‘Clinical Detox’ provides better health outcomes
By Dr. Martin Gleixner, MSc, ND
Are you confused about whether detoxification (i.e. detox) or cleansing is important for your health?
Uncertain what ‘detox’ really means?
Should you be worried about on-going daily exposures to low levels of toxicity? Do toxins accumulate in the body over time?
You’ve likely heard about a friend, neighbour, or work colleague doing detoxes or cleanses, but the question remains: Is it worth it? Does it provide health benefits? Can it actually cause harm?
In light of recent ‘bad’ press about detox, it is important to bring new insights on this subject. Articles in the Globe and Mail entitled “Ditch the Detox” (January 5th 2015, written by Leslie Beck and Wendy Leung), claim that “there is no evidence that doing a cleanse speeds up the removal of toxins”. Other websites on the Internet describe detox as unnecessary or that it cannot assist in addressing symptoms and disease. It is important to question such biased claims. To paint every detox approach with the same brush and disregard the role of toxins in human health is a red flag in my opinion. Instead of accepting such ‘all-or-nothing’ approaches, it is important to look closely at the details and adopt practices that truly can make a difference in human health. It is therefore imperative to differentiate between ‘quackery’ detox claims and valid detox programs.
It is well recognized that the free-for-all approach on the Internet is filled with misinformation, exaggerations and hype. Many proposed detox regimes or cleansing supplements have little science behind them, and in certain cases can cause harm. Once such approaches are weeded out, the bottom line remains that detox is in fact important to human health. It took decades for society to finally conclude that smoking was terribly bad for our health; I hope that it will take less time for us to understand the negative effects of other toxic exposures. I predict that the importance of toxicity and proper detox programs will become more and more important in the future. Why wait when there is sufficient evidence already existing today showing the link between environmental toxins and human disease?
The reality about detox is that it can be performed scientifically. Medical-based naturopathic detoxification (for simplicity sake, let’s call it ‘Clinical Detox’) as conducted at the Moncton Naturopathic Medical Clinic is an important consideration for addressing the cause of many health conditions and in preventing disease.
Before we review the basics of Clinical Detox, let’s first explore why toxicity may be contributing to your health concerns. Here are my top 10 reasons:
- Like any other animal on earth, if exposed to chemicals, the human body bio-accumulates toxins – no one is spared.
- Even though all humans are equipped to eliminate small exposures of certain toxins, some do it more efficiently than others. Those that don’t do it well will bio-accumulate more toxins.
- Despite our ability to eliminate small amounts of toxins, when human blood has been tested, it is recognized that most humans have toxicity levels that are well above allowable guidelines. Even a newborn’s umbilical cord apparently contains toxins. Yikes!
- Out of the toxins found in the human body many are known carcinogens (i.e. cancer causing).
- Toxins are found in varying amounts in the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the foods that we eat. Although organic foods appear to contain less toxins (therefore eating organic is helpful), all foods contain them in varying amounts.
- Many humans eat one or more of the following foods on a daily basis which have been found to contain high levels of toxins: butter (if non-organic), commercially raised meats, farmed salmon, rice, tuna (& other fish caught from polluted waters) and the ‘dirty dozen’ fruits and veggies such as apples or potatoes.
- Over 85,000 different chemicals are registered by the World Health Organization, with more than 2,000 new chemicals added yearly.
- Toxins are most often silent; causing symptoms or disease without most people being aware of that they are a problem.
- Many toxins (as measured in amounts found in humans) can negatively affect most physiological functions in the human body. Research clearly shows that the accumulation of toxins in the human body contributes to many chronic disease and cancers.
- Despite medical and technological advances, the rates of cancer and chronic diseases are rising in North America. If we exclude early childhood deaths (which has no doubt improved dramatically in the last 100 years), life expectancy does not appear to be improving. These two facts begs the following question: something is going on that is affecting human health on this planet. Based on more and more evidence, we can suspect that toxicity is partly to blame.
Now that we understand that toxicity exposures are a real problem, what do we do about it?
Let’s now review the basic steps involved in Clinical Detox as conducted at the Moncton Naturopathic Medical Clinic.
Step 1 – Determine if toxicity is contributing to someone’s health concern(s)
As Naturopathic Doctors, various strategies are used to determine if toxicity is contributing to your health problems. Using extensive detective work and diagnostic tools, one or more of the following are considered:
- Perform a complete medical overview, including: 1) a review of standard laboratory blood test results (especially to rule out other causes/conditions that could also explain certain symptoms); 2) advanced blood or saliva tests to properly diagnose a disease or functional problem in the body (for additional details of such tests please view our ‘diagnostic’ page at www.monctonnaturopathic.com); 3) complaint-oriented physical examinations; and 4) a complete review of all symptoms (not just a patient’s chief concern, but of all systems and organs in the body), since certain symptoms or disease are more commonly associated to specific toxic exposures.
- Symptoms or disease of unknown cause or when patients have a long list of unexplainable symptoms warrants further evaluation for toxicity.
- Risk of lifetime or present-day exposures should be assessed using extensive detective work and questionnaires to determine such likelihood. Certain exposures to toxicity are known as in certain professions (e.g. farmers) or in the case of accidental exposures. Immediate referrals may be required for medical detox procedures conducted at hospitals in the case of drug or alcohol overdose, or other acute toxic exposures.
- Conduct advanced diagnostic testing to evaluate toxicity such as a urine provocation test. Such a test includes the analysis of the levels of toxic heavy metals in urine after the administration of a metal chelating agent (oral DMSA, or intravenous EDTA/DMPS). This test aims to determine total levels of heavy metal toxicity in the body resulting from previous long-term exposure to heavy metals.
Step 2 – Ensure that Clinical Detox is conducted safely
Consult your Naturopathic Doctor or Medical Doctor before starting any detox program. A medical history, physical exam, as well as a review of your diagnostic laboratories and imaging studies should be conducted on all patients with underlying health conditions. For example, patients who are diabetic, hypoglycemic and nutritionally deficient are at greater risk of blood sugar imbalances and fainting. For others, mineral status should be taken into consideration for those with kidney disease or for those taking certain drugs prescriptions (some high blood pressure medications can deplete potassium from the body for example). Other factors that should be examined such as the presence of genetic defects, low weight or obesity, presence of autoimmune disease, compromised immune systems, systemic inflammation (e.g. as noted by high CRP or ESR), just to name a few. An evaluation of your bowel, liver and kidney/bladder function is very important to determine a patient’s ability to eliminate toxins.
Step 3 – Establish a Clinical Detox Program
Once toxicity is linked to one’s health concern an individualized Clinical Detox Program is established for each patient. Such a program would first and foremost include a plan to minimize and prevent future toxic exposures. Your Naturopathic Doctor would then incorporate naturopathic treatments and create an eating plan tailored for each patient to: 1) enhance/supports the body’s detox systems especially bowels, liver, and kidneys, but also lungs, lymphatic system and skin; 2) to dislodge bound toxins that have been stored over a long period of time and eliminate them from the body; 3) protect cells and tissues from active toxic compounds; and 4) improve our body’s ability to finally eliminate toxins via urine, stools or skin.
Remember, that life shouldn’t be about cleansing all year long. Rather strive to develop new healthy habits that are feasible for the long-term and choose specific times during the year for detox programs if recommended by your Naturopathic Doctor.
Published by Dr. Gleixner on Friday, April 10th 2015.
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