Gerald Quigley looks at detoxing - what it really means

Modern media attaches all sorts of different meanings to the word “detoxification”. Most of these meanings involve rather drastic interventions, whereby you withdraw from your social circle, eat like a rabbit and inflict on yourself a number a ghastly-tasting products.

Quite simply, detoxification is the alteration of a substance in our body to a non-poisonous form, either as a spontaneous biochemical reaction, or by enhancing that particular reaction with food or appropriate supplements. The organ most commonly involved is our liver, but we also underestimate the role of our skin. Looking after liver health, and skin health, should form the basis of supporting our body’s ongoing detoxification efforts.

There’s nothing new in the detoxification process, and generations before us have known the benefits. However, in a generally more toxic environment in which we live and work today, detoxification is more important than ever.

Our liver has nine, quite different detoxification mechanisms that work every moment of our lives to ensure that we retain as few toxic substances as possible. Remember that the human body is exposed to an everyday onslaught of toxins both intentionally through the use of toxic household cleaning chemicals, cosmetics and pesticides, and unintentionally through exposure to air and water pollution, toxic deposits in food and plastics, or through the overuse of recreational or prescribed drugs.

Our liver plays a crucial role in detoxifying these molecules, as most of these metabolites are fat-soluble, and are stored in our body’s fat reserves for long periods of time. These fat-soluble metabolites must be converted into water-soluble metabolites by the liver’s detoxification enzyme pathways so that the toxic metabolites can be removed from the body.

Nutritional interventions are therefore vital. There’s a range of liver supporting herbs available, including milk thistle, turmeric, globe artichoke, dandelion and St John’s wort. Detoxifying through our skin occurs during perspiration. In Europe, they are well ahead of their time by the daily use of the sauna. And never overlook the regular detoxification from technology. Recalibrate your involvement with your phone and I-pad, and rediscover the “sounds of silence”.

Gerald Quigley
Pharmacist & Master Herbalist 

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