With Easter upon us and the guilty feelings of having too many chocolate eggs and hot cross buns not far behind – the word DETOX will definitely follow soon after the public holidays.
Drumroll… so, all this time your body has actually been detoxing itself! Daily… for years… without any help from garlic, turmeric, lemon juice, vinegar or baking soda. All thanks to your liver and kidneys!
The liver plays a big role in all the metabolic processes of the body.
The liver’s functions include metabolism of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins and the management of these nutrients. The liver receives blood that is filled with nutrients from the digestive tract. The liver’s cells then classify the nutrients into ones that should be stored, processed, eliminated or returned back to the blood.
The liver helps breakdown fats and converts this into energy if needed or stores it for later (unfortunately!). The liver makes and stores bile and sends some to the small intestine to help with further breakdown of fats. Proteins are also broken down by the powerhouse liver and ammonia forms, which can be toxic in large quantities. Once again, the liver comes to our rescue and turns this into urea and sends it straight to the kidneys to be eliminated through our urine.
Extra blood sugar gets stored as glycogen in the liver (and muscles) for when the body needs some energy when blood sugar levels dip.
The liver helps the body by making alcohol, medications, drugs and other toxins less harmful to the body and eliminating them from the bloodstream.
Clotting and vitamin K
The liver produces proteins that help regulate blood clotting and also aids in the breakdown of damaged or old red blood cells.
The liver creates immune system factors that fight against infections.
How can you return the favour to your liver?
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat a balanced diet:
- Include fibre rich foods
- Avoid having too much red meat (everything in moderation)
- Have low-fat dairy and small amounts of cheese
- Stick to plant-based fats and have fatty fish (nuts, seeds, avos, vegetable oils)
- Drink plenty of clean water
- Be active and exercise, it helps decrease liver fat and burn some triglycerides.
- Avoid toxins as far possible and don’t smoke.
- Have alcohol only on special occasions and don’t do drugs.
- Use medication as directed and the correct dosages.
- Avoid contaminated needles (intravenous drug use, unsafe injection practice, tattoos and body piercings or any site where skin was broken due to a sharp instrument or needle).
- Wash your hands often and do not share personal hygiene items.
- Practice safe sex to avoid hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Getting vaccinated for these illnesses would be best.
- If you are exposed to blood seek medical care.
Last but absolutely not least.
- The kidneys help the body excrete waste and extra water in the body as urine (= detox!).
- The two kidneys single-handedly filter about half a cup of blood per minute. The kidneys also balance the water, salts and minerals such as potassium, calcium, sodium and phosphorus in the blood. This might not sound like a big deal, but if this balance is not restored our nerves and muscles will not function normally.
- Hormones are also produced by the kidneys that help the production of red blood cells, control blood pressure and assist with bone health.
All of this happens on a daily basis, but what are potential hazards if we do try and detox ourselves?
Hypernatremia can be defined as dangerously low levels of sodium in the blood. In layman’s terms this means there is too little salt in the blood, which can lead to delirium and seizures. This happens when we drink too much water, as most detox programs recommend. The kidneys will excrete the extra water as urine but there are unfortunately limits and too much water will cause havoc on the concentration of electrolyte concentration. As proven above, we can trust our bodies. So, drink when you feel thirsty, take precautions when participating in sports events and during humid or warmer weather conditions.
Detoxing also comes with a lot of herbal remedies. Herbs contain potential active ingredients in variable doses and can be seen as drugs, where the effects can be unpredictable and should not be perceived as harmless. The herbal industry is not regulated by the medicine board and can thus be seen as high-risk due to contamination and substitution. The labels found on herbal products do not contain much information on the products themselves, the contraindications or side effects.
A balanced diet is more than sufficient for optimal kidney function. If you have any form of kidney disease, please consult your health care practitioner to check your blood levels and make the necessary dietary adjustments.
Your kidneys and liver are already doing the hard work for you, so save the herbs and spices for winter stews and trust the process!