How Dehydration Interferes With Natural Detoxification
Each day, we encounter synthetic chemicals, toxic substances, environmental pollution, impure water, processed foods, and other substances that leave us vulnerable to illness. Fortunately, the human body is equipped with self-regulatory mechanisms to eliminate toxins and restore balance.
Sometimes, these self-regulatory mechanisms become overwhelmed with chemicals, pathogens, and environmental pollutants, limiting their function and resulting in illness or malaise. With just a few changes, however, you can support your body's natural detox system and get your body back in balance.
How Dehydration Interferes With Natural Detoxification
What Is Detoxification?
Detoxification, or detox, is the body's natural process of removing toxic substances. It's not a magic pill or drink — it's a vital process that takes place naturally and recurrently to keep our bodies healthy and functional.
Exposure to toxic substances is a fact of life, even within our own bodies. We're exposed to pollutants in food, water, and the air, but our bodies have an efficient metabolic detoxification system that neutralizes and eliminates harmful toxins. Some examples of common toxins we're exposed to include persistent organic pollutants, volatile organic compounds, pesticides, and heavy metals.
Over time, these pollutants can build up and compromise the detoxification system, leading to illness and health problems. While it's impossible to avoid environmental toxins altogether, we can do our best to give our detoxification system the support it needs to function optimally.
The Natural Detoxification System
The human body contains many organs that work together to detoxify. These include:
The liver is found on the upper right side of the abdomen, beneath the diaphragm and rib cage. The liver has many important roles in the body and is necessary for survival. It's responsible for over 500 identified functions, including:
- Production of bile. Bile is a green or yellow fluid that's produced by the liver to digest dietary fat. It's produced by the liver but stored and concentrated in the gallbladder. It's also responsible for carrying waste material away from the liver and into the intestines to be expelled.
- Conversion of glucose into glycogen. The liver converts glucose from the diet into glycogen, which is stored and may be converted back to glucose to meet the body's energy needs.
- Regulation of amino acids to build protein
- Hemoglobin processing for iron stores
- Regulation of blood-clotting factors
- Creation of immune factors
- Elimination of bilirubin. Bilirubin is an orange-yellow substance that's produced during the breakdown of red blood cells. It passes through the liver and is excreted out of the body.
- Filter toxins. The liver is responsible for filtering poisons, chemicals, and drugs from the blood.
- Conversion of ammonia to urea. Ammonia is a byproduct of metabolizing protein. The ammonia is converted to urea by the liver, which is then excreted through the urinary tract system.
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that are found below each side of the rib cage. Kidneys are an important part of the body's natural detoxification system. They filter about a half cup of blood every minute, removing the waste and excess water to create urine. From there, the urine flows into the bladder through the ureters, forming the whole of the urinary tract.
Kidneys also remove acid that's produced by cellular functions, and they maintain the balance of water, salt, and minerals in the body, many of which are necessary for proper muscle and nerve function and healthy tissues. The kidneys produce hormones that regulate blood pressure and create red blood cells as well.
The kidney's filtration system is composed of nephrons, structures that contain a glomerulus and a tubule. The glomerulus filters the blood, and the tubule removes wastes and transfers nutrients to the blood. Each day, the kidneys filter around 150 quarts of blood, and only about 1 or 2 quarters become urine. Most of the water and nutrients are returned to the blood.
The intestines are a vital part of the digestive system and immune system. The intestines include the small and large intestines, which have their own individual parts.
The small intestine is made up of the duodenum, the jejunum, and the ileum. The large intestine is made up of the appendix, cecum, colon, and rectum. Together, the intestines process food to extract nutrients like proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins, all of which are necessary for growth and energy, such as breaking down proteins into amino acids, which then provide fuel for brain function or muscle growth.
The intestines provide immune support as well. The lymph nodes in the small intestine attack foreign invaders like harmful bacteria, parasites, and foreign substances, keeping them from being absorbed into the bloodstream.
The skin is the largest organ in the body and the first line of defense against toxins. The skin absorbs many toxins, such as chemicals in clothing, cosmetics, and polluted air, but it acts as a barrier to prevent many toxins from entering our system.
The skin provides assistance to the kidneys to help them perform at their best. It eliminates crystal waste products, which are found in protein-rich foods like dairy and meat, as well as excess refined sugar and acidic foods.
The Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system is part of the immune system and is composed of thin-walled lymphatic vessels, lymph nodes, and lymph ducts. The vessels are located throughout the body and circulate lymph fluid, which provides vital nutrients to tissues. Lymph also travels through lymph nodes, which filter waste products from cells into the venous bloodstream to be eliminated. Lymph nodes also create lymphocytes, or white blood cells, a type of immune cell that combats viruses, bacteria, and other foreign invaders. Lymph vessels drain into the ducts, which empty their contents into veins.
Supporting Your Detoxification System
In healthy bodies, the detoxification system works well on its own to maintain balance and harmony. When overloaded, however, the organs become taxed and need a little extra support. Here are some ways you can detox naturally by giving your system the help it needs:
A healthy diet is an important part of keeping your organs and systems healthy. Processed foods contain a variety of chemicals and pollutants that impact your natural detoxification, such as refined sugars, artificial dyes, additives, and preservatives. You can add all of the following foods to detox and support the body's detox system:
- Eating five to nine servings of fresh fruit and vegetables each day
- Eating nuts, seeds, and whole grains for fiber
- Choosing cruciferous vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, spinach, and broccoli, as well as artichokes, garlic, leeks, and berries
- Consuming lean protein, ideally from grass-fed animals
- Including fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir for gut health
As you can see, each of the body's detoxification organs and systems requires blood or fluid flow to flush out your system — which requires hydration. Adequate fluid volume is essential to the peak function of the human body as a whole, especially with the volume of circulating blood and kidney function. In fact, some studies suggest that frequent dehydration, even at a mild level, can permanently damage the kidneys. Dehydration impedes the kidneys' ability to filter waste and contributes to the formation of urinary tract infections and kidney stones.
Each day, we lose water through sweating, urinating, defecating, and even breathing. If that water isn't replenished, we become dehydrated. We're also losing electrolytes with the fluids, including sodium, potassium, chloride, and magnesium.
While there's no general recommendation for how much water is ideal, you can monitor your own hydration by paying attention to your body. The best way to tell if you're well-hydrated is by checking your urine. Dark, concentrated urine indicates dehydration. If your urine is pale, you're adequately hydrated. If your urine is clear or nearly clear, you've lost electrolytes and need to replace them.
We get many electrolytes from our diets — mainly sodium — but poor or unvaried diets can lead to deficiencies in certain electrolytes, such as magnesium. If you're concerned about your electrolyte balance, you can take an electrolyte supplement to replenish it and provide your body with the minerals it needs.
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- Your Kidneys & How They Work. (2018, June 01). Retrieved June 27, 2020, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/kidneys-how-they-work
- Your Digestive System & How it Works. (2017, December 01). Retrieved June 27, 2020, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/digestive-system-how-it-works
- Douketis, J., By, & Last full review/revision Jul 2019| Content last modified Jul 2019. (n.d.). Overview of the Lymphatic System - Heart and Blood Vessel Disorders. Retrieved June 27, 2020, from https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/heart-and-blood-vessel-disorders/lymphatic-disorders/overview-of-the-lymphatic-system
- Taylor, K. (2020, April 22). Adult Dehydration. Retrieved June 27, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK555956/
- Can Dehydration Affect Your Kidneys? (2018, April 16). Retrieved June 27, 2020, from https://www.kidney.org/newsletter/can-dehydration-affect-your-kidneys