One of my foundational beliefs is that the human body is self-healing. All it needs is the right support to fuel it in what it’s designed to do best — keep us healthy.
A major way our body keeps us healthy is through a built-in mechanism designed to filter harmful chemicals and eliminate what it doesn’t need. We can thank five major organs for this elimination cycle, otherwise known as our detoxification pathways — our skin, lungs, kidneys, colon, and liver.
Here’s what they do for us each and every day, and how we can boost their natural purifying power…
Ever wonder why that blemish emerged, or that new rash is evolving? Your skin’s role is to excrete toxins that have found their way inside, as well as protect the body from bacteria, viruses, and chemical toxins from entering in the first place. It does an amazing job, but like anything, it can’t do it all.
With a total area of about 20 square feet, the skin is the largest organ in our body. As such, it is quite susceptible to toxin exposure through the products we use, including toiletries, cosmetics, household cleaners, and others, which contain harmful ingredients that get absorbed into our bloodstream. In fact, we absorb 60% of what contacts our skin in just 26 seconds! Slathering on lotions filled with toxins, or sleeping in sheets washed in chemicals every day can lead to serious health implications. A good rule of thumb is to avoid putting anything on your skin that wouldn’t be safe to eat.
Toxins can also be breathed in—especially if you are a smoker or live in heavily polluted areas. You know the hair in your nose? This is a great example of why we have em’; small particles like dust or dirt that we breathe in gets stopped by those hairs, keeping our lungs free and clear of those particles. Your lungs are then responsible for filtering out carbon dioxide, fumes, mold, and other airborne toxins.
Here’s the real kicker: the average American home contains 2 to 5 times higher levels of pollutants than outside air. Common household cleaners give off hazardous fumes that linger in the air we breathe and in the fabrics sleep in and wear all day long. Breathing these chemicals is destroying our respiratory system, disrupting our hormones, and is linked to a multitude of illnesses.
You can ensure that the air you’re breathing in your home is clean by installing an air purifier and use plants to help filter your indoor air and minimize toxins. Green household cleaners and laundry detergents will also cut down on the hazardous fumes trapped in your environment. (here’s what I use) Exercise, yoga, or pranayama can help open up your lungs and boost their cleansing function. Even breathing in salt air by the beach can help!
The kidneys are responsible for filtering the blood and help release toxins from your body through urine. The best way to ensure that they are functioning efficiently is to maintain proper hydration. Adequate baseline hydration starts at half your body weight in ounces of water per day (ex: a 150lb person needs at least 75oz water daily). There are also several herbs like alfalfa, dandelion, parsley, and juniper, that act as a diuretic, which can increase the production of urine and help flush the kidneys.
The digestive system, also commonly referred to as the gut or gastrointestinal (GI) tract, greatly affects our overall health. In fact, leaky gut, the condition in which bacteria and toxins can penetrate the intestinal wall, has been linked to celiac disease, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and food allergies.
The colon, or large intestine, is quite literally a huge part of the digestive system. It reabsorbs water from digested food and turns what is left into stool, which is then released by a bowel movement. A fiber-heavy diet rich in raw fruits and vegetables and/or a gentle laxative, can unburden your digestive system and even enhance your immune system.
This is probably our most important detoxification pathway. The liver’s main job is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract, before passing it to the rest of the body. It helps our body metabolize nutrients, eliminate harmful chemicals, heavy metals, alcohol, and drugs. It also helps breakdown fats, get rid of excess cholesterol, filters the blood, and plays a vital role in carbohydrate metabolism (i.e. keeping our blood sugars stabilized), and converts fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble substances that can be excreted from the body through the kidneys.
Keeping your liver healthy is critical for optimal health and disease prevention. Milk thistle and dandelion in tea or supplement form can help boost liver function. In fact, milk thistle has been known to stimulate cell regeneration and trigger the formation of glutathione, giving it the potential to reverse liver damage.
The Bottom Line:
Almost everyone needs to give these organs a little extra lovin’ from time to time. Our individual lifestyle provides clues for deciding how and when to offer extra support to our body’s natural detoxification cycle. For instance, if you suddenly find yourself experiencing low energy, brain fog, headaches, weight gain, digestive difficulties, blemishes, eczema, or trouble sleeping, your body could be softly – or loudly – telling you it needs some extra support.
I’ve found the common adage to be true: If we listen to our body when it whispers, we won’t have to hear it scream.
Every time I hear my body gently nudging me to pay more attention to what it’s calling out for, I take 5 weeks to reset, make room for self-care, nourishment, and replenishment. I use this time to slow down, tune in, and find what serves me – be it the foods I fuel my body with, the daily habits I practice, or the thoughts I think. If you’re feeling this call to carve out space for intentional nourishment and wellness, I welcome you to join me is this self-care journey —
The power is in our hands, my friend. You deserve to feel your absolute best each and every day.
Here’s to extending not just the years of your life, but the life in your years.