DetoxificationYou've cleaned your house and washed your car. Maybe its time you give yourself a good cleaning.
Every spring, many North Americans engage in the ritual of spring cleaning. The dirt, the dust, the grime, the dust bunnies; everything that has built up over the winter is wiped away to begin anew. The house looks better and we feel better.
More and more North Americans are beginning to realize that a spring cleaning should include themselves, and just as spring cleaning means more than a quick vacuum and dusting around the house, our spring body cleaning should be more than a long, hot bath. We should cleanse ourselves both externally and internally.
Toxins EverywhereJust as dirt gradually builds up in our homes over months, so toxins build up in our bodies. Our environment is full of pollutants, and the food we eat is full of additives. Inside our homes, household cleaners, solvents, cigarette smoke, and air fresheners all contribute to a toxic environment. Outside the home, we find automobile exhaust fumes, smoggy air, industrial fumes, and pesticides and other agricultural chemicals. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently recognizes some four million toxins.
The foods we eat can also be a transfer point for toxins. At least 2,800 substances have been recognized as food additives by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These are used to make foods more attractive, to make foods more tasty, and to increase the grocery shelf life. According to some reports, we may consume an average of 8 to 15 lbs (3.6 to 6.8 k) a year of chemicals that contribute nothing to the body and may do harm.
Even foods with no additives can cause toxins. Eating carbohydrates that are too refined, such as bread and white flour, is like eating glue or paste: it is goopy stuff that does not slide through the intestines, but instead slogs through, sticking to intestinal walls and gumming up the works. This results in a buildup of waste in the colon. This fecal matter begins to decay, producing bacteria and toxins. The toxins eventually seep through the bowel wall, where blood capillaries pick them up and distribute them throughout the body.
Toxins are also created by the body in the metabolic process, usually in response to unbalanced conditions. Emotional stress, an unbalanced diet, and consuming too much food can all contribute to toxic intake. The toxins slowly build up, and like a steady drip into a rain barrel, they eventually spill over, resulting in a health disaster.
What Toxins DoVery simply, toxins undermine our health. Elson Haas, M.D., in his book Staying Healthy with Nutrition, defines a toxin as "any substance that creates irritating and/or harmful effects in the body, undermining our health or stressing our biochemical or organ functions."
More specifically, a body overloaded with toxins can result in a number of symptoms. These include constipation, stomach bloat, poor digestion, gas, fatigue, weight gain, excessive mucus, poor concentration, headaches, poor skin, poor memory, depression, body odor, and bad breath.
Some health practitioners relate toxins to specific diseases. R.A. Buist, M.D., writing in the International Clinical Nutrition Reviews (1988; Vol. 8, No. 4) states that chronic fatigue syndrome may be related to toxin exposure. Multiple chemical sensitivity and fibromyalgia (muscle and joint pain) may also be environment-related diseases. Indeed, there is a new medical category, clinical ecology, which deals exclusively with how toxins in the environment affect our health.
DetoxificationThe body does have a system in place to detoxify these harmful toxins. The most important cleansing organ is the liver. Eliminative channels include the bowels (the digestive system), kidneys, skin, lungs, and lymphatic system.
When the body is doing its job and is not overburdened with toxins, the blood carries toxins to the liver, which uses enzymes to detoxify the harmful substances, rendering them harmless or converting them into a water-soluble form, which is then eliminated via the urine or feces.
Unfortunately, this system can handle only so many toxins and was built for “natural” toxins, not the man-made ones we have to deal with today. For example, protection against an age-old toxin—alcohol—is built into our genes. One gene, expressed in the liver, codes for an enzyme that converts alcohol into substances the body can use or excrete.
Our body does not, however, always know how to handle the new toxins in our lives. It cannot understand how to excrete them, and they may then accumulate to harmful quantities or be converted to odd, unknown substances that can interfere with metabolism. According to the textbook Nutrition, Concepts and Controversies, this can result in cancers or birth defects.
