(This is the eighth in a series of health articles that are designed to help you gain a deeper appreciation for God’s amazing handiwork of the human body and a better understanding of how it works and how it can be better maintained by simple methods. George McDaniel is my father-in-law, and has been a registered nurse for many years, which, along with much research, has taught him many useful health principles. I pray that you are being blessed by these articles. Editor)
Nutrition – 4
Correction: In last month’s article a typographical error crept in. In speaking of the alpha cells of the Islets of Langerhans, it is stated that they produce glycogen which signals the liver to change glycogen to glucose. It should read that they produce glucagon which signals the liver to change glycogen to glucose. We are sorry for the mistake.
The topic of this article is how the body eliminates toxins. There are two sources of toxins. The first is as a result of the normal work of the cells. As the cells utilize oxygen, glucose and other nutrients in the production of energy, and for growth and repair of damaged cells, they produce substances that are poisonous to the cells such as carbon dioxide. Unless these toxins are removed, they will result in the death of cells. The other source of toxins is from outside the body. The world we live in is full of agricultural and industrial chemicals, motor vehicle exhaust, byproducts of nuclear testing, waste products of industry, to name a few. It is impossible to escape from some of this pollution, but much of it can be avoided by our lifestyle choices, such as where we live and what we eat and wear. Then there are the poisons people deliberately put into their bodies: alcohol, tobacco, drugs, highly processed and refined foods, many food additives. We need to learn to read labels or, better yet, use only whole, natural foods. We also take in toxins through our skin by the use of shampoos, soaps, toothpaste, hair dyes and permanent waves, facial make-up and other topical ointments and lotions, as well as household cleaners and laundry detergents.
In order to understand how endotoxins are removed, it will be helpful to understand how the cells receive nutrition. We have already learned that the food eaten and digested goes to the liver for further processing and disbursement to where it is needed. From the liver, nutrients are carried in the blood through veins to the right side of the heart. From there it goes through the pulmonary artery to the lungs. In the lungs the blood gives up carbon dioxide and picks up oxygen. It then goes through the pulmonary vein to the left side of the heart. The blood, now rich in oxygen and nutrients, leaves the heart through a large artery, which divides into smaller and smaller arteries, and finally into very small arteries called arterioles. Then the blood passes into very narrow, thin-walled vessels called capillaries. In the capillaries, oxygen and nutrients leave the blood. The depleted blood then enters small veins, called venules, which divide into larger and larger veins until it reaches the large vein which enters the right side of the heart, to begin the cycles again.
Let’s return now to the capillaries. The blood coming through the arteries is at a relatively high pressure. The capillaries are very narrow, so narrow that red blood cells have to fold themselves to go through. They are also very thin-walled, just one cell layer thick, and have small openings between the cells that compose them. The pressure at the arterial end causes some of the fluid to ooze out through the small openings. The openings are so small that the red blood cells can’t get out. Also, the large blood proteins are too large to get out. What does ooze out is water containing smaller proteins, nutrients and oxygen. White blood cells, responding to an injury or bacterial invasion, can also squeeze through these small openings by changing their shape.
The body cells themselves are not in direct contact with the blood in the capillaries. They are bathed in the fluid which has oozed out of the capillaries. If you have ever scraped your skin, you have noticed that after the bleeding stops, a clear fluid will continue to leak out for awhile. This fluid is called interstitial fluid, or intercellular fluid. It is also referred to as lymph fluid, or sometimes simply lymph.
The cells take oxygen and nutrients from this fluid. They then give up waste products, such as carbon dioxide, into the fluid. Much of the fluid is taken back into the capillaries at the venous end. The pressure at that end is lower and some of the fluid can reenter. The rest of the interstitial fluid finds its way into a system of channels, similar to the circulatory system, called the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is made up of small vessels which become larger and larger and finally empty into the large veins near where these connect with the heart. All the waste products eventually get to the blood. (The lymphatic system also contains lymph nodes and lymphocytes, which are part of the immune system and will have to be considered in another article.)
The lymphatic system has no pump to circulate the fluid as the heart does for the blood. Lymph has to flow upward from the feet to the level of the upper chest. There are three ways this is accomplished. The action of the muscles squeezing against the lymph vessels is one. Another is negative pressure in the chest caused by deep breathing. These two factors are one reason why vigorous exercise that stimulates deep breathing is essential for health. The larger lymph vessels have one-way valves, so lymph can’t back up. The third way is to lie with the feet higher than the chest and allow gravity to aid in lymphatic flow.
