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Getting it all out: help your body detoxify

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For many years, the term “detox” referred to breaking free of alcohol or drug addiction. Nowadays, detox means removing all toxins from the body — not just poisons from substance abuse, but also heavy metals, chemical additives, allergens, and other toxins in our food, water — even the air we breathe.

Conventional medicine tends to be skeptical of “new age” practices like body detox, but detox methods have been around a lot longer than traditional practitioners might realize. Many ancient cultures embraced natural body detox, with Native American sweat lodges and Indian Ayurveda (panchakarma) being just two of the methods that survive today. But if your conventional practitioner dismisses your questions about how to maintain effective body detoxification, don’t take it personally. Preventive therapy is still an up-and-coming idea in standard medicine, which centers on “rescuing” the body from illness. In effect, the conventional perspective says wait until you get sick, and then we can help you. But I know that most people would rather stay well now than get well soon!

That’s why effective, ongoing detoxification is so powerful: it truly helps prevent illness later in life. Once you begin to support your detox ability, your body’s “normal state” tends to shift toward health instead of inching toward illness. Like most of those in functional medicine, we believe that effective, natural detoxification can improve your quality of life and prevent many kinds of disease — and it’s particularly important in our stress-filled and toxin-laden world. There are practical, proactive steps you can take to support your natural ability to detoxify, and to keep toxins from entering your system in the first place.

Your body is detoxifying right now

Your body is detoxifying all the time. The natural processes of metabolism create streams of waste, and we’re also ingesting, inhaling, and absorbing pathogens, chemicals, allergens, and other toxins. Our bodies work continually to deactivate and eliminate these harmful substances.

Natural detox is a collection of responses that occur throughout your body, literally without pause. And the human body is remarkably successful at disassembling and removing the majority of toxic substances and metabolic wastes.

Too many toxins = lots of potential symptoms

Usually, it’s only when our finely-tuned detox systems can’t keep up that we see problems. Diet and lifestyle choices can influence our ability to detoxify, but so can genetic make-up and extended exposure to toxic elements. If toxins build up inside the body, a wide range of effects are possible, with some potentially serious consequences.

Possible symptoms of internal toxicity

irritabilityindigestionskin rashessneezing
fuzzy thinkingbloatingacnewheezing
headachesconstipationjoint painchest pain
sinus congestioninsomnia or sleepinessbackacheallergy-like responses

Research shows a troubling link between the impaired ability to detoxify and a number of diseases, including cancer, Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue/immune dysfunction syndrome. But many other conditions are also related to toxicity in the body: thyroid dysfunction, arthritis, heart disease, eczema, allergies, asthma, cirrhosis, fibrocystic breasts, gastritis, pancreatitis, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease... and the list goes on.

Did you know?

A common sign of excess toxins is unwanted weight gain. See what you can do to clear your body.

Detoxification imbalance is often at the root of a woman's symptoms and health issues. It can also underlie other internal imbalances, including those involving digestion and inflammation — as well as a woman’s overall hormone balance.

The Women's Health Network perspective on detox

Because our modern world exposes us to new poisons and substances — both naturally occurring and manmade — we see an increasing need for efficient and effective detox. Our experience has helped us develop a comprehensive approach to supporting detox for women. Healthy detoxification is based on two simple principles:

  • Provide a steady supply of the raw materials your body needs (food, key nutrients, water, and other fluids).
  • Create living and working conditions that enhance your body’s ability to manage toxins.

We advise patients to eat, drink, work, play, and even rest, in ways that support their natural detoxification processes. Making smart choices that help you detoxify well will have a direct impact on both your short- and long-term health.

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Related to this article:

References & further reading on natural body detoxification


Last Modified Date: 04/18/2011