Detoxing. People who are into natural health care talk about it a lot. There are countless articles about it and products that claim to do it but what does it mean exactly, is it necessary and how do you do it?
Detoxing is the process by which you eliminate toxins/harmful substances from your body. A classic, extreme example would be an alcoholic going through a period of detox after they quit drinking. It takes time for your body to rid itself of harmful substances. The kind of detox natural health enthusiasts and practitioners are talking about is more subtle. Mainly they are talking about ridding the body of environmental toxins that have accumulated through eating unhealthy foods or through our toxic environment. Every day, every human takes in any number of chemicals and toxins through contact with the skin, in our foods and medications, from plastic containers and even just by breathing in pollution.
Our bodies have systems in place to get rid of substances that are harmful to it. Our lungs, liver and kidneys are seriously efficient filters and our digestive tract and bladder help us excrete any unwanted substances filtered through the liver and kidneys. Some people would argue that our bodies are designed to be able to detox naturally and don’t need any help. That would be true in a perfect world but that’s not the world we live in. Manufacturers claim whatever toxic materials are in their products or foods or released into our environment are in safe and manageable levels. Which might be true on an individual basis but we are inundated with chemicals and toxins from all sides, every day, and very rarely does anyone admit or want to discuss how this might be overloading our normally efficient bodily filters. One extreme example of this is the reason for warning labels on products like Tylenol. Tylenol in and of itself is something the liver can filter out of our systems just fine. Alcohol, in certain quantities can be managed as well. However, the combination of drinking an excess of alcohol and then ingesting Tylenol can cause liver failure. Why? Because there are limits to how many chemicals the liver can handle at once. The same goes for the kidneys.
So now let’s take into account the average American person with the average diet and consumer habits. A processed food and drinks, which includes fast foods as well as store bought boxed foods, can contain additives, preservatives and often artificial flavors and colors. All of which the body not only can’t use but which may be harmful if not eliminated. Then there are the typical lotions, soaps, shampoo, deodorants and toothpaste products which also contain toxins the body has to eliminate to stay healthy. The typical American also takes prescription and over the counter drugs and may consume alcohol or use recreational drugs. Now add to that the fact that there are pollutants in the air and that the body makes certain toxins and waste products itself in the course of its normal functions and you have what’s called a toxic load. Each of these things individually may be “safe” but that’s not how it works. We are never just dealing with one toxin at a time.
This is why people in the natural health field support helping your body with supplements and diets that will help your natural detoxification systems. Some of the symptoms of toxicity you may experience include mental fog, fatigue, weight gain, constipation, headaches, skin conditions such as acne, depression and inflammation. Individually these symptoms may not be caused by toxicity but when you get several of them at once a detox program could help.
A typical detox program would start with what is called an elimination diet where you would cut out the most commonly allergenic foods, gluten, corn, sugar, eggs, and dairy. You will also eliminate alcohol and caffeine. While you are on the restricted diet you would take supplements that support your liver, kidneys and digestive tract in the detoxification process. Herbs such as Milk Thistle, Pau D’arco and Burdock root are used frequently for detox individually but are often combined in detox supplements. Nutri-Dyn makes a product called Detox Phase I & II, and Metagenics makes specific detoxification products called Advaclear and UltraClear, UltraClear Plus PH and UltraClear Renew. These products are specifically designed for liver detox and it is recommended to use them with supervision from a natural health practitioner. The reason that is recommended is that detoxification, when done too quickly or incorrectly, can make your symptoms worse. There are two phases to detox. The first is to get the toxins out of the tissues and the second is to remove them from the body completely. It’s like a fireplace. You burn the wood but you also need the chimney clear to let out the smoke. If you don’t eliminate the toxins once they are released the “smoke” can back up in the “house” and make you feel awful. It’s important to balance the two phases so the toxins leave your body at the same rate they are released. Colon health is incredibly important and products that contain healthy fiber and other herbs to keep your bowels moving are recommended as well. Taking a good probiotic is essential for your everyday health and especially important during detox.
Many people do a detox once or twice a year just to keep everything flowing smoothly in their systems. Healthy eating habits every day and being aware of what you are ingesting will go a long way to a healthy life.
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Dr. Ron Ledoux is a licensed Chiropractor from the midwest who has been practicing since 2001. He’s also certified in clinical nutrition and has extensive training in nutritional therapies and is enthusiastic about educating and offering natural health care to his patients and the community.