What is Detox Therapy?
‘Detox’ is a short for ‘detoxification’ which means to remove toxins or poisons from the body. In clinical medicine, the term would generally refer to eliminating substances like alcohol, illegal drugs, or the removal of poisons. In the complementary sphere, ‘Detox’ can refer to a range of therapies: elimination of waste products (colonic hydrotherapy), a regulation of food (diet detox), liver detox, fasting, detox massage, saunas, acupuncture or taking specific herbs to purify the system. Essentially, all the methods have the same purpose: to remove substances that prevent the body from operating at the level of optimum health.
In fact, the human body has many mechanisms for detoxifying itself naturally. And these Detoxing methods need only be resorted to when the human detox system has stopped functioning fully and resulted in a build-up or blockage of unwanted substances which interfere with the normal clearing systems the body. As the detox therapies work inside rather than outside the body and are powerful, it may be worth referring to your medical adviser if you propose to undertake a detoxing regime as it may affect other procedures.
The purpose of a detox diet is not to lose weight (although that is claimed as a favourable side-effect with some therapies), a detox diet is intended to purge toxic substances. Many people are becoming aware of that ‘we are what we eat’. And over a period of time we may not wish to become what we have eaten, as much of what is available contains artificial additives, preservatives, E-numbers etc. So to eliminate those things that have been ingested and to flush them out appeals to people – a kind of spring-cleaning of the entire digestive system.
Naturopathic doctor and author of Detoxification, Linda Page, ND, PhD, says, ‘Anybody can benefit from a cleansing. The body is coming out of what might be called hibernation. It’s a way you can jump-start your body for a more active life, a healthier life.’
If you suffer from irregular bowel movements, digestive problems, stress or tiredness, you might well benefit from a Detox Diet. This will probably include: drinking lots of water (2 litres a day), cutting out the usual culprits (fatty meats, dairy products, excessive oil and anything non-organic).
A diet of natural juices (made from fruits and vegetables) is one method of taking the toxins out of the body. Fasting is another method – in other words, cutting out all food, including the toxic ones. Total fasting is a powerful and potentially dangerous technique and should be undertaken only with advice and under supervision.
Herbal detox is another choice, and the addition of herbs (like licquorice root and milk thistle) may be part of one of the other detox therapies. Particular teas and infusions together with remedial herbs are said to be able to protect the liver, assist in treating stomach ulcers and urinary conditions.
It’s worth remembering that any change to your diet will be more effective if you sustain the changes, leaving out the foods and fluids that led to your condition in the first place, and replacing it with a balanced diet high in fruit, vegetables and fibre.
Other methods claimed to detoxify the body of poisonous and unhealthy substances include: acupuncture, detox massage, colonic hydrotherapy, chelation and detox foot spas.
Some acupuncturist offer detox therapy based on the protocol adopted by NADA (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association. A detox session involves auricular (ear) acupuncture, body acupuncture and relaxation therapy to cleanse and energise clients who may have over-indulged in food, alcohol, tobacco or drugs.
Detox massage is based on the idea that the lymphatic system needs to be working efficiently in order to support the immune system and expel toxins from the body. Gentle strokes and a regular light pressure are applied during a Lymphatic Draining Massage to aid the elimination of toxins, and this is found to reduce swelling and puffiness.
Fasting and Colonic Hydrotherapy
The colon is believed by many alternative therapists to be root of many illnesses and conditions, and therefore a total cleanse is recommended. Fasting – either with just water, or with natural juices – is best supervised by specialists. The resulting transfer of toxins from parts of the body to the colon requires the need for colonic hydrotherapy.
Long-established as a method of cleansing the system, colonic irrigation or colonic hydrotherapy, is claimed to be effective for all kinds of digestive and dietary issues, which may initially show themselves through symptoms like stomach aches, headaches, flatulence, acidity, acne, skin rashes – all signs of a body out of balance.
[Colonic Hydrotherapy is a complex and reputedly very beneficial procedure covered in greater detail in the HealthyPages Therapy Guide.]
Chelation therapy is the removal of toxic metals which have built up body using chelation agents, applied orally or intravenously. These are said to bond with the toxic metals, for example, mercury, arsenic and lead. And together, the toxin bonded with the chelation agent, leaves the body. Other types of toxic metals that chelation therapy is said to remove include uranium and plutonium.
Gaining in popularity nowadays are Detox Foot Spas (baths), which use electrolysis to apparently draw the toxins from the body into the water, evidenced by the water becoming discoloured. Considerable controversy rages over this method, with those who have experienced its effectiveness for themselves extolling its virtues, and sceptical scientists insisting that the process cannot be proved by research to deliver what it claimed for it.
