How does a detox work?

All detox journeys aim to clear the body of backed up waste products, pollutants and toxins, left over from digestion and cell activities, as well as from general wear and tear often caused by a poor diet, medication, pollution, or stress and fatigue in our busy modern lifestyles.

Ultimately, it is a re-set of your life story. You can take a gentle managed fast for 1 to 10 days, or you can choose to dive deep on one of the many skilfully crafted detox retreats. Bali attracts some of the worlds’ best holistic health guides and doctors to assist you in a complete health makeover and to reset your life.

See our list of the best detox retreats in Bali

Detoxing involves various levels of fasting including food restrictions, juices and healing herbal teas. Complete retreats often include yoga, massage, education, counselling, enemas and/or colonic irrigations and other supportive practices, depending on the program and its intensity.

The body continually detoxifies, just to stay alive because we are constantly exposed to pollutants in our air, water, skin products, food and even clothing. Research has shown our human bodies were never originally designed to handle the amount of toxicity it endures each day and that is why we are far more suseptible to illnesses now than we were before as the body can't efficiently break down the amount of waste we are exposed to. So by detoxing, we are assisting the normal process of keeping the body alive.

Educator and renowned cleansing facilitator, Hillary Hitt says,

“A normal person 100 years ago, who was not given antibiotics, vaccinations, processed food; was not eating bromate-enriched bread, breathing sulphur dioxide-infected air; didn’t carry a cell phone, or eat GMO corn, was not drinking fluoride-treated water or using chemicals probably never gave a thought to whether their body needed to detoxify or not”

What are the benefits of detoxing?

Healing experts in the word of natural medicine agree that many major diseases today are caused or aggravated by the body’s inability to naturally detoxify to contamination in our environment.

Detoxing has huge benefits for the general wellbeing of the mental, physical and emotional body, including improved metabolism, tissue repair, increased vitality and weight loss. By fasting, you give space to the mind, making you think more clearly, re-set habits and clear the psyche. The benefits can depend on the depth of the cleanse, your unique condition, and the particular focus of the program you choose.

However you can expect:

  • Improved physical health
  • Restored vitality, wellness and clarity
  • Strengthened digestion and freedom from food habits and addictions
  • Reduced inflammation, joint health
  • Weight loss
  • Renewed energy and motivation
  • Recovery from grief and anger
  • Easier menopause
  • Brightness of skin, eyes and attitude
  • Rejuvenation
  • Support of the lymphatic system
  • Relief from allergies, rashes, headaches, insomnia, anxiety
  • Improved cholesterol counts
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Clearing of pollutants from the body system
  • Optimal organ and fluid function
  • Freedom from parasites and some viral and bacterial conditions
  • Release of emotional and psychological blocks
  • Deep clearing of accumulated stress and trauma stories
  • Mental clarity, optimism and joy for life

Is a detox for everyone?

To put it most simply, a basic detox is like a grease and oil change for the mechanics of the body – a way to clear the grit, shine the spark plugs, refresh the working parts of a physical system that thrives best when cared for. For more and more of us, a short weekly or a longer annual detox have become a standard part of good self-care and healthy maintenance.

Leading Bali naturopath and cleanse specialist, Kate Reardon says,

“We are more than skin, bones and tissue – a cleanse can help realign your body, mind and spirit. If you’ve found yourself not liking where your life is headed, feeling disconnected from a deeper sense of love and purpose, or generally not feeling well, chances are a cleanse can help get you rebalanced and back on track.”

What is the difference between fasting and detoxing?

Going without food for more than 16 hours is called fasting. It puts your body into nutrient deprivation, causing it to use its sugar stores and start metabolising fats for energy. What also begins to happen is that the body goes into a state called autophagy - where it searches for worn out, diseased cells and begins to destroy them for elimination. Fasting for even for three days is the ultimate way to detoxify and send your body into autophagy; and the longer you fast, with proper guidance, the deeper you cleanse and illiminate waste from your body.

The process that happens in the body, is what we call a ‘detoxification’. A dietary plan like elimination diets, juice cleanses, colonics and enemas, sweating in a steam room, herbal supplements or even going on a pilgrimage are all types of detoxes. 

What are ‘toxins’?

Generally speaking, toxins are the leftovers (or added extras) of ordinary life functions that accumulate normally in the body, or that can accumulate dangerously, causing symptoms from acne and headaches to serious illnesses.

More taxing on the body are toxins that are beyond its normal function. This makes our natural system work much harder to eliminate, or in some cases with a toxin overload they end up storing toxins which leads to sluggishness, loss of energy, contamination and eventually sickness. These include the knock-on effects of consuming refined sugar, caffeine, red meat, alcohol, gluten, food additives and chemicals.

Toxins can accumulate from:

  • Synthetics in creams and make-up
  • Cigarettes
  • Environmental pollutants
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Habitual thoughts like phobias, grief or anxieties.

Signs of a high toxic load in the body:

  • Skin rashes
  • Allergies
  • Bloating, digestive discomfort
  • Insomnia, lethargy
  • Joint pain, body aches
  • Hair loss, lack of lustre
  • Weak bones and nails
  • Bad breath, body odour
  • Poor complexion
  • Obesity or being underweight
  • Cholesterol problems
  • Addiction, cravings or aversions
  • Irritability, moodiness, loss of enthusiasm
  • Anxiety, depression, feelings of hopelessness and confusion
  • Illness, immune disorders, arthritic conditions

Toxins are created as a regular part of breathing, eating and digesting. The body naturally clears the majority of the by-products of its work, but over time, just like with everything else in life, it pays to stop the clock, cancel all plans and get down to a good spring clean. Find out more about how to prepare for a detox.