Detoxification: what it is and how it takes place in the body
Characteristics of this biological process important when treating addictions and Blood disorders.
The word detoxification can refer to many thingsThe word detoxification can refer to many things: from natural metabolic processes occurring in our body to the first phase in therapies for overcoming addictions.
In this article we will see several of the definitions of this term, types of detoxifications, metabolic mechanisms involved, how it is performed in therapy and we will reflect on the meaning of the word "detox".
What is detoxification?
Detoxification is understood as the metabolic, medical or pharmacological process that implies the elimination of toxic elements for the organism.. Normally, in healthy people, detoxification is a metabolic process that takes place in the kidneys and liver, organs which are responsible for reducing the toxicity of substances produced by the body and eliminating them from the body.
This same word is also used to refer to the process by which an organism recovers its homeostasis, that is, it becomes healthy again, after having consumed or been exposed to a toxic substance, voluntarily or involuntarily. This is the definition used in the medical field for people who have been intoxicated or suffer from some type of addiction. Intoxication can also occur due to organic problems, which makes it necessary to use antidotes, dialysis or liver and kidney transplants..
Since the definition of detoxification is very broad, and is used in various fields of health sciences, it is necessary to briefly explain some types of detoxification.
1. Alcoholic detoxification
Alcohol detoxification is the process by which alcohol is eliminated from the body of the patient. alcohol is eliminated in the organism of a person who consumes this substance in large quantities and frequently..
It is a dangerous type of detoxification, since the withdrawal syndrome in alcoholics can cause serious health problems and even death. For this reason, it must be controlled by professionals.
2. Detoxification to other drugs
The world of drugs is very wide, and for this reason there are substances that, although their withdrawal syndrome is not pleasant, the sudden cessation of their use does not imply a serious risk for the person's health. for the person's health.
In any case, the treatment of withdrawal from these substances must be carried out by professionals, and usually resorts to the use of antidotes that counteract the effects of the substance consumed and accelerate its elimination.
3. Metabolic detoxification
Due to the metabolic reactions that occur in our body, certain products of these are toxic and need to be treated to prevent them from causing damage to the body. Through various physicochemical processes, such as reduction, oxidation, conjugation and excretion, the organism is able to reduce the toxicity of the toxin, the organism 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 detoxification of the body. Regardless of whether the person is detoxifying from drugs, alcohol or pharmaceuticals, the detoxification processes to achieve homeostasis and health are practically similar.
Thanks to the action of the liver, the detoxification naturally present in our organism occurs in two phases, simply called phase 1 and phase 2 of detoxification..
During phase 1 the liver works on fat-soluble toxins, activating the cytochrome P450 enzyme system. This system produces enzymes that bind to the fat-soluble toxins, reducing their toxicity and preparing them for the next phase. In phase 2 these toxins are excreted thanks to the action of the kidneys, and therefore expelled out of the organism.
In order to carry out the metabolic processes that allow the body to detoxify, it is necessary to have a healthy liver and kidneys. Otherwise a person who does not have good liver and kidney health may experience symptoms such as nausea, morning headaches, eye effusions, constipation, skin problems and skin problems.eye effusions, constipation, skin problems and pain in various parts of the body.
Detoxification is the first phase of addiction treatment.They undergo it immediately after being admitted to a rehabilitation center or starting therapy on their own. People with addiction problems need detoxification treatments, in which they will undergo pharmacological and psychological therapy that will help them to get rid of the drug to which they have become addicted.
It involves not only overcoming physical dependence on one or more substances, but also motivating the person to move forward and understanding the difference between what is a psychological demand and what is an organic need. and understanding the difference between what is a psychological demand and what is an organic need.
As we were saying before, detoxification of substances or alcohol is understood as the elimination of the drug from the patient's body and achieving 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 own vision of his or her own problems should never be ignored.
The joint work of several professionals in the health sciences will favor the ability to control the symptoms of the withdrawal syndrome, in case it occurs.. Physicians will prescribe drugs to help counteract the effects of the syndrome, as well as to help the body reach homeostasis. If there is food intolerance or the condition is very severe, serum therapy may be used.
The evolution in the detoxification phase can be very significant and can even involve radical changes. The first two days of treatment are crucial and withdrawal syndrome is avoided by all means. As time goes by, the patient feels calmer, has a more hopeful and positive vision of the future, sleeps better, recovers his appetite and his general wellbeing increases.
Once the detoxification is over, drug addiction treatment continues with the detoxification of the substance.This means that the person does not need high doses of the drug to feel its pleasurable effects, and then comes reintegration, which consists of encouraging the person not to relapse.
Alternative medicine and "detox" diets
Certain currents of alternative medicine and "healthy-style" movements claim to be able to eliminate "toxins" from the body by means of very varied treatments, which can range from the use of herbs typical of traditional medicine, drinking juices of all kinds, to treatments in which electrical or electromagnetic currents are applied.
It is common that in this type of treatments, characterized by being, in many occasions, pseudoscientific, the definition of what is a toxin is not clear, making the validity of their techniques more than questionable.
Given that the liver and the kidneys automatically detoxify the organism and are in charge of eliminating materials that may be harmful to the body, it does not make much sense to think that it is necessary to apply treatments that can hardly work and are not necessary.
Substances that facilitate detoxification
As we have already seen, most of the diets that call themselves "detox" or that claim that eating exclusively a certain vegetable for a period of time have not been proven to work. In fact, the scientific community considers the vast majority of products and services promoted under the word "detox" to be 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 they are not a panacea, nor do they guarantee that a person will miraculously recover from their liver ailments, there are certain plants that have been used for a long time in indigenous communities, there are certain plants that have been used for a long time in indigenous communities, and that have been linked to improvements in health.and that have been related to improvements in the state of health. Among them are burdock root, Lewisia rediviva and purslane, which stimulate digestion and encourage the liver to work.
There are foods that help the liver to perform its function correctly, as is the case of cruciferous vegetables.There are foods that help the liver to function properly, as is the case of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage, which help the action of cytochrome P450 enzymes. So would sulfur-containing vegetables such as onions and garlic.
But just as there are foods that would help in the detoxification process, there are others whose consumption may increase toxicity, especially if you are sensitive to alcohol. Entre estos alimentos se encontrarían panes y productos fermentados. También los alimentos ricos en carbohidratos incrementan la producción de alcohol endógeno. Los fermentados transforman el alcohol en acetaldehído, perjudicando a la flora intestinal y pudiendo provocar candidiasis crónica.
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- American Psychiatric Association (APA). (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
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(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)