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Jumpstart your health with a detox

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Detox your diet and more

Not all detox programs involve freeing oneself from drugs and alcohol - though the media's coverage of hard-partying celebrities going dry (if only for a while) would have you think so. In fact, you and every other person can benefit from a properly prescribed detox, the process of ridding your body of environmental pollutants and dietary toxins, particularly after a holiday season of drink, feast and stress. Here is expert advice on jumpstarting your health with a detox.

Woman with Juice

What exactly is a detox program?

Though the term detoxification is one that is commonly associated with alcohol, drug and substance abuse, it is also used to describe diet plans designed to help people clean up their eating and/or lose weight. Further, as Sylvie Beljanski, the founder of Manhattan's Beljanksi Wellness Center (which will be opening in spring 2009) explains, "Detoxification is also a process aiming to eliminate all the negative effects on our body from the environment, such as industrial chemicals, pesticides, additives in our foods, secondary smoke, pollutants or heavy metals." And detox programs aren't just for people who need an effective means to improve their health. "Nowadays, internal detoxification is adopted by healthy individuals to keep their body systems in pristine condition," adds Beljanski. Detox programs are appropriate and beneficial for nearly everyone.

Detox encompasses a variety of techniques

Beljanski, an expert on environmental health effects, says, "Detoxification refers mainly to the removal of toxic substances and cleansing of the kidneys and colon, as these are organs involved in the detoxification of chemicals and toxins from the body." She explains that detoxification is performed in a variety of ways including nutritional supplements, herbal mixtures, oral chelating agents, safe mercury removal, intravenous injections, colonics and other techniques. The first pollutants that Beljanski strives to eliminate are heavy metals and "once heavy metal burden is relieved, other parasite, yeast and organic detoxification proceeds easier."

Benefits of a properly prescribed detox program

You may be thinking that a detox isn't necessary because you feel fine and do your best to eat a clean diet, exercise regularly and even get weekly massages. These are helpful in staying healthy but there are additional benefits that a detox can deliver that a basic healthy lifestyle may not. According to Beljanski, one of the major benefits of detoxification is purification of the liver, kidneys and blood, a process that can't occur during regular eating patterns. Other advantages include stimulation of the immune system, enhancement of the hormonal system, better sleep, more energy, relief from symptoms caused by environmental toxins, and a reduction of dependency on substances such as sugar, caffeine, nicotine or alcohol. Beljanski says a detox is particularly warranted when one is experiencing unexplained headaches or back pain, failing memory, brittle nails and hair, and frequent allergies as well as being exposed to cleansing solvents, pesticides, diuretics, certain drugs and other environmental toxins.

Detox programs come with side effects

Word of warning: Detoxification doesn't lead to instant gratification. Don't expect to go through a detox without the possibility of some uncomfortable side effects. Beljanski says, "Some of the side effects can include the following: headaches, skin problems, weight reduction and fatigue in the early stages of the program. Energy level can also decrease before seeing an improvement." But don't let the side effects deter you from a detox. The long-term benefits are worth it. Beljanski advises, "For this reason, it is important to rest a lot and make gradual changes in order to decrease negative side effects." As long as you work with an expert in detoxification, the unpleasant side-effects can be kept to a minimum.

What can someone expect from a safe, healthy detox?

Beljanski says the aim of both short-term and long-term detox programs is to release toxins from the body, utilizing a variety of detox techniques. She explains: Short-term detox programs should include: 24-hour juice fasting, chelation therapy and heavy metal removal, colon cleansing (colonics), skin cleansing, safe mercury removal, and intravenous injections. Long-term detox programs should include, but are not limited to: dietary changes such as avoiding meats, high-carbohydrates or sweeteners, and eating more vegetables and fruits or garlic; drinking fluids (water, vegetable and fruit juice, herbal tea); and taking vitamins and supplements. "It is also recommended to exercise (Yoga, Tai Chi); try alternative therapies, such as homeopathy, acupuncture, and hydrotherapy; and try methods to reduce stress, like massage, herbal soaks or meditation," she adds. Detoxification is a mixture of modalities that are beneficial for both body and mind.

How to detox after overeating or following a poor diet

Because detoxification helps cleanse and enhance the digestive tract, it is especially recommended after long periods of overeating or the consumption of non-nutritious foods. "Fasting for instance is a way to detox, to let your body restore itself. Dramatic changes can be seen as the body rids itself of toxins. Digestion usually improves immediately, as do many organ and nerve functions," explains Beljanski. "Following detox, your stomach size returns to normal and bad eating habits can be stopped." In addition to juice fasting or water fasting, Beljanski also recommends herbal detox, colon cleansing, detox baths and caloric restriction — all of which can be properly prescribed by a detoxification expert. Check your local listings for detox spas or contact a specialist in integrative or holistic medicine to find an expert near you.

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