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Detoxification, or detox for short is the removal of toxic substances from the body. In conventional medicine, detoxification can also be achieved artificially by techniques such as dialysis and (in a very limited number of cases) chelation therapy. There is a firm scientific base in evidence-based medicine for this type of detoxification. Many alternative medicine practitioners promote various other types of detoxification such as "diet detoxification," but there is no evidence that detox diets have any health benefits.[1] Furthermore, Sense About Science, a UK-based charitable trust determined 'detox' used in most commerical products description do not have any evidence to back their claim and is considered a 'waste of money'. [2] [3]

Detoxification can also refer to the period of withdrawal during which a person's body to return to homeostasis after long-term use of an addictive substance.

Types of detoxification

Alcohol detoxification

Main article: Alcohol detoxification

Alcohol detoxification is a process used in alcohol rehabilitation by which a heavy drinker's system is brought back to normal after being used to having alcohol in the body on a continual basis. Serious alcohol addiction results in a decrease in production of GABA neuro-inhibitor because alcohol acts to replace it. Precipitous withdrawal from long-term alcohol addiction without medical management can cause severe health problems and can be fatal. Alcohol detox is not a treatment for alcoholism. After detoxification, other treatments must be undergone to deal with the underlying addiction that caused the alcohol use.

Drug detoxification

Main article: Drug detoxification

Drug detoxification is used in drug rehabilitation to reduce or relieve withdrawal symptoms while helping the addicted individual adjust to living without drug use; drug detoxification is not meant to treat addiction but rather an early step in long-term treatment. Detoxification may be achieved drug free or may use medications as an aspect of treatment. Often drug detoxification and treatment will occur in a community program that lasts several months and takes place in a residential rather than medical center.[4]

Drug detoxification varies depending on the location of treatment, but most detox centers provide treatment to avoid the symptoms of physical withdrawal to alcohol & other drugs. Most also incorporate counseling and therapy during detox to help with the consequences of withdrawal.

Metabolic detoxification

An animal's metabolism can produce harmful substances which it can then make less toxic through oxidation, conjugation and excretion of molecules from cells or tissues. This is called xenobiotic metabolism. Enzymes that are important in detoxification metabolism include cytochrome P450 oxidases,[5] UDP-glucuronosyltransferases,[6] and glutathione S-transferases.[7] These processes are particularly well-studied as part of drug metabolism, as they influence the pharmacokinetics of a drug in the body.

Alternative medicine

Main article: Body cleansing

Certain approaches in alternative medicine claim to remove toxins from the body through herbal, electrical or electromagnetic treatments (such as the Aqua Detox treatment). These toxins are undefined and have little scientific basis,[1] making the validity of such techniques questionable. There is no evidence for toxic accumulation in these cases,[1] as the liver and kidneys automatically detoxify and excrete many toxic materials including metabolic wastes. Under this theory if toxins are too rapidly released without being safely eliminated (such as burning fat that stores toxins) they can damage the body and cause malaise. Therapies include contrast showers, detoxification foot pads, the Master Cleanse diet, oil pulling, Gerson therapy, snake-stones, body cleansing, Scientology's Purification Rundown, water fasting, and metabolic therapy.[8]

Diet detoxification

Main article: Detox diet

Certain diets have an underlying assumption that the body accumulates toxins that must be removed, especially after periods of over-eating or the consumption of non-nutritious and processed foods. As with alternative medicine, the 'toxins' removed are undefined and are ascribed to foods, the environment and the body's own wastes, and there is no scientific basis for the theory.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Mayo Clinic Website
  2. Scientists dismiss detox schemes
  3. No proof so-called detox products work: scientists
  4. A CRC Health Group Website
  5. Danielson P (2002). The cytochrome P450 superfamily: biochemistry, evolution and drug metabolism in humans. Curr Drug Metab 3 (6): 561–97.
  6. King C, Rios G, Green M, Tephly T (2000). UDP-glucuronosyltransferases. Curr Drug Metab 1 (2): 143–61.
  7. Sheehan D, Meade G, Foley V, Dowd C (2001). Structure, function and evolution of glutathione transferases: implications for classification of non-mammalian members of an ancient enzyme superfamily. Biochem J 360 (Pt 1): 1–16.
  8. Metabolic Therapy
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