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Detoxification should be an essential part of everyone’s health plan. While our bodies are able to neutralize and eliminate toxins on their own, our systems can become overwhelmed by the amount of toxins we’re exposed to. We get overloaded by toxins in our environment through our food, water and air. When toxins build up in our body, they cause damage to our tissues and serve as an obstacle for the body to function optimally.
Unable to effectively deal with the toxic overload, toxins accumulate in the liver and tissues of the body, spill off into our blood stream and are sequestered and stored in our fat tissue (which includes our brain and breast tissue). When they circulate in our body they act as free radicals, cause oxidative stress and make it difficult for our organs and systems to function properly. Organ and system dysfunction contributes to many of the health issues that are common in our culture today and this makes it difficult for our body to heal itself when challenges arise.
I recommend that my patients do a detox of some kind soon after we start working together. There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all, it allows me to understand what portion of an individual’s health issues are due to more superficial causes such as toxic overload. Secondly, it removes some of the toxic burden and makes everything else I do with my patients more effective. Often, I find that simply doing a detox can give the body the kick-start it needs to heal.
Detoxification programs come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There are smoothie detoxes, fasting detoxes, herbal detoxes, homeopathic detoxes, nutrient detoxes, and detoxes using liquids such as teas and soups. Depending on the patient and their health history, I will recommend something simple to start and as the patient becomes more experienced with detoxing, I’ll recommend something deeper and more challenging for them.
Detoxes can vary in length lasting from one day to one month or longer depending on the individual. For patients who have never done a detox before, usually 5-12 days is enough. Some people prefer to do a slower, longer detox over 30 days. While others incorporate a day of detoxification every week.
Every detox program should incorporate diet changes. From simple changes such as cutting out sugar or coffee, to a full elimination/hypoallergenic diet, there are many options. Some people will also incorporate fasting into their detox protocol. I usually only suggest this for people after they have some experience detoxing.
One of the issues that happens during a detox is that people try to do too much the first time around and they end up getting sick. It’s important not to overdo it, especially the first time. If your body has lots of accumulated toxins it will need to release and eliminate them slowly and safely. This is why it’s a good idea to consult a Naturopathic Doctor before you do a detox for the first time. A naturopath can help to determine your overall toxic burden and design a personalized program that fits your needs so that you don’t overdo it and get sick.
It is essential that your body is eliminating toxins as they are being released. The body typically eliminates toxins in two phases. In phase one, toxins are transformed into “intermediary metabolites” which are then passed through phase two to be neutralized and eliminated. If your body isn’t able to detoxify and eliminate effectively, these substances can cause damage. That why it’s so important to ensure that your bowels are functioning well throughout any detox program. Adding in extra fibre like psyllium, along with drinking at least 2 litres of water and herbal teas every day should ensure that you eliminate effectively and stay hydrated.
In addition to following a detox protocol on a regular basis (I recommend 2-4 times a year) there are lots of ways to support your body’s daily effort to detoxify. Here is a list of 10 suggestions to support daily detoxification and reduce the accumulation of systemic toxins.
The final important guideline to effective detoxification is replenishing the good bacteria in your gut. Probiotics like acidophilus and bifidus are essential for proper bowel function and elimination of toxins. Once you finish cleansing your system, taking a probiotic will ensure better digestive function and support healthy detoxification in your body on an ongoing basis.
Incorporating regular detoxification practices into your health plan will ensure that you have energy and vitality to feel great and live your best life possible.
Health and happiness!
Dr. Cheryl Cooper
Dr. Cheryl Cooper is a Naturopathic Doctor and the owner and CEO of Vitallife Integrative Medicine based in Ottawa. She has 20 years of experience in the health and wellness industry, specializing in hormone balancing, women’s health, detoxification, stress management and sleep issues. Dr. Cooper uses a holistic approach to helping patients, involving educating and empowering patients to take control of their health. Recently moved to her hometown of Canmore, Alberta, she now practices out of Inner Balance Spa in Calgary.