Detoxification in Our Toxic World
By Ryan Harrison, MA, BCIH
Short of living in a plastic bubble, there’s no way to avoid it: you live in a toxic world. And if you’re like most people, living in a metropolitan, urban, or suburban community, you should be especially concerned. Cities are among the most polluted areas of the world. Some of the worst offenders that contribute to this environmental onslaught include noise pollution, tobacco smoke, vehicle emissions, acid rain, industrial run-off, sewage disposal, domestic waste, and herbicides and pesticides.
Consider the following account: A groundbreaking study was conducted by the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, in collaboration with the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Commonweal. Researchers at two major laboratories found an average of 91 industrial compounds, pollutants, and other chemicals in the blood and urine of only nine volunteers from five different cities, with a total of 167 chemicals found in the group.
Like most of us, the nine people tested do not work with chemicals on the job and do not live near an industrial facility. Of the 167 chemicals found in those nine tested individuals:
- 76 are known to cause cancer in humans or animals
- 94 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and
- 79 cause birth defects or abnormal development.
Body Burden & Toxins
These were just “normal” people like you and like me living in cities most likely like yours and mine. The startling reality is that, if tested, we might also be found to be sharing our bodies with any number of toxic chemicals or other pollutants. This is called our “body burden” – the physiological accumulation of the many toxic chemicals and pollutants that are inescapably a part of our lives and bodies.
We may like to think that our industrialized societies have the best water purification, air filtration, and food options available, but the truth is much less sparkly. City standards can be low where our health is concerned. Take the issue of tap water. The EWG published a report stating that over 300 pollutants have been found in U.S. tap water, more than half of which are not subject to regulation, and some of which, even though regulated, were above allowed guidelines.
Then of course, there’s smog so bad in some cities that children are told to not play outside for fear of sudden respiratory problems, visits to the emergency room, and even elevated mortality rates.
As for food production and processing, most of the food that is bought and served in the city (in marketplaces and restaurants alike) has had to travel long distances from where it is originally grown or made. Yet food loses nutrient density during travel, and many food companies add chemicals to preserve and color the foods that they hope will make it to your plate. This is a far cry from the fresh fruits and vegetables that used to be grown at the local farm and sold at the local farmer’s market.
Home-grown organic vegetable garden
What this means is that, unfortunately, people living today more likely than not carry in their bodies a veritable chemical cocktail of modern-day industrial chemicals, pesticides, food additives, and heavy metals, not to mention the residues of pharmaceuticals, legal drugs (like alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine), and illegal drugs (like heroin, cocaine, and marijuana). The sad but undeniable truth is that we have created a living environment that is toxic to our bodies.
No one knows how long some of these chemicals remain inside us once they are ingested or otherwise introduced to the body. And even the toxins that our bodies do know how to break down require extra metabolic energy expenditure to complete the detoxification process. That means less energy for other important things, like keeping the immune system up to speed.
Free Radical Damage
One way to look at this scene is at the molecular level, where we become concerned about free radicals, unstable atoms that start chain reactions in our bodies, damaging DNA and other cellular components. Free radical damage actually starts when we’re young, when our bodies are very good at healing and replacing damaged cells. When we age, however, and our bodies lose some of their resilience, protecting against free radical damage becomes vital for optimal health. Unchecked, free radicals can cause incredible damage in the body, leading to any number of physical ailments.
Fortunately, the human body has a strong tendency to move toward health, and we can help it do so. Engaging in a natural detox program or colon cleanse can assist the body as it works to clean itself, shed accumulated toxins, and replace damaged cells. To maximize your detoxification experience, be sure that you use only an all-natural program. After all, you can’t expect to lighten your body’s toxic burden by adding more chemical pollutants to it! Herbal detoxification programs are available today to meet this growing need and are a sound investment in improved health and wellness.
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1 Body burden: The pollution in people. (n.d.). Environmental Working Group. Retrieved April 7, 2011 from http://www.ewg.org/sites/bodyburden1/index.php
2 EWG's drinking water quality analysis and tap water database. (2009). Environmental Working Group. Retrieved April 6, 2011, from http://www.ewg.org/tap-water/home
3 Is local more nutritious? It depends. (n.d.). Center for Health and the Global Environment. Retrieved April 6, 2011, from http://chge.med.harvard.edu/programs/food/nutrition.html
4 Antioxidants and free radicals. (1996). Rice Unviersity, Retrieved April 6, 2011 from http://www.rice.edu/~jenky/sports/antiox.html
5 Aging. (n.d.) Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine, Retrieved April 7, 2011
6 Antioxidants. (1996). Go ask Alice! Columbia University, Retrieved April 6, 2011 from http://www.goaskalice.columbia.edu/0830.html