Our body is a place full of amazing activities, taking place in every spur of a second. Not only does it interact with cells, tissues and organs inside the body, but also with various external factors in the environment. The modern day environment is far more different than what we used to have decades back. It is full of toxic substances existing in all three forms; solid, liquid and gas.
Frightening facts and figures
According to research, we have never been exposed to such a huge amount of toxins, as in the 21st century. The industrial revolution and advances in technology have paved the way for various new chemicals to be introduced into our world out of which most of them have not been tested properly to ensure our safety. In fact, there are about 100,000 new additions of toxins to the market where only about 10,000 have been tested by required means. Unfortunately, it is less than 5,000 which have been marked as safe for the human beings to be in contact with.
Most of the toxins we come across in day to day life are hidden in plastics, polythene, synthetic fibres, pesticides, fertilizers, hormone injected animal food, flavours and food preservatives in the forms of heavy metals (arsenic, mercury, lead) and poisonous gases..
So, we should not be surprised as to why we encounter various health issues on a daily basis, especially when there is a continuous exposure to toxins wherever step in to.
We, humans absorb toxins through our skin, inhale with respiration, ingest with food and through several other ways. However, the ultimate outcome would be a heavy load of toxins in our body, which should be cleared as early as possible, before it leads to disastrous health ailments.
Fortunately, our body is blessed with a unique and marvelous filtering system known as the Detoxification system which keeps on functioning to cleanse away agents which the body identifies as toxic.
There are two major roles played by this system.
1. Detoxification of the body by excreting unhealthy toxins
2. Anti-oxidant protection
What is Detoxification?
Detoxification is a simple yet effective process by which all the toxins are excreted from our body. It plays a major role in building the foundation for our optimal health and fitness.
Respiratory system (lungs), skin, endocrine system, immunity system, lymphatic system, gastro-intestinal system, kidneys and liver are the major components through which detoxification is carried out. Additionally, nutrients are also required for the purpose of transportation of the corresponding toxins.
An effective communication and collaboration between these are highly important to maintain a proper clearance of excretory products.
Importance of various organs in detoxification Liver
This is a fascinating primary organ or ‘Dirt-Cleansing Engine’ present in our body which does the most important part of Detoxification. Major processes carried out by the liver in
- Filtering blood to cleanse out large toxins.
- Enzymatic break down of unwanted chemicals in 2 phases, where in the first phase it modifies chemicals in a simple arrangement and in the second phase modifies enzymes to act on.
- Synthesizing and secretion of bile for the excretion of fat-soluble toxins and cholesterol.
Toxins usually exist in the form of fat soluble compounds in cells. The liver gradually converts them to water soluble ones by a process known as ‘Glucoronidation’ after which they bind to nutrients and get excreted through urine, sweat and bowel movements (faeces). Some fatty material, which have not been subjected to glucoronidation at first due to some reason get deposited in the body’s fat layer. They cannot be cleansed out from the body and instead get accumulated over time, leading to a significant weight gain.
The respiratory system which consists of lungs and bronchi evacuate toxins in the form of carbonic gases. It also excretes phlegm which has entrapped most of the organisms entering through nostrils and undigested food particles. Unfortunately alveoli membranes do not have the capacity to filter solid waste, but chronic irritation by various particles like Asbestos and infectious microorganisms make the alveoli full of porous which tend to act as an emergency exit for toxins which are not been properly cleansed off by other detoxifying organs such as liver, kidneys and gastro-intestinal tract.
Being the largest external organ in the body, skin has a major function in thermo regulation, secretion and excretion together with eliminating toxic substances which enter in to the body from the external environment.
Skin eliminates various waste products in the form of crystals, soluble in liquid substances through the sweat glands. These are known to be the residuals of the metabolism of food containing protein (meat, fish, eggs, dairy products), uric acid and urea.
These act as filtering organs through which blood is purified by filtering toxic secretions to urine from the blood circulation. A proper hydration and an appropriate blood pressure are highly important in carrying out this mechanism in an optimal manner.
This system which ranges from mouth to rectum carries a huge role in elimination of toxic substances from the body.
When the first most steps of digestion are completed, nutrients such as the amino acids, sugars and vitamins are penetrated through the intestinal mucous membranes into venous capillaries which will then be transported to the liver. After the process of detoxification, taken place in the liver, these nutrients will get redistributed into the blood stream where filtered toxic agents such as drugs and heavy metals will be dumped into bile, secreted by the liver.
Bile will in turn bind these substances and take to the small intestine and continue its pathway along the colon until it mixes with stools and eliminated from the body.
This is a system which plays a major role in detoxification and defence. There are about 2 litres of lymphatic fluid which circulate inside the lymphatic vessels, distributed from top of the head to tip of the toes. This special type of lymph fluid penetrates the capillary membranes and make the waste products get evacuated via the venous blood stream, by the constant pressure
Spleen and Thymus which are known to be the other organs, producing lymphocytes fight against the infectious agents entering into the body by enhancing the production of white blood cells. As a result of the communication between lymph nodes and these organs, lymph nodes which are located closest to the site get swollen and become painful.
The Importance of Anti-Oxidant protection
Free radicals are some unstable molecules, lacking an electron which try to get stable by acquiring electrons from body cells. As far as the origin is concerned, they are produced as some by-products of various metabolic activities taken place in the body including respiration, digestion and exercises.
This will do no good to the human body rather than attacking the cells and resulting in their death by severe ‘Oxidative Stress’, generated. Additionally, they tend to attack DNA as well, resulting in mutations which can lead to malignancies.
Compounds such as Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Beta-carotene, Selenium, and Lipoic acid are the commonest preventive anti-oxidants which effectively halt the oxidative stress
The Writer is a medical student
How can I know if I have toxic agents, accumulated in my body?
Poor functioning of any of the systems mentioned above along with nutritional deficiencies can lead to re-circulation of toxins and accumulation in the body resulting in various signs and symptoms-
- Weakness and fatigue
- Gastric disturbances- Diarrhea, constipation, bloating
- Headaches, migraine
- Skin rashes
- Memory loss (amnesia) and mental fog
- Poor cognitive functions
- Weight loss
- Sleep disturbances
- Metabolic syndrome
Accordingly, maintaining an effective process of detoxification is not just important to our body, but ‘Critical’ to lead a health life style without getting susceptible to