There has been a lot of talk about detoxification, detox diets and whether they are necessary, healthy, or appropriate for the body. Doctors are split over the controversial issue. Alternative medical professionals recommend a detoxification at least once a year especially with the increased concern over toxicity in our food, water, air, medicine and environment. Ayurvedic medicine, Traditional Chinese medicine and herbalism have been using detoxification for thousands of years. However, traditional medical practitioners dispute the reasons for the use of detoxification. They question the scientific basis or benefit behind detoxification because the body is an extraordinary healer with its own system of elimination.

What is Detoxification?
Detoxification is a physiological or medical removal of toxic substances from the body. Detoxification is used medically with drug withdrawal, decontamination of poison ingestion, dialysis, and chelation therapy. During these processes toxins and toxic chemicals are removed from the body. In the same manner, detoxification or detox diets are used to eliminate toxins that are consumed through our food and water, inhaled through the air or confronted within our environments. Detoxes are used to cleanse, rest, and nourish the body from the inside out. Practitioners who recommend detoxes believe that detoxing protects the body against disease and renews optimum health. Toxins are removed and replaced with healthy nutrients that the body desperately requires. Health is restored and energy and vigor are revitalized.

How does Detoxification work?
Detoxification enhances the body’s own elimination system by cleaning the blood and removing impurities from the liver. Although the kidneys, liver, intestines, lungs, lymph, skin and bowels are all part of the body’s elimination system, they can become compromised when overexposed to toxins, chemical and impurities. Now a days there are so many more sources of toxicity than there were 100, 50 and even 10 years ago. With technological advances in food, science and almost every aspect of living, our bodies are being exposed to harmful chemicals, irritants and pollutants throughout daily living. Food is contaminated with unnecessary additives, allergens, flavor enhancers, food coloring, and artificial preservatives. Not to mention that air and water pollution, radiation, nuclear power, drugs, cigarettes, alcohol and medications have harmful effects on the body as well. Compromised by these chemicals and toxins the body is unable to filter impurities properly, which causes an adverse affect on every cell within the body. This can cause specific symptoms to appear such as fatigue, mood swings, digestive problems, constipation, headaches and many more. A detox program rests the organs through fasting, stimulates the liver to drive out toxins, promotes elimination through the kidneys, intestines, and skin, improves blood circulation and refuels the body with nutrients. Detoxification works by addressing every cell in the body.

Types of Detoxification
There are many types of detox plans such as contrast showers, detox footpads, oil pulling, snakestones, body cleansing, water fasting, metabolic therapy, elimination diets, hydrotherapy, and colonics. Detoxes come in the form of liquids, supplements, herbs, diets and exercise. Each detox program differs in action and intent. Some work only with the bowel to remove rotting food remanence, others cleanse the liver or blood, and others aid in skin or kidney function. Women who are pregnant or nursing, children, elderly, or people with cancer, degenerative disease or a compromised immune system should not use detoxes as it could cause harmful side effects such as nutritional deficiencies which can lead to death. Detoxification is generally harmless and safe, however if you exceed the recommended time frame it can lead to nutritional deficiency. There is some risk associated with detox procedures such as colon cleanses which can cause perforation in the lining of the bowel, infection or water intoxication, however risks are low.

When should You Detox?
Recommended detox programs should be done 1-2 times a year depending upon your level of health. Or if you have symptoms such as unexplained fatigue, sluggish elimination, constipation, irritated skin, allergies, bags under the eyes, distended stomach, menstrual difficulties, mental confusion, aches and pains, headaches, and digestive problems. A short program normally lasts 3-7 days. Some practitioners recommend doing a cleanse or detox at the change of each season due to the overexposure to airborne pollutants, refined and processed foods, radiation, prescription medications, alcohol and drug use. The more toxins within your environment that you are exposed to, the more a detox may be necessary.

What should you expect after a Detox?
Depending upon which detox you decide to undertake, will determine how difficult it is on you mentally and physically. It may be difficult especially if you are doing an elimination detox where you stop eating or drinking certain foods or food entirely. During a detox, toxins are released from stored fat into the blood so they can be excreted. You may have decreased energy, skin irritation, headaches or mood swings while your body is eliminating these toxins. After a detox is finished, most people experience a boost in energy, improved mood, weight loss, decreased bloating, easier elimination, better muscle recovery, increased immune system and overall better health. Traditional doctors attribute these results to the limited or eliminated food, which requires the body to burn, accumulated and stored fats. However this has not diminished people’s interest or continued use of detox programs. Especially since detoxification has become a popular topic over the past decade and an increasing number of detox products have become available in the market. Ultimately, people will continue to use detox programs as long as they continue to have beneficial results, even if traditional medicine disputes the use of detoxification.

Author's Bio: 

Sarah Labdar graduated with a BA in exercise science and has worked in the medical field since. Her focus is alternative medicine and how it interacts and works in conjunction with traditional medicine. Check out my health website!
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