Life is Toxic

Andrew Harvey
Mar 8 · 4 min read

Okay, maybe that’s a little over the top. Life is pretty great, even when you’re past the halfway point, working maybe a little too hard, and raising 3 kids, maybe a little too late in life. Thing is, while life itself isn’t toxic, our modern lifestyle is.

Stress is toxic; it will make you old, it will make you fat, and it will make you sick. Ultimately, it will bury you, and modern life is one stress after another.

Sleep deprivation is toxic; it will make you fat, sick, moody, accident prone and it will stress you out.

Work is toxic. sitting all day will stress you, it will hunch you over, it will destroy your posture, your fitness and your health, and it will stress you out.

Screens are toxic; they will ruin your neck, your back, and wreck your sleep.

Processed foods are toxic. Delicious (I’m looking at you, Vachon cakes and doughnuts), but toxic. It’s convenient, cheap and deadly. Come to think of it, my dad figured it out years ago, “Everything I like is illegal, immoral, fattening, or causes cancer.”

The air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink. Laden with toxins.

So, am I going to go on a diatribe about how we must retreat from the modern world and live as Tibetan monks? Hell no, I like Vachon cakes and video games. I’m going to tell you about my liver.

Wait, wut? Yes, my liver.

Many years ago I got mono. Mono sucks. Headaches, fever, sore throat, dehydration, body aches, weakness, lost appetite, swollen glands and spleen. Know what? Your liver is a glandular organ, so it gets swollen up along with your spleen. My liver basically doubled in size.

So what did I do? I got so dehydrated I had to go to the hospital for intravenous fluids (my throat was so bad when I tried to swallow, water squirted out my nose). And then I slept for a couple of weeks. And a few months later I discovered my liver couldn’t process alcohol.

Well, if my liver couldn’t process alcohol, I figured that it was probably too weak to perform one of its primary functions, detoxing the blood stream.

The liver is an amazing organ, and one of its superpowers is regeneration. 23 years ago mono blew up my liver, but for the last 15 years every blood test I’ve had has come back perfect. Why? Because I set out to fix it.

In the fall of 1996, 6 months after I had been hospitalized, I went to a nutritionist/naturopath and asked him what I could do. He suggested an extract of milk thistle, which is purported to have a healing effect on the liver. In effect, what he was recommending was I detoxify my detoxifying organ to let it recover and regenerate. So, when I had a week’s vacation, I did.

And for the first day, it felt like the mono was back. My glands swelled up, my throat got sore, and I could barely get out of bed. The second day showed rapid improvement, and I went fishing.

The explanation I got for this was that the milk thistle cleared the toxins out of my liver, and my body reacted to them like the mono had come back. Anyway, once a year I did a course of milk thistle to keep my liver healthy, and once a year I had a lousy first day of the detox. Never as bad as that first time, but my glands would swell, I’d get a headache, a sore throat, and be really tired.

Until yoga.

I began doing Bikram Yoga thrice weekly one April, and my annual milk thistle detox was usually in September. So after about 6 months of regular Bikram I began my detox and the milk thistle did…nothing. No sore throat or swollen glands. Nothing. Waste of ten bucks.

One of the slogans in Bikram is that it detoxifies your body. In class they say that this posture helps this organ, and that posture helps that organ. One of the postures is purported to target the liver.

I never really believed it. I still don’t really believe it. Yoga predates our understanding of visceral anatomy and function by a couple of millennia. I’m not buying that 1800 years ago an Indian sage figured out that, “holding the body in this shape will make this gooey bit inside you, which I don’t actually know what it does, or how, work better.”

The thing is, I don’t have to believe it. And it doesn’t even have to be true. And Patanjali didn’t have to know the first thing about visceral function. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the proof of this pudding is that a regular yoga practice helped give me a better, stronger, healthier liver. One that can protect me from the toxicity of the modern world.

Cross posted at standupright.ca, where I also write stuff.

Andrew Harvey

Written by

Father, husband, engineer. Just a guy trying to navigate the rocks and shoals of the middle years. Standupright.ca.

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