I’ve had numerous patients do everything “correctly” yet still struggle with weight loss.
As a medical doctor, I’ve learned repeatedly that environmental toxins—often overlooked or ignored by mainstream medicine—can make us fat and contribute to Type 2 diabetes. These chemicals hijack our body’s ability to balance blood sugar and metabolize cholesterol.
Here’s the dirty secret: No drugs can treat these conditions. Until conventional medicine catches up, we’ve got to optimize our body’s ability to reduce toxins. If our body’s detoxification tools aren’t up to snuff, waste will build up.
Over time, the resulting damage is similar to what happens when trash collectors go on strike and don’t pick up the garbage off the streets. The waste piles high, making the neighborhood smell bad and creating a breeding ground for illness.
Detoxification is our body’s way of breaking down and eliminating anything that doesn’t belong. And, these days, there are a lot of things our bodies come into contact with that don’t belong.
We live in an environment steeped in chemicals our bodies weren’t designed to process. The average newborn has 287 chemicals in her umbilical cord blood, 217 of which are neurotoxic. It only gets worse from there.
We live in a toxic world, but we can do a lot to enhance our body’s natural ability to detox. I’m not talking about an expensive detox regimen or going off to a spa week (although those things can certainly help).
I’m talking about basic detoxification processes our body regularly undergoes. Our body has four primary “escape” routes for toxins: pee, poop, perspiration and pranayama (Sanskrit for “breath”). Here’s how we can optimize them all:
- Our kidneys flush waste from the blood. Give them what they need with about eight eight-ounce glasses of clean, filtered water daily. Humans are predominately composed of water (about 66 percent for men and 60 percent for women). An initial sign of dehydration is the color of our urine. Our urine should be mostly clear (clear enough to read a newspaper through) or with only a slight tinge of yellow. (If we take vitamins, keep in mind that some nutrients, especially riboflavin, cause our urine to turn bright yellow.) If our urine is dark yellow or has a strong odor, chances are we aren’t drinking enough water.
- One or two well-formed bowel movements every day give toxins a one-way ticket out of our bodies. To get that and other benefits, increase fiber intake. Fiber cleans out our colon by making our stool heftier and easier to expel. Again, please drink plenty of water, especially while increasing fiber intake. Our bodies are good at conserving water. When our colon wall sucks too much moisture out of stool, it dries and hardens, leading to pebble-like poop and constipation. Drinking more water and other liquids during the day can make our BMs softer and easier to expel. If we still can’t get going, a few “boosters” like two tablespoons of ground flaxseeds and magnesium citrate can help.
- Our skin is our single largest elimination organ. To make sure we’re maximizing our pores’ detox potential, work up a sweat at least three times a week. Of course, heart-thumping exercise that gets the body sweating for 20 minutes, three times a week is ideal, since it confers other health benefits. Also consider using a sauna, steam, or detox bath to help the body detoxify via sweat.
- Our lungs are the under-sung heroes of the body’s detox squad. With each breath, they bring in fresh oxygen and help transport it throughout the body. Unfortunately, the air we breathe isn’t always clean. Every day our lungs filter out carcinogens via gas fumes, allergens from pets and plants, and spores of mold. Restricted or shallow breathing can prevent oxygen from reaching all tissues. Breathing deeply and fully will oxygenate our brain, body, and spirit, transforming our health in the process. Belly breathing makes a great way to detoxify. To do that, we can put our hand on our belly. Breathe out, squeezing the air out of our lungs with our stomach muscles. As we breathe in, we can relax our stomach muscles and, after filling our lungs, try to push our hand off the belly with our breath, filling the lower part of our lungs. Continue to breathe in and out slowly through the nose. Each in and out breath should last to the count of three. Do this for five minutes a day.
For many patients, reducing toxins becomes the missing link for weight loss. Fortunately, detoxification needn’t become a tedious process when we practice these four strategies.
To minimize toxic exposure and eliminate our body’s toxic burden, what strategy would you add here? Share yours below or on my Facebook page.
Author: Dr. Mark Hyman
Image: We Are Social/Flickr
Editor: Emily Bartran