The word “detox” is certainly a buzzword these days among wellness circles, and most of us have come across a detox diet or a recipe that lauds its detoxification benefits for our bodies. But, what is detoxing and how can you do so naturally and safely over long-term?
Throughout my own journey studying wellness and the body’s healing process for a number of years, I learned that detoxification is one of the primary ways to help clean the body so that it has the opportunity to heal itself effectively.
Essentially, what detox does is that it eliminates the body of acidic chemistry that causes chronic inflammation and helps to hydrate it so that it can bring itself to homeostasis and heal and rebuild degeneration.
Since our genetic weaknesses, diet, and lifestyle all contribute to the acidification of our bodies over time, healing likewise doesn’t happen overnight. The first step on a wellness journey always involves eliminating toxic and chemical exposure from foods and the environment, and secondly, helping the body eliminate unwanted chemistry so that its channels of elimination can start working efficiently once again.
The final step is to introduce more alkaline chemistry into the system through a raw and organic plant-based diet and to ensure that more energy is brought into the body than is depleted through daily activity and the cellular metabolic process.
Food and Activities That Energize and Alkalize the Body
Activities that promote energy cultivation and flow are rest, Yoga/Qi Gong (since they promote the flow of vital energy throughout tissues and organs), meditation, and deep Yogic breathing.
In addition to promoting energetic flow and preserving energy through rest, the best foods to consume for energy are those with simple sugars, as simple sugar feeds cells with ATP (energy) directly without much need for digestion or assimilation.
Essentially, simple sugars – found in fruits and vegetables – bypass the body’s multi-layered digestive process and are absorbed and assimilated within 40 minutes of consumption.
Fruit has the largest concentration of simple sugars and hydrating chemistry that cools down the body and provides cells and tissues with direct energy for vital processes and repair. Therefore, a diet high in organic fruit intake will help you detoxify the body gently and naturally over time.
If the body doesn’t receive the simple sugar fuel it needs to run its engines, the whole system is compromised and compensation from other less vital parts can lead to degeneration of organs and the onset of chronic illness over time. If we ensure to consume more energy than we spend, the body will then have a surplus of energy to self-heal.
However, for most of us, our food choices, daily stressors, and toxic environments demand too many resources from the body which the body may not even have – so it ends up borrowing the vital electrolytes, especially calcium, from its own connective tissues and bones, which it uses to alkalize the body to be able to survive with the least damage possible.
Ultimately, if we don’t keep the bodily chemistry in an alkaline state and don’t consume vital energy from our food source that the body not only needs for activity but for repair, we’ll inevitably experience degeneration and decay over time.
Aging is simply another word for this decay, since our bodies are exposed to too many acidic substances over time that have not been cleaned out and which aggregate, especially in the weakest areas of the body. Most likely, disease is an expression of tissue degeneration that is localized and which the body is unable to heal due to lack of proper resources (mostly energy and alkaline chemistry).
To cure disease, every ancient tradition offers simple modalities that will bring the body back to harmony and homeostasis – namely, detoxification, which eliminates unwanted chemistry and obstructions and the consumption of proper hydration, nutrition and energy that will alkalize the body and provide it with the resources it needs to heal and thrive.
In the Ayurvedic tradition, toxins called Ama are known to stagnate the body and prevent it from functioning properly. Similarly, in Chinese Traditional Medicine, disease is the culmination of energy blockages in the meridians that prevent Qi (energy) from flowing to all cells and tissues of the body. Detoxification removes these obstructions and enables the body to restore its vital functions.
So given such an extensive overview, what is detoxing in a nutshell? Inherently, detox is the first step in healing all diseases and is predicated on the elimination of all that the body deems excessive, inharmonious, poisonous, and corrosive. It is the act of lending the body a hand so that it can do what it is designed to do – keep us healthy, energetic, pain-free and active past that hundred-year mark.
What is the Best Definition of Detoxification?
Indeed, what is the best definition of detoxification from various traditions of wellness?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, detoxification is “a regimen or treatment intended to remove toxins and impurities from the body.”
Another longer definition from The Free Medical Dictionary labels detoxification as “one of the more widely used treatments and concepts in alternative medicine [that] is based on the principle that illnesses can be caused by the accumulation of toxic substances (toxins) in the body.”
It further acknowledges that “eliminating existing toxins and avoiding new toxins are essential parts of the healing process [and that] detoxification utilizes a variety of tests and techniques.”
And finally, Dictionary.com describes detoxification as a biochemical “metabolic process by which toxins are changed into less toxic or more readily excretable substances.”
