What is Environmental Therapy?

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  • Written By: Leo Zimmermann
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2019
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Environmental therapy is a large and diverse field of alternative medicine. At its core is the idea that a great deal of illness and poor health in the contemporary world results from environmental toxins. The techniques of environmental therapy, short of simply moving a patient to a different location, involve both detoxifying the body internally and cleaning up the environment externally.

Many people in today's world have medical conditions associated by some with the modern environment itself. People who study environmental medicine identify these conditions as often resulting from an amorphous complex of toxins, allergens, stress, processed food, and other types of stimuli for which evolution has not prepared the human body. They attribute things like chronic allergies, chronic fatigue, asthma, fibromyalgia, and, unsurprisingly, sick building syndrome to these environmental factors rather than to a specific genetic deficit or parasite.

The primary means by which environmental therapy attempts to treat these conditions is detoxification. Different kinds of environmental therapists have different techniques for detoxification, some of which are more scientifically justified than others. A common type of approach involves clearing out the gastrointestinal tract with laxatives, enemas, and special diets intended to purify the body. It is acknowledged that these techniques can have side effects, including aches and fatigue.


The type of environmental therapy people receive depends in large part on the practitioner responsible for their treatment. There are some institutions, such as the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and the National institute of Environmental Health Sciences, which are closely associated with the mainstream medical and scientific fields. The New York University School of Medicine has had a Department of Environmental Medicine since 1947. It is also possible to receive environmental therapy from people who separate themselves from mainstream scientific and academic practice. Traditional Chinese medicine and homeopathy fall under the umbrella of environmental medicine.

Environmental therapy thus straddles the boundary between mainstream and alternative medicine. Unlike diseases produced by relatively obvious genetic causes, diseases resulting from environmental factors are extremely difficult to understand in a rigorously scientific way. The process of controlling experiments or collecting large data sets is thwarted by the particularity and diffuseness of the situations to which environmental therapy responds.


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Post 3

@raynbow- Using laxatives is never a good idea for detoxing, and could be an indication of a more serious problem like an eating disorder. However, if someone really does just want to practice environmental therapy by keeping their system free of toxins, there is a safer way to accomplish this goal.

Eating a healthful diet full of fruits and vegetables is a good way to start. Making sure that the foods a person eats are grown organically is also a good way to avoid putting chemicals into the body. Also, getting plenty of fiber is a natural way to keep the digestive system moving.

Post 2

@raynbow- I don't think that detox therapy that cleans out the body with laxatives is safe at all. Not only can it cause dehydration, but doing this can deplete a person's system of vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes.

If your friend really feels the need to continue detoxing with laxatives, she needs to talk to her doctor about what she is doing to her body.

Post 1

I have a friend who uses laxatives to detox every few months, and I am very concerned for her health. Is this form of environmental therapy really beneficial to someone's health, or does it have serious risk factors that my friend should be aware of before doing it again?

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