One of my favorite modalities in naturopathic medicine is detoxification therapy, or cleansing. This therapy is used to support the body’s process of reducing the overall toxic load by up-regulating detoxification pathways and increasing excretion & elimination of toxins. Anyone, including most age groups, can benefit from detoxification therapy, but it has specific application in those with toxic exposure (i.e. heavy metals, pesticides, solvents, chemicals, particulates, preservatives, etc.), chronic diseases, weight loss, skin issues, gut issues, and brain fog. The body cleanses by excreting toxins via the sweat, liver, gut, kidney, lungs, etc.
The standard American tends to eat a nutrient poor diet low in fiber, be dehydrated, not sweat or exercise enough, not relax enough, & not breathe deeply regularly. Toxins constantly perfuse our environment and are tracked into the home. Toxins are pervasive in the air, dust, soil, food, & water; most of which are fat-soluble and have long half-lives. Common symptoms of an increased toxic load can include, depending on the toxicant, mimicking hormones disrupting endocrine function (thyroid, ovaries etc.), fatigue, headache, poor sleep, mood issues, fertility issues, obesity, direct injury to tissues (kidneys, arteries/veins, etc.), increased inflammation (arthritis, colitis, etc.), developmental delays & other neurological symptoms depending on chronicity of toxicity.
The goal of clinical depuration therapy is to stop toxic exposure, minimize new toxicant exposure, provide nutrient cofactor support for detoxification, mobilize the total body burden of toxicants, and direct toxins to the organs of excretion (liver, gut, kidneys, skin, lungs, etc.) to be eliminated. Naturopathic doctors are uniquely capable of supporting patients through clinical depuration regimens with a variety of modalities, including nutrition, sweat depuration (sauna therapy), exercise, herbal medicine, supplement support, functional breathing, & massage therapy.
Nutrition, dieting, & fasting can all be part of a depuration regimen. Increasing fiber content in the diet & balancing the gut flora with probiotics are an important part of minimizing reabsorption of toxins through the gut. Regular movement & sweating are also an important part of detoxification. Exercise & sweat depuration (sauna therapy) helps to encourage the mobilization & excretion of toxins. Nearly every toxicant studied is excreted well in sweat. Sauna therapy should always be done under the supervision of a doctor with experience doing clinical depuration regimens, as there are some contraindications that need to be taken into consideration, as well as education about hydration & electrolyte balance to avoid unwanted side effects.
Botanicals are used to help support detoxification pathways and keep us regular. Several different foods & herbs are used to help support liver detoxification and stimulate bile flow, which can carry away many toxins. Lastly, a good sleep regimen is important to help minimize fatigue because detoxification takes energy. Properly supporting the systems of elimination with naturopathic therapies is an exceptional approach to detoxification.
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