All of these definitions are very accurate and give the process of natural detoxification justice. However, if you’re wondering what is the best definition of detoxification from someone who has worked with detox protocols for some time, they come from ancient traditions of Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). These Eastern healing traditions derive their wisdom of healing from their spiritual traditions that viewed the world as a physical expression of essential elements – fire, earth, air, water (and in TCM, their offshoots, wood and metal).
Ayurveda, or the wisdom of living, is based on the principles of life, nature, and cosmic laws found in the Vedas that treat the body as a microcosm of the cosmic system (both of which are governed by the same principles). Similarly, Traditional Chinese Medicine is rooted in Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist philosophy and is predicated on supporting the body’s innate healing capacity to restore biological balance to all the interrelated systems.
Both traditions view the body holistically – as an intelligent biological mechanism made up of separate but related parts. Inevitably, if one area of the body suffers, all systems weaken over time. Therefore, treatment of symptoms is inevitably futile, as the root of the problem is always multilayered and calls for attention to the interrelated functions of all the glands and organs.
Another reason why these traditions are the best sources of detoxification knowledge is that their healing methods are contingent on body detoxification.
In both ancient India and China, healing was based on the process of elimination and supplementation in an effort to reboot the body back to proper function. Both traditions concentrate on prevention and the overall strengthening of the elimination and detoxification organs in the body.
Here is the gist of the Ayurvedic interpretation of detoxification:
According to The Medical Dictionary, “Ayurvedic medicine utilizes diet, detoxification and purification techniques, herbal and mineral remedies, yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, and massage therapy as holistic healing methods.” Inevitably, “the goal of Ayurveda is prevention as well as promotion of the body’s own capacity for maintenance and balance.”
AyurUniverse further describes the nature of detoxification in Ayurveda:
“Ayurvedic detoxification methods, usually accompanied by yoga and meditation, prove to be an excellent way to cleanse the body, lighten the mind and enrich soul. Ayurveda recommends a program of internal cleansing at every change of seasons to clear the channels of the body of toxins that may have built up over the previous season.
Detox is particularly recommended each spring, because in the spring, your body’s natural cleansing and rejuvenating mechanisms kick into high gear in tune with all of nature. Traditional methods such as Panchakarma take into consideration the characteristics of your personality and cleanse from both inside and outside.”
Similarly, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the importance of detoxification is related to creating a balance in the body by strengthening the liver (and other elimination organs):
The practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine seeks to understand and evaluate the state of balance or imbalance of a person using the bipolar principle of Yin and Yang. Chinese herbs excel at nourishing and detoxifying the body at a deep and fundamental level, and supported in this way the body has a much greater capacity to heal itself.
If the Liver is backed up with other vital tasks, such as filtering and eliminating complex exogenous toxins, the hormones continue to circulate in the blood and become endogenous toxins. Unfortunately, if the system becomes overloaded beyond capacity with both endogenous and exogenous toxins, like a frustrated commander or general, the Liver gives a chemical ‘file it’ command for them to be stored in various cells throughout the body awaiting future detoxification and elimination. This can put a burden on the body, especially the various tissues and cells that must accommodate the presence of the various toxins. (pg. 33) –Chinese Traditional Herbal Medicine, Diagnosis and Treatment by Dr. Michael Tierra and Lesley Tierra
Does Detox Work?
That’s a question that most individuals who have just discovered the wellness path often ask. They may automatically think that being endowed by elimination organs is enough to have their body detoxify. By this logic, they mistakenly conclude that a detox diet and certain detox protocols are gimmicks. This train of thought is fundamentally based in not understanding the workings of the body and being unaware of natural law.
Here are some of the most common misconceptions about detoxification and why they were founded on a rocky foundation.
But first, let’s talk about the 7 basic types of toxins/pollutants that we encounter on a daily basis!
7 Types of Toxins and Pollutants That Harm Our Health
No matter what form they embody, heavy metals accumulate in the body tissues, especially in soft tissues such as the brain, ovaries, and fat tissues. They cause the same types of symptoms found in every illness: a) pain, b) intestinal issues and c) joint and muscular pain.
2) Chemical Toxins
Chemicals that come from personal and cleaning products are called multi-toxins because their adverse effect depends on the combination of chemicals that are present in each person; these chemicals accumulate over time and disrupt the body’s natural function.
3) Energetic Toxins
Digital tech pollution can affect the mind and body similarly to multi-toxins. They can exacerbate brain fog, stress, irritability, and facilitate other energetic imbalances. In addition, they cause mental fogginess, which is not related to blood sugar levels (similar to chemical toxins).
In particular, electromagnetic frequency (EMFs) derived from WiFi and other technology has been known to cause reproductive system damage, neurological degeneration, nervous system weakness, and cancer. One tip on how you can reduce exposure is to turn off your WiFi box at night!
