In the 'natural health community,' we see the word “toxins” get thrown around a lot. I'm going to clarify exactly what toxins are, where they come from, and how to find a good product to help with detoxification.
[Disclaimer: I am going to be talking about mucous, fat, and germs so if you don’t like those topics then read at your own risk.]
How Do We Get Toxins?
Every time we inhale we take in bacteria, viruses, and fungus. In different environments the toxins will, of course, be different. For example, in a big city it is not uncommon for heavy metals ions to be floating around in the air. In more rural areas, fungus spores and bacteria are essentially everywhere.
Toxins are also in our foods in the form of heavy metals, fertilizers, additives, and pesticides.
Yeah but they’re safely taken care of, right?
It's not safe to assume that toxins are simply dealt with; some factors to take into account that affects how our bodies deal with toxins are:
If we live in a big city or another environment with heavy metals in the air such as if we work around cars or around cigarette smoke, then our livers may be working overtime and will not be able to properly ‘take care of’ all the toxins we take in. Same goes for if we drink alcohol or eat unhealthful foods.
If we are taking Tylenol or a prescription medication that causes our livers to work extra hard, then our livers may not have the resources to ‘take care of’ all the toxins we take in.
Genetics play a role that most simply can be explained like this: A relatively small amount of mercury (say it’s obtained from fish from diet) may not harm one person while that same amount of Mercury may create symptoms of mercury poisoning in another person.
How are toxins taken care of?
This is the cool part! Our liver does its best to get toxins out of the body but if it cannot handle the number of toxins at any given time, it will choose to trap them instead.
Many toxins in our body can be found safely stuck inside mucous and inside fat cells. Without being too graphic, I will say that toxins being stored in mucous is the reason why our nose runs when we get sick. Even though our body uses mucous for storing toxins, it has many other functions in the body and our bodies are able to function best when we have mucus that is not full of toxins.
Fat cells are basically little storage units in the body. They contain energy, warmth, and, for many of us, toxins. If you have ever fasted or detoxified, you may have felt like you got the flu for a few days. That is normal and it is the result of the fat cells being broken down and the toxins escaping into the bloodstream.
One important toxin to consider is free radicals. Free radicals get a bad rap but they have very important functions in the body. For example, Nitric Oxide is a free radical that is used to dilate blood vessels (which is used in hospitals to stop heart attacks and is what makes ED medication helpful).
Free radicals do, however, have a darker side. They can most simply be described as “molecules seeking an electron.” Now hold on, all that means is that they are interested in taking a part of you (on a molecular level). They might take that part of you from DNA or from an organelle or from anywhere really. Antioxidants are the heroes who come in and say, “Hey, take a part of me instead.”
If we exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet, with a lot of vegetables, leafy greens, and some fruit, then our body can most likely ‘take care of’ the free radicals without help. If we do not live a healthy lifestyle, then it is very likely that we can benefit from taking antioxidants.
How do I find a good antioxidant supplement?
As with any supplement, it is important to look for one that:
- Is made in a certified common Good Manufacturing Practices facility.
- Uses specialists to inspect every label to make sure it meets FDA standards.
- Uses a qualified third party to test the ingredients and the final product
- Is made in an FDA approved facility
- Uses specialists to inspect the product as it is being manufactured
In addition to the above requirements, I recommend only buying a product that has a variety of different antioxidants instead of just one. Antioxidants work together as a team. If you only take one at a time, then it is like putting one player into a football game to play against the other team. For example, if you only take Vitamin E (or Vitamin C or Vitamin A), then you will be doing yourself a disservice.
Long story short, it’s not going to end well for that one player.
What to look for in an antioxidant supplement.
When looking for an effective antioxidant supplement, always check to see if there is a mix of different antioxidants. Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E go well together but the ideal supplement will have a fruit or vegetable in powder form so that you will get the whole spectrum of different natural antioxidant compounds contained within them.
Alpha Lipoic Acid
If you can not find an antioxidant supplement with a powdered fruit or vegetable blend, then I suggest taking one that contains Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA). Alpha Lipoic Acid is a very powerful antioxidant that is like an entire football team in and of itself because it is so versatile. Taking any antioxidant complex alongside ALA will boost the effectiveness of the complex in a major way because ALA can maintain high levels of a variety of different antioxidants including Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, CoQ10, ALA itself, and Glutathione (the most abundant antioxidant in the body).
Toxins are literally everywhere and our bodies know how to handle them. When there are too many of them, we may need to consider taking extra care. If we can reduce the number of free radicals in our body, we can promote health in a variety of ways and therefore our body will be able to handle toxins more efficiently and we will be less likely to become sick from them. If you're going to take an antioxidant supplement, take one supplement that is proven high quality and has a fruit or vegetable extract or alpha lipoic acid so that you do not end up sending just one player out into the field. : )