There’s no doubt about it: we are bombarded each and every day with a variety of harmful substances (aka ‘toxins’). Whether in our food, air, water, or personal care products and cosmetics, we are constantly being exposed to toxic substances.
While each of us respond differently to these triggers (some may see immediate effects while others may not notice any effects for years), there’s no denying that our bodies need a little extra help to detox from these harmful substances.
Viewing detoxification from a functional medicine perspective, we recognize 3 truths:
- Our bodies are constantly bombarded with toxins
(both internally and from our environments)
- We cannot expect our bodies to function optimally when they are full of toxins.
- If we don’t support the body’s natural detoxification processes, we will experience health issues as a result of toxic buildup.
‘Detox’ products have become quite the craze. With detox teas, supplements, and extreme detox diets, it’s easy to assume that ‘detox’ is some sort of crazy diet that leaves you in the bathroom for days. First, yikes! Second, that is NOT what detoxification is all about.
In this series on detox, we’ll be covering:
- Why detoxification is absolutely critical in today’s world
- What detox really means
- The difference between detox and cleansing
- Why the common myths about detox are false (and even harmful!)
- Common signs that you may need to detox
- Toxic Burden and the different types of toxins
- How to detoxify the body, naturally and safely
Before we can understand how to detox naturally, we must first take a look at what it really means to detox, how it’s different than cleansing, and debunk the most common myths about detoxification.
What ‘detox’ really means
If you’re among those who assume ‘detox’ means spending all day in the bathroom, it’s time to learn the truth about what it means to ‘detox’.
“Functional Medicine believes that true detoxification means giving your body the support it requires to clean out toxins and impurities naturally.” Adonis Maiquez, M.D.
Rather than flushing waste in a drastic ‘colon cleanse’ (which are what many ‘detoxes’ do), true detoxification is going much deeper, addressing the root cause of toxicity so your body has the opportunity to heal.
Our bodies rely on our natural detoxification pathways to keep us healthy, but with the overload of toxins we’re exposed to, those pathways become blocked and this is when we start to see countless health issues.
Your body naturally detoxifies itself (that’s what your liver does!) but it often gets so overloaded with the everyday chemicals we encounter, that it needs extra support to make sure our natural detoxification pathways are functioning efficiently.
When I talk about ‘detoxifying’ the body I’m not talking about extreme dieting or fasting which deprives you of many essential nutrients. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Detox vs. Cleansing
The terms detoxification and cleansing are often used interchangeably and while they do overlap at times, there is a slight difference.
Detoxification is a total body approach to eliminating toxic buildup from the body and enhancing the body’s natural detoxification pathways (primarily the liver).
Cleansing is about cleaning out the entire digestive tract. (This helps the body detoxify, but is not the complete approach to total body detoxification.)
Myths about Detox
“Many people have the idea that ‘detoxing’ is something new that we are ‘doing’ to our bodies, when in fact, the processes of detoxification are ongoing constantly since our birth, and should they stop for a minute, life would not be possible.” – Dr. Alejandro Junger
1. Detoxification = spending the day in the bathroom
As we said earlier, taking supplements that cause you to be tied to the toilet all day is not detoxification. At best, that is considered colon cleansing and is not always beneficial for your gut.
2. Detoxification is only necessary if I have extreme symptoms
This couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, with all of the pollutants we face on an hourly basis, in our food, water, air, homes, everyday products, and more, detoxification is an essential process, for everyone breathing.
Even if you are not experiencing any health concerns, detoxification is still important for you!
3. Detoxification is only something I should do once or twice per year
False! While certain types of cleanses should be annual or quarterly, detoxification is NOT an event. Unlike a cleanse, detoxification is a lifestyle.
If you don’t take away anything else from this post, remember this truth:
detoxification is a lifestyle. It’s not a one-time event.
4. Detoxes are always extreme.
This is the best part! A detox does not have to be extreme. In fact, the healthiest kinds are not extreme, but natural and gentle, providing the body with the support it needs to naturally detoxify itself.
Common signs that you may need to detox
“Proper detoxification is a necessary part of maintaining your health”. –Adonis Maiquez, M.D.
Here are some tell-tale signs that you could benefit from detoxification.
- Skin issues (acne, eczema, psoriasis, rashes, etc.) The skin is our largest organ and toxic buildup often leaves the body via the skin.
- Cognitive issues (‘brain fog’, headaches, lack of clarity and concentration, and more)
- Digestive issues (constipation, gas, bloating, diarrhea, etc)
- Muscle and Joint Issues
- Hormone imbalances & menstrual disorders
- And more (such as trouble losing weight, insomnia, fatigue, food cravings, sinus problems, bad breath, strong body odor)
The good news is that detoxification goes a long way to reduce symptoms, improve, and even resolve these health concerns.
Before we can eliminate symptoms and start to feel our best again, we must understand our need for detoxification and why it is an essential step in the healing process.
Next in the series, we will be covering how to detox – safely and naturally!
Has your understanding about detoxification changed? Are you ready to support your body’s natural detox processes?
Hannah is the founder and health educator at Healthfully Hannah, empowering women to live healthfully through science-based, step-by-step guidance. Read Hannah’s personal health journey that led her to discover the power of Functional Medicine and Nutrition. Feel free to send Hannah a message here.
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