A close personal friend of mine suffers from lipomas or benign tumors of the fat cells. Doctors don’t really know what causes them, but they do know that they have nothing to do with weight or age. They appear as superficial lumps, and in the case of my friend, occur mostly on her forearms. Doctors hesitate to remove them because insurance here in the US considers that a cosmetic procedure and won’t cover the surgery. Removal also causes scaring and doesn't prevent them from coming back.
I suspect that lipomas may correlate with a buildup of toxins in one’s body. The issue seems to be that if you have a sluggish liver (or even if you have a normal liver but overwhelm it), it is unable to process the toxins and remove them from your body. So your body has to try and find other ways to excrete it. One way is through the skin – technically our biggest organ. Another way is to sequester it and stash it someplace that it is less likely to do damage. I suspect one of these is what my friend is experiencing.
It’s already known that toxins build up in fat tissue. It’s also known that once they are there, it’s really difficult to remove them, short of going on a diet to shrink those cells (I’ll get to that more in a bit). Shrinking cells doesn’t guarantee the release of all the toxins either. This is where a detox program comes in. First is to figure out where the toxins are coming from in the first place and remove them. Otherwise you are just spinning your wheels. Perhaps I should backup a bit and describe what I actually mean by environmental toxicants and why they are so bad to begin with. Environmental toxicants are chemicals that are detrimental to life that is found in the environment, sometimes naturally, in small amounts, but primarily released by our modern manufacturing processes. Pesticides, preservatives, mercury, lead, PCBs, dioxin, paraquat, and other chemicals. Most people have at least heard of a few of those. I won’t go into the science behind why they are so bad for you. Do a Google search and a billion articles will come up. Do a Pubmed search for the actual scientific research on them. Trust me that they affect numerous systems in the body, cause cancer, and result in serious permanent physical and mental health issues in babies and kids. How do you know if you have a buildup of toxicants in your body? Do you live in the US or other industrialized nations? Do you eat food that you didn't grow yourself? Do you drink liquids (including water)? Do you wear clothes? Do you live in a house or some sort of man-made structure? I’ll go out on a limb and say 99.999% of us have some toxins in our body. It’s just a fact of life in the 21st century.
Symptoms of accumulation include:
* Mood changes
* Emotional disorders
* Memory loss
* Difficulty concentrating
* Chronic infection
* Bad breathe
* Body odor
* Coated tongue
* Skin disorders
* Hormone imbalances
* Inability to lose weight
* Dark circles under the eyes
* Postnasal drip, congestion, or a stuffy nose or sinuses upon waking or throughout the day.
* Sensitivity to chemical odors, etc.
That’s a huge list. And it’s not all inclusive! Scientists are now starting to realize just how deep this problem goes. I’m sure many people have at least heard about the controversy with Autism and vaccinations. It’s not the vaccines themselves that are the issue (well, maybe). It’s the mercury and other chemicals that are added to vaccines to increase the immune response and preserve the vaccines. There are other childhood disorders that may be correlated as well. For adults, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are the big two besides various cancers.
Detoxing, Weight loss, and Lipomas
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There are some simple ways and means we can at least try to avoid toxicants without having to get a Ph.D. or become a tree-hugging activist.
1. Eat Organic. As often as possible. Generally, organically grown is a good place to start. It doesn't get you fully clear of everything bad, or away from big corporations, but it’s a step in the right direction. Organic means simply that the food was not treated with synthetic pesticides. It doesn't mean that it wasn't treated at all, as there are some pesticides approved for organic use, so fruits and vegetables should still be washed well. Worried about the cost of organic foods? A valid concern. Some ways to save include shopping seasonally and locally at farmers markets. It's best to have a conversation there about their growing practices, because often you can get organically grown without the added cost of being certified. There are two good lists to reference when shopping. One is the top 12 dirtiest fruits and veggies from Environmental Working Group. Dirty in terms of pesticide residue. These are produce that you should ALWAYS buy organic. EWG also has a list of the top 15 clean fruits and veggies. In other words, it’s a safe bet that these are generally low in pesticides and you can save some money by buying the non-organic ones.
Two other things that you should try to only buy pasture-raised, 100% grass-fed, organic, are meats and dairy, including eggs. Be wary of labels that say “all-natural” or something similar. This means nothing. It’s not a regulated term, and anyone can put it on anything. “Organic” requires certification, either by a government agency (USDA) or another certifying agency. Even "free-range" is not a good indicator of treatment and diet, as CAFOs are often free-range.
2. Use a water filter. Whole house filters can be pretty expensive, but tap filters and filter pitchers are fairly reasonable. Even the best municipal water still has chlorine which displaces iodine in your thyroid, as does fluoride, which has been added to most municipal water sources in the United States.
3. Along the lines of point one, and fairly obviously are avoiding things we know are bad for us like soda and fast food. If you can’t cut them out completely (I get it, believe me, I do), at least cut way back, and choose healthier items. Most fast food places are working hard to clean up their menus and offer healthier choices like salads. There are also new healthier fast food places like Chipotle, Core Life, and Panera popping up all the time.
