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Originally published on Food + Spirit.
"Detoxing" can be more than just a nutritional protocol. Change your eating habits, and you can change your life.
There is an ongoing debate about detox going on in the larger health community. People are asking the question of whether a “detox” is really necessary. To me, whether it’s necessary will be about how you define “detox.” After all, detox has been ill-defined. It has come to mean many things to different people, everything from drug and alcohol withdrawal to removing certain foods from the diet, and often more about the “how” rather than the “what”: fasting, drinking lemon juice water, sweating in a sauna, using foot pads to extract toxins, juicing for days on end, cleaning the colon with fiber or taking handfuls of supplements.
Instead of jumping to the “how,” let’s back up to the “what.” For several years, I was a clinician in a functional medicine clinic and even helped design some supplement products to change how the liver would metabolize toxins. When I first came to know detox, it began as a nutritional protocol. When people felt low energy or had brain fog, we would want them to “clean up” their eating by having them follow an elimination diet to avoid common allergenic foods.
What I noticed in people following the nutritional program was unexpected: For most people, changing their eating would change their lives. It was insightful to watch how not eating dairy or gluten for a few weeks could spur on other shifts. My observation was that when people began feeling better, they were able to be clearer in their mind and more at peace with their emotions to make other choices that were supportive of their health: they might end toxic relationships, toxic jobs, or even transition to live in a different location, or finally make time to start living their life’s calling. Often, there were dramatic events that would happen for people beyond just reducing nagging physical symptoms like joint pain, skin inflammation, or bloating.
Through the years, “detox” has come to mean something greater than a nutritional protocol — removing barriers in one’s life is a lifelong journey. I believe that so many people are inundated with much to do and think about, that there isn’t enough “space” within to do a self-reflective inventory: Do they really need this relationship or is it dragging them down? Is this job really nourishing their soul, or does it feel like they are selling their soul? Are their emotions running them ragged? How many negative thoughts did they have today about themselves? When was the last time they “moved” or felt like they were going with the flow rather than against the flow?
In this modern age, I think we can take “detox” into a renewed meaning of carving out the quiet space within our busy everyday lives to get clear on what nourishes, replenishes, and supports our whole self. In the process, we might find out that we are intolerant of a food or of a situation, and either way, hopefully, the detox has done its resetting to get us to the place where we can move forward with a long-term lifestyle change that takes us on the path of optimal health and healing.