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Makers of today’s popular detox products present a tempting offer: undo a lifetime of unhealthy habits by drinking a special juice or tea for three days. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But I’m afraid it doesn’t work.
These simple products are everywhere, offering a one-size-fits-all approach to detoxification (the removal of toxins from your anatomy) which is not only scientifically unfounded but can actually be harmful. Official dietetic organisations suggest that detox diets can cause the loss of vital electrolytes and damage the gut’s protective bacteria layer.
But the detox fad masks a serious underlying truth.
Detoxification is an important practice for remaining healthy, as we absorb an alarming number of toxins from our environment, but in order to be effective it must be carried out properly. That means treating each patient as an individual case, carrying out a thorough analysis of their physiology, and prescribing treatments for their specific need.
This is where naturopathy comes in. As a naturopath with almost two decades of experience in the field, I can attest to the power of naturopathic detoxification in improving numerous conditions, ranging from obesity to arthritis and chronic fatigue. The practice leaves no stone unturned.
Why you need to detox?
The liver, kidneys, bowels and skin naturally remove waste products (known as toxins) from the body via sweat and excretion. This natural detoxification is very effective for passing out waste such as the indigestible parts of food or by-products of metabolism, but it is less effective at dealing with toxins from artificial sources such as pollutants and chemicals.
And there are a lot of them. In 2009, research found traces of close to 200 toxic chemicals in the tissues of 2,500 people tested. Further studies noted that our bodies are resorting to ineffective and harmful strategies in their attempts to manage these toxins.
Excess toxins are stored in fatty tissue which presents two key problems: firstly, the toxins are released back into the body when a person loses weight; and secondly, toxins such as organic pollutants have been found to trigger inflammatory reactions when stored in fatty tissue, which can affect normal body metabolism. Some toxins remain in the bloodstream and disrupt normal body function, leading to weight gain (by upsetting appetite-regulating and fat-storing hormones), poor concentration and chronic fatigue.
We absorb toxins from the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Mercury is a common offender, shown to be absorbed through eating fish and shellfish, working in proximity to industrial incinerators, or from the amalgam used in dental fillings. The presence of heavy metals such as mercury can create a condition known as ‘electrosensitivity’, which reacts with electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from mobile phones, phone masts, wireless Internet, power lines and household electrical wiring to trigger headaches and fatigue.
Other environmental toxins include food preservatives such as butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), pesticides and bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical used in plastic bottles and food tins, which has been linked with prostate and breast cancer. Then there are recreational toxins, like cigarette smoke and alcohol. Around seven million people die from tobacco use annually, nearly one million of them from second-hand smoke exposure.
So all these toxins gradually build up in your body, hampering body and brain function and leaving you feeling below par.
How to detox for real results
The focus of all naturopathic detox programs is to remove toxins and restore the body’s healthy terrain. This is your entire physical portrait, comprising medical history, genetics and personal history. Balancing this terrain is integral to successful detoxification and it really is impossible for a one-size-fits-all detox kit to deliver effective results.
As with conventional medicine, the first step in treating toxin overload is uncovering any problems the patient is experiencing. This begins with a thorough consultation, followed by tests for environmental toxins, which are administered via blood, urine or hair strand analysis. Once a patient’s toxin levels are known, nutritional imbalances are assessed. Because we are all genetically different and have different nutritional requirements, these assessments are performed with personalised tools, such as a Nutribody Analysis, which analyses for signs of nutritional imbalance, allowing your naturopath to determine the best diet and supplements for you.
Once armed with this information, treatment can begin. It is a process that follows set steps.
Step one: This involves removing toxins from the body using a range of techniques, such as colonics and sauna sessions. Substances that assist the removal of toxins, like chelators, which bind specifically to heavy metals in the body and are passed out in urine, can be given to the patient through a series of intravenous detoxification sessions, using the same protocols that were used in the US National Institute of Health study covering thousands of patients that proved the value of detox when performed by an experienced physician.
Homeopathic remedies that facilitate detoxification also have a role to play. Berberis, for example, helps to remove kidney stones that have formed from a build-up of uric acid.
Step two: This is dedicated to the restoration of specific nutrients required for healing and preventing future toxin build-up. This is achieved using dietary supplements and a personalized nutrition plan.
Step three: This involves education to minimize further exposure to toxins. Effective strategies include eating organic foods, avoiding BPA-containing food packaging and eating low-mercury seafood varieties.
Proactivity is vital for wellness today
The modern world leaves us exposed to countless toxins that build up in the body over time. This is why detoxification is essential for your body to function at its best. While it may be tempting to reach for a cleverly marketed juice cleanse when symptoms like low energy and weight gain arise, this will not tackle the problem adequately and may leave you feeling worse than before.
Your physiology is unique – the result of your genes and everything you have encountered throughout your life. As such, it can only be properly assessed using a personalized strategy created by a qualified expert, such as a naturopath, whose knowledge and comprehensive approach can help to truly restore balance and achieve the vitality you desire.