What You Must Do Before a Detoxification Protocol
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Exposure to toxicants is a prominent contributor to the physiological dysfunction and resulting symptoms of many children with neurodevelopmental disorders. You have likely learned about it already, and you may already be taking steps to reduce your child’s exposure to toxicants, but what about those toxins that are already in her body? What to do before a detoxification protocol, preparing your child’s body, is just as important as the detox protocol itself.
Detoxification protocols are often recommended for our children. But before you dive headfirst into a detox for your child, you want to make sure that her body is ready for it. To prepare for detoxification, it’s crucial to support all of your child’s elimination channels, which are the organs and systems responsible for eliminating toxins from the body.
Where to Begin—The Fight or Flight Response
Our children are much more likely to often chronically be in “fight-or-flight” mode. In other words, they are often under stress. The fight-or-flight response is an activation of the body’s sympathetic nervous system, responsible for increasing energy in those systems required to think and move quickly (or, to fight or flee). When the sympathetic nervous system is active, the parasympathetic nervous system goes dormant. Unfortunately, most of the channels of elimination are controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system. So if your child’s fight-or-flight response is always activated, his detoxification channels are impaired. It’s no wonder that our children are often dealing with higher levels of toxins in the body—the chronic stress they experience sets them up for it.
Our children are under chronic stress for a multitude of reasons. Chronic inflammation inside the body, increased sensitivity to outside stimuli, stress from external circumstances, sleep irregularities, coinciding health conditions, toxicant exposure and many other factors all increase the stress response.
You can’t remove every stressor from our children’s lives. I won’t pretend that you can. But any steps you can take to reduce those stressors you have control over will help. You will find that over time, by addressing your child’s health from many different directions, you will begin to peel away different causes of stress to get to the root issues affecting his neurodevelopmental health.
The Body’s Elimination Channels
The body has six main elimination channels. The cardiovascular, lymphatic, digestive (which includes the liver and gallbladder), urinary and respiratory systems, plus the skin, all work to remove toxins from the body.
The cardiovascular system moves and filters blood, which carries nutrients and toxins throughout the body, sending toxins to all other elimination systems for removal. The lymphatic system packages and transports toxins and helps educate the immune system to recognize toxins. The digestive system decides what is food and what is waste, acting as a gatekeeper and garbage dump simultaneously while the liver works as a powerhouse toxin neutralizer. The urinary system filters certain toxins from the blood and sends them out via urine. The respiratory system is another gatekeeper, trapping inhaled toxins and removing them via expiration and sputum. And the skin releases toxins along with sweat.
Altogether, the body creates an impressive detoxification web. But when these systems are impaired, as many of them often are in our children, the body’s detoxification ability decreases and toxins can build up. Supporting the health of these channels before mobilizing yet more toxins with a detoxification protocol is essential.
By opening the body’s elimination channels, your child will be more prepared to undergo a detoxification protocol without experiencing a Herxheimer reaction, also called a healing reaction, which can actually increase symptoms because the body becomes overwhelmed with toxins and cannot properly eliminate them.
How to Open the Elimination Channels
Digestive difficulties are so common in our children. Consider the importance of this system for detoxification. All the toxins removed by the liver and those separated from food must leave the body via the digestive tract. If your child is constipated, toxins are not removed on a regular basis and, in fact, are reabsorbed into the body as they sit in the intestines, increasing the body’s toxic burden. If your child has diarrhea, inflammation is likely damaging the intestinal lining, increasing the amount of toxins that can enter circulation. If your child has a pathogen, inflammation and bacterial toxins come into play. If your child is not digesting food properly, food toxins are a play a role.
Regulating your child’s digestion and addressing digestive conditions is an important first step in open the channels of elimination. Talk with your child’s practitioner about what steps you can take to bring her digestion back to health. Check out my Digestion Cheat Sheet to help discover where you may need to focus.
At home, adopt a whole food diet. Processed foods contain non-food ingredients and are usually low in nutrient content. A whole food diet will increase her nutrient intake and provide dietary fiber to help keep her bowels regular. Get creative with your veggies if you need to. Her body needs them. Opt for organic foods when possible to minimize toxicant exposure. If cost is a factor for you, focus on purchasing organic versions of those foods that are highest in pesticides. The Environmental Working Group lists the Dirty Dozen as those you most want to avoid. If your child is not digesting food properly, digestive enzymes or betaine HCl supplement may help.
REGULATE BLOOD SUGAR
Irregular blood sugar, with its characteristic spikes and falls, depletes B vitamins—in particular, B6—which are needed by the liver to produce detoxification enzymes. Chronically elevated blood sugar is also a problem because it generates free radicals, oxidative molecules that use up antioxidants that are needed in the liver. If your child loves carbohydrates, you are not alone—but be aware of carbs effects on blood sugar. If you must, serve carbohydrates with fats and proteins, which help to temper the carbohydrates’ effects on blood sugar.
SUPPORT BILE PRODUCTION
The liver produces bile, a substance that is stored in the gallbladder and is secreted when fats enter the small intestine from the stomach. Bile carries toxins from the liver and out of the body with digestive waste. Eating healthy fats helps to keep bile flowing regularly. Feed your child plenty of omega-3 fats from fish like salmon, sardines and herring; omega-9 fats from olive oil and avocado; and saturated fats from coconut and animals raised in healthy environments.
Toxins deplete minerals, and certain minerals—like magnesium and molybdenum—are required for phase one liver detoxification, an important step in the conversion of toxins into neutral substances that can be moved out of the body. Mineral supplements may help support the liver.
The body is 80 percent water. Without an adequate supply, liquids in the body begin to dry out, which slows the flow of blood, lymph, urine and digestive contents, all crucial for eliminating toxins. If your child tends to be constipated, this is one of the first steps you can take to help get things moving. Have your child carry a water bottle around, and remind her to drink from it. This simple habit goes a long way to helping your child’s elimination channels remain open.
SUPPORT THE SKIN
Infrared sauna is an excellent way to promote the release of toxins through sweat. Some practitioners offer this service, or you can purchase an in-home infrared sauna if you plan to use it often. Dry brushing the skin is also recommended to help remove dead skin, which contains toxins that have been excreted through the pores. Dry brushing also stimulates lymphatic flow.
Some people report excellent results using an ion foot bath, which has been found in a manufacturer-funded study to help increase the removal of toxins via the kidneys.
The body’s lymphatic fluid does not have a pump system like the lungs and heart. It simply flows in response to movement and gravity. To increase the flow, have your child jump on a rebounding trampoline, which is a fun exercise that can also help with sensory processing.
Talk to Your Child’s Practitioner
Your child’s practitioner is your touchpoint and soundboard for all major health decisions. If you are considering a detoxification protocol for your child, talk with her practitioner about the current state of her elimination channels and what you can do to ensure they remain open and ready for a full detoxification.
If you have questions about what other parents have found helpful when preparing for a detoxification, head over to our Facebook group, the My Child Will Thrive Village where we can take the conversation into more detail.