Detox, short for detoxification, in general is the removal of toxic substances from the body.
In conventional medicine, detoxification can also be achieved artificially by techniques such as dialysis and chelation therapy.
In complementary and alternative medicine, detoxification can mean many different types of treatments, from a variety of cleanses (particular diets or substances to remove toxins from the body) to the period of withdrawal during which a person's body to return to homeostasis after long-term use of an addictive substance.
Toxicity in the body occurs any time we take in more of a substance than our bodies can use and eliminate. Homeostasis is when our body is in balance, and that balance can be disturbed by taking in more of any particular substance (whether a positive or negative substance originally) than our bodies can handle. Depending on the toxin, the results can be immediate (i.e. feeling sick) or long term (such as exposure to DDT).
Subcategories of detoxification include:
- Alcohol detoxification
- Drug detoxification
- Metabolic detoxification
- Herbal detoxification
- Nutritional or dietary detoxification
- Exercise based detoxification
Fasting is one of the oldest detoxification therapies, going back thousands of years. Ayurvedic medicine also uses a variety of detoxification methods to treat chronic conditions and prevent illness.
Concerns about the need for detoxification have increased as people have become more aware of the environmental dangers of a variety of substances that are now common in our worlds, from heavy metals to pesticides to DDT. These factors are believed by some to be tied to the increases in chronic conditions and multi-faceted illnesses, as well as leading to weakened immune systems, impaired liver function and increased allergies and sensitivities.
Detoxification is closely related to homotoxicology, which is the study of toxins and how they move through the human body.