Nikol Margiotta N.D.

A detoxification program is not something exotic or strange; it merely strengthens the body’s natural tendency to cleanse itself. The truth is everybody on this planet is detoxifying every second of their lives. It’s a natural process.

Our bodies are equipped to deal with moderate amounts of toxins, deriving either from the environment or from our inner ecology. Unfortunately, one of the by-products of our industrial society is pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in 1997, 1.3 billion pounds of emissions were pumped into the air and 218 million pounds of industrial byproducts were emptied into surface waters. From there pollutants get into our food, and eventually into our bodies. Toxins are also created internally. Our cells produce some naturally as the waste product of our metabolisms. In addition, bacteria, yeasts and parasites in the body create more waste that we must eliminate.

The good news is that the body normally does an efficient jog of eliminating harmful substances. There are many ways for toxins to exit the body: in the urine, stool and mucus; in the sweat that passes through our skin; and even in the breath we exhale. All these escape routes, however, depends upon the liver, the central clearing house for toxins. In the liver, toxins undergo a two-stage process, know as bio-transformation. In the first stage the liver converts toxins into intermediary products that can be quite toxic or even carcinogenic. In stage two, however, these products are converted into less toxic water-soluble compounds that are dumped into “exit chutes” and pass harmlessly out of the body through the urine.

The liver knows its business and usually does its job to perfection. Problems develop, however, when the system becomes overloaded. We’re all too aware of how the liver can break down as result of a lifetime of alcohol abuse. By the same token, heavy loads of environmental and internally produced toxins can also tax the liver. Detoxification programs aim to improve the liver’s functioning.

Who Benefits

Could you benefit from detox? There’s no easy answer, because toxicity does not manifest itself the same way in all people. Certain chronic conditions or symptoms, however, may be associated with a toxin buildup. An article by naturopath Mark Percival, published in the journal Clinical Nutrition Insights in 1998, lists these symptoms: headache, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, irritability, depression, mental confusion, gastrointestinal tract irregularities, cardiovascular irregularities, flu-like symptoms and allergic reactions including stuffy or runny nose, sneezing and coughing.

It’s hard to imagine anybody who hasn’t had one of these symptoms at one time or another. To sort out who does and doesn’t need a detox, some health-care practitioners use a ” toxicity screening questionnaire.” The questionnaire asks patients to rate the frequency and severity of about 70 symptoms. Some physicians also run liver panels, tests that determine how quickly the liver processes substances such as caffeine.

How to Detox

The traditional method for detoxifying the body used to be a juice or water fast. Many practitioners today, however, believe that fasts are not an effective detox. The liver’s work requires energy. The body needs protein, carbohydrates and fats, as well as vitamins and minerals, to supply this energy. Without enough fuel, the liver slows down and becomes inefficient. What’s more, it is important to eat foods and consume supplements that contain antioxidants. Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and beta-carotene scavenge free radicals and keep them from damaging cells. The first stage of detoxification produces free radicals, so it’s vital that antioxidants be present to disarm them.

Popular magazines offer a variety of detoxification diets, and health food stores stock detox teas, herbs and supplements. However, not all of these programs are based on a scientific understanding of how the liver works. Scientifically based detoxification programs aim to improve a less than optimally functioning liver.

Detoxification programs are usually done in stages. Patients are placed on a “modified elimination diet,” which excludes not only sugar, caffeine and alcohol, but saturated fats, dairy products, red meat, foods containing gluten and other “trigger” foods* that may stress the digestive system or the liver. At the same time, the patients take easy to digest supplements that provide nutrients specific to liver function and cellular detoxification.

Through detox and other nutritional interventions, patients will see energy level has increase. Another pleasant side effect of the detox, patients will begin to lose stubborn weight, largely because the stranglehold of sugar, caffeine and alcohol is lessened or even been eliminated.

*Blood testing for food sensitivities is often an excellent first step in a detoxification program


Page Modified May 15, 2011

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