By Danielle Roberts (Nutritionist)

When we hear the word detox most of us associate it with the lemon detox diet or cabbage soup diet. These “fad diets” have caused detoxifying to develop an undesirable reputation. The truth is, our bodies have a natural capacity to detoxify, through the use of the liver, blood, lymphatic system, kidneys and the skin. However, due to our diet and lifestyles today we are unable to use these magnificent functions to their full potential.

Why have we lost the ability to detoxify properly?

The decline of the digestive and liver functioning, are key aspects of why we are unable to detoxify properly. The main causes or toxins of this decline are:
• Chemicals/pollution in the environment
• Caffeine and alcohol – causes scaring in the liver cells from free radical damage
• Certain foods that cause inflammatory responses – wheat/gluten, highly acidic foods, high processed sugar, high processed fat, artificial sweeteners and artificial preservatives
• Stress of all types – mental, emotional and physical

Gone are the days where we needed to worry about protecting ourselves in the wilderness – when the stress response was an important part of survival. Nowadays, we can be sitting in front of a computer and still produce the same physiological responses in the body, if we are not handling areas of stress in our lives. The stress response is the release of hormones from the brain, which sends signals to our adrenal glands (which are on top of our kidneys). The adrenal glands release Adrenaline and Cortisol. Caffeine stimulates the same response in the body as stress, releasing the same hormones, so already by stressing and consuming coffee or energy drinks you are at least doubling your stress hormone levels. When Cortisol reaches levels above the normal, it turns into a fat storing hormone. Fat is protective and toxins love to hide in fat, as biochemically their structures link together well.

The liver, our major detoxification centre, can not handle the toxic concoction mentioned earlier, especially if it is coming from all areas. The liver function declines as it becomes tired and unable to recycle hormones (especially oestrogen) and cholesterol, to digest and recycle nutrients and reduce the free radical damage on its own cells, whilst it’s in detoxification overdrive. This has a flow on effect to the other detoxification systems like the blood, lymphatic system, kidneys and the skin. Due to the overload on the liver and its inability to keep up; toxins spread systemically through out the body and a vicious cycle begins.

The digestive system breaks down and absorbs nutrients for the maintenance of body functioning, growth and performance. This process is also responsible for 95% of gene expression, using nutrients to build new DNA from newly generated cells and cell components. The food we eat can literally change the way our genes are expressed and the way our cells are made up. Our genes are made up of our DNA and dictate what is expressed – for example; our skin, eye and hair colour. When cells are exposed to stress and damaged without repair from antioxidants, it also results in DNA damage. Then, when cells multiply, this continues producing damaged DNA, resulting in our genes becoming mutated. Alcohol, highly processed sugar and fat, along with artificial ingredients in foods all lack antioxidant levels to have the ability to mop up free radicals and heal the body. Not only that, they add to the free radical damage of cells, and reduce their ability to function in important body systems. This results in wide spread inflammation in the body when it reaches chronic levels.

Believe it or not, the immune system has the ability to heal itself of anything and everything – our bodies are that amazing. However, when we overload our body with inflammation through poor lifestyle choices, the immune system works endlessly to reduce this problem. Unfortunately, this means it has little time to help repair damaged cells, and prevent viruses and bacteria from causing havoc in our bodies, so we get sick or develop diseases.

As you can begin to see, we have the ability to turn our health conditions around by working towards healing the body through unlocking the body’s natural ability to detox and heal. It isn’t a quick fix but it’s the right one and a magical journey along the way.

The benefits of yoga coupled with unlocking your body’s natural ability to detox
Yoga is a practice of the mind, body and soul. This means it has profound effects mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. It can work on the areas of stress and toxic overload not only on the physical level but on the energetic levels as well- the areas that food can not directly help with.

On the physical level:
Hot power yoga has the ability to detoxify us through the removal of fluid wastes in the body (lymphatic drainage, blood and sweat) and also help stimulate the digestive system to excrete stool wastes.

Yin yoga has the ability to detoxify us through the removal of deep toxins we can not always get to because this works with the deep connective tissues (fascia) that will form adhesions around areas of the body exposed to toxic overload, which causes the body to have limited mobility.

Both yang and yin practices help rinse and drain organs of toxins in the body – this helps the liver a great deal with removal of the overload.

On the mental, emotional and spiritual levels:
All yoga practices help to align the energetic chakra systems which are all linked to key hormonal systems in the body – this becomes a very strong healing and balancing aspect to the process as you’re eliminating toxins from your life.

It doesn’t have to be a change where you do everything at once; you can gradually start to remove toxins from your lifestyle. You will feel much more vibrant and full of life! Remember, it is a journey so be kind on yourselves and nourish your bodies.