Detoxification = Dangerous?

That title may sound alarming considering in my New Years post I mentioned I was doing a juice cleanse this weekend. There is a difference between “cleansing” and “detoxifying”. 

What is the difference you ask?

The short answer is, there is no agreed upon definition of either term. They’re generally used interchangeably.

A slightly longer answer is, some health care practitioners do differentiate between the two, designating a detox as being more targeted to removing an unwanted (and specific) waste product or substance from the body. In such cases, a detox may be advised after exposure to chemicals such as pesticides, overindulgence in alcohol, use of certain medications, or similar situations. This would be where I work from as a Holistic Nutritionist.

On the other hand, a cleanse provides more general support for the organs of detoxification, including the colon, liver, and kidneys, without a specific target for removal from the body. This is the basics of the cleanse I did this weekend. 

Also of note: 

There are a great many types of cleanses/detoxes. For the most part, though, they usually involve a combination of different dietary recommendations, herbal products, and lifestyle changes. A detox program can last anywhere from a week to 10 days to a few months- if you are cleaning up your diet (eliminating GMO’s, common food allergens, fast food, etc), and your environment, and then doing the actual detox of unwanted chemicals in your body.

A change in diet focuses on removing foods that are considered problematic for the health of the particular person. This can include suspected food allergens or intolerances, processed foods, and products with artificial colours, flavours, or other additives. In some cases this also includes a period of fasting or the consumption of liquids only.

Natural herbal products support the main organs of waste removal, such as fibre and probiotics for the colon, and herbs and/or nutrients to improve the metabolism of waste products through the liver.

Rest and relaxation are recommended, as well as activities that help to promote waste removal from the body, such as infrared saunas, skin brushing, or colonics. I did Epsom Salt baths this weekend, as Epsom salts help remove toxins from the body, promote relaxation and help eliminate pain. 

So back to the dangers of detoxification

Before you decide to spend money on that detox kit (some of them are quite expensive), consider the following:

1. Avoid the poison. We must re-evaluate everything we eat and drink before starting a detoxification program. So many of the foods offered in supermarkets and restaurants are loaded with dangerous chemicals – like genetically modified organisms (GMOs), MSG, and artificial sweeteners.

2. Reduce intestinal inflammation. Most people never consider the health of their digestive system. Keep in mind – the ‘mobilization’ of toxic debris does not necessarily equal elimination. In other words, if you have gut issues – these toxins, which get released from fatty tissue, can be re-distributed and absorbed in other parts of the body including the brain.

3. Watch your nutrient intake. Many people get overly-enthusiastic about ‘cleaning out’ the body and they forget about replenishing vital nutrients. For example, water fasting should never be taken lightly and, if you have no experience with fasting, please consult a trusted healthcare provider. Detoxification programs increase the stress on several organs including, the liver and kidneys. So, be sure to consume plenty of antioxidants – like vitamin C – to minimize the threat of oxidative stress.

The most common detoxification mistakes to avoid

1. Don’t give up on the ‘first try’. Healthy detoxification strategies are lifestyle habits – not a “magic pill”. And, while results are important, we all have our own individual differences and requirements. For example, constipation may not be resolved with a powdered product – but increasing your water intake may do the trick – especially if your health problem stems from dehydration.

2. Stop wasting your money on ineffective products. A toxic body can cause brain fog, memory issues and physical pain. These toxins can be linked to cellular inflammation – a major risk factor for disease. Before starting an expensive detoxification program, your health may improve by simply removing toxins from your immediate space. For example, remove mercury-based tooth fillings, chemical-laced household cleaners and clean up your indoor air space by purchasing more house plants or a high-quality air filter.

3. Don’t overdo it. Being too ‘enthusiastic’ about cleansing can be dangerous. For example, do you think drinking more water will help you? That’s good – just be sure to drink pure (non-contaminated) spring water – get it tested. Or, use a high-quality water purification unit to remove unwanted elements like, fluoride and chlorine.

Lastly, many people believe that an ‘effective’ detoxification program (naturally) produces undesirable results. That’s simply not true. Sure, at the beginning, you may feel a little more sluggish – but, generally speaking, your energy levels should soar and your mental clarity should improve



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