Helping your Body DetoxifyWhen our bodies are bombarded with unfamiliar toxins, are producing too many toxins, or are not eliminating toxins effectively, the toxins build up and can cause health problems. Then it is time for a detoxification program—supporting the body’s natural elimination process and preventing the day-to-day buildup of toxicity.
The key to detoxification is knowledge: understanding the link between feeling subpar and toxicity, understanding where toxins come from, and understanding what you can do to help yourself:
Drinking WaterDrinking Water is instrumental in detoxification. Water flushes toxins and waste from the body and transports nutrients to where they are needed. Try to drink eight to ten glasses of pure water a day.
Baths and SaunasWater is also useful externally: baths and saunas can help detoxification. Hot water increases blood flow and capillary action near the surface of the skin, causing faster release of toxins. The heat also increases sweating and opens up pores. However, you should make sure that the water in which you bathe is pure. You should also be careful because the hot water and detoxification effect could cause dizziness; if so, don’t try to get up. Many health practitioners recommend having someone in the house when you take a detoxification bath. There are a number of substances you can add to your bath to help the detoxification process.
Eating a Healthy DietEating a healthy diet ensures that you get proper nutrition and also helps the cleansing process. Fresh, raw foods and grains ensure that you get the enzymes necessary to adequately digest your food. Avoid foods that contain additives or are nutritionally bankrupt. Avoid sugar, salt, saturated fats, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. Avoid meat, as animal protein puts a tremendous strain on the digestive system. You should also eat yogurt, as this helps maintain a proper bacterial balance.
ExerciseExercising stimulates body systems so that metabolic efficiency is stepped up. This, of course, includes the systems that are integral to cleansing, such as the digestive system. It also strengthens the body and the mind.
Stress ManagementPracticing stress management is important because stress affects us physically. It weakens the immune system and robs the body of important nutrients. Stress hinders digestion and the cleansing process.
Herbs, Fiber & SupplementsUsing herbs, fiber, and supplements can be very important to a cleansing program. Many herbs facilitate the cleansing program and contribute important vitamins and minerals. Fiber "sweeps" the digestive tract clean and quickens the transit time of waste elimination. It absorbs toxins and escorts them out of the body. A probiotic supplement helps balance the good and bad bacteria in the digestive tract.
FastingFasting has been used for centuries to cleanse the body. However, fasting can be harmful and should only be done under the supervision of a health practitioner.
Enemas & Colonic IrrigationUsing enemas and colonic irrigation helps flush toxins out of the colon. Enemas can be self-administered, but colonics should be done under the supervision of a health practitioner.
Preventing toxins from building up in the future should be ongoing. This is easily done by drinking pure water, eating a plant-based diet, exercising, and practicing stress management. Avoid environmental toxins as much as you can. Wear protective clothing or a mask when working with household or workplace toxins.
Detoxification ProgramsA number of heath professionals have developed detoxification programs. These programs usually combine the previous factors in a set schedule, and prescribe specific foods and herbal and fiber supplements.
If you follow a program, or simply take the previofactors to heart, you initially may notice that your overall health appears to worsen. You may experience acne, fatigue, headaches, coated tongue, cold extremities, intestinal and digestive stresses, and mood swings during detoxification. These are positive signs because they mean the elimination process in the liver and other organs is occurring.
The toxins in your body have been building up. If this is your first time detoxifying, they have been building up for years! This means it can take much more than a few days, or even a few weeks, to flush out the toxins and begin to feel better. Most people experience a cycle; at first they feel somewhat worse, and then better. As they continue the detoxification program, toxins buried deeper come out, and symptoms reappear, only to disappear as they are eliminated. With each cycle the feeling of being healthy is longer, and feeling worse is shorter. Eventually, you feel better all-around.
Suggested ReadingCleansing the Colon for a Happier & Healthier You, by Teresa Schumacher & Toni Lund. This book is in stock. Please send $6.50 to the address below. Pay by check or money order. Includes shipping. This is one of the best books on the subject!!
Other Reading - Click on books
Walker, Norman W., D.Sc.