Our bodies invest an enormous amount of energy in removing the chemical byproducts of normal metabolic processes. One estimate is that 80% of our basal energy expenditure goes to detoxification and cleansing. This process is what allows for order and efficiency in all of our bodily systems. Disease and a loss of well-being will result when the detoxification process is impaired. The most dramatic examples of impaired detoxification processes are end stage renal disease and end stage liver disease, (cirrhosis).
As in all biological phenomena these processes happen along a continuum that begins with optimal function and ends with total malfunction. Conventional medicine addresses these problems when they manifest as overt diseases. Integrative Medicine aims to optimize the detoxification processes in order to prevent illness and maximize health throughout the life span.
In addition to the production of normal metabolic byproducts we are exposed to external chemicals that are not produced by the body. These are referred to as xenobiotics. External toxins include heavy metals, solvents, pesticides, herbicides, agricultural and industrial chemicals, and medications. Foods may be injurious because of individual sensitivity or because of unbalanced nutritional content. Microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and parasites can contaminate the food we eat. Environmental extremes may be toxic. Finally, the emotional experiences of a lifetime may produce changes in our internal chemical environment that are permissive to illness and disease.