Published on November 11, 2007
The term "detoxification" usually suggests ridding the bowels of accumulated residues, but colonic cleansing only does part of the job, say physicians at the TRIA Integrative Wellness Centre in Bangkok's Huay Kwang district.
Vimonmas Promsaka na Sakolnakorn, MD, and Torsak Tip-pairote, her fellow doctor of integrative medicine, stress that detoxification - essential when your system malfunctions due to an unbalanced lifestyle - is "in the hand of patients, not the physicians".
When toxins accumulate in the body, they must be washed out. Everyone understands that. What's not clear is that different kinds of toxins require different treatments.
"When you measure the toxins in your body, you shouldn't exclusively measure only one type of toxin, such as having mercury exceeding a certain amount," says Torsak, who trained at the Institute of Functional Medicine in the US.
"You have to be aware of the synergistic effects of low amounts of many types of toxic metals."
Toxins can wreak all kinds of damage in the body, producing or contributing to ailments including Alzheimer and Parkinson's diseases.
You can swallow toxins through your food, inhale them from the air, absorb them through your skin, get them via injections, or even develop them internally through normal metabolic processes.
"Toxic heavy metals may not sound like something you'd encounter in your daily life, but in fact they surround us, in the air, water and food," says Vimonmas, citing large fish, such as tuna, whose meat absorbs a lot of lead from sea pollution.
Fasting is a popular means of detoxifying, but Vimonmas warns that it may actually help toxins develop in the liver. Individuals react to fasting in different ways, depending on their genetic makeup.
"The principle of functional medicine is there is no programme that suits everybody," she adds. "Each individual is unique, and some preparation is needed."
Drinking plenty of water and exercising help the body get rid of toxins through urination and perspiration. These are great ways to detoxify, Torsak advises.
Holistic detox sessions at the TRIA centre include nutritional consultation, intravenous antioxidant treatment, manual lymphatic drainage, infrared sauna, Chi Nei Tsang massage, detox yoga and "emotional detox".
Detoxing the mind starts with bodily muscle relaxation and focus on your breathing, says yoga instructor Claire Bostock.
"The main aim is for your mind to take a break from all that constant chatter that exists in your head, which hinders you from relaxing and seeing the brighter side of things."
Another way to clear your mind is to visualise nice images, such as a swan on a river, and drawing in the other senses by imaging the scent of flowers, the feel of grass beneath your feet and the sound of birds singing, Bostock says.
"This focuses your mind on something else, instead of your usual stream of thought."
Meditation - with mantras, chanting and breathing - is also believed to promote emotional cleansing.
"Seed mantras", also known as "bija mantras", are one-syllable sounds that are basically meaningless. They help clear subtle impurities and aid in mental focus, Bostock explains. She suggests repeating traditional seed sounds like "om", "hum" or "hrim", silently in the mind.
For chanting, Sanskrit consonants like "aa-uu-ee" or "ma, ah-ham, ah-ham, ah-ham" (which means "that which cannot be destroyed") are used.
"Sounds have special associations and meanings, and a vibration that resonates within our body. They can be calming, energising or soothing," Bostock says.
Breathing - known to yoga practitioners by the Sanskrit term pranayama - involves expanding and extending your prana, or life force, by regulating the natural flow of breath. Breathing through alternate nostrils can bring about balance in the body and create a state of restful alertness, says Bostock.
"Yoga detox employs most yoga poses with body twists - it's like squeezing liquid out of a sponge - and those that open up your chest, like the cobra pose and the shoulder stand. The key is to get more oxygen into the body."
For more information on holistic detoxification, TRIA is hosting a workshop, in English, on November 24 from 9 to 5. The fee is Bt1,200. Call (02) 660 2602 or visit TRIAIntegrativeWellness.com.