4. Don’t smoke and don’t be around those who do. Smoking causes cancer. If you don’t know that by now, you have been living under a rock and have bigger things to worry about than toxicants. Quitting sucks, I know, I did it. Spend your hard earned money on other, healthy indulgences.
5. Don’t put stuff on your lawn. This is a tough one for lots of people. Especially those in the Keeping Up With The Joneses neighborhoods. Lawn pesticides and fertilizers not only contribute to pesticide resistant super bugs, they also pollute the water supply and poison wildlife. Not to mention our pets and children. Roundup = EVIL! So what if you have a few colorful plants in your lawn? Did you know that dandelions are actually extremely good for you? People pay good money for those fancy mix field greens salads. What do you think are in them? Yup, dandelion leaves. The yellow flowers are super tasty. I highly recommend a standard batter and fry. The roots can be made into tea which has numerous health benefits. If you are really interested in harvesting them, don’t take them from areas near the road or walkways (salt and car exhaust = yuck). Don’t take them from yards that have been treated in the last 3 years at least. Rinse them well and don’t eat the stems (bitter).
6. Stop using antiperspirant. Sound dreadful doesn't it? You don’t need to stop using deodorant. Just antiperspirant. Or the combo ones. Antiperspirants clog our armpit ducts and act to suppress sweating. Sweating is a natural method of toxin removal, so by stopping that process, we keep the toxins inside our body, where they can accumulate in the sensitive lymphatic tissue of the armpits and breasts. Did you know that 99% of breast cancer tissues have a particular toxin in them that comes from cosmetics including most antiperspirants?
Short of making your own deodorant (see my previous blog post), Primal Pit Paste makes one of my favorites, but there are a lot of great options out there that work just as well as standard toxic ones. When switching, there may be a period of adjustment often lasting around a month, before perspiration levels go back to normal as the body finds equilibrium. So if you can stick it out for that long, and embrace sweating as natural, you will find that you don't even need to use anything for longer periods. If you include the dietary changes as well, the shift in your "smell" will be truly noticeable.
7. Recycle. This falls more under social responsibility, but it really does impact your exposure to toxicants. As landfills fill up there is less space to grow foods. Did you know that it's estimated we need 1.5 Earths to sustain our current need? Where do you think they will eventually have to grow our food? On top of our garbage. It’s super easy to rinse out cans and jars and toss them in the blue bin. Same with paper. In some municipalities like ours, you don’t even have to remove labels from cans or bottles. Why not go all the way and attempt a 30-day waste-free challenge?
8. Compost. Ok, this one will be stretching it for a lot of people, so I’ll wrap this list up with the one after this. If you don’t want to spend money to buy a composting bin for outside, just start a pile in a discrete section of your yard. (Away from kids play areas because it will attract bugs.) You can compost anything living or once living that wasn't an animal at one point or another (except for eggs – the shells can be composted). Stay away from greasy stuff too...grease messes up the composting process and will rot (stinky). You can even compost newspaper, yard scraps (grass clippings, leaves, twigs, branches), and cardboard (uncoated). The problem with just throwing this stuff in the regular trash is that landfills don’t have the proper air/water/bacteria balance to break it down, so it just sits there with the rest of the trash, building up. Compost can be used in flowerbeds, gardens, and other areas of your yard and is a wonderful source of nutrients for plants. People pay good money for it at lawn and garden stores. There are also companies popping up all over the place that will come and collect your kitchen scraps each week, and provide you with a bin!
9. Grow your own food. Start small with a few of your favorites, in a corner of your yard or in pots on your patio or balcony. Use that good compost you made to enrich your soil. If you don’t want to dig up your lawn, you can create beautiful raised beds or even garden right in large decorative pots. You could also start out with an indoor herb garden to get a feel for it. RESIST THE URGE TO USE FERTILIZER OR OTHER CHEMICALS ON YOUR GARDEN. Isn't the whole point to get away from that stuff?
So that nails down a huge source of the toxins in our bodies. Other sources are through other products we put on our skin; shampoo and conditioner, hair products, makeup, lotions, shaving cream, toothpaste, mouth wash, aftershave; supplements and medications, and even the clothes we wear and the beds we sleep in. Our houses have toxins everywhere. Paint, carpets, furniture, lighting, electronics, toys, cleaning supplies, cookware. The list can go on and on and on. It’s a wonder we don’t all have 3 arms and dozens of cancers! Our bodies are miraculously made to deal with toxins though. To a certain extent. Unfortunately the overabundance that we face now days can be too much and lead to all the things I've mentioned above. There are products out on the market though that don’t have all that junk though. A good rule of thumb is, if you can’t pronounce an ingredient, or don’t know what it is, don’t buy it. That goes for food as well as personal care products. Here’s where detoxing can help. This is where I am helping my friend.
