Detox - Ridding Your Body of Harmful Toxins

What are Toxins?

Toxins are compounds in our body that have negative effects on our cell and organ function as well as our overall health. No matter how clean we try to live our lives, our body’s exposure to these harmful compounds is inevitable. While we have several lines of defense built into our bodies to help get rid of these toxins, like our kidney, liver and lymphatic system, the reality of life in the 21st century is that more often than not we encounter more toxins than our body can efficiently deal with. This build up can lead to toxin overload, which can lead to serious damage to not only our detox systems, but our entire body as well.

Toxins originate from many different places, often stemming from pollution in both water and air, as well as foods that contain harmful substances. Symptoms of toxic overload begin mildly, with your body attempting to expel the substances through digestive action, coughing/sneezing, vomiting or producing excessively oily skin. However, as overload worsens, fatigue, poor sleep, memory loss and depression can develop.

There are several different types of toxins, but the main kinds that we deal with on a daily basis are plant and food toxins.

Plant toxins include refined vegetable and seed oils, like corn, sunflower, safflower, soybean and canola oils. Refined plant oils are in almost every processed food available for consumption; they are easy and cheap to make, but very hard for our bodies to process and digest. These oils provide no nutritional value and are high in omega-6 fatty acids that oxidize quickly and turn rancid in our bodies. Excessive intake of omega 6’s can lead to inflammation, increased risk of heart disease and cancer. 

Food toxins are any other toxins we consume through what we eat and drink, including BPA, trans fats and added sugars. BPA, or Bisphenol-A is a chemical residue that comes from plastic used to contain food. BPA can leak out of these containers and seep into the food we consume, leading to disrupted hormone function, infertility, diabetes and obesity. Trans fats are man-made fatty acids created by hydrogenating unsaturated fatty acids, turning them into solid fats. Consumption of trans fats leads to inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other diseases related to chronic inflammation. Added sugars, similar to refined plant oils, are empty calories that have severely negative effects on our overall health. These effects include obesity, diabetes, fatty liver disease, metabolic system as well as breast and liver cancer.

As awareness for these toxins has taken hold and grown over the last few years, “healthier” options have been made more readily available for consumers, while the other options are still available. Being in the know and understanding what you’re buying as well as regular physical activity and proper hydration can lead to a plethora of positive effects in our cellular and overall health!

What is a Cellular Detox?

Cellular detoxification is a natural process our body goes through to rid our cells of toxins that build up from our daily exposure. It is triggered when there is a buildup of oxidative species within the cell and triggers a process called autophagy, specifically microautophagy, that digests these harmful toxins and clears them out of the cell. Our liver, kidneys and lymphatic system also work hard to cleanse and filter our body of toxins we’re exposed to from what we eat, drink and breathe.

While the goal of a detox may be to target a specific area of the body and rid it of toxins, it is very hard to manually trigger this process and there can be other negative side effects from popular “detoxes” and “cleanses”. Often, these diets are meant to be quick “reboots” to our system, but whatever they achieve in the short time they’re in action is lost once you go back to a normal diet. The best true cleanse diet someone can undertake is to eat a stable, healthy diet full of vitamins and nutrients that allow our body’s natural purification process to function properly and doesn’t lead to aggressive boomerang effects of fad diets and cleanses that promise weight loss and health.

What to Eat

While it’s a naturally occurring process, detox can also be triggered and encouraged by what we eat. Some foods that help our body move through the detox process include vegetables, fruits, complex carbs, whole grains, legumes, fats, dairy, hydrating beverages and some animal proteins.

Vegetables are high in naturally occurring chemicals called phytochemicals, which work to regulate hormones, prevent damage to our cells and aid our immune system. Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, kale and brussel sprouts, as well as asparagus, carrots, celery, zucchini and other brightly colored veggies are thought to aid in the detox process and provide the body necessary nutrients to remain healthy throughout.