Parasites are another type of energetic toxin. Most of us have some form of parasites in our body, since it is very easy to get them not only from food, but also from contaminated water, through skin absorption, pets and travel.
Parasites affect gut and nervous system function, steal vital nutrition from our body, dominate our dietary preferences, generate toxic by-products and cause fatigue, brain fog, digestive issues, and pain.
5) Pollution and Pollutants
Environmental pollutants get into our body through the air that we breathe. This is why it’s helpful to have a clean internal environment, so the body can better deal with chemical pollutants like second hand smoke, car exhaust and other exposure.
Likewise, if you live in a city, make an effort to spend one day per week in nature where you can oxygenate your body and give it a break from chemical and pollution exposure.
6) Toxins From Our Food
These types of toxins are the most common cause of food sensitivities and allergic reactions. If we have inflammation in any body tissue, the body will not be able to eliminate toxins as effectively.
Foods that are not organic may contain high amounts of pesticides on top of additional added chemicals. These toxins can interfere with digestion and elimination of other foods which may then accumulate in various tissues causing symptoms.
7) Metabolic Toxins
Metabolic waste is created by the body through cell respiration is present in our bodies on a daily basis by the shear fact that we’re alive! In addition to what we put in our bodies through food and air, the body itself continuously creates toxins through its normal metabolic functions.
The body’s “factory” is working non-stop to digest and eliminate, transport nutrients and oxygen around the body through the blood, excrete metabolic waste products from the tissues, fight off intrusive pathogens with the immune system, repair broken down tissues and so on.
When we exercise, for example, the body’s metabolic function increases, and this cell waste is now accumulated to be expelled through the lymphatic and kidney channels. We may sweat out a lot of the cellular waste, but most will be removed through urine.
Therefore, if we are very active in our lives, but our kidneys and the lymphatic system are not strong, we may actually be doing more damage than good. Instead, light or moderate physical activity is always preferable, especially when on a detox or when healing the body.
All of these activities create heavy metabolic secretions and accumulation of waste material. Therefore, if our elimination organs are not working optimally to meet the demands of metabolic toxin overload, the waste will accumulate in body tissues and cause inflammation and tissue break-down over time.
Formation of Disease: Why Do We Get Sick?
The point is that toxins/pollutants build up over time, and the mainstream consensus that many chemicals are safe at low-level exposures is quite a dangerous fallacy. In fact, the laws of biology and physics require that, over time, a large amount of anything will cause saturation and imbalance.
Essentially, the build-up of toxins that are not easily eliminated by the body is the main cause of all diseases. In the Ayurvedic tradition, “Ama” are toxins that take over the human body and the holistic physician’s job is to find a way to remove Ama and restore balance and health to the system – which is self-healing and regenerative.
The body has two main ways of eliminating toxins:
1) water-soluble, non-metallic chemicals are eliminated through the kidneys
2) everything else is converted to water-soluble material by the liver and eliminated through the colon and skin.
Detox Misconception #1
As we discussed earlier, many people believe that simply having elimination organs is enough to keep our bodies safe from long-term toxin exposure.
Here, it is important to understand that although the body is highly intelligent and self-healing, it can only function optimally (with its metabolic, elimination, and repair functions) in an alkaline body terrain.
However, if the liver, the kidneys, the colon, and the skin are not functioning correctly – which is the case for most of us in the modern world due to genetics, diet, lifestyle or all of the above – and our toxic intake is higher than our toxic purge, our bodies may have a very hard time dealing with the excess acidosis, which, if not eliminated, will erode tissues and cause degeneration of cells, organs, and glands over time.
For instance, if the liver is not functioning optimally, it will not be able to effectively detoxify heavy metals and chemicals, which leads to one of two scenarios: 1) the toxic material will accumulate in body tissue, causing inflammation and degeneration; 2) the liver cells themselves will become damaged and unable to perform their function, which will impact the performance and function of the other parts of the body that rely on healthy liver function.
The same goes for the kidneys! If the kidneys are not filtering acids out of the body, the toxins are accumulated in the interstitial fluid – the body’s sewage system – which is called the lymphatic system.
There, they can wreak havoc on the whole body and usually accumulate in the weakest areas where tissue break down or tumor formation occurs.
The lymphatic system covers the whole body, and through our movement and proper function facilitated by diet and light exercise, moves all the water-soluble toxic fluid back to the kidneys to be eliminated through urine.
Detox Misconception #2
Detox diets and protocols are a fad and don’t do what they advertise.
The best way to keep the body toxin-free is through a proper diet that is derived from nature. An alkaline diet is not only regenerative (nutritious) but also detoxifying (toxin purgative).