If the interstitial fluid is not returned to the circulation, either by the venous capillaries or the lymphatic system, the fluid will collect in the tissues and swelling, known as edema, will occur. There are various causes for this. There is a condition known as heart failure in which the heart muscle does not work efficiently to pump the blood. If the right side of the heart only is involved, blood pumped out by the left side to the tissues backs up and swelling occurs in the extremities, most commonly the feet and lower legs. If the left side of the heart fails, then fluid accumulates in the lungs, causing pulmonary edema. This causes the right side of the heart to work harder and frequently results in right-sided failure also.
Another cause of edema is blockage of the lymphatic system. An example of this is elephantiasis, caused by a filarial worm, spread by mosquitoes, and some flies. It results in blockage of the lymphatic vessels and great swelling of the affected area. Other causes could include tumors, injury, and certain types of surgery. The lymphatic system can be sluggish due to lack of exercise. Waste matter can accumulate and cause the cells to function at lower efficiency without there being noticeable edema. The cells aren’t able to obtain enough oxygen and nutrients to operate at top efficiency and the person will feel dull and tired and lack energy.
Edema is not a disease; it is a symptom of disease. It lets one know something is wrong. The body has the ability to heal itself if correct practices are followed. If you have edema as a result of heart failure, you need to be under the care of a medical professional. Pulmonary edema is a medical emergency and needs immediate care. You also need to make whatever changes are required in your lifestyle to cure the condition, rather than continue to take medicines to treat the symptoms.
So far we have seen that cellular endotoxins are eliminated from the cells by the lymphatic and circulatory systems. Carbon dioxide is eliminated from the blood by the lungs. The other organs involved in the elimination of toxins are the colon, kidneys and skin.
All the food that is eaten, that is not taken in by the body, is eliminated through the colon. This consists largely of indigestible residues including fiber. Fiber consists of cellulose from the cell walls of plants and the seed coats and hulls of grains and other seeds. It provides the bulk necessary to stimulate the colon to evacuate the waste. Fiber also has the ability to bind with toxic substances and prevent them from being absorbed by the body. Many of the poisons detoxified by the liver are eliminated through the colon in the bile. We can see that bile has two functions: emulsification of fats and elimination of toxins. This last function is much more efficient if there is sufficient fiber in the diet. Fiber hastens the passage of the wastes through the colon so that there is less time to reabsorb them.
Frequently, the action of the colon becomes slowed down and partially blocked. This is called constipation. Two of the main causes of constipation are lack of dietary fiber and inadequate water intake. Not drinking enough water causes the feces to become hard and difficult to eliminate. This is compounded by a diet low in vegetables, fruits and unrefined grains and high in refined foods, meat and dairy products. Also abetting the problem is eating mainly cooked foods. Fiber from raw foods acts like a broom and helps keep the colon clean, whereas cooked fiber acts more like a wet mop that leaves a slimy residue.
From the time food is eaten until the residues are eliminated should be about 24 hours. When the residues remain too long in the colon they undergo putrefaction. This is especially true of high protein foods. This becomes another source of toxins to a system that is already overburdened. Some of the substances formed may be cancer forming. When these remain in contact with the colon for too long a time it may result in development of cancer of the colon. The toxins that have been eliminated by the liver can be reabsorbed. This puts more stress on the liver because it has to deal not only with new toxins, but also the old ones that are recycled. The blood becomes filled with impurities that are taken to every cell in the body. The kidneys become overwhelmed and work less effectively, especially if inadequate water is available.
Another way to eliminate toxins is through the skin by way of the sweat glands. In fact, heavy metals, such as mercury, are very effectively removed from the body through the skin. This is why frequent bathing is important. Many people avoid sweating, so this route is blocked. The sweat that is formed has a bad odor, due to the high concentration of toxins in the system, so people use antiperspirants to block sweat even more. This leaves the lungs as a way to eliminate toxins, so the breath becomes foul. Mouthwash may mask the odor, but won’t cure the problem, since the problem is in the colon. The whole body is affected, including the brain and the immune system. Disease is more likely, including cancer.
I recently read an analogy which illustrates this. It is about a swamp. A swamp is a breeding area for innumerable mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are at best a nuisance, and can be carriers of deadly diseases. One way to deal with this problem is to spray the swamp with all kinds of broad spectrum pesticides. This destroys not only the mosquitoes, but also whatever life and vitality the swamp had. The mosquitoes are killed for the moment, but so are all the other creatures that feed on mosquitoes, such as dragonflies, small fish, and certain birds, and the water is still stagnant. The swamp is still a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. It is only a matter of time before the mosquitoes are back in force, and the mosquitoes can multiply much faster than their natural enemies if conditions are right. In order to permanently eliminate the mosquitoes, the environment has to be changed. The stagnant water has to be eliminated or it will continue to support one generation after another of mosquitoes.
