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It’s true that the human body is equipped to process and remove toxins and other harmful substances. It does this through 5 main detoxification systems i.e liver, colon, kidneys, skin and lungs. This is a chain of events rather than one single metabolic function. Broadly speaking the liver metabolises toxins for excretion by the large intestine and kidneys.
Over the decades there has been a chemical revolution that has developed a vast number of synthetic chemicals to meet the needs of modern living. This includes household cleaners, personal care products, cosmetics, food additives, pollutants, pesticides, herbicides, pharmaceuticals, plastics and heavy metals. The use of these products in day to day increases the toxic load and limits the body’s ability to process and remove toxins. Toxins are in the air we breathe and the food we eat. Toxins are a natural by-product of many metabolic activities – our own body makes toxins it then has to dispose of.
Detoxification is not new
Naturopathy has a long history of prescribing detox programs, in fact detoxification is a cornerstone of naturopathic medicine. Long before the current trend towards a periodic detox, naturopaths would assist people to clear their body of toxins through activities such as fasting, hydrotherapy, massage, and purging. Herbs and supplements to support the process would be prescribed along with other therapies.
Endogenous toxins – inside you
Endogenous toxins are those made by our own body. Day to day metabolic activities produce a range of toxins which the body then has to remove. Endogenous toxins include metabolites such as free radicals produced as part of energy production. Some endogenous toxins come about when metabolic processes go wrong e.g hormones aren’t metabolised correctly, or digestion and absorption of food goes wrong. A large number of endogenous toxins may originate in an unhealthy gut, e.g overgrowth of pathogens that are detrimental to gastro-intestinal function, leaky gut.
Exogenous toxins – from the outside
Exogenous toxins are those from our environment. This includes heavy metals, chemicals, particles found in pollution, microbes and radiation. Lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium are the most common heavy metal toxins. Chemical toxins come from all aspects of our daily life, e.g furniture in our homes, workplaces, schools, public buildings, businesses and cars leach airborne pollutants into the environment. Indoor airborne pollutants are among the top 5 environmental risks to health and wellbeing. These exogenous toxins damage DNA & mitochondria, disrupt enzymes, and increase oxidative stress and damage.
Toxins of choice
These are the toxins we choose to consume. It includes common foods such as salt (in excess), high fructose corn syrup and food additives (humectants, colours, flavours, preservatives). Alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs are also considered to be toxins of choice.
How do I know if I need to detox?
It’s easy to identify specific symptoms of exposure to toxins as these symptoms scan be directly linked to that exposure. Non-specific symptoms are difficult to identify as there is often overlap with other clinical signs and symptoms, and these symptoms are often poorly defined. Common symptoms of toxic overload include:
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Muscular/generalised aches and pains
- Poor concentration and short-term memory
- Skin rashes and hives
- Recurrent infections
- Runny nose, nasal/sinus congestion
- Allergies, and food intolerances/sensitivities
A naturopath will use a questionnaire to identify whether you need to undergo a detox program. Responses to the questions will help identify what type of program you need to undergo and which detoxification systems need to be addressed as part of the process.
Your naturopath will choose a detox program for you based on:
- What type of program you need to undergo
- How much effort you are willing to put into the process
- What you can afford – this includes time and $$
Programs generally run for 2 to 6 weeks. There are longer programs of up to 3 months. A program will nearly always include a specific eating plan to minimise toxins from food and support principles of good nutrition. Some programs include a meal replacement in the form of a shake.
An effective detox program will enhance digestive function and improve absorption of nutrients as well as supporting liver detoxification pathways. Benefits of a practitioner level detox program include:
- professional advice & support
- comprehensive guidance for diet & lifestyle
- a program that is tailored to suit you, professional products to assist your body detox safely & effectively.
An effective detox program takes a multidisciplinary approach to detoxification. It will incorporate:
- support from qualified therapists e.g a naturopath in conjunction with a wellness consultant; massage, acupuncture
- guidance on diet and lifestyle
- quality herbs and supplements
- effective equipment e.g sauna, pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF).
After the detox process
Detoxification doesn’t end when the detox program ends. To maintain ongoing health and wellbeing your health care practitioner or naturopath may prescribe herbs and/or supplements to allow your body to continue to effectively remove toxins. You will need to follow a wellness style eating plan and minimise your exposure to toxins where possible.
Detoxification can clear the way to identify underlying health issues that have been clouded by
non-specific symptoms of toxicity. Detoxing will shine a light on underlying health issues. A naturopath will conduct a follow up appointment after you have completed the detox program to identify outstanding health issue.
In summary, your body is capable of removing toxins on a daily basis. When the toxic load overwhelms your natural detoxification pathway a practitioner level detox program will help you get back to feeling and looking your best.
When you are ready to take the next step here are two things that can help you:
1- start your vitality journey by completing the vitality score card here
2- Ready to make an investment in your ongoing health, book a vitality health chat here