the shut-down of every single lane on that bridge. Not a pretty picture, is it?
To avoid such situations, as well as somewhat alleviate the continuous burden under which the liver is placed, the body utilizes additional mechanisms of detoxification in surrounding organs, such as the production and elimination of urine from the kidneys, and formation then exhalation of a variety of waste products from the lungs, among others. In this way the liver receives continuous feedback and assistance during the detoxification process, both before phase I and after phase II. This additional support has become increasingly vital to our survival as the toxicity of our world continues to grow, and the quality of our food supply steadily diminishes – factors that both place intensifying strain on the liver and its many functions.
The Lymphatic System
Lymphatic function supports every other system in the body, including the immune, digestive, detoxification and nervous systems. Actually a collection of organs, ducts and nodes, the lymphatic system is absolutely essential, not only to proper liver function and detoxification, but to the overall health and immunity of the individual as well. The reality is that you have twice as much lymph fluid in your body as blood. Unlike the blood, there are no pumps to drive lymphatic circulation; the lymph continuously bathes each cell and drains away debris and dead material in a circulatory system powered only by the movement of the lungs during breathing, action of skeletal muscles, and the contraction of smooth muscle fibers . If the movement of the lymph stopped entirely you would die in a matter of hours. Therefore moderate daily exercise and movement is critical to the health of the lymphatic system.
The lymph vessels and nodes are made of lymph tissue, and one crucial function of lymph tissue is generating and storing white blood cells, the blood cells that fight infection. Besides the lymph nodes, principal lymph organs include the bone marrow (where white blood cells called B-lymphocytes are made), the spleen, tonsils and the thymus gland (where T-lymphocytes are made). The largest concentration of lymph tissue in the body surrounds the intestines. Called gut-associated lymphatic tissue, or GALT, this tissue is the guardian of this largest gateway through the body’s defenses, and it actively separates desirable nutrients from undesirable pathogens, and helps mount a defense whenever needed. Lymphatic fluid percolates through these nodes, where bacteria, viruses and organic material are filtered out, then is purified and immunologically boosted at every stage. In this way, the lymph acts as a pre-filter for the liver, preventing clogs and liver overload. After the lymph is filtered, it returns to the bloodstream through the thoracic duct in the chest.
The kidneys are other important organs in detoxification; one of their primary roles is to filter the blood to remove cellular wastes, such as some water and bile pigments. They eliminate a number of toxic substances after Phase II reactions that have been properly bound and are ready for elimination through urine, including caffeine, some drugs, and steroids. This is why athletes tested for steroid use always have their urine analyzed. If your kidneys did not remove these wastes, the wastes would build up in the blood and damage your body.
The actual filtering occurs in tiny units inside your kidneys called nephrons. Every kidney has about a million nephrons. In the nephron, tiny blood vessels called capillaries intertwine with tiny urine-carrying tubes called tubules. A complicated chemical exchange takes place, as waste materials and water leave your blood and enter your urinary system.
At first, the tubules receive a combination of waste materials and chemicals that your body can still use. Your kidneys measure out chemicals like sodium, phosphorus, and potassium and release them back to the blood to return to the body. In this way, your kidneys regulate the body’s level of these substances. The right balance is necessary for life, but excess levels can be harmful.
The skin is the largest organ in the body and, with its sweat glands acting like a second kidney, is another major avenue for elimination. The surface area of the skin covers, on average, 11,000 sq. feet, making sweat therapy a very effective way to remove toxins from the body.
In the past, it was often assumed that saunas released toxins through your sweat. But research has shown that while saunas do mobilize toxins from fat cells, the toxins don’t escape into the sweat, but rather into the bloodstream. Additional mechanisms, which we have discussed in this series, are then required in order to bind these released toxins.
The Respiratory System
The lungs eliminate a variety of waste products, particularly carbon dioxide. Because the lungs come into direct contact with countless numbers of toxins every minute of every hour, it is imperative that the health of the lungs be maintained as well and as long as possible. Avoiding the obvious like smoking and sitting in heavy traffic day after day, as well as the not-so-obvious like breathing in air that has been heavily ionized by electricity running through power lines, are all things to avoid in order to maintain the health and integrity of the lung tissue, as well as the overall homeostasis of the body.
Optimally functioning detoxification symptoms are essential, if not absolutely fundamental, to our overall well-being. The most important, comprehensive and complex pathways are the Phase I and II systems, located in the liver. If Phase I and II pathways become overloaded, toxins build up in the body. The fat solubility of these toxins allows them to incorporate themselves into cell membranes and fatty tissues throughout the body, where they can remain for years.
Common areas of accumulation include the endocrine glands (hormonal) and the brain, which may result in hormonal imbalances, brain dysfunction, PMS, early menopause, and autoimmune diseases, just to name a few. The key in avoiding these serious consequences is to minimize toxic exposure and ensure optimal functioning of these pathways. While it is up to you to minimize your toxic exposure through appropriate lifestyle and diet choices, Robust Life Center can help ensure that your detox pathways are clear and functioning at the most optimal levels through both education, such as this article series, and by designing a personalized Nutrition Response Testing program specific to your body’s condition and needs. Come check us out and begin your personalized detoxification program TODAY!
Next Week: The good stuff you’ve finally been waiting for . . . HOW to detoxify. Whether your body just needs mild facilitation or a complete overhaul, next week’s article will include every detoxification technique from using a Neti Pot to administering a coffee enema, so don’t miss it!