Most people have some idea of what detoxing is but they also have some confusion about why it is considered helpful by holistic practitioners for improved health.
The concept of detoxing or cleansing can probably be traced back thousands of years. In ancient times people didn’t have the blenders, detox in a box products or go to spas but they still realized the benefits of detoxification.
The idea of fasting, taking only a liquid diet or that of fruits has been a part of many ancient cultures. A cleanse or detoxification process is also a way to assist in spiritual purification practiced by many Eastern religions.
This urge to purge tells me that people have probably always felt the need to rid their bodies of unwanted, disease promoting crud that accumulates over time.
Today, holistic health providers as well as integrative care physicians find putting their clients on some type of detoxification program improves people’s health in a number of ways. If you have never detoxed before reading this post will provide you with some basic background.
A detoxification program help to improve overall health
Detoxification programs are used to help resolve many chronic health conditions such as food sensitivities, autoimmune conditions, dysbiosis problems such as yeast overgrowth, skin conditions, neurological and behavioral conditions like ADHD, anxiety and depression as well as many digestive and bowel conditions.
Detoxification, when done safely and correctly, can also help reduce chronic pain, improve sleep and ease you into releasing unwanted weight.
Benefits of detoxing
- Improved digestion – anyone with food intolerance, yeast overgrowth, leaky GUT
- Improved bowel function – IBS/IBD, Crohn’s, UC, chronic constipation
- Reduced aches and pains – helps address the cause of fibromyalgia, RA, MS, auto-immune conditions
- Clearer skin – helps address the cause of psoriasis, acne, rosacea
- More energy – reduced after noon energy slump
- Improved sex drive – helps support balanced hormone production
- Better sleep – helps reduces insomnia
- Clearer thinking – improves neurotransmitter production and cell signalling
- Weight loss – helps clear toxins stored in fat deposits
Weight loss and detoxification go hand in hand
Many people who have trouble losing weight do not realize that a contributing factor is excessive toxicity in their body. Keep in mind we are exposed to a variety of toxins every day through the air, water, and the food we eat.
Our bodies are constantly detoxifying these substances through our liver, kidneys, lymph glands, lungs and skin. However, whenever the burden becomes too great on the liver – which is the body’s main detoxifying organ, it cannot keep up and it stores the excess toxins in our adipose tissue (fat) for later. With a continual onslaught of more toxins being processed the liver is forced to store more and more in our fat.
The first step
In the simplest sense detoxification involves abstaining from foods that are known to cause inflammation, lead to imbalances or that are really fake foods with little nutritional value. In place of these poor sources of sustenance you eat more cleansing foods that are nutrient dense yet easy to digest.
Eliminating or at least reducing exposure to toxins in your environment should also be a part of any properly conducted, holistic detoxification program. Our modern lifestyle means we have more environmental exposures from, cleaning products, lawn and garden products and air pollution as well as our drinking water than ever.
Additionally all prescription drugs as well as over the counter medications are filtered through our already overburdened liver. Remember that anything you put on your skin (shampoo, deodorant, perfume, nail polish) in addition to what you ingest is also filtered through the liver.
So reduction of toxins from all sources is the first step.
The second step is to increase foods and supportive supplements/herbs that assist the body in removing toxins via the Phase I and Phase II detoxification process.
This is also why many programs include specific nutritional and herbal combinations of products. These are used to help support the detoxification pathways during the Phase I and Phase II processes.
What actually happens in your body when you detox?
During Phase I a special enzyme called P450 located in the liver converts fat loving toxins into intermediate substances that are more water-soluble. These can then be excreted through urine.
In Phase II of the process the intermediate substances that still need to be further converted go through a series of reactions involving other enzymes so they can finally be eliminated from the body. These are called conjugants and include; glucuronic acid, sulfate, glutathione, glycine, taurine and methyl groups. You can read more in-depth about this process at my post Ten sIgnals your liver needs to detox
Certain vegetables and fruits are especially good to include during a detox are; asparagus, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, as well as avocado, spinach, garlic and essential fatty acids.
Increasing green foods such as Spirulina, chlorophyll is also helpful as these help remove toxins. In general eating as much organic produce as you can and drinking 50 + oz. of filtered water is a must.
There are also many herbs that are wonderful during a detox that help support the liver as well as bind to toxins so they can be removed more effectively.Usually animal protein sources are reduced and on some programs may be eliminated altogether for a period of time.
Remember that although our bodies are always going through Phase I and Phase II of detoxification, while you are cleaning your system you are intentionally increasing the amount and load of toxic material being filtered through the liver. This can be problematic for some people who have poor liver function or who have problems with methylation pathways, so working with a trained nutritional professional is very important. So adding supplements that support the liver and conversion of fat soluble to water soluble nutrients in the body is very important.
The third step
After you remove non-supportive foods (and non-foods) and replace them with the right supportive foods (which varies from individual to individual) you need to repair the GUT and improve the digestive process. This means you will need to adopt better eating and lifestyle habits avoiding those foods and substances that created toxic over load in the first place.
Any properly done detox involves a careful re-introduction of heavier protein foods and sometimes those foods that are commonly reactive foods that you may have tested positive for . It also means you will need to add supportive nutrients in the form of specific foods that are high in natural digestive enzymes and friendly flora and or add specific supplements. Lacto-fermented foods and pro-biotic rich foods along with healthy fatty acids are very important.
Important considerations before undertaking a detox
Timing and individual health considerations must be taken into account before anyone does a detox.
If you have an auto-immune condition or have recently undergone surgery, or are in a very weakened, physical or emotional condition putting yourself on a full detoxification program may not be a good idea and could potentially harm your health.
Likewise, if you are planning a trip, or will not have the ability to shop for and cook your own food this probably is not the best time to detox.
There are several different types of detoxification programs available.
Some are based on eating raw plant foods or juicing for a period of time, while others are less strict, including specific raw, cooked plant and animal foods. These are often combined with some type of specially formulated detoxification powdered product used to replace meals. In general I would be cautious about any detox that is too severe and is only done for a few days because you risk dumping too many toxins into your body too fast and you are less likely to get the full benefit of making lasting lifestyle changes.
I have found most people do very well on a graduated detoxification program that allows them to continue to eat a variety of whole foods and that takes place over several weeks up to a month. Just keep in mind that detoxing is a process and each person’s body reacts differently to the process of removing toxins from their body. This is why it is very important to make sure the detoxification program you begin is the right one for your individual health situation.
Think you might benefit from a clinically supervised detoxification program?
Take this self test to see if you can benefit from a detoxification program:
Scores over 50 – your health will benefit.
Scores over 80 – your body is speaking to you to take action now.
Scores over 100 – your body is in pain and is telling you it is overwhelmed.
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