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Practiced for centuries by many cultures around the world — including ayurvedic and Chinese medicine systems — detoxification is about resting, cleaning and nourishing the body from the inside out. By removing and eliminating toxins, then feeding your body with healthy nutrients, detoxifying can help protect you from disease and renew your ability to maintain optimum health.

The body has its own natural healing system and can detoxify enormous numbers of toxic chemicals.  The problem comes when the body is acutely or chronically overwhelmed with toxins and cannot eliminate same. Detoxification simply enhances the bodys own natural elimination.

Water soluble toxins are handled by the body with ease and are eliminated through the kidney.  Its the fat soluble toxins and heavy metals that tend to remain in the body... sometimes forever.  The increased “toxic burdeon” of living in our modern society is thought to contribute to many chronic illnesses including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, fibromyalgia, and clinical hypothyroidism.

How does detoxification work?

Basically, detoxification means cleaning the blood and body. It does this mainly by removing impurities from the blood in the liver and from the fat where toxins are stored and processed for elimination. The body also eliminates toxins through the kidneys, intestines, lungs, lymph and skin. However, when this system is compromised, impurities arent properly filtered and every cell in the body is adversely affected.

A detox program can help the bodys natural cleaning process by:

1) Resting the organs through fasting;

2) Stimulating the liver to drive toxins from the body;

3) Promoting elimination through the intestines, kidneys and skin;

4) Improving circulation of the blood; and

5) Refueling the body with healthy nutrients.

How do you know if you need to detoxify?

Some authors suggest that everyone should detox at least once a year. A short detoxifying program or whole body cleanse is generally safe; in fact, scientific studies show that a detox is beneficial for health. Consult your health care practitioner if you have questions about whether detoxing is right for you.

Today, with more environmental toxins than ever, its critical to detox. Consider detoxing for symptoms such as unexplained fatigue, sluggish elimination, irritated skin, allergies or low-grade infections; bags under the eyes; a distended stomach even if the rest of your body is thin; menstrual difficulties; or mental confusion.

Where do you begin?

First, lighten up your toxin load. Eliminate alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, refined sugars and saturated fats, all of which act as toxins in the body and are obstacles to your healing process. Also, minimize use of chemical-based household cleaners and personal health care products (cleansers, shampoos, deodorants and toothpastes), and substitute natural alternatives.

Another deterrent to good health is stress, which triggers your body to release stress hormones into your system. While these hormones can provide the "adrenaline rush" to win a race or meet a deadline, in large amounts they create toxins and slow down detoxification enzymes in the liver. So its a good idea to detox stressful life situations along with detoxifying your body. Yoga and meditation are simple and effective ways to relieve stress by resetting your physical and mental reactions to the inevitable stress life will bring.

Which detox program is best for you?

There are many detoxification programs and detox recipes, depending on your individual needs. Many programs follow a 7-day schedule because it takes the body some time to clean the body and blood. Some recommend a 3-7 day juice fast (drinking only fresh fruit and vegetable juices and water) as an effective way to release toxins.

Other popular detoxing programs and natural body cleanses include:

Cleansing supplement packages, which generally contain fiber, vitamins, herbs and minerals. There are several safe products on the market, with easy-to-follow instructions.

10 ways to help your body detoxify

After a detoxification program, you can cleanse your body daily through diet, supplements and lifestyle practices.

1. Eat plenty of fiber (30-50 grams / day), including brown rice and organically-grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Beets, radishes, artichokes, cabbage, broccoli, spirulina, chlorella, and seaweed are excellent detoxifying foods.  This will result in an increased frequency of bowel movements (2-3 per day) and aid in the elimination of fat soluble toxins.

2. Cleanse and protect the liver by taking herbs such as dandelion root, burdock and milk thistle, and drinking green tea.

3. Take vitamin C and NAC (N-acetylcysteine), which helps the body produce glutathione, a liver compound that drives away toxins.

4. Drink filtered water, at least half your body weight in ounces of water per day.  (Example: Someone who weighs 150 pounds should consume at least 75 ounces of water per day.)  Avoid unfiltered tap water which may contain high levels of chlorine and other metabolic toxins.

5. Breathe deeply to allow oxygen to circulate more completely through your system.

6. Transform stress by emphasizing positive emotions.

7. Practice hydrotherapy by taking a very hot shower for five minutes, allowing the water to run on your back. Follow with cold water for 30 seconds. Do this three times, and then get into bed for 30 minutes.

8. Sweat in a sauna so your body can eliminate wastes through perspiration.

9. Reduce your toxin load. Reduce or preferably eliminate alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, refined sugars and saturated fats, all of which act as toxins in the body. Another important source of toxins can be found in food sensitivities that are causally associated with chronic inflammatory diseases such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) and arthritis.

10. What is the most important way to detoxify?... "Exercise."  Aerobic exercise: (30 minutes of sustained rhythmic activity sufficient to make you sweat, 4-5 days per week).  Resistance training (weights): 2-3 days per week. Flexibility: Yoga or Tai Chi at least once per week.