Fruits are also powerful tools in our health toolbox, providing important nutrients that aid our body in achieving and maintaining health. Some good fruits to include in your diet include berries, pomegranates, citrus, melon, kiwi, pineapple.

Complex carbs and whole grains take longer for our body to digest so they provide a steady energy source longer and help clear the digestive system out of any nasty toxins lurking in the dark recesses. Barley, buckwheat, millet, oats, quinoa, sweet potatoes, tapioca and wild rice are all valuable items to keep in your pantry and make filling additions to meals.

Legumes and beans are an excellent source of protein and iron outside of traditional meat sources. Some examples include  chickpeas, lentils, black beans and peas.

Fats, especially from nuts and seeds, are an excellent source of healthy fats that help fuel our body while keeping cholesterol low. Sources include avocados, almonds, cashews, chia seeds, macadamia nuts, pine nuts and pistachios. However, be careful to avoid any nut butters high in added sugars. These added sugars nullify any health benefit you may get from it.

Just as important as what you eat is what you drink. Water is the most effective detox beverage there is and provides our body with the hydration it needs to naturally clear out all the nasties our body accumulates over the days, week and years. Other beverages, like teas, can also help aid in our body’s detox process, but avoid the branded detox teas that promise nothing but an upset stomach.

Whether it was a long winter, weekend out on the town, or simply a long week at work, we may find ourselves in need of a reset, and quickly. There are a few tips and tricks to help cleanse your body in 24 hours to bounce back to your healthy self.

  • Sleep - this is a simple and easy way to help reset your body and clear out whatever toxins you are harboring as well as resetting your body after a period of time where sleep may have been scarce.
  • Water - the more water you can drink, the better. Adequate hydration is also a very easy way to keep your body in check and flush out bad things from our system.
  • Stretching and exercise - the last thing you may want to do after a weekend or a long day at work is stretch or workout, but doing just that will help you feel better both immediately afterwards and in the long term as well. Getting your blood flowing will help encourage our natural detox systems to filter out toxins in our blood and make you feel better overall.

It’s important to remember that your body is working hard to keep you going, so depriving yourself of a good meal and some sleep is never the answer! The biggest detox secrets are to drink your water, eat good, healthy food and sleep well!

What is Toxic Food?

Just as food can be a cause for good in the battle of toxins, it can also work against us. Knowing the difference between healthy and toxic foods can help you make better decisions about what you put in your body.

Foods exposed to pesticides and weed-killers, like mass produced crops, can have traces of these chemicals remaining when they hit the shelves, which can lead to ingestion and increased toxicity in those that consume it. It is important to always wash your produce when you bring it home to rid it of dirt and any chemicals remaining on the surface.

Heavily processed foods are not only filled with chemicals and unhealthy fats, but can also have traces of microscopic plastic in them that seeps into the food from the packaging.

Some fruit seeds, like apples and cherries, contain poisonous chemicals that can be extremely detrimental to health. Unidentified mushrooms can be poisonous and deadly if prepared improperly or eaten at all. It’s important to leave the mushroom identification to the professionals to avoid any confusion and stay on the safe side of caution.

How to maximize your body’s detox potential

A healthy diet of leafy greens, bright fruits and vegetables, whole grains and water goes a long way in keeping our body clear of harmful chemicals and other toxins, but your body still may not be getting everything it needs to operate at 100%. Supplements that help support your body’s detox systems, like autophagy, can prove to be great health allies. Spermidine is a naturally occurring substance in our bodies that helps trigger the process of autophagy in our cells, but can also be added through food and supplementation to increase basal levels of autophagy, leading to increased cellular detox and overall better health function. A healthy diet, regular exercise and sleep, proper hydration and Spermidine work together to keep us happy, healthy and round out the perfect cellular spring cleaning kit!

  • Don Moxley - Director of Applied Science

    Don Moxley is the Director of Applied Science at Longevity Labs. Moxley draws upon his career as an athlete, a sports scientist, and an instructor to lead and educate on the science of autophagy and longevity.