Back to blog The Importance of Detoxification in Maintaining a Healthy Body Barbara Moroney February 10, 2010 Exposure to toxins is unavoidable. Externally, our environment is increasingly laden with a wide variety of toxins that pervade our air, water and food. Environmental toxins include, to name a few, heavy metals such as mercury, lead, aluminum, and cadmium; chlorine; pesticides; PCBs; mold and fungal toxins; dioxins; chloroform; and phtalates (a softening agent in plastics). Internally, toxins are produced as a normal byproduct of metabolism, by viral, bacterial and fungal microorganisms, and by mental and emotional stresses. A toxin is a substance that is harmful to the body. Sometimes a necessary, functional substance in the body can become toxic if it is not in balance, as, for example, cholesterol. Cholesterol is found in the bloodstream and in all of your body's cells. It is used to form cell membranes and some hormones, among other functions. Cholesterol is transported in the blood by carriers known as LDL and HDL lipids (fats). According to the American Heart Association website, a too-high level of LDL cholesterol in the blood contributes to plaque buildup in the arteries and is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease which leads to heart attack. The Deleterious Effects of Toxins on the Body Toxins in the body can interfere with its ability to deliver oxygen and other nutrients that keep cells functioning at their best. The effects of accumulated toxins in the body are linked to cancer, premature aging, and a host of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, and heart disease, to name a few. An example of how toxins can interfere with the body's normal functioning was recently reported by Dr. Thomas Zoeller in the prestigious medical journal Thyroid. Dr Zoeller's research indicates that environmental chemicals can interfere with thyroid hormone in several ways. These chemicals can inhibit thyroid hormone production, inhibit its conversion into the active form, and inhibit its utilization in the body by binding to its receptors. The result is low thyroid functioning. Symptoms related to low thyroid functioning include depression, sweet cravings, poor sleep and weight gain. The Process of Detoxification in the Body The body's six main detoxifying organs are the skin, liver, colon, lymphatics, lungs, and kidneys. The skin, the body's largest organ, releases water soluble toxins through sweat. The liver, the second largest organ, is the body's chief detoxifier and its primary function is to process and remove toxins from the blood. The large intestine eliminates solid wastes. The lungs remove metabolic wastes, such as carbon dioxide, from the blood, and expel them through the breath. History of Detoxification While our bodies detoxify naturally and continuously, methods to promote better health by aiding the process have been around since antiquity. Almost every religion uses some form of fasting as a means to cleanse the spirit as well as the body. Fasting and herbal remedies are used for cleansing the body in the Chinese system of medicine. Colon hydrotherapy (which flushes out toxic waste buildup in the colon with the gentle infusion of water) was practiced in ancient Greece, China, and Egypt in the form of enemas. Detoxifying with Ionic Footbaths Ionic footbaths (also called detox footbaths and detox foot spas) have become an increasingly popular method to assist detoxification. Ionic footbaths utilize electrolysis of water to produce ions. Ionization occurs in nature as waves break on the shore, or water cascades down a waterfall, or during an electrical storm. An abundance of negative ions create a sense of well-being that comes from documented chemical changes in the brain. A WebMd.com article states that negative ions are believed to increase levels of the mood chemical serotonin, helping to alleviate depression, relieve stress and boost daytime energy. Ionic footbaths produce these ions that are found in nature, only many times more concentrated. The buildup of ions from the electrolysis of water in a footbath creates an osmotic pull that draws toxins out of the body through the pores of the skin. The relaxation created during an ionic footbath also supports the body's ability to continue its detoxification even after a session has been completed. Additionally, footbath users often report the sense of well-being and lightness experienced in the natural settings that have an abundance of negative ions.