The swamp represents the human mind-body system after years of wrong living. Mosquitoes are the disease symptoms that result. It can be such things as frequent colds, pneumonia, arthritis, arteriosclerosis, or cancer. These so-called diseases are just symptoms of a body that needs to be cleaned up. If we treat only the symptoms, use antibiotics for pneumonia, or anti-inflammatory medicine for arthritis, or surgery, radiation and chemotherapy for cancer, we are not dealing with the cause of these symptoms. We are killing mosquitoes where there is stagnant water that needs to be taken care of.
Both orthodox and alternative medical practitioners fall into the error of treating symptoms. One uses chemicals while the other uses herbs or other natural substances. It is true that sometimes, when one is overwhelmed with health problems, it is necessary to try to buy some time by killing as many “mosquitoes” as possible. However, killing “mosquitoes” should not become the goal. The internal environment of the body needs to be changed.
The first place to start is the colon. You need to get things moving and get cleaned out. You will probably need purgatives (laxatives) and/or enemas or colonics. You need to know what you are doing before you start such a program, however. Some health food store operators might be able to help provide information and there are many books on the subject. If you live near a big city, you can probably find someone who specializes in colon cleansing. Some of these things may be unpleasant, but so are the results of not taking care of the problem. Another thing that needs immediate attention is a diet change. It does no good to get cleaned out and continue the same practices that put you in the bad condition in the first place.
Quit eating refined foods. Quit eating meat. Eat vegetables, fruits and whole grains and seeds in a state as close to natural as possible. Drink adequate water. The recommended amount is one ounce of water for every two pounds of body weight. If you weigh 120 pounds, you need at least 60 ounces of water a day. Other forms of liquid, including soda and caffeinated drinks, are not a good substitute. Some of these deplete the body of water rather than supply it. They also frequently contain chemicals that place an extra burden of toxins on the body, counteracting the usefulness of the water contained in them. If it is impossible to make these changes suddenly, work up to it gradually, but start making some changes now.
Once the colon is cleaned out and proper diet taken, and other positive lifestyle changes made—exercise, sweating, deep breathing of pure air, moderate exposure to sunlight, adequate rest, quit worrying and trust in God—the body will slowly detoxify and come back to normal. A liver cleanse can be done then, which does for the liver what the colon cleanse does for the colon. When the liver is re-vitalized the body will recover even faster. This is not absolutely necessary, because if you stick with a program for good health, the body will recover itself in time. The older you are and the longer you have been abusing your system, the longer it will take. It may be a short time, or it may be as long as one to two years. You didn’t get into bad shape overnight, so why should you expect to recover completely overnight? Stick with the program and you will see results.
There may be times when you feel bad again after feeling good for awhile. In fact, sometimes you may despair of ever feeling good again. The problem is that when your system was full of toxins, the blood had nowhere to send them because the exits were all blocked. In order to avoid killing you, the body stored these toxins in some out-of-the-way place, usually in the fat cells. Now that the exits are opened up, the body begins cleaning house. When these toxins come into the blood stream, you can feel bad for awhile. These are removed and you feel good. Then more toxins are eliminated and you feel bad. It is like being on a roller coaster with constant ups and downs. This process can last for months, but eventually all the toxins are eliminated and you are truly back in good health again. You just have to decide whether a few months of discomfort are worth the reward at the end.
If you stick with the program, that day will come, I can guarantee it. If you make a few slips; if your resolve wavers occasionally, don’t despair. Get back on the program.
There is a test that you can do to determine if you are constipated. Swallow 10 or 12 kernels of unpopped popcorn and see how long it takes for them to pass through. They should pass in about 24 hours. If it takes two days or longer, you have a problem. The longer it takes, the worse the problem. Many people who have regular bowel movements are surprised to find how long it takes. Also, the presence of diarrhea is no indication that there is not constipation. Sometimes watery feces can get around hard feces impacted on the colon walls.
If anyone is interested in learning more about products for colon and liver cleansing, as well as other supplements of good quality that will do what they are advertised to do, you can write or call the following company for information: American Botanical Pharmacy, PO Box 9699, Marina del Rey, California 90295. 1-800- HERBDOC (1-800-437-2362). The director is Richard Shultz who has had a lot of clinical experience as a naturopathic doctor. I do not have any vested interest in this company. I don’t even know Dr. Shultz personally, but I have used his products and know others who have and know they work.
In summary, nutrition is the nutrients that reach the cells in a form that can be used for maintenance, repair and energy supply. In order for this to take place as smoothly as possible the body system must be free from toxins and free from obstructions to detoxification. Keep the colon and blood clean from toxins and the body will be better able to utilize the nutrients contained in the foods we eat.
This concludes our discussion on the topic of nutrition. Next time we will be discussing the importance of exercise to the health of the human system.