It's fair to say that at this point in time, we live in a fairly toxic world. Even prior to the Industrial Revolution there were toxins we were being exposed to. However, many consider the Industrial Revolution to be a major turning point in our exposure to toxins and the negative impact they have on cellular physiology and human health. This period saw an epidemic of exposure to metal intoxication and notably, chronic lead poisoning. Scientists and physicians of the time started to identify specific symptoms and organ alterations that were directly related to lead toxicity.
And while the awareness and harmful impacts of these exposures grew over time, and limits were placed on what was considered to be safe exposure to these elements, some would argue that even the low limits we may be exposed to today, the body is not equipped to handle to a multitude of exposures to a wide range of toxins that we face today.
And here we've only mentioned the exposure to metals and minerals however, it seems there is a never-ending list of chemicals that act as mild to major toxins inside our bodies, which come from the manufacturing, use, and processing of manmade chemicals used in various industries, including those used in the agricultural industry which often end up on or in our foods.
The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) which regulates more than 80,000 chemicals on its database (yes you read that number right), does not require that most chemicals be tested for safety before they are approved for widespread use. Less than half of the 3,000 high-production volume chemicals on the marketplace have toxicity data, while less than one-fifth have toxicity testing data on the effects of developing organs. (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/newborn-babies-chemicals-exposure-bpa/)
A study commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) had 5 labs study the cord blood from 10 babies of African American, Hispanic and Asian heritage and found over 200 chemicals present. We are literally being born toxic and that toxicity increases over the course of our lifetimes dependent on the environments we live in, work in, recreate in, and through the foods we eat, the liquids we consume, and the air we breathe.
While all this sounds scary and unsettling, and indeed it is, know that our bodies have a number of ways to deal with toxins, through cleansing and detoxification, as well as, through storage inside cells. The major routes of elimination and detoxification happen through our liver, kidneys, and digestive tract, and additionally through our lungs and skin. Transformation and detoxification of compounds happen in different stages through our liver, in order to make these compounds more soluble, less toxic (though some intermediates are more toxic), and therefore more easily excretable through the digestive tract, kidneys, lungs and skin.
As with all things health-related, we refer back to the foundations for optimal health including exposure to nature, fresh air and
sunlight, daily exercise and movement, adequate and healthy sleep, and having stress mitigating activities, be it meditation, yoga or deep-breathing techniques. For the purposes of supporting cleansing and detoxification, we also want to encourage sweating, be that through exercise or the use of saunas, as sweating helps us to eliminate toxins and waste products through our skin. The last and most important foundation, which can dramatically support proper detoxification and elimination, is our diet.
The processes and phases of detox through the liver require a number of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to support the enzymatic transformation of substances in the body. When a diet is lacking in these nutrients, our ability to cleanse and eliminate can suffer greatly and put further strain or burden on the body. Additionally, if the diet is poor and results in poor motility and elimination in the digestive tract, some of these biotransformed substances make be reabsorbed and recirculated throughout the body.
Finally, in addition to the above-mentioned foundational diet and lifestyle factors that can support and improve our cleansing and detoxification abilities, we can also look to our herbal allies in the plant world. There are herbs that have affinities for supporting the healthy function of each of our organs and pathways of elimination. The focus of herbs for cleansing tends to get focused just on single herbs or formulas to optimize liver function. However, we cannot forget to support our digestive system, our kidneys, our lungs, our skin, and lastly and importantly, our lymphatic system (which helps in helps removal from the body). The good thing about most of our plant remedies is that they provide support to multiple systems of the body, providing wide-ranging support.
The list of herbs that support cleansing and detoxification could get quite large and extensive and so I will list a handful of well-known and loved herbal helpers including alfalfa, artichoke, baptisia, barberry, blue-flag, burdock, cleavers, celery seed, cilantro, dandelion, echinacea, Gotu kola, milk thistle, nettles, red clover, redroot, sarsaparilla, and Schisandra. Whether these herbs are utilized in teas, tinctures, or capsules, all can provide a supportive role to the body.
You can find some of these beneficial herbs in a number of our WishGarden formulas to help with cleansing and detoxification support: Detox Cleanse, Lymph Mover, Liver Strengthener, Kidney Strengthener, Zit Zap, and of course, Bad Ass Bitters and Mo' Betta Belly for digestive support.Dr. Shawn Manske, ND is a registered Naturopathic Doctor in the state of Colorado. He attended the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and received his degree and initial license in Ontario where he was in clinical practice before moving to Colorado. Dr. Shawn is currently the Senior Educator and a Territory Accounts Manager for WishGarden Herbs. He has a passion for and love of teaching herbal medicine and especially loves bitters.