Author: Shannon Law
It used to be that the only time you heard the term "detox" was when someone went into an alcohol rehabilitation clinic. But in an age when celebrities swear by special diets, liquid fasts and colonics, detoxing usually has nothing to do with alcohol. Whether it's cleansing, fasting or detoxification, it all boils down to ridding the body of toxins that experts say build up in our lymphatic and immune systems.
Holistic and alternative health experts claim detoxing allows the body a reprieve from the pollutants, pesticides and poisons that surround most people on a daily basis, showing up in the foods we eat and the air we breathe. Chemicals in the environment are filtered by the body and often have nowhere to go, according to Dr. Terri Hawkins, an Indianapolis-based nutrition counselor and naturopathic doctor who's been practicing colon hydrotherapy, otherwise known as colonics, for 29 years. Her holistic approach helps people who already have degenerative problems like cancer or Parkinson's disease, as well as professional athletes and performers who seek to optimize their training and health.
"The purpose of detoxing is to allow the immune system to strengthen," Hawkins said. "And the immune system is vital. You're only as strong as your weakest link." Foods, nutritional supplements, drugs and environmental influences can either help or hinder the immune system, Hawkins said. Colonics are one way to help rid the body of the negative factors.
David Townsend, 34, first heard about the colon-cleansing procedure from a friend in California. Celebrities swear by them as part of a regular health regimen, as well as a way to lose pounds and flatten their stomachs before special events and awards shows. Like most people, Townsend was apprehensive. But after two months of researching the topic and hearing firsthand experiences from his sister, who he says is "a health food fanatic and very conscientious of her body," he decided to give it a go.
"There was a little bit of hesitation because you're thinking it's going to be really invasive, but it isn't at all," said Townsend, who began getting colonics regularly in March. Townsend said that he's lost about 12 pounds and several inches in the past few months. "And I'm not heavy," Townsend said. But beyond the weight-loss benefit, Townsend said he feels healthier. "It's an investment in yourself," he said. "I've tried all sorts of supplements, and there is nothing that even comes close to how you feel afterwards. The challenge is trying not to put everything back in."
Hawkins recommends patients build healthful eating habits to supplement colonic treatments.
What is detoxing?
Detoxing refers to a wide range of treatments that aid the body in expelling toxins that build up due to environmental factors such as pesticides and hormones in food, smoke and pollution in the environment, and stress.
Different types of detoxing:
Colon hydrotherapy: Also known as colon irrigation or colonics, this procedure essentially equals an internal bath. The 45-minute practice involves circulating warm, filtered water through the colon by way of a small tube inserted into the colon, dissolving and removing the colon's excess waste.
Fasting: Reducing or completely eliminating certain foods from the diet for a certain period of time. Some advocates suggest total, water-only fasts, while others recommend supplementing water with fresh juices or fruits and vegetables. Still others have specialized diet plans that include limited quantities of whole grains and proteins.
Massage: Certain massage techniques can help stimulate the lymphatic system, which helps defend the body from toxins, helping to clear blockages and ridding the body of toxins.
Body wraps: Various ingredients such as clay, mud, seaweed and herbs are applied to the body to draw out toxins and increase lymph flow while absorbing mineral and nutrients beneficial to the skin and body.
Signs you may need to detox:
Gas and stomach bloating
Frequent headaches and back pain
Joint pain or arthritis
Allergies from food or environment
Psoriasis, acne or other skin problems
Depression or irritability
Low energy or no energy
Poor memory and insomnia
Circles under the eyes
Who's doing it?
People with normal digestive problems and those who want to improve their health.
Professional athletes, dancers, runners, and others who seek peak performance and want to maximize their already good health.
People with degenerative problems like cancer, Parkinson's disease or arthritis and who are seeking to alleviate symptoms or treat disease.
People who want to look and feel young and healthy.
People who are taking a preventive approach to their health.
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