The word “detox” may sound like just another buzz word, but the detoxification process is actually an essential part of human health. Your body comes equipped with its own natural method for detoxification, known as the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system serves to remove toxins, cell waste and other materials from the body’s tissues, organs and bloodstream. This bodily system also serves to transport lymphatic fluid, which contains white blood cells, around the body.
There are a few major components of the lymphatic system. There are lymphatic vessels – which transport the lymphatic fluid and are rather similar to blood vessels – and there are lymph nodes. Lymph nodes filter the lymphatic fluid. The tonsils, adenoids, spleen and thymus are also part of the lymphatic system. There are hundreds of lymph nodes scattered around the body for the purpose of filtration and cleansing.
It’s a pretty good system, but unfortunately, the world we live in often puts undue stress on it. The standard American diet, for instance, is particularly problematic. Reports have indicated that more than half of what the average American eats are processed or prepackaged foods. These items are loaded with artificial colorants, sweeteners, trans fats and many other types of chemical additives that are used to enhance the look and feel of the food – which would otherwise be inedible. These are not naturally-occurring ingredients, and many of them come with consequences.
In addition to increased risk of disease, these kinds of foods also put more stress on your body, and create more waste for your lymphatic system. When the body’s natural method of detoxification – the lymphatic system – is inundated with toxins, it is not able to function at its best. This means that waste and toxic materials are often left to linger in the body, rather than getting filtered out by the lymphatic system.
There are a number of different signs that can indicate your body is being overworked and overloaded by the burden of toxins and waste material. Here are a few key signs:
- Persistent headaches, muscle aches or fatigue
- Food allergies
- Trouble with weight loss
- Skin abnormalities such as acne
- Hormonal imbalances
In addition to the average American diet, there are other things that can contribute to toxicity in the body. For example, frequently consuming fish known to contain mercury such as tuna, swordfish or shark can increase your risk of toxicity. Taking medications that manipulate hormones such as birth control pills or other hormone supplements and frequent use of NSAID pain relievers can also increase your likelihood of developing toxicity. Having mercury dental fillings or amalgams can also be quite problematic.
When cleansing the body, it is important to note that a good cleanse doesn’t make you starve yourself or purchase expensive pills or drinks. A safe cleanse merely allows the body to do what it does naturally, with a little extra support from healthy food choices, lifestyle choices and supplementation. There can be symptoms of withdrawal at the beginning of cleansing, such as fatigue, irritability, hunger or headaches, but these symptoms should pass after just a few days. Eliminating junk from the diet is known to elicit responses similar to that of quitting substances like tobacco.
The first step in cleansing involves removing toxic food from your diet. Refined grains and sugars, alcohol, caffeine, gluten and dairy are all items that should be avoided during the cleansing period – which should last anywhere from six days to six weeks.
There are also things that are important to include during the cleanse. For example, adequate hydration is a must, as is getting plenty of vitamin C. There are many foods that can help to support your lymphatic system as well. Berries and citrus fruits are excellent fruit options for detoxing. As far as vegetables go, leafy greens, seaweed and algae are great for giving your lymphatic system a much needed boost, and help to promote detoxification. A number of nuts and seeds can also help to support good health. Chia seeds, hemp, flax, sunflower and pumpkin seeds are all great options.