I mentioned earlier that shrinking your fat cells (where the toxins are stashed away) will help to get them back into your blood where you can take measures to collect them and get them out of your body. Often times losing weight if you need to can help shrink them. That being said, anyone who’s tried to lose weight knows how hard it is. They've probably also dealt with several side effects when the weight started coming off. Tiredness, lethargy, irritability, headaches, dizziness, skin problems, digestive issues, foggy brain, trouble focusing, poor memory. Even if you are eating a perfectly balanced organic diet, exercising, drinking plenty of water, and getting plenty of sleep, these symptoms can pop up and be a nuisance and very discouraging. Do these symptoms sound familiar? Funny how they look just like the list I posted about toxicant accumulation! And it’s true. By losing weight, toxins that were previously wrapped up nicely in your fat tissue are now pushed back into your blood where they can circulate all over your body, bogging down your brain, liver, kidneys, and other organs and causing the aforementioned problems. Oh I forgot a symptom…issues with candida (yeast). Yeast is a great scavenger of toxicants. So the more toxicants floating around in your blood, the more candida grows. It also does really well with a sluggish digestive system and causes plenty of symptoms itself including various infections. Check out this blog by Pat at Heal Thyself. It goes into even more detail on candida. So clearly one should do a candida cleanse. And since an accumulation of candida is also a sign of a sluggish liver (not being able to properly remove those toxins), a liver cleanse is also a good idea. We need to be sure to nourish the organ systems that do the actual removal of toxins in order for a cleanse to be really effective though. This is done through proper eating (see above) and supplements. From Pat at Heal Thyself:
It is necessary to have adequate nutrients to effectively excrete toxins from the body. I strongly recommend against a coconut oil only diet or "cleanse" as magnesium, zinc, folate, vitamin c, selenium, B3, B6, B12, molybdenum, sulfate are all necessary to open the detoxification pathways. These are all available in whole foods: bone broths, nettle infusions, beans, greens, legumes, liver, Brazil nuts, green smoothies, etc. And Epsom salt baths help with detox reactions.
Since I myself have trouble finding time (and $) to make or buy all the proper foods to open all the channels properly, I do rely heavily on supplements and other methods. My current list is quite extensive depending on if I’m detoxing, fighting off a cold, or just supporting.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Probiotics to support proper digestion. The GI tract is also our second line of defense against illnesses (the skin being our first). Having enough good bacteria to support both digestion (so we absorb all of the nutrients in our food) as well as overwhelm any bad bacteria or viruses or other bugs that try to attack is critical to good health. Our GI tract is obviously how we eliminate waste, but not just food waste. Harmful byproducts in our body, along with those toxins we are trying to get rid of are deposited back into the gut and eliminated that way. So it’s really important to support our plumbing!
Enviro-detox is a great combination of herbs to support all of the detoxing organs. (Oh look at that list of ingredients – there’s that dandelion again!)
Yeast/Fungal detox is a great supplement to kill that candida naturally. (Avoid systemic anti-fungal drugs like Diflucan or Monistat.)
Before you make up a grocery list of the above items, I highly recommend finding a good herbalist to work with. Especially if you are on any sort of medication. Drugs can interact with herbs in detrimental ways (many are additive), so unless you really know your herbs check with a pro.
Other detoxification methods that I love:
Acupuncture. Super relaxing and actually can help many areas: pain management, weight loss, sluggish organs. My acupuncturist happens to also be a chiropractor sharing an office with my own chiropractor.
Chiropractic. Not just for fixing back aches and disc issues. They can adjust elbows, ankles, shoulders, wrists. Adjustments serve to open up the cleansing channels of the body as well (lymphatic system). Did you know that chiropractic adjustments are a fantastic way to naturally cure kid’s ear infections? They also help with reflux and colic! (Be sure to use a chiropractor who is certified in pediatric care.)
Massage. Pure bliss. Sometimes a bit painful if you get a deep tissue massage, but it is well worth it. They are fantastic at getting your lymphatic system flowing to clean out toxins. I just started taking activated charcoal. It helps bind the toxins in the digestive tract. You can’t take it around meal time or when you take any other medications or supplements because it binds to everything and will make medication ineffective and block vital nutrients from getting in your body.
I also just started oil pulling. Basically you swish coconut oil for 20 minutes or as long as you can. It acts by drawing out toxins through your mucous membranes as well as killing bad oral bacteria, and soothing inflamed tissue. I use organic, unrefined, cold-pressed coconut oil. I’ll admit it, the first time I really had to control my gag reflex. Big time. But I used less the second time and it got easier.
All this stuff seems like it would really add up in cost doesn't it? Especially since most of it isn't covered by insurance or even flexible spending accounts, while doctors appointment and prescription drugs are. I’ll go into BigPharma and our government and our food supply in another post. For now, just think of it like this: You are investing in your future. Would you rather live a long HEALTHY life by taking care of yourself now, or would you rather live a long, painful, sub-par life stuck on medications and in hospitals or bed ridden at home? Perhaps in a nursing home?
What are you favorite detox methods?
What have you tried but without the success you were hoping for?