Natural Medicine Q&A
Ask Dr. P
by Kasra Pournadeali, ND
Natural Medicine Specialist
Ever explained your concerns to your doctor, only to be told there was nothing really wrong? Ever just had low energy, not felt your best, lacked motivation, and were told it was a normal part of aging? Maybe you've experienced going to the doctor, having lab work done (the results of which were all normal,) and your doctor's plan was: to watch, and see if it gets any worse. Unfortunately, these inadequacies are common with the conventional medical approach to chronic or non-life-threatening diseases. It is true that conventional medicine is saves lives during heart attacks, trauma, or appendicitis, but it fails miserably in promoting optimal health. This is one reason for the booming interest in the field of natural medicine and natural therapies.
One such therapy, effective in addressing many chronic conditions, is detoxification. Detoxification has somewhat of a mysterious connotation, and it can mean many different things from a special diet and using herbal medicines to juice or water fasts and enemas or colon irrigation. Many of us have heard stories of how people with terminal disease were miraculously cured after detoxifying. Some are probably untrue, but there is a good scientific basis behind the detox process I promote, and it is effective in treating many chronic conditions not well addressed through conventional means.
Q: What is detoxification, and why must it be supported?
Detoxification is the removal of poisons. This process occurs naturally through the actions of our lungs, skin, kidneys and liver. When the function of any of these organs is compromised, our detoxifying ability is impaired, and poisons accumulate. This leads to symptoms like fatigue, headaches, mental fog, allergies, poor immune function, joint or muscle pain, weight gain, PMS, mood swings, depression, digestive problems, and chemical sensitivity among others. Doing a detox (by using natural approaches designed to promote optimal function of these organs) gets you back on track and gives you relief, even when the symptoms have been longstanding.
Q: What is the scientific basis behind doing a detox?
Let's take liver function for example. It is a wondrous organ that clears our blood of the many poisons from our environment we are exposed to every day. It has two phases of detoxification, conveniently named 1 and 2, each of which must function properly for us to maintain health. Many nutrients are necessary for normal function of each phase. For example, vitamin B3, B2, C, and magnesium activate Phase 1, while glycine, B12, and molybdenum are necessary for Phase 2. Deficiency in any of these nutrients impairs our liver's ability to detoxify.
Furthermore, exposure to certain toxins can change the speed at which each phase occurs. This becomes problematic when Phase 1 is upregulated (or works faster) in comparison to Phase 2. When this happens, the products generated by Phase 1 (which are often more toxic than at the start) are not removed fast enough by Phase 2. The result is toxin buildup. Doing a detox addresses this by bringing Phase 1 and Phase 2 activity back into balance optimizing the liver's function, and gradually clearing any toxins that have built up.
Q: I have no exposure to toxins, so is doing a detox necessary for me?
First of all, toxins come in many packages, some actually being produced in the body. For example hormones and neurotransmitters are metabolized after performing their functions and eventually must be removed. Estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisone, epinephrine, histamine, and thyroid hormone are some examples. Likewise just about every drug and even some herbal medicines we use, affect our liver function and can be considered toxins. Let's not forget things in our diet: caffeine, alcohol, chlorine in our water, and pesticides, hormones, or antibiotics in our food as sources of hidden toxins. I won't mention the chemicals in our air, which afford us (here in Washington) the 12th highest risk for cancer due to chemical exposures. So unless, you live, grow your own food, and have you personal water source in a bubble, you are being exposed and can benefit from a detox. Is a detox necessary for you? That's really a question you must answer based on your personal health status and goals.
Q: Do you recommend juice fasts, colonic irrigation or coffee enemas for detoxification?
No. Since many nutrients and amino acids are necessary to promote optimal detoxification, fasting and especially long fasts rob the body of what it needs to detoxify. Likewise, no published evidence is available on the effects of colonic irrigation or coffee enemas on detoxification. Although treatments must be individualized, I typically recommend patients detox by making stepwise diet changes over a three-week period, using specific nutrients and sometimes plant medicines to maximize the function of their detoxifying organs, and add other approaches like hydrotherapy if indicated. Addressing relaxation and stress reduction through breathing techniques and gentle exercise is also appropriate. It sounds simple, but with the right plan good health often is! Be well.
For more information or to schedule an
appointment, please contact the Northwest Center for Optimal Health at (360)