Detox programs make big promises: lose weight, clear up skin, boost energy, soothe digestion. But cleansing can do even more—that is, if you approach the process as an opportunity for holistic transformation.

Detoxification means both minimizing exposure to toxins and improving your body’s ability to get rid of them, says Gaetano Morello, ND, the British Columbia–based author of Whole Body Cleansing (Active Interest, 2009). Although once uncommon in Western cultures, reducing body toxic load is gaining credence; many health practitioners now consider it a must-do because of the glut of synthetic chemicals we encounter in food, water, soil, and air. With more than 80,000 chemicals on the market, researchers have found some 300 chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of newborns, rendering even babies “prepolluted,” the President’s Cancer Panel reported last year.

The liver—the body’s primary detox organ—simply can’t remove mounting toxins fast enough, and, thus, your body stores the toxins in fat cells, explains Morello. The buildup may lead to chronic inflammation, which is linked to conditions including heart disease, cancer, arthritis, allergies, asthma, and even obesity.

Beyond detoxification’s physical advantages, a regular cleansing time offers a chance to make positive mental and emotional changes. “A cleansing process has a primary theme, which is to let go of what needs to pass away, to release what no longer serves you,” says Boulder, Colorado-based Michael Gaeta, LAc, who offers guided detox programs to his patients.

To reap the benefits of a holistic approach, try this targeted detox plan in spring and fall. Pick a time when your schedule is clear of big social events and travel, recommends Gaeta. Then, you can easily work these detox tips into your regular routine—small investments that offer a big, positive health payoff.