There is a large and rising number of Detox articles, diets and products nowadays so awareness and practise of detoxification is increasing. But to me, a Naturopath using Detox as a normal part of everyday treatment, most of it appearing confused shallow and often totally wrong.
Time to ask some questions about detox and the first one is where does it fit when compared against other Natural treatments and remedies.
Natural therapies have been all that we have had to turn to until relatively recently. So a little history may help put things in perspective follows.
It was the popularisation of antibiotics in the 20th Century that really “beat the drum” for drug based medicine, even though antibiotics had been used both in ancient Egypt and India and perhaps in other places too.
Mass markets were clamouring for products and a need for effective medicines to cope with injuries sustained in the Second World war. Added to that there was a Scientific mindset growing at the time that wanted to move on and move away from traditional choices.
The love for new things was such that even unhealthy practises like cigarettes were receiving popular and even professional support.
Smoking was being popularised and Medical Doctors were recommending it as, “Good for the lungs”.
Our food choices were changing too. A whole world of technologically driven processed foods entered our stores and new appliances found their way into the home.
It was not just our medicine that was changing; a tide of change swept through Western and other societies and altered not just the practise of what we did but the underlying rational too.
A lot of this change was welcomed and many old methods abandoned happily. New understanding and research opened up new horizons even in staid subjects such as dietetics – what best to eat for our health.
Meals were then based on a rote formula like “Meat and 2 vegetables” and new data showed that this “default setting” was questioned by a, soon to be famous researcher, called Ancel Keys.
We are now into the 1950s and Public Health officials were looking at what large numbers of people were dying of. Blame started to accrue to smoking and many Doctors started to campaign on this issue. Decades were wasted and many innocent people died due to governments around the world resisting the unwelcome facts that so called “lifestyle” diseases were killing millions.
Attention shifted to diet too and rightly or wrongly Keys pointed the finger of blame for the huge rise in deaths from Cardiac disease at the amount of cholesterol in the food.
All through this era Naturopathic Doctors were keeping their powder dry. None of the new drug discoveries or the diet changes impacted on their understanding of what a healthy diet was or on how the body heals. The tradition of Naturopathic medicine continued unabated in a low key way largely unheard of by the public.
But the public did hear from some renegade Doctors who ran into the facts that vitamins and some other food supplements are powerful enough to make a real difference to a seriously ill patient.
They heard from William Shute who pioneered the use of Vitamin E for Cardiac patients
They heard from Linus Pauling the Nobel Prize Winner who was a pioneer of the use of high dose vitamin C for various disorders.
And they heard from Abram Hoffer a trailblazer working with various nutrients such as Niacin.
The funny things is that Naturopaths did not really like this. Naturopaths use natural remedies to heal unlike medical doctors who drugs and yet Naturopaths felt attacked from the old style of Drug Doctor and the new style of Doctor who used vitamins!
Pioneering Medical Doctors were not taking the whole caboodle from Naturopathy – they were picking and choosing the bits they liked and even paving the way for a new kind of therapy called Nutritional therapy that used a variety of vitamins, minerals and other natural substance found in food as medicines.
Hippocrates is always said to the “Father” of medicine but Medical Doctors pay no heed to his teachings and oppose and scorn Naturopaths who do follow them religiously.
The teaching of importance at this point is, “Let they food be thy medicine”. Food and diet is an absolute priority for Naturopathic Doctors and a matter completely ignored by Medical Doctors.
The new rebel Doctors pioneering vitamins came into the space between the medics and the Naturopaths and formed their own new kind of medicine called Orthomolecular Medicine, meaning medicine using the correct molecules – found of course in healthy foods.
Not drug molecules you understand but vitamin molecules. They pioneered Nutritional Medicine.
You’d think that this new take on the use of vitamins would delight the Naturopaths but they ignored it. They did not like the fact that the diet as a whole was not being optimised, they criticised vitamins being used “like drugs” and of course there were a lot of other Naturopathic techniques they knew that the new crowd did not know!
Not invented here? I think so!
Of course the old guard never invent anything; it is new people coming into the field not knowing what they are supposed to think that blunder into new discoveries.
Thanks to quite a lot of “blundering” we now have some distinct choices for somebody wanting natural treatment for a malady.
People can consult a Naturopathic Doctor or Naturopath; they can see a Nutritionist who may be trained in Nutrition and perhaps no other healing modality; or they could consult a Herbalist.
Other options are somewhat peripheral – acupuncture for example is part of traditional Chinese Medicine and is used when needed to boost the treatments of herbs and diet – it us not supposed to be a stand-alone therapy; homeopathy is not a natural treatment in my view but a different and less harmful way of using drugs. Osteopathy and Chiropractic can of course support someone in their healing journey but are both focussed on the muscles and joints and that is their strength and in a way their weakness.
So that is the therapeutic landscape or at least my take on it.
So where does detox fit?
It fits right in the middle of traditional Naturopathy.
Whether we look at traditional Chinese medicine used right across the Far East or Ayurveda and similar systems used in and around India or to the Naturopathy native to Europe and the West inspired by Hippocrates.
Naturopathy is based on a deep respect for the healing power of the body and assisted by the Naturopath as necessary using whatever works from modern science or from traditional techniques.
Detox is a part of all Naturopathic traditions used when patients needed it or as a seasonal therapy or as a maintenance therapy.
Detox has 2 faces; part of it is simple to understand and tends to be called “Cleansing” – an example of which is Colon cleansing, done with gentle fibrous ingredients such as psyllium or with enema techniques; the other more technical part of detox is much less understood even by Naturopaths and has much in common with a technique used in Toxicology used chelation.
This is the use of various chemicals that bond and bind to a poison such as molecules of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and their like. The body has no use for these industrial pollutants and no way to detoxify or excrete them without help from a detox chemical.
As detoxification methods were further explored and the exact steps that the liver takes to detox pollution products in the bloodstream Naturopaths began to incorporate nutrients that played a key role in the detox process.
Detox then or at least this intensive and specialised part of it, came to resemble nutrition in that it was accomplished with a carefully assembled tool kit of vitamins, minerals and herbs and any other healing ingredients that the body needed such as spices and some foods.
We don’t now have to wait for a seasonal cleanse or detox, we can use detox foods and nutrients in any meal we wish. Simply by using garlic or turmeric we can help ourselves detox.
In the light of a deeper understanding we can say that Detox is nutrition and nutrition is detox when they are both informed of the science of detoxification pathways in the body and the natural and healthy ways of eating.