One of the best means of recovering your health is to reduce the buildup of toxins in your body. This buildup starts with what you received while growing inside of your mother, and then what you received daily from air, food and water. Detoxification can start with identifying any current exposure sources so that you can avoid them, and then using methods to reduce your current load. These methods include dietary changes, supplementation as well as hydrotherapy and colonic irrigations.
Detoxification is one of the more widely used treatments and concepts in alternative medicine. It is based on the principle that illnesses can be caused by the accumulation of toxic substances (toxins) in the body. Eliminating existing toxins and avoiding new toxins are essential parts of the healing process. Detoxification utilizes a variety of tests and techniques.
Detoxification is helpful for those patients suffering from many chronic diseases and conditions, including allergies, anxiety, arthritis, asthma, chronic infections, depression, diabetes, headaches, heart disease, high cholesterol, low blood sugar levels, digestive disorders, mental illness, and obesity. It is helpful for those with conditions that are influenced by environmental factors, such as cancer, as well as for those who have been exposed to high levels of toxic materials due to accident or occupation. Detoxification therapy is useful for those suffering from allergies or immune system problems that conventional medicine is unable to diagnose or treat, including chronic fatigue syndrome, environmental illness/multiple chemical sensitivity, and fibromyalgia. Symptoms for those suffering these conditions may include unexplained fatigue, increased allergies, hypersensitivity to common materials, intolerance to certain foods and indigestion, aches and pains, low grade fever, headaches, insomnia, depression, sore throats, sudden weight loss or gain, lowered resistance to infection, general malaise, and disability. Detoxification can be used as a beneficial preventative measure and as a tool to increase overall health, vitality, and resistance to disease.
Detoxification methods of healing have been used for thousands of years. Fasting is one of the oldest therapeutic practices in medicine. Hippocrates, the ancient Greek known as the "Father of Western medicine," recommended fasting as a means for improving health.
Detoxification treatment has become one of the cornerstones of alternative medicine. Conventional medicine notes that environmental factors can play a significant role in many illnesses. Environmental medicine is a field that studies exactly how those environmental factors influence disease. Conditions such as asthma, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple chemical sensitivity, and many others are strongly influenced by exposure to toxic or allergenic substances in the environment. The United States Centers for Disease Control estimate that over 80% of all illnesses have environmental and lifestyle causes.
Detoxification has also become a prominent treatment as people have become more aware of environmental pollution. It is estimated that one in every four Americans suffers from some level of heavy metal poisoning. Heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic, are by-products of industry. Synthetic agriculture chemicals, many of which are known to cause health problems, are also found in food, air, and water. American agriculture uses nearly 10lb (4.5 kg) of pesticides per person on the food supply each year. These toxins have become almost unavoidable. Pesticides that are used only on crops in the southern United States have been found in the tissue of animals in the far north of Canada. DDT, a cancer-causing insecticide that has been banned for decades, is still regularly found in the fatty tissue of animals, birds, and fish, even in extremely remote regions such as the North Pole.
The problem of toxins in the environment is compounded because humans are at the top of the food chain and are more likely to be exposed to an accumulation of toxic substances in the food supply. For instance, pesticides and herbicides are sprayed on grains that are then fed to farm animals. Toxic substances are stored in the fatty tissue of those animals. In addition, those animals are often injected with synthetic hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals. When people eat meat products, they are exposed to the full range of chemicals and additives used along the entire agricultural chain. Detoxification specialists call this build up of toxins bioaccumulation. They assert that the bioaccumulation of toxic substances over time is responsible for many physical and mental disorders; especially ones that are increasing rapidly (like asthma, cancer, and mental illness). As a result, detoxification therapies are increasing in importance and popularity.
Toxins in the body include heavy metals and various chemicals such as pesticides, pollutants, and food additives. Drugs and alcohol have toxic effects in the body. Toxins are produced as normal by-products in the intestines by the bacteria that break down food. The digestion of protein also creates toxic by-products in the body.
The body has natural methods of detoxification. Individual cells get detoxified in the lymph and circulatory system. The liver is the principle organ of detoxification, assisted by the kidneys and intestines. Toxins can be excreted from the body by the kidneys, bowels, skin, and lungs. Detoxification treatments become necessary when the body's natural detoxification systems become overwhelmed. This can be caused by long-term effects of improper diet, stress, overeating, sedentary lifestyles, illness, and poor health habits in general. When a build-up of toxic substances in the body creates illness, it's called toxemia. Some people's digestive tracts become unable to digest food properly, due to years of overeating and diets that are high in fat and processed foods and low in fiber (the average American diet). When this happens, food cannot pass through the digestive tract efficiently. Instead of being digested properly or eliminated from the bowel, food can literally rot inside the digestive tract and produce toxic by-products. This state is known as toxic colon syndrome or intestinal toxemia.
Detoxification therapies try to activate and assist the body's own detoxification processes. They also try to eliminate additional exposure to toxins and strengthen the body and immune system so that toxic imbalances won't occur in the future.
There are a variety of detoxification techniques that are used after a diagnosis is made. The first step is to eliminate a patient's exposure to all toxic or allergenic substances. These include heavy metals, chemicals, radiation (from x rays, power lines, cell phones, computer screens, and microwaves), smog, polluted water, foods, drugs, caffeine, alcohol, perfume, excess noise, and stress.
Specific treatments are used to stimulate and assist the body's detoxification process. Dietary change is immediately enacted, eliminating allergic and unhealthy foods, and emphasizing foods that assist detoxification and support healing. Detoxification diets are generally low in fat, high in fiber, and vegetarian with a raw food emphasis. Processed foods, alcohol, and caffeine are avoided. Nutritional supplements such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, and essential fatty acids are often prescribed. Many herbal supplements are used in detoxification therapies as well. Naturopathy, Ayurvedic medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) recommend numerous herbal formulas for detoxification and immune strengthening. If infections or parasites have been found, these are treated with herbal formulas and, in difficult cases, antibiotics.
Patients can assist diagnosis and treatment by keeping detailed diaries of their activities, symptoms, and contact with environmental factors that may be affecting their health. Reducing exposure to environmental toxins and making immediate dietary and lifestyle changes may speed the detoxification process.
During the detoxification process, patients may experience side effects of fatigue, malaise, aches and pains, emotional duress, acne, headaches, allergies, and symptoms of colds and flu. These negative side effects are part of the healing process. These reactions are sometimes called healing crises, which are caused by temporarily increased levels of toxins in the body due to elimination and cleansing.