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Are there toxins in your body?


By Mark Hyman, MD

This article originally appeared on drhyman.com.

Your body may be a toxic waste dump. Worried? You should be …

We are exposed to 6 million pounds of mercury and the 2.5 billion pounds other toxic chemicals each year.

Eighty thousand toxic chemicals have been released into our environment since the dawn of the industrial revolution, and very few have been tested for their long-term impact on human health. And let me tell you, the results aren’t pretty for those that have been tested …

How can we not be affected by this massive amount of poison?

According to the nonprofit organization Environmental Working Group, the average newborn baby has 287 known toxins in his or her umbilical cord blood.

If a newborn is exposed to that many toxins, imagine how many you have been exposed to in your life…

Do you think this may be why so many of us are sick and fat today?

The simple truth is that we are living in a sea of toxins and it is destroying our bodies and brains.

The two most important things you need to know to cure disease, create health, and lose weight are:

  1. The role of nutrition in health and disease.
  2. The role of toxins and the importance of detoxification in health and disease.

Unfortunately, you probably aren’t going to learn much about them from your doctor. Most physicians today are still hopelessly ignorant in these areas. They were simply never taught about nutrition and detoxification in medical school.

However, there are many things you can do to reduce your toxic exposures and enhance your detoxification. Today I want to share some information your doctor probably won’t focus on in your next visit, even though it is at the very root of your health. I am going to outline a simple 10-step plan you can use to enhance your detoxification.

Problems with detoxification form one root of illness. If you feel lousy, it’s likely you’re toxic.

Enhancing detoxification is the fifth key of the Seven Keys to UltraWellness. If you want to lose weight and get healthy, you need to clean up the toxic waste in your body. Today you will learn how.

The Role of Toxins in Health and Disease

The role of toxins and detoxification in health has been largely ignored by medicine.

Thankfully, scientists and practitioners are starting to recognize its importance in health.

I recently spoke about detoxification at the 13th International Symposium on Functional Medicine. The presentation was called Managing Biotransformation: The Metabolic, Genomic, and Detoxification Balance Points. Leading experts from all over the globe came together to present the data on the role of toxins in health and offer suggestions for how we can detoxify.

If you want all the scientific background on detoxification, I recommend reading the proceedings from that meeting. You will find extensive data on the impact toxins have on our health and how critical detoxification is for long-term wellness.

The reality is that many of you probably have symptoms of chronic toxicity but don’t realize that you’re toxic.
The following is a list of the common symptoms of chronic toxicity. If you suffer from any of the following, detoxifying might be critical for you to get healthy and feel good again:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Sinus congestion
  • Postnasal drip
  • Excessive sinus problems
  • Headaches
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Foul-smelling stools
  • Heartburn
  • Sleep problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Food cravings
  • Water retention
  • Trouble losing weight
  • Rashes
  • Skin problems
  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Canker sores
  • Acne
  • Puffy, dark circles under the eyes
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Other menstrual disorders
  • Bad breath

But how do you detoxify? And what does that word even mean? Let’s look a little more closely at what detoxification is.

What are Toxicity and Detoxification?

When you hear the word “detox” you might think drug detox or alcohol detox or wheatgrass enemas. That’s not what I am talking about.

I am referring to the science of how our bodies get rid of waste. If waste builds up, we get sick. And the key is to figure out how to enhance your body’s capacity to detoxify and get rid of waste while minimizing your exposure to toxins.

This is so important, because many diseases of our society are actually related to toxicity. Here are some of the diseases you may suffer from if you are toxic:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s diseaseDementia
  • Autism
  • Attention deficit disorder
  • Depression and other mood disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Heart disease
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cancer
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Food allergies
  • Arthritis
  • Digestive diseases like Crohn’s disease, ulcers, and colitis
  • Menstrual problems like heavy bleeding, cramps, PMS, menopausal symptoms, mood changes and hot flashes

With so many conditions on that list, it might seem that everyone is toxic.

That may be true to differing degrees …

Problems with detoxification form one of the roots of illness–and signify one of the core systems in the body that must be working well for you to be healthy. If you feel lousy, it’s likely you’re toxic.

It is important to understand why we are toxic and how we can detoxify. I will explain how you can detoxify a little later, but first I want to tell you about where toxins come from and how we are overloaded.

To understand toxicity, you must understand the concept of “total load.”

