These days, “toxin” can be a buzzword that instantly incites fear in the minds of health-conscious individuals. And rightfully so—although some toxins may only cause mild irritation, others have been shown to cause diseases, cancers, and other health conditions.
Perhaps the scariest part? These toxins may be lurking in your home or environment without you even knowing it.
To begin protecting your loved ones and yourself from the harmful effects of toxins, you should learn how to distinguish among the different types, how best to avoid them, and how to detoxify from them.
What Are the Different Types of Toxins?
Toxins may be more common than you think. There are several different types of toxins and they all pose varying levels of danger. These are classified as natural chemicals, living toxins, and manmade toxins.
Natural chemicals are toxins that occur in nature. These toxins originate from either plant or animal sources as a way for organisms to protect themselves from predators.
Have you ever had poison ivy? If so, you’ve come face-to-face with a natural chemical. While you may recover relatively quickly from your reaction to a natural chemical, some—such as snake bites—are far more dangerous.
You can find living toxins, or germs, pretty much everywhere. They might take the form of bacteria sitting on your laptop or an airborne virus circulating in the office breakroom. You can also find living toxins in the dirt, water, plants, and animals—and, yes, even in food.
Many living toxins (bacteria, yeast, parasites, and viruses) are simply part of our ecosystem. Our bodies have several defense mechanisms in place to protect us from the most common living toxins. But sometimes, they encounter a living toxin that they aren’t prepared to fight, which can result in illness or disease.
The most dangerous toxins are manmade toxins and include pesticides, food additives, chlorine, fluoride, and other chemicals. Long-term exposure to some of these chemicals can result in illnesses and diseases, such as cancer.
Unfortunately, manufactured chemicals are alarmingly common. In one study done by the Environmental Working Group, researchers examined the level of chemicals found in the umbilical cords of newborn babies. They found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in the subjects they tested.
The Detoxification Process
Now that you’ve had a “toxins 101” rundown, let’s talk about detoxing. Detoxification is any process that either, 1.) removes a substance that can harm your body or 2.) changes the makeup of a toxic substance so it’s no longer harmful to your body.
The human body is amazing; it comes equipped with many biological detoxifying processes. For example, any time you sweat, you’re getting rid of toxins. Although detoxification happens in several parts of your body, here are the basic steps of the process.
- Toxins enter your body: Typically, through the lungs, skin, gut/intestine, or nose.
- Toxins exit your body or are killed: The stomach, intestines, immune system, liver, kidneys, lungs, and skin all play a part in either killing toxins within your body or expelling them.
- Excess toxins get stored in your body: If the body is unable to destroy or remove the toxins you’ve been exposed to, they may end up being stored in fat, bone marrow, liver, the central nervous system, joints, tissues, or muscle.
When toxins are stored in your body and left to build up, they can lead to diseases over time. This pattern can increase your risk for developing skin disorders, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disorders, arthritis, and cancer.
7 Ways to Prevent Exposure to Toxins
Since the consequences of exposure to toxins can be serious, consciously limiting or preventing exposure to them is one of the best ways to keep yourself healthy.
Here are some simple tips to protect your body:
- Eliminate processed foods from your diet
- Avoid genetically modified (GM) foods
- Limit red meat and certain large fish in your diet
- Eat organic foods whenever possible
- Reduce your intake of alcohol, caffeine, and sugar
- Monitor the air quality around you
- Opt for drinking clean or filtered water
Of course, avoiding toxins isn’t always possible; but there are some additional ways to boost your body’s detoxification process.
- Use a sauna: Since sweating is one way the body naturally expels toxins, sitting in a sauna can support this biological process. Some people prefer infrared saunas because they can get you the same results as a traditional sauna at a lower temperature.
- Sit in a steam shower: Similar to a sauna, steam showers can offer many of the same benefits that aid in the natural sweating-detoxification process. Some people like to use organic oils in a steam shower for added benefits.
- Try Panchakarma: This multi-day Ayurvedic detoxification program involves hot oils, massage, detoxifying herbs, and sweating. Most cities have businesses that specialize in Panchakarma.
- Explore chelation: In this process, toxic substances are attracted to another substance (known as a chelating agent) and removed from the body.
- Fill your dish with foods that support detoxification: Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, berries, garlic, parsley, turmeric, lemon, flax seeds, beets, green tea, and artichokes are all great foods that can help detoxify your system.
The Bottom Line
While you can’t avoid all toxins, there are steps you can take to limit your exposure and make it easier for your body to remove them. Consider this two-pronged approach as just another way to keep your body healthy.
What is your favorite way to detoxify your system? Do you have a favorite food that aids in detoxification? Tell us in the comments!