This article about detoxification - what it is and how it happens - appeared in IVF Friends Newsletter in December 2005.

Detoxification is a bit of a buzz word, especially at the moment. Detoxing is really all about improving the bodyís own organs of elimination. These are primarily the liver, bowel and skin, which are how our body effectively deals with all the chemicals (natural and otherwise) that we are exposed to each day.

The liver is arguably the most important organ that allows us to detoxify the chemicals we consume. These include all the nutrients in food as well as other things like alcohol, pesticides and drugs. When we eat something, it passes through the liver where it is altered in the phase I of detoxification. Many things such as stress, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and exposure to pollutants can cause an increase in the Phase I pathway. These altered substances can be free radicals and are often more reactive than the original substance, so they are further changed into inactive substances during Phase II of detoxification. Phase II relies on various enzymes and nutrients in order to inactivate the products of Phase I. Liver detoxification involves the provision of these enzymes and nutrients so the liver can keep up the Phase II pathway, and often also liver tonic herbs. Itís not a good situation to have elevated Phase I detoxification, if Phase II canít keep up. Once a substance has passed through the liver it is sent to the bowel or kidneys for excretion.

Efficient elimination requires the bowel and kidneys to be functioning well. The bowel, in particular, is a major focus of detoxification, because it is where we absorb almost all of our nutrients and eliminate a lot of our wastes. The two main areas that are considered are the actual membrane of the bowel wall and its integrity and the internal microbial environment. The bowel wall needs to be healthy, so that molecules can pass through it as required. The microbes within the bowel should be balanced with the correct ratio of good and bad bacteria - the good bacteria in the gut are also involved in the elimination of oestrogen from the body. Detoxification of the bowel involves improving the integrity of the bowel wall with herbal medicine and/or nutrients and reinoculating the internal environment with good bacteria.

There are hundreds of ways naturopaths use to detox the body, but they all generally follow the same principles. If someone is on an IVF cycle and is contemplating a detox, it is wise to have the detox completed before the cycle is started. This time of year can be a good opportunity for IVF patients to do a detox, even though it is the festive season, there is often a break from treatment over the Christmas period. The type of detox I usually use involves eating food that doesnít stress the liver and includes lots of water, fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, meat, fish and other unprocessed food (organic is especially good). (BTW, a glass of wine on Christmas day, doesnít ruin everything!) At the same time I use a series of herbs and nutrients to improve the bowel wall and put back the good bacteria and also provide the nutrients the liver uses in Phase II of detoxification. It is also beneficial to use a loofah on the skin each day to remove dead skin cells and promote circulation to the skin.

As I said earlier, there are hundreds of very valid ways to detox - some are standard and some are specific to address individual issues, such as if someone is suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, the bowel detox would be quite different from someone who did not. Ideally everyone would detox once a year to compensate for the added environmental stresses our modern times bring.

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