Therefore, introducing the body to alkaline chemistry through organic juices and raw vegan foods will reverse inflammation, bring nutrition to cells and organs that are malnourished, and promote better elimination. However, because of soil depletion, pesticides, and the modern handling of produce – such as harvesting it too early, radiating it by shipping it across states and countries, and even using ripening and chemical agents to make the produce “shelf ready” – fruits and veggies are of much lower quality today than they were only a generation ago. This means that the nutrition that our grandparents received by enjoying a local apple or a cucumber is a fraction in today’s equivalent.
This means that to detox and heal, we must look for the best quality organic produce as well as supplement with whole foods nutrition; this supplementation should only entail organic and dried fruits, veggies, and superfoods and never synthetic supplements.
In addition to their nutrition, raw fruits and veggies are very filling in terms of nutrition per calorie composition, chemically simple, and require very little digestive energy, which is important during detoxification when energy is redirected to healing.
In my opinion, there are two parts to this misconception:
1) Some “detox diets” promote a diet with meats/eggs/milk and fermented foods, which do not eliminate the food chemistry that causes inflammation in the first place, nor do they give a break to the digestive system, which accounts for 70% of our energetic loss.
2) Detox protocols that are not “scientifically measurable” are still effective, because they are based on the laws of nature (energy), as described by all ancient healing cultures!
These protocols may include various yogic breathing exercises, Qi Gong practice and body massage, colon cleanse/colonics, and other ways of eliminating toxins out of the body, which promote the movement of obstructions that cause conglomeration of acids.
If the body is too acidic, it creates protective mechanisms to prevent the acids from degenerating other tissues and organs. This can manifest in the form of protective pockets of acids or tumors (this is exactly how cancer develops and why detox is the pillar for its effective treatment).
As far as elimination diets, they are immensely helpful in reducing allergies, inflammation, chronic pain, and improving diabetes, skin problems and other health conditions.
Since they lower overall toxin intake, the body is now more readily available to go into its self-healing mode. Elimination diets help support kidney function and can quickly lower inflammation and its symptoms.
So, what’s the best approach on how to detox effectively? An alkaline juice or fast and a detox protocol that enables the circulation of the blood and lymphatic system as well as removal of inner obstructions are key to bringing the body into homeostasis and restoring it to its proper function.
In actuality, a detox diet is essential to healing any illness and achieving optimal health.
There is no other way that is more effective in naturopathy or modern medicine!
Detox Misconception #3
Disease and illness are mysterious and hard to understand. We can only be defensive against disease, and once we have it, we are at mercy of it.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Disease is a byproduct of the natural law of cause and effect. It can only arise if conditions are in place for it to develop due to a number of imbalances that cause our body’s self-healing mechanism to malfunction.
These imbalances can be the product of genetics, diet, environment, lifestyle and emotional/mental patterns. If there is enough imbalance to override the body’s protective and healing mechanisms, illness will inevitably form.
We are the gatekeepers of our body and health, and if we have caused imbalances (knowingly or unknowingly), we can also choose to consciously remove them. We are not the victims of our outside world, rather, we are the products of our own choices, habits, and patterns.
All in all, does detox work to help the body heal? Absolutely! Disease doesn’t befall us – it is created. If we consciously choose to live a life that is harmonious to natural law, we will ensure health for life.
Taking preventative measures is the essential course of action, since effects are harder, more expensive, and more time-consuming to correct. And if we do experience symptoms of illness, it is only a sign for the need for self-reflection and course readjustment. Illness reminds us that we are off-course and gives us the nudge we need to correct it.
I hope you learned all about what entails detoxing and the main misconceptions about detox and the body. Indeed, detoxification as a modality of healing and regeneration has been around for thousands of years.
It utilizes diet, herbs, and other healing modalities to purge the body of toxic substances and restore its balance with alkaline, hydrating chemistry that is namely found in fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Since the dawn of time, our ancestors have practiced many elements of detoxification, including fasting, purging, herbal cleansing, and dietary restrictions.
By utilizing the wisdom of ancient practices, we can also benefit from the immense advantages of detoxification for both prevention and disease cessation. Unlike modern medicine that only treats symptoms and further acidifies the body with chemicals, detoxification works with the knowledge of the body to support its innate processes, chemistry, and elimination pathways. It is an internal “shower” that we should take often to clean the body of metabolic and acidic waste that has been accumulated in tissues over time.
If you’re curious about natural detoxification, how your body works, and how to conduct a full body detox effectively, check out my new e-book, How to Detox Your Body Naturally and Safely. It will provide you with all the knowledge you need to navigate the journey with ease, understanding, and self-compassion. May it truly help you create the healthy and vital life you envision!