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The Truth About Toxins


I’m sure you’ve heard it before. That toxins can build up in the body causing a myriad of issues such as muscle soreness, sluggishness, and bloating. It’s become quite the catch all explanation of what’s “wrong” with our bodies, but how accurate is that term?


What Is a Toxin?


Before we can figure out how helpful massage is for “toxins” we should define the term. According to Merriam-Webster, a toxin is “a poisonous substance that is a specific product of the metabolic activities of a living organism and is usually very unstable, notably toxic when introduced into the tissues, and typically capable of inducing antibody formation.” In short, a toxin is a poisonous substance that affects the body’s tissues. What makes something poisonous or toxic? Usually it’s the combination of three things: its method of action (or how it poisons), the dosage, and how long it takes to act. Therefore it’s possible for even normally benign substances, like water, to become toxic.

The Body’s Got This

Your body has a multitude of ways to detoxify itself. Different organ systems function to keep the body in homeostasis or balance. The kidneys filter the blood; the liver metabolizes medicine and makes enzymes and hormones; the lungs exhale carbon dioxide; the lymphatic and immune systems fight infections, and the large bowel excretes waste, as does the skin through sweat. Even adipose or fatty tissue has a role in trapping potentially poisonous substances and keeping them out of the blood stream. The body is truly a finely tuned machine! As long as we keep it hydrated, feed it well and keep it moving, our bodies can handle the toxins we may encounter.



But what About Lactic Acid?

Lactic acid is a metabolic waste produced by the body when it doesn’t have enough oxygen to perform during exercise or some other physical activity. The body is so amazing it can switch temporarily from aerobic (oxygen rich) metabolism to anaerobic (oxygen deficient). This allows the body to continue to function for a short time, even when we have a hard time getting in enough air to do the work efficiently. A byproduct of anaerobic metabolism is lactic acid which can cause the achy feeling you get after a tough workout. The good news is that the body through its own natural chemistry typically gets rid of the lactic acid within an hour after strenuous activity.

So what is massage doing?

While there is no scientific basis for massage helping to get rid of toxins, massage does have a ton of impressive benefits! Primarily, massage helps to increase blood flow to the tissues. The cells and tissues of the body need fresh blood. Life is in the blood. It carries oxygen, nutrients and proteins, and also provides a vehicle for cellular waste to be carried to the organs and systems that can process them for elimination.

Massage also helps to reduce muscle and fascial tension and stiffness. This helps to keep you moving pain free and increases range of motion and flexibility. Massage helps with anxiety and depression through the release of feel good hormones such as serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and endorphins. These counteract stress hormones such and cortisol. (More on stress in another blog post coming soon.) Massage has many benefits. Sadly, getting rid of toxins isn’t one of them.

How to address toxins

If you are concerned with toxins, keep your body in top condition so that the organs that naturally eliminate them can do their jobs properly. Eat whole nutritious foods, drink water, exercise, and manage your stress.