Myths about Detox

The business of health & wellness these days is hugemulti-billion dollar industry. Approaches to health are divided into 2 main camps: one emphasizing a holistic approach to health, «wellness», everything «natural» and «organic». The other camp is purely «scientific» «research» and «evidence based». As a result we are faced with competing and conflicting claims about the effectiveness and safety of methods used by both of these camps.

Today we are looking at the information andmis-information or «myths» surrounding Detox.

To the modern allopathic medical community, detox refers to a very narrow definition of «treatments for dangerous levels of drugs, alcohol, or poisonsand may involve induced vomiting, laxatives, dialysis of the kidneys or liver, or injection of a chemical called EthyleneDiamineTetraacetic Acid (EDTA) to «chelate» or bind these deadly toxins for removal via the body’s in-built detoxification pathways.

Natural therapy practitioners take a broader view of what constitutes an unwelcome chemical in the human body. In 2010 Time Magazine published an extensive article on environmental toxins, which with more sensitive testing technology and more detailed analysis of the health risks of multiple chemical intakes, shows that our health is being attacked from multiple sides. They found that widespread environmental contamination with substances and chemicals such as:

  • PCB’s. This industrial chemical has been banned in the United States for decades, yet is a persistent organic pollutant that’s still present in our environment;
  • Pesticides. Pesticide residues have been detected in 50%-95% of foods in the United States;
  • Mould and other fungal toxins — mycotoxins can cause a range of health problems with exposure to only a small amount;
  • Phthalates — these substances chemically mimic our hormones and are particularly dangerous to children;
  • Dioxins;
  • Heavymetals;
  • Chloroform;
  • Chlorine.

Therefore, in the contemporary world it is impossible to avoid all environmental toxins.

While both sides of the health debate agree that the body has natural internal mechanisms to eliminate unhealthy chemicals, modern medicine says that, unless there is a disease in an organ, these pathways operate efficiently enough to deal with all levels of background chemical contamination until it reaches levels which they define as «toxic» enough to warrant their intervention. By contrast, the naturopathic community says that, if we were living the clean, healthy, active life for which we evolved, eating fresh foods in season, hunting free range game, drinking clear, fresh water and breathing clean air then yes, our bodies could cope.

If, however, we are adding more than we are capable of handling, remember that every chemical reaction in our body requires energy (derived from our food) and we devote so much energy to ridding our body of the waste of 21st century living (which is a biochemical priority for our bodies) then we may feel a lack of energy for other activities and then various body functions are compromised. Naturopathic philosophy promotes the idea that supporting our body’s natural detox functions by providing the correct levels of the biochemical building blocks for detox, as well as the physical means to remove cellular waste from the body results in more energy available to live an optimally healthy life.

Part of the problem in proving the effectiveness of any detox regime is that the recognized authorities who have the legal power, the funds and the equipment to run clinical trials are the very people who do not believe that it is necessary.

It has become increasingly difficult in our modern society to eat a completely healthy diet, free from trans-fatty acids, food additives, pesticide residues, alcohol etc. as well as always getting a complete balance of carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. Remember that it is not what you do one day that counts, it is what you do every day. A good analogy is cleaning your house. You wash the dishes every day and even try to clean up mess on the surfaces. But this doesn’t eliminate the need to perform an «intense clean-up» or «decluttering» every once in a while to keep your house in the best condition. The same with your body: your kidneys and liver eliminate a number of toxins every day, but considering the great amount of environmental toxins in today’s world, it makes sense to «help» your body make a «spring cleaning» / «decluttering» a few times per year.

The biochemical basis of detox pathways primarily revolves around the Cytochrome P450 enzymes which are the major enzymes involved in drug metabolism, accounting for about 75% of the total metabolism.Most drugs undergo deactivation by CYPs, either directly or by facilitated excretion from the body. Cytochrome P450 enzymes are present in most tissues of the body, and play an important role in hormone synthesis and breakdown (including estrogen and testosterone synthesis and metabolism), cholesterol synthesis, and vitamin D metabolism. Cytochrome P450 enzymes also function to metabolize potentially toxic compounds, including drugs and products of endogenous metabolism such as bilirubin, principally in the liver. The Human Genome Project has identified 57 human genes coding for the various cytochrome P450 enzyme, it is a multi-faceted system with many different triggers and many different functions.

So, is detox necessary, relevant, important and effective in humans? Here at Amrita we believe that a properly constructed and conducted detox programme does have a positive effect in helping your body reduce the burden of unwanted chemicals from 21st century living, giving you back energy for all the cellular processes in your body and, with ongoing support and information can help you make healthier choices in your life leading to long-term better health.

Author: Graham Rowe, Chief Naturopath, Amrita Luxury Wellness Retreat

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