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6 Signs You Need to Detox

by Dr. Sarah Cimperman, ND

As our awareness of environmental toxins and their impact on our health continues to grow, detox products and protocols are becoming increasingly popular, from fasting and raw food diets to foot baths and body wraps. These things may be good for us—or not—and they may help minimize our exposure to toxins, but they don’t detoxify our bodies. 

Detoxification is a complex process involving several organs, hormones, enzymes, and nutrients, and it happens in three steps. First, toxins must be mobilized from their storage sites inside fat cells. Second, they must be transformed into compounds that our bodies can excrete. And third, they must be eliminated from the body. To accomplish all of this, successful detox programs incorporate a diet low in sweets and starches, nutritional supplements, regular exercise, stress management, good sleep, and sauna therapy.

As we learn more about the harmful effects of chemicals in our environment, detox is becoming increasingly popular. But it isn't right for everyone. Here are six signs that it might be right for you.

#1 | You've never done it before. 
Toxic chemicals permeate our environment and they permeate our bodies. Research studies have detected 232 different chemicals in the cord blood of newborn infants and 493 toxins in people of all ages. Detox is the removal of these toxins and it's like spring-cleaning for the body. Most people benefit from doing a detox program once or twice each year, usually in the spring and/or fall.

#2 | You don't always eat organic. 
Every year in the United States we apply five billion pounds of pesticides to our crops. They soak into the soil where they’re taken up into plants through their root systems and distributed throughout, so we can’t just wash them off. They also enter waterways, contaminate drinking water, and accumulate in fish and seafood. Pesticides have been linked to several kinds of cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, asthma, hormone-related problems, birth defects, ADHD, and developmental disorders in children. 

#3 | You eat a lot of take-out, packaged, or prepared foods.
Chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, and perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) are used to make plastics, Styrofoam, and epoxy linings inside food and beverage containers. They leach into the foods and drinks we consume, especially when the contents are hot or the containers are heated. These toxins have been linked to chronic diseases including prediabetes which affects an estimated 86 million people in the United States, more than 1 in 3 adults and almost 1 in 4 adolescents. BPA, phthalates, and PFCs can be found in most food packaging including cans, cartons, boxes, bottles, and other containers like fast food wrappers, pizza boxes, plastic wrap, microwave popcorn bags, to-go cups, disposable plates and silverware, and nonstick cookware. They are also already inside our bodies. In the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, BPA and phthalates were found in 100 percent of the 2,5000 people tested. 

#4 | You use a lot of personal products. 
According to the Environmental Working Group, the average person uses nine personal products containing 126 unique ingredients every day and one quarter of women use 25 or more products every day. More than 10,000 different ingredients are used to make these products and most of them have never been tested for safety. Harmful chemicals like phthalates and parabens found in cosmetics and personal products are absorbed into our bodies when we apply them to our skin.

#5 | You have a metabolic condition such as prediabetes, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome. 
Certain chemicals in the environment promote the development of metabolic imbalances including high blood sugar, elevated insulin levels, and insulin resistance. So far scientists have discovered at least four different ways this can happen. Toxins can damage cells and mitochondria. They can disrupt hormones. And they can interact with attachments on genes that activate and inactivate them, turning them on and off. Decreasing our toxic burden through detoxification can help to restore a healthy metabolism and reverse these conditions.

#6 | You have a hormone-sensitive condition. 
Many environmental toxins act as endocrine disruptors which mimic the hormones made by our bodies and disrupt our natural hormone balance. Conditions that are hormone-sensitive like PMS, ovarian cysts, fibrocystic breasts, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, infertility, acne, and low testosterone levels in men can be aggravated by exposure to these chemicals. Removing them from the body can help restore hormone balance and resolve related symptoms.

Certain people should not undergo detoxification. They include pregnant women, breastfeeding women, individuals who have had recent surgery or chemotherapy treatments, and anyone experiencing constipation, unexplained abdominal pain, kidney disease, liver disease, or inflammation of any part of the gastrointestinal tract. If you’re not sure whether detox is right for you, talk to your naturopathic doctor.

References are available upon request. 

Dr. Sarah Cimperman, ND is a naturopathic doctor in private practice in New York City and author of the book, The Prediabetes Detox: A Whole-Body Program to Balance Your Blood Sugar, Increase Energy, and Reduce Sugar Cravings (www.prediabetesdetox.com). Follow Dr. Cimperman on Facebook, Twitter and her blogs, A Different Kind of Doctor and The Naturopathic Gourmet. Find her at www.drsarahcimperman.com.

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