Detoxification: what is it and how it is done in the body

The word detox can refer to a lot of things: Natural metabolic processes that occur in our body in the first phase of therapy to overcome addictions.

In this article, we will examine several of the definitions of this term, the types of detoxification, the metabolic mechanisms involved, how it is carried out in therapy, and reflect on the meaning of the word “DETOX”.

    What is detoxification?

    It is understood by detoxification at the metabolic, medical or pharmacological process involving the elimination of elements toxic to the body. Usually, in healthy people, detoxification is a metabolic process that takes place in the kidneys and liver, organs responsible for reducing the toxicity of substances produced by the body itself and their elimination.

    This same word is also used to designate the process by which an organism regains its homeostasis, that is to say that it becomes healthy again, after having consumed or been exposed to a toxic substance, voluntarily or not. This is the definition used in the field of medicine by people who are intoxicated or suffering from some type of addiction. Poisoning due to organ problems can also occur, necessitating the use of antidotes, dialysis, or liver and kidney transplants..


    Since the definition of detox is very broad and is used in various fields of health sciences, it becomes necessary to briefly explain some types of detox.

    1. Alcohol detoxification

    Detoxification from alcohol is the process by which alcohol is excreted in the body of a person who consumes this substance in large amounts and frequently.

    This is a dangerous type of detox because alcohol withdrawal syndrome can lead to serious health problems and even death. For this reason, it must be checked by professionals.

      2. Detoxification from other drugs

      The world of drugs is very large, and for this reason there are substances which, although their withdrawal syndrome is not pleasant, suddenly stopping smoking does not pose a serious risk for the health of the person.

      In any case, the detoxification treatment of these substances should be carried out by professionals, and usually resort to the use of antidotes that neutralize the effects of the substance consumed and accelerate its elimination.

      3. Metabolic detoxification

      Due to the metabolic reactions that take place in our body, some of these products are toxic and must be treated to prevent damage to it. Through various physicochemical processes, such as reduction, oxidation, conjugation and excretion, the body is able to reduce the toxicity of these substances and eliminate them.

      The most important enzymes in this process are cytochrome P450 oxidases, UDP-glucoronosyltransferases, and glutathione S-transferases.

      The liver: the “DETOX” organ

      The liver, along with the kidneys, is the main organ involved in detoxifying the body. Whether the person detoxifies from drugs, alcohol, or drugs, the detoxification processes to achieve homeostasis and health are virtually similar.

      Thanks to the action of the liver, detoxification naturally present in our body it takes place in two phases, simply called phase 1 and phase 2 of detoxification.

      During phase 1, the liver acts on fat-soluble toxins, activating the cytochrome P450 enzyme system. This system produces enzymes that bind to fat-soluble toxins, reducing their toxicity and preparing them for the next phase. In phase 2, these toxins are excreted by the action of the kidneys, and therefore expelled outside the body.

      In order to carry out the metabolic processes that detoxify the body, it is necessary to have a healthy liver and kidneys. If not, the person with poor liver and kidney health may experience symptoms such as nausea, headache in the morning, Eye spills, constipation, skin problems and pain in various parts of the body.

      Detoxification treatment

      Detoxification is the first phase of drug treatment, Which they are subjected to immediately after being admitted to a rehabilitation center or starting therapy on their own foot. People with substance abuse problems need drug addiction treatment, in which they will undergo pharmacological and psychological therapy that will help them get rid of the drugs they have become addicted to.

      This is not only about overcoming physical dependence on one or more substances, but also about motivating the person to move on. and understand the difference between what is a psychological demand and what is an organic need.

      As we have seen before, it is understood by detoxification of substances or alcohol to remove the drug from the patient’s body and achieve physical stability, without the body missing the harmful substance. This process should always be carried out under the supervision of professionals, especially doctors and psychiatrists, although the work of psychologists and the patient’s view of his own problems should never be ignored.

      The joint work of several health science professionals will strengthen the power control symptoms of withdrawal syndrome, if applicable. Doctors prescribe drugs that help counter the effects of the syndrome and help the body achieve homeostasis. If there is a food intolerance or if the condition is very severe, it is possible to resort to serotherapy.

      The evolution of the detoxification phase can become very important and can even lead to radical changes. The first two days of treatment are crucial and it is avoided by all means to prevent withdrawal syndrome. Over time, the patient becomes calmer, has a more optimistic and positive view of the future, sleeps better, regains his appetite and his general well-being is improved.

      Once the detox is finished, addiction treatment continues with addictionIn other words, the person does not need high doses of the drug to experience its pleasurable effects, and then comes reinstatement, which involves encouraging the person not to relapse.

        Alternative medicine and “DETOX” diets

        Certain currents of alternative medicine and “healthy” movements allow them to remove “toxins” from the body through a variety of treatments, which can range from using traditional herbal medicine to taking juice from all of them. kinds. , to treatments in which electric or electromagnetic currents are applied.

        It is common that in this type of treatment, characterized by being, in many cases, pseudoscientists, the definition of what a toxin is is not clear, which makes the validity of their techniques more that questionable.

        since the liver and kidneys automatically detoxify the body and are responsible for removing materials that can cause some kind of harm to the body, it doesn’t make much sense to think that it is necessary to apply treatments that can hardly work and are unnecessary.

        Substances that facilitate detoxification

        As we have already seen, most diets that call themselves “Detox” or that claim to eat only a certain vegetable for a period of time have not been shown to be effective. In fact, the scientific community believes that the vast majority of products and services that are promoted under the word “Detox” are scams. However, this does not mean that following a healthy diet is not a protective factor for health and facilitates the detoxifying action of the liver and kidneys.

        While this is not a panacea, it does not guarantee no more than a person will miraculously recover from liver disease, there are some plants that have had a lot of it for a long time in indigenous communities, And that has been linked to improvements in health. Among them are burdock root, Lewisia rediviva and verdolaga, which stimulate digestion and encourage the liver to work.

        There are foods that help the liver perform its function properlyAs is the case with cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage all contribute to the action of cytochrome P450 enzymes. The same would apply to vegetables containing sulphides, such as onions and garlic.

        But just as there are foods that would aid in the detoxification process, there are others whose consumption can increase toxicity, especially if you are sensitive to alcohol. These foods include breads and fermented foods. Foods rich in carbohydrates also increase endogenous alcohol production. Fermented animals convert alcohol into acetaldehyde, damaging the intestinal flora and can cause chronic candidiasis.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Danielson P (2002). “The cytochrome P450 superfamily: biochemistry, evolution and metabolism of drugs in humans.” Curr Drug Metab. 3 (6): 561-97.
        • King C, Rios G, Green M, Tephly T (2000). “UDP-glucuronosyltransferases”. Curr Drug Metab. 1 (2): 143-61.
        • Sheehan D, Meade G, Foley V, Dowd C (2001). “Structure, function and evolution of glutathione transfers: implications for the classification of non-mammalian members of an ancient enzymatic superfamily.” Biochem J. 360 (Pt 1): 1-16.
        • American Psychiatric Association (APA). (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
        • World Health Organization (1992). International Classification of Diseases and Health Problems, Tenth Revision (ICD-10). Geneva.

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