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The Effects of A Short Program Of Detoxification in Disease-Free Individuals

Anna MacIntosh, PhD, ND, and Karen Ball, ND

Detoxification typically means easing the “drying out” process of an alcohol or drug addict. Traditional systems of medicine with a philosophy based on understanding and applying the wisdom of nature have, as part of their therapeutic armamentaria, included techniques of detoxification.1,2 These medical systems include Ayurvedic, yogic, and naturopathic medicine. In this paper, detoxification indicates techniques that are designed to enhance removal of all toxins from the human body. Using the broadest definition, toxins include exogenously and endogenously produced substances that, if left in the body, may cause harm or promote illness.3,4 Toxins may be allergens, pesticides, herbicides, air pollutants, dioxins, recreational drugs, prescription drugs, and bowel toxins created from inappropriate gastrointestinal health.5,6

Theoretically, the goals of a comprehensive program of detoxification include (1) decreasing exposure to known toxins, (2) increasing excretory functions to increase excretion of toxins that have been mobilized from adipose and extracellular matrix stores into blood, and (3) improving the liver’s ability to metabolize toxins. Examples of recommendations oriented to decreasing exposure to known toxins could include (1) changing residential or occupational conditions (ie, moving, if living next to a farm that is heavily sprayed with pesticides or in a new mobile home made of synthetic materials and glues), (2) eating organic foods as often as possible, and (3) enhancing intestinal barrier integrity to decrease systemic exposure to bowel produced toxins.7 To achieve enhancing excretory functions, possible recommendations include increasing filtered water intake to ensure adequate kidney filtration, increasing fiber intake to ensure at least 2 to 3 bowel movements daily, increasing exercise duration or intensity to increase sweating and to improve bowel function,8,9 and ingesting herbal cholegogues to enhance bile flow, because a variety of lipophilic toxins are excreted via bile. To achieve improvement of the liver’s ability to metabolize toxins, liver tonifying herbs could be tried or specific nutrient supplements could be prescribed to enhance hepatic metabolism of toxicants.

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