Want to avoid toxic overload? Meet thistle
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If you’ve changed your diet and still aren’t seeing results for your health, toxins may be to blame. Although our genetics have not changed for thousands of years, the onslaught of toxins we face every day in today’s world has increased tenfold.
In my functional medicine telemedicine clinic, I consult patients around the world on the missing pieces of the health puzzle. And more often than not, lifestyle factors, such as exposure to toxins, become one of the most important factors in maintaining your health. So let’s take a deeper look at the negative effects of toxins and why detoxification should be a more regular practice in your health.
How toxic overload occurs
Your liver is the second largest organ in your body, second only to your skin (…and yes, your skin is an organ). Your liver is responsible for hundreds of important functions, including digestion and metabolism. But one of its main functions is to filter toxins from the foods you eat and the things you are exposed to in your environment.
However, when your liver is overloaded with toxins and can’t process them fast enough, it creates a cascade of chronic inflammation in your body that further affects your liver’s ability to get rid of these toxins. It becomes a vicious cycle: toxins build up, the body becomes more inflamed, detoxification slows down, more toxins build up, inflammation increases, and so on.
In functional medicine, we call this toxic load. The only way to break the cycle is to reduce your exposure to toxins and support your liver’s natural ability to detoxify, allowing the liver to recover and catch up with the detox load.
How to know if you have toxic overload
Some common signs we see in our practice that prompt us to test for toxins are any of these symptoms:
- Your breath and body odor are not so fresh,
- sugar cravings
- Allergy occurs all year round, but only seasonally,
- Skin problems such as acne or rashes
- The struggle to lose weight
- brain fog,
- sore joints
- Anxiety or depression.
Learn about sources of environmental toxins
The toxic chemicals around us can lead to thyroid problems and other chronic diseases. Let’s look at just five key toxins and their origins:
Perchlorates is a byproduct of jet fuel production found in the drinking water and food supply chains that has been linked to thyroid problems. Even low levels of perchlorate can have a negative effect on thyroid health, so choose purified drinking water to avoid this toxic chemical.
Flame retardants is are used in furniture, computers and televisions and are associated with developmental problems in children. Using natural products in your home can help reduce your exposure.
Xenoestrogens these are chemicals used in personal care products that act like estrogen in the body, contributing to imbalanced hormone levels.
PFOA, perfluorooctanoic acid is a chemical used to make Teflon, food wraps, and other products, but higher concentrations of PFOA are associated with several common thyroid diseases. To avoid PFOA, I recommend using stainless steel cookware, storing food in glass containers, and minimizing consumption of food packaged in plastic.
plastics harmful to the environment. We all know that. But they can also be dangerous to your body’s environment. Antimony, a chemical that leaches from plastic bottles, is a cause for concern. Phthalates in some plastics have been shown to reduce thyroid function. Bisphenol A (BPA) – also used in plastics, food can coatings and dental sealants – desensitizes thyroid receptors, causing thyroid resistance, similar to PCBs. As the plastic-free lifestyle suggests, it’s best to avoid plastic as much as possible. Store food in glass or steel containers and never reheat food in plastic.
And this is only a small part of the toxins we are exposed to every day. Oh
How to minimize exposure to environmental toxins
There are tons of detox remedies out there, so ideally you should talk to a functional medicine doctor to get the full scoop. I recommend lab tests to check how your immune system is functioning, as well as liver function and kidney markers. I also run advanced toxin tests such as heavy metal tests, mold tests, and tests for glyphosate and the other chemicals we talked about earlier.
You want to support your liver by reducing the amount of toxins it has to deal with and clean out the toxins that are already in your system.
These two parts are clearly explained by the processes we call the “phases of liver detoxification”: Phase 1 involves the oxidation of harmful toxins in order to break them down into less harmful metabolites, but this process creates free radicals that we want to reduce. flushing out, which is referred to in Phase 2. If you have a slow Phase 2, it can look like brain fog, insomnia, etc.
One herb that can help activate phase 1 detoxification is milk thistle. Milk thistle is a plant that helps remove toxins accumulated in the liver. It got its name because of the characteristic milky-white veins on the leaves, which, when opened, release milky juice. Milk thistle has a rich history in Western herbal medicine that helps support healthy liver function, and is one of of the most well-studied natural remedies for liver problems.
This is a hepatoprotective herb, which means it helps protect liver cells and even help restoration liver cells that have been damaged by exposure to toxins.
Milk thistle contains compounds that help reduce inflammatory cytokines, and it has antioxidant properties that can help reduce oxidative stress.
It is usually available at most health food stores, and you can take it in capsule form or as a tincture that you can drop directly into your mouth or mix with a little water. It’s a great way to start the day before coffee or breakfast to boost your detoxification system.
You’ll notice that herbs like milk thistle have a distinctly bitter taste, but that’s typical of potent herbs that are considered bitter for digestion. Wanderlust Milk Thistle contains a wonderful addition of natural peppermint, which makes it extremely delicious.
In addition to herbs such as milk thistle, it is important to look at how diet can support detoxification. Focus on consumption green leafy vegetableswhich contain folic acid which aids in the methylation process which aids in detoxification as well as vegetables rich in sulfuri love cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, onion, garlic, mushrooms and asparagus. They contain the powerful antioxidant glutathione, which is an antioxidant necessary to activate Phase 1 and Phase 2 liver detoxification.
It’s also important to move, as sweating is the body’s natural way of detoxifying. Many toxins are released from your body when you sweat. (That’s why the practice of yoga, which anchors a total reset, helps detoxify your system along with milk thistle and plant-based recipes). So whether you’re doing yoga or hitting the sauna, make sure you’re using something that will make you sweat throughout the week.
As you begin to change your diet to focus on whole foods that aid in detoxification and reduce the exposure to toxins in your daily life, you should begin to notice some changes in your body:
- You should notice that your skin is clearer. Your skin is the primary source of detoxification, and as you reduce your toxic levels, fewer and fewer toxins will need to be removed through your skin.
- You may also notice that your thinking is sharper and your energy level is better.
- You should be able to move with less pain and experience less inflammation overall.
Your body has a natural ability to detoxify, but due to environmental factors in our modern lives, we need to make sure that our choices support the body’s ability to detoxify, rather than increasing our toxic load.
Dr. Will Cole is a leading expert in functional medicine who consults people all over the world via webcam, founded one of the world’s first functional medicine telemedicine centers. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative physicians in the country, Cole specializes in the clinical investigation of the underlying drivers of chronic disease and adapting a functional medicine approach to thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain issues.
He is the host of the popular podcast The Art of Being Healthy and the bestselling author of The Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum, the New York Times bestseller Intuitive Fasting, and the brand new Gut Feelings.
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