It's a very trendy thing to do a "detox". There are various programs all over the place. Liver detoxes, heavy metal detoxes...
But, how would you know if you are toxic and what would you do about it? Let's talk a bit about it.
For the sake of simplicity, I would like to suggest that most chronic disease (think cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure) can be boiled down to two things: 1) Not enough of the right nutrients. You simply don't have the building blocks for creating the chemical reactions that keep you healthy. I have written on nutrient deficiencies before, so you can use this link for more on that. 2) Toxicity - too much of something that shouldn't be there. This is where heavy metal toxicity fits into the equation. This is obviously a very simplified way to view health, but I do believe that the premise is true. Addressing both of these issues goes a long way to build and maintain true health. The kind that doesn't need a long list of medications!
In the case of toxicity, we have a couple different scenarios to consider. The first is a question of whether a person is being exposed to a toxic substance right now. This would be something like acute exposure to copper, lead, mercury or something similar. Some examples I have seen would be mercury exposure from the red dye in a tatoo, Copper or lead in high levels from someone who has old copper or lead pipes and is unknowingly consuming high levels of these elements every day by showering, drinking water and preparing meals with water from contaminated sources. If this is happening now and these elements are an issue at the moment, a whole red blood cell or urine test will show us high levels of those substances.
In cases where we have been exposed in the past or this is an on-going issue, we would be best to look at a hair sample. Because excess amounts of these toxic substances must be eliminated by the body, they tend to deposit in the hair. Looking at these elements on a hair analysis gives us a much longer window. If you see levels of toxic elements high on a hair test, you know this is an issue of ongoing exposure over a long period of time. This is particularly valuable in situations where someone works as say a Dental professional and is exposed to mercury in amalgam fillings, or an auto mechanic who deals with scrap metals all day and may not be adequately eliminating them.
So, what kinds of things would cause a person to have high levels of toxic elements in their body. We mentioned Dental professionals and auto mechanics, but you may not know that lead has been found in a number of cosmetic products like lipstick, deodorant and other similar products that are used by most of us every day! Painters, those who work in lawn care, or agriculture and those who work around industrial chemicals are particularly at risk.
Individuals with conditions like intestinal permeability ("leaky gut"), liver detoxification issues, blood sugar dysregulation, gallbladder and kidney insufficiency, those under chronic stress and those with nutrient deficiencies tend to experience more symptoms when exposed to high levels of toxic elements.
What are some of the symptoms of high levels of toxic metals like aluminum, lead, cadmium, mercury, arsenic and other related toxins? These are some of the symptoms noted from the National Institute for Health (NIH) (1)
Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (the hallmark symptoms with most cases of acute metal ingestion)
Heart abnormalities such as cardiomyopathy or abnormal heart beat (dysrhythmia)
Nervous system symptoms (e.g. numbness, tingling of hands and feet, and weakness)
Anemia (a classic symptom of chronic metal exposure)
Lung irritation, or fluid accumulation (edema)
Brain dysfunction such as memory loss
Horizontal lines on the nails
Changes in behavior
Malformed bones in children, or weakened bones
Miscarriage or premature labor in pregnant women
This can obviously be a huge problem if you have been exposed to high levels of these substances.
So, what do you do if you suspect this might be an issue for you?
1) Confirm with the proper testing. For most people this means a hair sample. This way, you will know IF you have an issue, how big of an issue you have and what you have been exposed to. This way, you will know how to focus your detox to specifically eliminate the substances that are an issue for you. You can also then figure out where your exposure is coming from. It's important to detox, but it's also paramount to find out why you have high levels of these elements in the first place.
2) Chose the right detox for YOUR situation. The detox you choose should be based on what you are trying to eliminate. Some toxins respond best to certain herbs or supplements. You will also want to know if you are trying to detox water soluble or fat soluble toxins. This way you will make sure you are supporting the process so you don't end up becoming more toxic because of something like very slow elimination (ie: constipation :)
I hope you found this information helpful. If you would like to visit about this or another health issue, please feel free to use this link to schedule a free 15 min. call so we can determine if we would work well together and get the next step lined up to get you feeling better!