What to expect
If you go to a Detox therapist, ensure that they are fully experienced in the procedure they offer. Any detox process is ‘invasive’ in the sense that it is entering your system and seeking to change its current functioning, and so should be approached with care.
If you choose an extreme detox option such as Colonic Hydrotherapy, research it carefully. Responsible therapists are very conscious of the issues that need to be considered. First, they will be rigorous about hygiene and cleanliness, and you will be able to judge that when you visit. They will question you about pre-existing conditions which would make this therapy unsuitable for you (Cancer, Pregnancy, Liver or Kidney disease, Severe heart disease), and local rectal conditions such as severe haemorrhoids, anal fissures or fistulas). And conscientious practitioners would request written permission from your GP if you have a serious condition.
In a colon cleansing session, an experienced practitioner will explain the process and put you at your ease. You’ll be asked to empty your bladder, then lie on a couch, covered (modesty is respected at all times and fresh equipment is used for each client). A disposable speculum is inserted into the rectum with two tubes. Through one, warm filtered water enters to clean the impacted faecal matter and any deposits of mucus. The action of the water softens and flushes out the toxins and impacted deposits, through the other tube. Afterwards you are given plenty of opportunity to shower and refresh yourself. The appointment usually lasts about 45 minutes to one hour.
Effects and Benefits
Processes like fasting and juice dieting may cause certain side effects, almost inevitable while the system is cleansed; this could include headaches, faintness, nausea, or skin reactions like acne, rashes and eruptions. These adverse effects are known as a ‘healing crisis’, as the body gets rid of the toxins. It’s advisable to drink plenty of water to assist the flushing out process, rest, sleep and don’t do anything strenuous.
Diet Detox claims to result in more regular bowel movement, improved digestion, increased energy, healthier eating habits, and general physical and mental wellbeing.
The particular claims made for detox therapies are that they can be effective for physical conditions that indicate a malfunction of the liver: namely, constipation, chemical or food allergies and sensitivities, headaches, rashes, tiredness, mood swings and depression. General detoxification can cleanse the liver, return it to better functioning and improve these conditions.
Most people give very positive and quite similar reports after their detox – of whichever type: a feeling of lightness, inner cleanness, clear skin, of having been rinsed out, cleared of heaviness, rejuvenated, re-energised and ready to get on with life.
Fascinating Facts about Detox Therapy
- There are many early incidences of the use of colonic irrigation and enemas: by the ancient Egyptians; by the Greek physician Hippocrates (who suggested that cleansing the colon would improve health); and Roman doctors who used to technique in treating patients with high fever.
- In the First World War (1914-18), Chelation was originally used to treat soldiers affected by poison gas. The arsenic-based gas was called Lewisite, so the substance used to counteract it (organic dithiol compound dimercaprol) became known as BAL or British Anti-Lewisite.
- Gwyneth Paltrow is a great believer in detox therapy and frequently uses here website www.GOOP.com to promote various complementary methods.
- The most popular time of year to engage in detox therapy is immediately after New Year. Hundreds of thousands of erstwhile revellers buy Detox-kits, make New Year Resolutions and promise to eat less, give up alcohol, jog daily, lose weight, and generally live healthier lives.
- The world of medical science and research constantly challenges Detox therapies, on the grounds that the findings are unprovable in scientific terms, while more and more people turn to complementary detoxifying techniques in the hope of getting some support against allergies, food intolerances, skin complaints, fatigue and so on.
- In the early 20th century an American physician, John Kellogg, an American physician is recorded as having used enemas therapeutically to treat thousands of his patients who he had diagnosed as suffering from gastrointestinal disease.
- British TV host and personality Carol Vorderman is a fervent fan of detox diet for health, and have launched her own detox diet program – Carol Voderman Detox Diet Program.
- A research psychologist at the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, Chris Strychacz, PhD, has a one-week total water-only fast each year. He reckons that the practice not only brings physical benefit, but something akin to a spiritual experience: “It was extraordinary, a mystical experience. I felt like I’d figured out why Jesus and Plato and Socrates and Gandhi did it — the clarity of thought, the peacefulness.”
- Detoxification by fasting has been long-standing spiritual tradition in many faiths. Almost every religion has fasting among its regular ritual: Ramadan (for Muslims), Yom Kippur (for Jews), Lent (for Christians), and Buddhists and Hindus also practise fasting.
Association for Natural Medicine
Detoxing is generally offered by practitioners who are skilled in other complementary practices. They may belong to one of the general alternative professional organisations, like these: