It is an amazingly complex process so here is a hugely summarised and simplified explanation!
First of all you might ask why bother with a detoxification program?
One of the more obvious answers is because we live in an increasingly toxic world. There is no end to toxic chemicals floating around in modern society – industrial pollutants, cleaning products, hygiene products, petrochemicals, heavy metals, pesticides, pharmaceutical drugs, food additives, plastics and other synthetic compounds and the list goes on and on…
The human body has inbuilt mechanisms to deal with toxins but these natural processes can be overburdened leading to specific symptoms of exposure and a vast array of non-specific symptoms that may overlap with other clinical issues. These include:
- Allergies, intolerances
- Skin irritation, rashes
- Fertility issues
- Mood disorders
- Recurrent infections
- Generalised aches and pains
- Gastrointestinal disorders
The process of detoxification
Most detoxification programs aim to reduce the toxic load by restricting the diet and removing foods that are most commonly associated with intolerances and irritation to the digestive system; increasing fluids and fibre to promote cleansing and use specific herbs and supplements to support the organs involved in detoxification and elimination.
The liver has always been considered the primary organ of detoxification with a number of key functions including:
- filtration of blood,
- production and secretion of bile which aids in the digestion of fats and acts as a carrier of toxic substances into the intestines
- neutralisation and modification of toxins for elimination
Improving Intestinal barrier health and function is also a key aspect of detoxification as the gut wall is literally a barrier to a huge range of endogenous toxins. So called “leaky gut” is a state of increased intestinal permeability which allows entry of undesirable compounds into the body, thereby adding to toxic overload.
The gut is also a major site of the excretion of toxins so poor gut health can lead to the reabsorption of toxic metabolites otherwise destined for elimination.
And lastly inflammation of gut cells and the degradation of beneficial gut flora severely compromise detoxification and excretion. Therefore many of the supplements used in detoxification programs focus on the elimination of parasites from the bowel, the cleansing and healing of the gut wall and the restoration of beneficial bowel flora.
Other organs involved in the elimination of waste from the body are the skin, lungs, kidneys and lymphatic system which is why detox programs usually involve skin brushing and Epsom salt baths (promote the opening of pores and increase blood flow through to the surface of the skin to aid the elimination of toxins through the skin), simple unprocessed food and increased fluids to support kidney function and exercise (increases lung function and stimulates the lymphatic system which is responsible for the removal of excess fluid and toxins from within the tissues).
So to end with where we started – why detoxify? Because it’s like having a spring clean and a chance to start again; to restore your systems of detoxification and elimination which in turn can lead to improved energy, better immune function, clarity of thought, better digestion; can be a great start to cleaning up your diet, maybe even identify food sensitivities and lose some weight and of course it always makes you feel better when you are doing something really proactive for your health!