Detoxification is usually thought of as the physical processing and removal of toxins from the body. While this is certainly the overriding goal of any formal detoxification program, detoxification can significantly impact a person’s emotional state and can cause what feels like “emotional side effects”.

Detoxification and Emotions

During detoxification, we attempt to provide the body the nutrients it needs to more easily and effectively process and eliminate physical toxins from the body. This is accomplished mainly through the liver and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, with the liver doing the lion’s share of the work. Interestingly, the liver also holds the key to why many people experience “emotional side effects” when doing a detoxification.

Detox and Emotion – Anger and Depression

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the liver is connected with the emotion of anger. One of the biochemical jobs of the liver is to absorb nutrients from the blood and store them. Emotionally, it is thought to play a similar role, as it is believed to “absorb anger”, preventing us from becoming depressed and distraught. However, when feelings are pushed down or away and/or there are chronic bottled-up frustrations, the result can be anger alternating with depression. A depression due to liver obstruction and/or improper detoxification will invariably occur after periods of stress and pressure. If this happens to you, a detox may help you deal more effectively with the depression and/or accompanying anger.

On the flip side, it is not at all unusual for a person to experience the welling up of anger, irritability, depression, impatience, frustration, moodiness, nervous tension,  a negative outlook  and even emotional regression at various times during a detoxification, often times seemingly “out of nowhere”. What is really happening is that you are not only detoxifying physically, you are also detoxifying emotionally. This is an important “emotional side effect” of detoxification that gives you some valuable clues on how you can best continue your healing process.

Detoxifying Emotions

Coming to terms with anger and other uncomfortable emotions and feeling okay about releasing them in an important part of getting healthier, and detoxification often presents unique ways to deal with these emotions. Sometimes it may not be advisable to let your frustrations out in a public way. In these cases, find somewhere quiet and private and attempt to find the source of the emotion. Once found, re-enact the scenario that led to your frustration and anger; visualize the person or situation and say exactly what you would have liked to have said earlier on and/or do what you would have like to have done –  no holds barred!

Alternatively, writing your feelings down on paper in the form of a letter often proves helpful. You are not actually going to send it to the person concerned, so give full vent to your anger and/or feelings. If your emotions are severely repressed and you cannot even get in touch with your anger (which is another sign of an imbalance with the liver), it may be worth seeing a fully trained counsellor who can help you to get in touch with these feelings and learn to express them. Your long-term health may depend on it.

Don’t get me wrong, it is very unlikely that you are going to have an emotional blow-up every time you perform a detoxification. However, it is very likely that, if you pay attention, you will likely notice some previously unnoticed emotions bubbling to the surface while you are detoxing. A detox may be just the right time to not only shed some of your accumulated physical toxins, but also let go of some of that emotional baggage you have been hauling around as well.