Total load is the total amount of stressors on your system at any one time–it’s like what happens when a glass fills over with water. It takes a certain amount of water to fill the glass and then, after a certain point, you put more in and it overflows.

When our detoxification system is overwhelmed, it gets overloaded. That’s when we start developing symptoms and getting sick, but it may take years of accumulated stress and toxins to get to that point.

Here are some, but not all, of the factors that can contribute to your total toxic load:

  • Exposure to heavy metals like mercury and lead, petrochemicals, residues, pesticides, and fertilizers.
  • Food allergies, environmental allergies, molds, and toxins from molds.
  • Eating a standard American diet.
  • Mental, emotional, and spiritual toxins — isolation, loneliness, anger, jealousy, and hostility, all of which translate into toxins in our system.
  • Medications can sometimes be toxins. Often we need medications, but the reality is that most of us are overmedicated and use medications to treat problems for which there are better solutions, such as lifestyle and diet.
  • Internal toxins–things like bacteria, fungus, and yeast inside our gut as well as hormonal and metabolic toxins that we need to eliminate.

That’s a lot of toxins for our bodies to manage.

You may wonder: Why aren’t we all sick, given this incredible load of toxins?

The answer is simple.

It is because each of us is genetically and biochemically unique. Some of us are good at getting rid of toxins and waste, and others are not.

I am not. That is why I developed chronic fatigue syndrome.

I became overloaded with mercury and couldn’t get rid of it because I am missing a gene for GSTM1–a critical detoxifying enzyme for mercury. But by learning to support my system and how to detoxify, I was able to cure myself of a seemingly incurable condition.

What I learned is that there are five key steps to optimal detoxification. They are:

  • Identify and Get Rid of Toxins – I listed the primary forms of toxic exposure above. Eliminating them is absolutely essential if you want to rebalance your detox system.
  • Fix Your Gut – Gut imbalances are a key source of toxins for many.
  • Get Moving – This help your blood and lymphatic circulation do its job.
  • Get Your Liver and Detox System Working – If your detoxification system isn’t working properly, this is a serious problem and needs to be addressed. A great place to start is the 10-step approach outlined below.
  • Detox Your Mind, Heart, and Spirit – This is just as important as detoxing your body, and it’s an area few of us ever think about as a source of toxins.

To completely detoxify your body you need to work through each of these steps carefully, and that can take some time. But you can start today by following this simple 10-step plan.

10 Simple Steps to Enhance Detoxification

Proper detoxification is so essential for health that you need to start enhancing your body’s ability to detoxify today. Here is how to do it:

  1. Drink Clean – Drink plenty of clean water, at least eight to ten glasses of filtered water a day.
  2. Eliminate Properly – Keep your bowels moving, at least once or twice a day. And if you can’t get going, then you need some help. This can include taking two tablespoons of ground flax seeds and taking acidophilus and extra magnesium citrate capsules. If you have any chronic diseases or problems, you have to be careful about taking supplements and should work with your doctor.
  3. Eat Clean – You should also eat organic produce and animal products to eliminate the toxins, hormones, and antibiotics in your food.
  4. Eat Detoxifying Food – You should eat 8 to 10 servings of colorful fruits and vegetables a day, particularly family of the cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, collards, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi) and the garlic family (garlic and onions), which help increase sulfur in the body and help detoxification.
  5. Minimize Drugs – Avoid stimulants, sedatives, and drugs, such as caffeine and nicotine, and try to reduce alcohol intake.
  6. Get Moving – Exercise five days a week with focus on conditioning your cardiovascular system, strengthening exercises, and stretching exercises.
  7. Avoid the White Menace – This includes white flour and white sugar.
  8. Sweat – Sweat profusely at least three times a week, using a sauna, steam, or a detox bath.
  9. Supplement – Take a high-quality multivitamin and mineral supplement.
  10. RelaxRelax deeply every day to get your nervous system in a state of calm, rest, and relaxation.

Simply following these steps will help to correct problems caused by toxicity, maximize your body’s own detoxification capacity, and help you safely eliminate toxins stores in your body.

Depending on your symptoms, genetic predispositions and environmental exposures, you may need different levels of nutrients and types of treatment, but this is an excellent way to get started on detoxification today.

Remember, getting rid of toxins and learning how to optimize your detoxification system is essential for creating lifelong vibrant health.