We live in a toxic, toxic world. Organophosphates, phthalates, perfluorinated acids, and bisphenol-A are lurking around every corner to poison our bodies. But while we are busy avoiding the toxins polluting our environment, we are missing the toxins that are wreaking havoc in our body. Because your body is creating toxins all on its own right now. And these are the toxins that are going to ruin our health.
Toxins from cellular metabolism
If you have ever taken a biology course, then you know a little about the complexity of cells. They are the ultimate multitaskers, managing hundreds of chemical reactions in the blink of an eye. And while our cells are pros at efficiency and sustainability, there is always the inevitable waste. Waste includes old proteins, byproducts from cellular reactions such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid, old hormones, and oxidized fats. But we have ways to get rid of the garbage. We use our organs of elimination: the liver, digestive tract, kidneys, lungs, and skin.
But here is the problem. Most of us are pretty rough on our organs of elimination. Our livers are overburdened, our digestive tracts are backed up and our skin is overwhelmed. So the garbage piles up in our bodies. And when the garbage piles up, ours cells stop working. When our cells stop working, our health begins to deteriorate.
But why am I so concerned about our cellular garbage? Don’t get me wrong. Toxins in the environment are also dangerous and can destroy our cells and our health. But it boils down to quantity. Our bodies are constantly producing cellular waste in vast quantities. This significantly outweighs our daily environmental toxin exposure. The worst part is that our cellular waste and environmental toxins have toxic synergy. When our bodies are overburdened with our garbage, we cannot handle environmental toxins. This just sets the stage for environmental toxins to wreak havoc—havoc that destroys our health. So we need to focus on cleaning up our cellular garbage so our body can handle any challenges it faces.
You read that right. Emotions can be toxic on a cellular level. For many people, emotions are the toxins that destroy health. I have seen this often with my patients suffering from chronic diseases. Their stories all start with an emotionally traumatic event ranging from anger to grief. And none of them have let the past go. They continue to experience the same emotional response 20, 30, or even 50 years later. These emotions have poisoned their bodies, controlled their lives, and defined their existence. This is the power of toxic emotions.
Research is beginning to show exactly how these emotions are impacting our bodies and creating disease. This is the nitty gritty of the mind-body connection. For instance, when stressed, we have a physical response. Our emotions cause our heart to race, our blood pressure to spike and the sweat to pour. This happens because our emotions cause changes in our neurotransmitters and hormones. And those neurotransmitters and hormones change how our cells and how our bodies function. And not in a good way.
And it isn’t just stress! We know that anger1, resentment2, anxiety3, fear 3, and depression3 all impact how our body functions and how we physically feel.
The toxicity of emotions comes from our inability to process emotions. To feel anger is not toxic if we are able to feel it, express it and work through it. In that case, it would only have a fleeting impact on our body. But when we become stuck in these emotions, therein lies the danger. When we play out these emotions over and over again, they become toxic. They create lasting changes in our bodies, in our cells and in our health.
How can you “detox” these toxins?
Support the organs of elimination
When you drink a glass of water, those molecules enter your blood stream and increase the flow of blood to your organs and tissues. This water eventually leaves the blood stream and enters the interstitial space, the space between cells. Essentially, the water will bathe the cells before entering the lymphatic vessels along with cellular waste. The lymphatics bring the water and waste back to the blood stream where the kidney can filter out the toxins and waste. To continually bathe our cells and promote the elimination of waste through the kidneys, we need to be consuming water throughout the day. A good rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink 75 ounces of water or non-caffeinated herbal tea. Be sure to talk to your doctor about appropriate water intake, especially if you have kidney disease.
Get your fiber
Your liver’s job is to process both environmental toxins and some waste generated by your body. It alters the chemical structure to make these compounds harmless and then places them in the gall bladder to be eliminated through the digestive tract. But if you don’t get enough fiber in your diet, your intestines will reabsorb many of these toxins. Fiber in the digestive tract will bind up toxins excreted by the gall bladder and make sure they are eliminated in the toilet. Focus on vegetables as your fiber source. Aim for 9 servings of veggies a day in a rainbow of colors. You can also add 1-2 TBSP of flax or chia seeds to your food to boost fiber content.
Do 100 intentional breaths a day. There are many different breathing practices, but focus on belly breathing. One technique is to inhale for the count of four, then exhale for the count of six. Deep breathing is not only relaxing, but it also helps you to eliminate toxins through your lungs. A deep breathing practice can also increase lymphatic flow by changing the pressure differences between your abdomen and chest, creating a vacuum effect.
Learn tools to manage your emotions
Easier said than done, I know. But forgiveness is a tool that you can use to unshackle yourself from your past and your toxic emotions. Forgiveness is for your benefit.
Gratitude is an excellent tool to counter fear and scarcity. When the worry creeps in, when the doubts start, say one thing you are grateful for out loud. Or use a gratitude journal and write down three things that you are grateful for before going to bed. If gratitude feels difficult, start with what you could be grateful for. Instead of saying, “I am grateful for….” start with “I could be grateful for…”
Ask for help.
Many of us were not taught healthy emotional coping skills as children. It can be very difficult to break these ingrained emotional patterns as adults. Working with a mental health professional can help us break these patterns and make huge strides in our mental health.
Dr. Carly Polland is a Naturopathic Doctor who is passionate about teaching people how to transform their health to live a life full of strength, energy, and vitality. She combines modern science and ancient natural wisdom to help people overcome chronic disease and reclaim vibrant health. She specializes in autoimmune disease, digestive disorders, women’s health, and mental health. To learn about her private practice, visit www.bioadaptivemedicine.com.
- Ohira, Tetsuya, Takeshi Tanigawa, Hiroyasu Iso, Tomoko Sankai, Hironori Imano, and Takashi Shimamoto. “Impact of Anger Expression on Blood Pressure Levels in White-Color Workers with Low-Coping Behavior.” Environ. Health Prev. Med. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine 5, no. 1 (2000): 37-42. doi:10.1265/ehpm.2000.37.
- “The New Science of Forgiveness | Greater Good.” Accessed October 20, 2016. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_new_science_of_forgiveness/.
- “THE NEUROBIOLOGY OF EMOTION – Global Anatomy Home Page.” Accessed October 20, 2016. http://www.neuroanatomy.wisc.edu/coursebook/neuro5(2).pdf.