In a perfect world, we would NOT spend time in buildings containing lead, asbestos or mold, drink or bathe in tap water, use most soaps, lotions, shampoos, make-up or commercial cleaning products, ingest food additives, drive a gas-guzzling vehicle, breathe the air, walk barefoot in soil or sand, eat anything from potentially-contaminated soil, eat mercury-laden fish, eat meat from caged or chemically-treated animals, drink alcohol, smoke, or eat anything containing added sugars or sugar substitutes. I’m sure I’ve missed a few hundred other things that negatively impact our health, but you get the idea.
We are exposed to toxins every minute of every day, and the type of exposure varies depending on where we live, work, and play. Scientists have a fancy term for toxins run amok – “oxidative stress”. In simple terms, it refers to an imbalance in our bodies caused by the inability to quickly detoxify (neutralize or eliminate) an offender and repair the resulting damage. In response to a toxic insult, free radicals and other enzymes are released in our bodies, causing potentially devastating effects.
This cumulative stress on cells is thought to be involved in the development of many disorders and diseases, including Parkinson’s Disease, ALS, and Alzheimer’s Disease, autism, ADHD, depression, atherosclerosis, heart disease and heart failure, and age-related cancers.
In this country, we often reach for a pill to insure against or cure an ail. If you are a smoker, you may have heard that high doses of Vitamin C might reduce the damage or oxidative stress to your body. And, if you rely on Vitamin C pills, do you then overlook great natural sources such as oranges and red peppers?
There has been controversy over the years about the safe use of antioxidant supplements. Smokers, for instance, who took high doses of beta carotene (vitamin E) to prevent lung cancer, actually had higher rates of lung cancer. The high oxygen tension in smokers’ bodies combined with high doses of the supplement resulted in the opposite effect, a pro-oxidant effect.
For many years, researchers thought that vitamin E pills would reduce the risk of coronary artery disease in older men and women, but later found that supplement use resulted in increased incidence of heart failure and hemorrhagic stroke. So, you guessed it – the American Heart Association began recommending that we actually EAT antioxidant-rich foods instead of supplements.
What is the point of this discussion, you ask? Consider the sheer number of salespeople and companies competing to offer you the latest, greatest “detox” pill, “cleanse”, shake, tea, or detox regimen. Yes, it is a trend. Not a horrible trend – as the concept of detoxing is not a bad one. But, do you really know what ingredients are in those products?
Are you familiar with herbs such as burdock root, mullein leaf, blessed thistle, horsetail, wormwood? Herbal therapies can cause side effects and interactions just like a prescription medication. What amounts are safe? I researched amla and myrobalan, unfamiliar ingredients contained in one detox product. Amla is a fruit used in Ayurvedic medicine as a “powerful tonic”. In Ayurvedic medicine, highly skilled practitioners carefully prescribe supplements to correct specific imbalances. How, then, can this manufacturer determine how much amla I should receive? The same detox product also contained a “Nutraceutical Detox Blend” and a “Digestive Blend”, with a single pill containing about 30 ingredients!
Companies rely on the few pounds you may lose by using their product, as you may purchase it again. But, if you read my last blog about the thinking side of your brain vs. the impulsive side, you may know what I will say next. Fancy packaging and impactful marketing techniques aside, take a minute to consider that a combination of ingredients could be producing a laxative or diuretic effect on your body. (Remember, many prescription drugs are derived from herbs.) Weight down, poop gone, wow- feel great…for a day or two, tops. Questions are good: Could it be toxic? How will it affect a pre-existing medical condition? Will it interfere with a medication you use? Will it cause an imbalance through the loss of important nutrients? What is the strength of the research behind a product you are taking and what quality controls are in place?
I am here to tell you that there are less complicated, safe and natural ways to detox, increase energy, decrease cravings, improve your sleep, and manage stress. It starts with clean eating (unprocessed whole foods), eliminating sugar and artificial sugars, increasing your water intake, and exercising regularly. And, as for my friends that smoke, please make the decision to cancel your subscription to the cigarette companies. They will do fine without your continued loyalty. Let’s all take a moment today to decide to make one small change that will impact our future good health. We are worth the effort!