Is “Detox” a Dirty Word?

Google this phrase and you will get a multitude of conflicting opinions. Who should you believe? There is an old adage that opinions are like rear ends--they come in a great variety of colors and sizes but, in the ‘end’, they all serve the same purpose: the production of waste.

We all have the right to our opinions and preferences. However, those publishing information about health should back their opinions with clinical and proven science, whenever possible. At this time, there is no standardized protocol for detoxifying the body, or textbooks to educate clinicians. Is there any science behind ‘detoxing’?  

The word detox makes some think of rehab or weight loss; others think of detox teas or supplements, but there are many forms of detoxing. Detoxing can encompass fasting, use of saunas, increasing protein intake, using homeopathic remedies, colonic irrigation, and numerous other alternatives.  I was first introduced to detoxing as a teenager by Dr. Linakis, a naturopathic physician who used various detox protocols to address anything from varicose veins to cancer. Dr. Linakis was 97 years old, and he could still drop down and do pushups.  

Dr. Linakis’ protocol was very broad:  he shock-treated the immune system by withdrawing all food; the patient could drink all the water and natural grape juice they wanted. Nightly enemas were prescribed to remove toxins from the colon and prevent re-absorption by the body. Part of his protocol included what were then considered high dosages of supplements. A number of my family members followed the program for several weeks and I can attest that the improvement in their health issues was incontestable. A number of cancer patients who had been sent home to die finished out long and productive lives after following his protocol.  
One of the misconceptions about detoxing is that you can do it by simply taking laxatives and cleaning out the colon. Even if successful, that would remove toxins from the colon only. Some colon cleansers are notorious for giving users the ‘runs’. Unfortunately, most people do not realize that the liquids they are expelling are leaving behind large amounts of putrid matter. In addition, toxic elements are not solely managed by the colon. Other systems of filtration and purification in the body also manage toxins, such as our liver, kidneys and lymphatic system. A ‘colon cleanse’ can ease the burden for these systems, but cannot completely detoxify the body.  

But what are they trying to detoxify? Of the 80,000 chemicals in use in the United States today, some are classified as PBTs” (persistent bioaccumulative toxicants).  These include pesticides and plastics, to which most of us are exposed. Exposure to these PBTs can result in disrupted hormones, coronary and nervous system disorders, reproductive issues and cancers.  When seen from this perspective, detoxing addresses more serious issues than bowel movements and skin health.  

A clinical study performed in 2011 polled 196 licensed naturopathic doctors in the United States regarding their use of different detox therapies.  Approximately 75% of these physicians used nutrition (more vegetables and fruit, more organic foods), advocated reducing environmental exposures and recommended vitamin supplements and botanicals to detoxify their patients.  

But, how can food or supplements (which are classified by the FDA as foods) possibly detox the body?  The clinical study “Protective effects of Asian green vegetables against oxidant induced cytotoxicity” (World J Gastroenterol. 2005;11:7607-7614) explains that the abundant antioxidants in green leafy vegetables enhances Phase II detoxification in the liver. The liver is a filter and is one of the most important organs in the body when it comes to detoxifying. This is evidenced by the effects on the liver of numerous medications that build up in it with continual use.  

In conclusion, a systemic and educated approach should be taken as to how to detoxify, and that approach can encompass many conventional and alternative therapies, while drawing from the deep well of ethnic wisdom accumulated through the centuries. At Remedy’s, we look forward to a mutually rewarding journey into the world of when, how and why to detox.

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