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This article has been brought to us by Nature’s Plus, written by Lisa James

When you think about the effect environmental toxins can have on health, weight gain may not be the first thing that comes to mind.

But the link is very real. That’s because the toxins we all carry, which are stored in body fat, disrupt normal metabolism—which in turn makes fat loss that much harder.

Fortunately, there is a way to break this cycle. Detoxification, including the use of foods with purifying properties, has been practiced for centuries to boost overall well-being. Now researchers are beginning to understand how detox can make losing weight—especially the loss of excess body fat—that much easier.

Burdened Liver

All toxins are broken down by the liver, the body’s main chemical processing plant. Trouble comes when more toxins show up than the liver can comfortably handle.

“The liver says, ‘What am I going to do?’” explains naturopathic physician Brenda Watson, ND, CNC, author of The Detox Strategy (Free Press). “It then stores these chemicals within its own cells.” Eventually the liver starts looking for storage space elsewhere—and fat cells within the abdomen will do quite nicely.

If the presence of noxious substances from the outside wasn’t bad enough, toxins are produced internally by the very metabolic processes that keep us alive. What’s more, stress results in a biological chain of events that may also lead to weight gain.

Cleanup Crew

The body doesn’t just stand idly by as toxins build up, of course: Noxious substances are constantly being eliminated through the kidneys, bowels, skin and other channels. However, the sheer amount can overload the system.

This explains why many complementary practitioners recommend detoxification on a periodic basis. “Almost everybody needs to detox, cleanse themselves and rest their bodily functions at times,” says Elson Haas, MD, author of Staying Healthy with Nutrition (Celestial Arts).

That’s especially true of people looking to lose weight. “If you can reduce your exposure to toxins while aiding in the elimination of current toxins, you can support a healthy—and possibly faster—metabolism,” says Watson.

Fiber is an effective cleansing agent. There are two types, which Watson compares to the yellow and green sides of a kitchen sponge. “The yellow side, the soluble fiber, soaks up cholesterol and toxins,” she explains. “The green side, the insoluble fiber, scrubs—it gives you bulk and curbs appetite.”

In addition, fiber affects hormone production. Watson says that people on a high-fiber diet release a hormone called CCK, which is “really good at making you feel full and leading you to eat fewer calories.”

As fiber helps sweep toxins away, beneficial micro-organisms called probiotics can set up shop in the intestines. Watson says that fiber and probiotics work hand in hand because “good bacteria love to eat soluble fiber,” allowing them to multiply and flourish.

What’s more, many detox products include the so-called “superfruits”—especially açai, a South American berry. These fruits supply what are known as phytonutrients, substances that, among other functions, help the body deal with internally produced toxins.

Diet and exercise are crucial in the fight against excess pounds. But they work better after you’ve reduced your toxic burden. Watson says, “I hope we can educate people to understand that total-body cleansing and weight loss go hand in hand.”

†The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described.

The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.