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Natural Awakenings Boston

Reducing Toxic Overload for Better Health

Jan 30, 2012 09:36AM ● By Judith Mabel, Ph.D.


Most people are concerned about the effects of toxins in their lives, with good reason. Some fear the pesticides and chemicals used in food production, while others worry about air pollution, household cleaners, heavy metals, such as lead and mercury, and other environmental threats. Functional medicine nutrition research has revealed connections between toxins and specific health problems, including a correlation between toxicity and the current obesity epidemic.

Common symptoms of toxic overload are changes in mood and energy level and alterations in weight, appetite and bowel function. Conditions associated with toxicity include chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome and multiple chemical sensitivities. Others partly connected to toxicity are infertility and miscarriages, acne, metabolic syndrome and atherosclerosis.

Children do not have the same metabolic ability that adults do to carry out the detoxification processes, so they are at a higher risk and need greater protection from harmful materials. Childhood problems such as asthma, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and allergies can be helped tremendously by careful detoxing under an expert’s care.

Sweat glands are part of the body’s detoxification process because they excrete heavy metals as well as drugs and organic compounds. When detoxification occurs, a person may produce more sweat than usual during activities such as exercise. Most people have between two and four million sweat glands to do this work, but people with a large amount of toxins in their systems tend not to sweat because the body shuts down the glands as a protective measure. This results in an inability to detoxify among those who need it the most.

Adults lose their ability to detoxify with age. At any stage in life, it’s important to follow a core food plan containing a healthy distribution of macronutrients (proteins and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Foods and supplements that can help remove toxins from the body naturally are essential fatty acids (omega-3), magnesium (in seeds, whole grains and nuts), flavonoids (in colorful, antioxidant rich foods), fiber and probiotics.

Treatment plans for those with toxic overload involve blending diet and supplement recommendations. Many people with large toxic loads lose weight without trying when they go through a liver cleanse process or oral chelation (if they have heavy metals in their system). This is because the removal of these toxins frees up tissues to release stored fat. Detoxification programs are therefore beneficial in many ways, not the least of which is improved health and greater immunity.

Judith Mabel is a functional medicine nutritionist based on Brookline. For more information, call 617-232-3073 or visit

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