Detoxification is a holistic wellness concept that has been theorized to cleanse the body of potentially harmful chemicals and foreign substances. This practice may help to:
Promote general health & wellbeing**
Enhance colon cleansing regimens**
Optimize vitality & nutrient absorption**
What is Detoxification?
Toxins are substances that harm the earth’s environment along with the health and well-being of its inhabitants. Our modern world exposes our bodies to toxins on a daily basis. Also known as xenobiotics, these toxins may include foreign substances that many choose to actively avoid, such as pollutants, car exhaust and cigarette smoke. Perhaps more insidious are toxins that some consciously choose to include in their lives, such as synthetic cleaners and detergents; phthalates found in plastics; industrial chemicals such as PCBs; pesticides and herbicides for household, lawn and garden use; synthetic substances used in many cosmetics and personal care products; and even toxins in our daily foods and beverages.**
The United States CDC has suggested that approximately 84,000 synthetic chemicals exist in today’s consumer products. Additional evidence suggests that today’s consumers may be exposed to more than 200 chemicals every day—simply by using common synthetic personal care products alone. Processed foods, which sometimes contain preservatives, synthetic colors, additives and artificial flavors, may further increase exposure to toxins. Even non-processed foods may contain toxins, such as antibiotics and other drugs used in livestock, fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Medications, allergens and industrial byproducts, such as the heavy metals arsenic, mercury, aluminum and lead, may introduce more toxins into the body.
Toxins may enter the body via inhalation, consumption of food or liquids, or absorption through the skin. In some holistic wellness beliefs, these toxins are thought to accumulate in the body to create what is known as “chemical burden” or “toxic load.” Toxic load has been suggested to create oxidative stress in the body; a deleterious state associated with accelerated aging and related health concerns. Toxins have further been associated with health concerns in weight management, immune function, hormonal balance, the nervous system and more.
Humans are born with natural mechanisms that work to rid the body of toxins. The liver is commonly associated with our natural detox processes; the gall bladder, lymphatic system, colon, lungs and skin also contribute. However, given the high volume of pollutants, chemicals and other toxic substances in the environment, the body’s natural elimination systems may sometimes be overwhelmed.
Holistic detoxification programs are designed to help address concerns about toxins and their impact on well-being. Saunas, steam rooms and exercise are believed to encourage the body to expel toxins via sweating. Colonics and hydrotherapy may be practiced to promote internal cleansing. Certain body wraps and massage therapy practices may be included in holistic wellness programs designed to detoxify the body. Finally, nutritional supplements may help to complement the body’s natural cleansing processes. Some of the most popular supplements used for this purpose include:
- Herbal Teas: Some tea products may be classified as “detox teas,” typically supplying a blend of diverse botanicals associated with cleansing. These teas may include dandelion, ginger, cinnamon, clove, celery root, green tea leaves (as well as Matcha green tea powder), and other traditional wellness herbs.**
- Liver Cleanse Supplements: An integral organ to the body’s natural detox processes, the liver enables the body to expel foreign substances by filtering blood that passes through it. Because of this key role, supplements that support and “cleanse” the liver are sometimes used to complement overall detox efforts. Liver cleanse supplements may supply botanicals such as dandelion, milk thistle, burdock root, and black radish root, along with oxidative stress-fighting antioxidants like ALA, TMG and NAC.**
- Probiotics: The digestive system is another important contributor to the body’s natural detox process. Also known as beneficial bacteria, probiotics support overall digestive system health.** Probiotics may support detox efforts by optimizing healthy gastrointestinal function.**
- Digestive Enzymes: Digestive enzymes assist with the breakdown and utilization of sugars, proteins and carbohydrates in the foods that we eat.** These enzymes help to optimize efficient digestion, a biological activity that may support the GI tract as it performs its natural detox functions.** A diverse array of enzymes are available in supplement form; some complexes, such as BioCore Optimum, combine various digestive enzymes into a single product for advanced gastrointestinal support.**
- NAC: Also known as N-acetyl cysteine, NAC helps promote production of glutathione, an enzyme with antioxidant properties.** NAC (as well as L-glutathione) has been suggested to bring antioxidant activity to the liver, where it may help to neutralize destructive free radicals that are associated with toxic load.** N-acetyl cysteine has also been suggested to support the liver’s ability to process and excrete toxins, pollutants and chemicals.**
- Charcoal: Charcoal has been used to assist the body’s natural detox activities for centuries.** Also known as activated charcoal, this carbon-based substance has a porous texture that traps toxins, which may help to encourage elimination via the gastrointestinal tract.**
- Neem: Neem comes from the leaves, seeds, sap and bark of the Azadiratcha indica tree. It supplies multiple bioactive compounds, including antimicrobial compounds that may help to contribute to cleansing regimens.**
- Fiber: In addition to helping with colon cleansing, fiber binds with toxins in the digestive tract, assisting with their ultimate elimination.** Common fibers used in cleansing applications include psyllium husks, flaxseed and pectin.**
- Milk Thistle: Also known as wild artichoke, milk thistle is among the most popular herbs for supporting liver wellness.** Supplying an antioxidant complex known as silymarin, milk thistle brings antioxidant activity to the liver, helping to neutralize celldamaging free radicals.** Milk thistle may also assist with rejuvenating the liver and supporting its cellular regeneration.** As it optimizes the liver, milk thistle supports the body’s primary detox organ.**
- Artichoke: The artichoke has been cultivated for food and health uses for thousands of years. In traditional herbalism practices, artichoke is believed to stimulate some of the body’s main detox organs: The liver, gallbladder and kidneys.** Artichoke’s active compounds are believed to be cynarin and chlorogenic acid.
- ALA: Widely known as the “Universal Antioxidant,” Alpha linoleic acid or ALA is found in cells throughout the body, where it contributes to metabolic function.** ALA has been studied for its liver-supportive properties.**
- Bentonite Clay & Diatomaceous Earth: These mineral products are believed to promote ideal digestive performance while assisting with the elimination of toxins.** Bentonite clay, sourced from volcanic ash, has been traditionally used to help rid the body of heavy metals.** Diatomaceous earth, derived from fossilized marine life skeletons, may assist with the body’s natural elimination process.**
- Colon Cleanse Supplements: Colon cleansing is a common holistic approach for assisting with toxins that may accumulate in the lower intestine. Typically featuring fiber, probiotics and purgative herbs, these supplements promote comfortable elimination, healthy colon function and ideal absorption of dietary nutrition.**
- L-Glutathione: Also known as GSH, L-Glutathione is a protein with antioxidant activity that is naturally produced in the liver.** It plays a role in the liver’s natural detoxification processes, as well as bringing free radical-neutralizing antioxidant activity to both the liver and bile.**
- Corn Silk: The fine fibrous strands of corn silk have long been used in the folk health practices of Traditional Chinese and Native American healers. Corn silk has antioxidant and diuretic properties, and has been shown in early research to influence detoxifying antioxidant enzymes including glutathione and superoxide dismutase (SOD).**
Detoxification support supplements are available in a wide array capsule, tablet and powder forms. They may be presented as single ingredients or as complex formulas, including liver cleanse supplements, colon cleanse supplements, and fiber complex supplements.
Detoxification Products Directions for Use
These supplements supply varying amounts of active ingredients, so there is no set serving size. Consult each product’s label for manufacturers’ directions for use. Always consult with a medical professional before starting supplementation.