Releasing Toxins through Massage: How Does it Work?
Toxins, as they relate to the human body, are harmful substances that are present through environmental exposure, consumption, or as a byproduct of normal bodily functions. In all cases, these toxins must be processed and expelled by your organs to prevent toxicity. If they are not, than they can wreak havoc on your health. At best, a build-up of toxins can leave you feeling lethargic and sore. At worst, they can lead to chronic illness and disease that do lasting damage to your health.
There are many reasons that our bodies struggle to process harmful toxins. Firstly, many are chemical or mineral substances that our bodies are not designed to process like BPAs, mercury, artificial food additives, and hormones, to name a few. Second, if your organs are not functioning properly or you have some other underlying health condition you will need help removing both foreign and naturally occuring toxins from your system.
Manual massage therapy has long been lauded as an effective treatment for releasing toxins and the reason can be found by looking at the organ with which you are most familiar: your skin. Skin is the largest organ in the body and the one that we see everyday but may take for granted. Often underappreciated for its complexity, your skin plays a vital role in your circulation and immune health.
For millennia, healers and therapists have been using massage to treat illness, increase circulation and promote good health. To understand why, let’s take a look about how massage therapy releases toxins.
Heat Release and Increased Blood Flow
The primary way that manual massage therapy helps ‘release toxins’ is by improving circulation which in turn helps your organs perform their natural detoxifying functions. As your massage therapist applies pressure to your skin blood flow increases and heat is released.
When we get sick, one of our bodies’ methods of fighting off viruses and infections is through an elevated body temperature. Heating the body moves blood toward the skin to dissipate the heat. The circulation of blood to release the heat produced by a fever decongests the internal organs. In a similar fashion, the heat generated through manual massage improves circulation, oxygenates cells and organs, and stimulates your immune system.
As circulation increases your cells expand and toxins that have built up move through the blood your bodies’ main filtration centers: The Liver and The Kidneys.
The liver’s primary function is to filter the blood coming from the digestive tract before it flows through the rest of the body. The liver also detoxifies chemicals and metabolizes drugs. During this process the liver secretes bile that ends up back in the intestine. Toxins filtered by the liver include the byproducts of a normal metabolism as well as pathogens, hormones, cholesterol, chemicals ingested in food or drugs, compounds absorbed through the skin with the use of personal care products and particulate matter absorbed by the lungs during respiration.
The liver produces approximately one quarter to one third of the bodies lymphatic fluid and benefits significantly from regular lymphatic massage. Liver function, and thus toxin release, is increased by promoting blood flow through its numerous lymphatic vessels.
The kidneys are the body’s main filtration system. For our entire lifespan they filter approximately 1200ml of blood per minute – or one quarter of our entire blood supply. They also help regulate our blood glucose. Some of the toxins filtered by the kidneys include a variety of acids derived from food or cellular destruction. Once the kidneys filter irritants and toxins from the bloodstream they send these as waste products to be excreted by our urinary tracts. As with the liver, if they are unable to do this job efficiently waste is reintroduced to the bloodstream and will become stored in various cells in the body.
The kidneys can become damaged through toxic overload, excess alcohol, high blood pressure, some medications, and chemotherapy. Unlike the liver, it does not regenerate. Massage, systemic and local to the kidney area, will increase blood flow to and from the kidneys which facilitates greater filtration and release of toxins. The systemic lymph massage as already noted performs a similar function.
The Importance of Staying Hydrated
Once your organs have filtered the toxins from your blood, the primary form of release is through urination or perspiration. Urinating regularly means that your body can expell more toxins. Further, if you are hydrated your cells are less likely to be constricted which aids in circulation and prevents your cells from holding onto toxic compounds.
Types of Massage for Toxin Release
In addition to Swedish massages, the massage therapy services that are most closely related to flushing out toxins are Manual Lymphatic Drainage and Deep Tissue.
Manual Lymphatic Drainage is necessary when a lymph, or collection of bodily fluid, forms in one area of the body and must be released back into the direction of the heart. This technique includes manually massaging the area to promote the circulation of these fluids instead of waiting for the process to occur naturally.
Deep tissue massage aids in the breakdown of compounds released by our muscles. Lactic and uric acid build up around muscles causing pain, soreness and lack of flexibility. Massage releases these compounds in the bloodstream and when they are excreted from the body, lowering its overall acidity. Massage also releases creatine which is a natural byproduct of muscle use and strain.
Will Releasing Toxins Make you Sicker?
In response to the popular belief that massage therapy can help to release toxins and improve health, it has been argued that the effects of frequent treatments can worsen existing conditions such as heart disease. Even further, some people believe that massage therapy can cause the spread of cancer through the body.
However, these claims could not be more false. In addition to the many improvements in organ function and circulation the helpful release of stress and muscle tension can greatly improve the patient’s overall state of mind. When dealing with a chronic illness, lowering stress and encouraging relaxation can have immeasurable benefits to a patient’s overall state of well being.
When to Seek Massage Therapy for Toxin Release
Whether or not you are seeking massage therapy for a medical condition, pain management, injury rehabilitation, or overall wellness, the benefits are holistic and the release of toxins is the catalyst for dramatic health improvements.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, a build up of toxins could be to blame.
- Lethargy and Fatigue
- Muscle Pain and Weakness
- Frequent Sinus Infections
- Weight Gain
- Digestive Problems
- High Blood Pressure
- Skin Conditions and Acne
Regardless of age and activity levels, consistent massage therapy appointments can provide solutions to almost any kind of problem and promote good health for the patient through the process of flushing out harmful toxins.