What Does Detoxing Actually Mean?

The following is adapted from The Survival Paradox.

Detoxification is a term used frequently today but without complete clarity about what it really means. People often talk about “detoxing” their colon or liver, but what are they doing exactly? What does “detoxing” actually mean?

The truth is that you’re in a constant state of detoxification—a process that involves multiple organs and systems throughout the body. The liver, lungs, kidneys, and more all work tirelessly to rid your body of toxins and biochemical byproducts. 

When you’re healthy, your body does a pretty good job of keeping itself clear of toxins. In our modern world though, it sometimes can’t keep up. We’re overworked, anxious, and overwhelmed with poisons in the foods we eat and the products we use. Combined, these factors can slow or stop our natural detox processes and allow harmful toxins to build up in our bodies. 

What is Detoxification?

If we examine human physiology, we see that detoxification is always taking place. Our breathing cycle is the perfect example of this: we nourish the body by taking in oxygen when we inhale, and we detoxify by letting go of carbon dioxide when we exhale. 

A process similar to the cycle of breathing and detoxification happens in the cell membrane. The cell “inhales” or absorbs nutrients, and then it “exhales” or detoxifies unnecessary compounds through membrane transport into the extracellular matrix. The cell goes through a continuous process of nourishment and detoxification.

If the detoxification process is functioning normally, and elimination is able to clear whatever is being discharged from the organs, the detoxification process will go smoothly. Sometimes, however, the detoxification process becomes unbalanced or stuck. When this happens, you can take steps to restart your detox process so disease and illness doesn’t arise from built up toxins. 

Stages of the Detoxification Cycle

Determining what you want to detoxify is a crucial starting point of the detox process. 

Some people engage in “detox” on a regular basis and focus on physical detoxification. Others strive to rid themselves of negative emotions, including jealousy, anger, fear, anxiety, or they try to overcome mental fixations and traumas. Your protocol will vary depending on what you want to detox, but no matter the goal, detoxification follows a particular cycle.

In the process of circulation, venous blood travels from the liver, through the right ventricle of the heart, and then from the heart to the lungs. Discharged material then arrives at the lungs, the first stage in the detox cycle. Congestion, cough, and increased mucus production are all by-products of this first stage in the detox cycle.

The heart is the second stage in the detox cycle, and this stage can often produce symptoms that relate to the heart, such as palpitations. This phase can also trigger symptoms that are mentally or emotionally expressed, such as insomnia, excessive dreams, and new or unique insights.

If the blood and detoxified material continue to travel, they can affect the digestive system and the joints, the third and fourth stages in the detox cycle, and will eventually make their way to the kidneys, the final stage. 

The kidneys may eliminate the toxins, but if they are unable to do so, the toxins can circulate back and return to the liver. The movement between these stages will flow at different speeds in different individuals.

Supporting A Healthy Detox

The specific detoxification program you use will depend on your goals, but you can use many of the same therapies and activities to ensure success. 

Keep in mind that in detoxification, the goal is to provide support to the organs of elimination, including the liver, bowels, lymph, skin, lungs, and kidneys. We also want to support the release of deeper emotions, stress, and mental patterns that may no longer serve us.

The following therapies and practices can help relieve stress and blockages, and support a more holistic and complete detox experience that encompasses all aspects of your being:

Lymphatic Massage
Breathing Exercises

By using these therapies as part of a holistic detoxification process, you can avoid some of the negative side effects of detoxing and achieve more complete results.  

Lifelong Health Through Detoxing

Remember, the defining feature of the body’s detoxification process is that it’s ongoing. It happens at every level of the entire body simultaneously, including the cellular level, throughout our entire lives. 

When we’re born, the first thing we do is “exhale” fluids out of the lungs so we can breathe. This is detoxifying. Exhaling is also the last thing we do when we die. Dying is the final stage of “letting go,” showing us that detoxification is fundamental to our existence.

It’s no wonder that interrupted or stuck detoxification can result in illness, which is why it’s important to support these processes during every stage of your life. Stay in tune with your body so you notice when you are out of balance, and use targeted detoxification protocols to get your body back in alignment. 

For more advice on health and wellness, you can find The Survival Paradox on Amazon.

Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAC, is a recognized expert in the field of integrative medicine, focusing on cancer and complex conditions. He is a respected clinician, researcher, author, educator, and mind-body practitioner. Dr. Eliaz partners with leading research institutes, including Harvard, National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Columbia, to co-author scientific studies on today’s most serious conditions. He has spent decades studying meditation with an emphasis on healing and deepening the mind-body connection. Dr Eliaz is the founder and medical director of Amitabha Medical Clinic & Healing Center in Santa Rosa, California.

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