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Also known as body cleansing, or shortened to detox, detoxification is a form of alternative medicine intended to rid the body of toxins.

Based on the idea that illnesses can result from an accumulation of toxic substances in the body, detoxification is viewed as a means of eliminating existing toxins, usually in preparation of steps that can be taken to avoid new toxins.

A toxin is a substance that is harmful to an individual's health, and may include herbicides, molds, parasites, pesticides, preservatives, toxic heavy metals, and other environmental toxins. These toxins can enter the body through the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, the utensils that we cook and eat with, or personal care or cleaning products. The build-up of toxins and harmful chemicals in the body is known as the toxic load.

The goal of detoxification is to eliminate harmful toxins from the body, reduce our toxic load, and improve our health.

Detoxification can also be used to detoxify from drugs or alcohol. Assisted by experts, detoxification can be used to flush these toxins from the body, as well.

Detoxification from environmental toxins can usually be accomplished at home, however.

As with any other medical condition, a large toxic load might become evident through various signs and symptoms. These might include unexplained fatigue, joint and muscle aches, sinus congestion, postnasal drip, headaches, stomach ailments, unusually malodorous feces or breath, heartburn, sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating, water retention, trouble losing weight, skin rashes, acne, eczema, dark circles under the eyes, premenstrual syndrome, and other menstrual disorders. If not addressed in time, these signs and symptoms can result in serious health complications.

Some easy, early steps in detoxification that can be taken at home include getting enough sleep. Insufficient sleep can affect the health of the brain, cause anxiety, and may lead to several illnesses, including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Seven to nine hours of sleep per day can help the brain recharge, and provide protection against these illnesses. Rest can also help to reduce or remove the toxic byproducts of metabolism, respiration, and the renal process.

Drinking plenty of water can help to regulate body temperature, promote digestion, and the absorption of nutrients. Adequate hydration also promotes the cleansing of blood vessels, transports nutrients and oxygen to the cells, and protects joints. Water is a key component in detoxification in that it helps to remove wastes and toxins through urination, sweating, and excretion.

Excessive salt can lead to heart problems, high blood pressure, headaches, kidney stones, and stomach cancer. The combination of adequate hydration and cutting down on salt intake can promote the elimination of excess salt from the body via urination.

Exercise is also an important component of detoxification, as it helps to remove toxins from the body through perspiration, as well as promoting the general health of body organs, reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Alternative medicine practitioners often recommend various diet plans as a part of detoxification, as well. These will often begin with a period of fasting, followed by a diet regimen for maintenance. While the diet may vary from one practitioner to another, or between alternative health regimens, they usually eliminate ingredients that are deemed unnecessary for life, such as flavor enhancers, food colorings, pesticides, and preservatives. The use of alcohol, tobacco, coffee, and refined sugar is likely to be discouraged, particularly during the period of detoxification.

Foods that are commonly recommended during detoxification include beetroot, cabbage, fresh fruits, garlic, ginger, lemons, and brown rice.

There are several detox regimens, but most will involve fasting, eating specific foods, and avoiding harmful ingredients. Herbs and supplements may also be recommended.

Detractors argue that detox diets rarely identify the specific toxins they are designed to remove, and there is little evidence that they remove any toxins at all. The body can clear itself of most toxins through the liver, feces, urine, and sweat.

Topics related to detoxification are appropriate for this category.


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