Detoxification and Cleansing
Toxicity has become a great concern in the twentieth century. Threatening our health are powerful chemicals, air and water pollution, radiation, and nuclear waste. We ingest new chemicals, use more drugs, eat more sugary and refined foods, and abuse ourselves daily with stimulants and/or sedatives. Cancer and cardiovascular disease are on the rise; arthritis, allergies, obesity , and skin problems are also rapidly increasing; and a wide range of symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, pains , coughs, gastrointestinal problems, immune weaknesses, sexual diseases, and psychological distress are being seen by physicians in record numbers. Although a connection between increased toxicity and increases in diseases is obvious, it is important to understand how it occurs so that we may avoid or eliminate it from our lives.
Toxicity occurs on two basic bodily levels-external and internal. We can acquire toxins from our environment by breathing them, by ingesting them, or through physical contact with them. Most drugs, food additives, and allergens can create toxic elements in the body. In fact, any substance can become toxic when used in excess.
Internally, our body produces toxins through normal everyday functions. Biochemical and cellular activities generate substances that need to be eliminated. These unstable molecules, called free radicals, are biochemical toxins and are considered a common factor in chronic disease. When these biochemical toxins are not counteracted or eliminated, they can irritate or inflame the cells and tissues, blocking normal functions on all levels of the body. Microbes such as intestinal bacteria, foreign bacteria, yeasts, and parasites produce metabolic waste products that we must handle. Even our thoughts, emotions, and stress can increase biochemical toxicity. The proper elimination of these toxins is essential. Clearly, the healthy human body can handle certain levels of toxins; the concern is with excess intake or production of toxins or a reduction in the elimination processes.
A toxin is basically any substance that creates irritating and/or harmful effects in the body, undermining our health and stressing our biochemical or organ functions. This irritation may result from the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs or from unusual physiological patterns. The irritating chemicals or free radicals in recreational drugs can also cause tissue degeneration. Negative "ethers," psychic or spiritual influences, bad relationships, thought patterns, and emotions can have toxic effects on the body.
Toxicity occurs when we ingest more than we can utilize and eliminate. Homeostasis refers to balanced bodily functions. This balance is disturbed when we feed ourselves more than we need or when we abuse specific substances. Toxicity may depend on the dosage, frequency, or potency of the toxin. A toxin may produce an immediate or rapid onset of symptoms, as many pesticides and some drugs do, or it may have long-term effects, as when asbestos exposure leads to lung cancer .
If our body is working well, with good immune and eliminative functions, it can handle everyday exposure to toxins. The cleansing process encourages our immune system to handle the elimination of toxins and abnormal cells generated by the body.
Our body handles toxins either by neutralizing, transforming, or eliminating them. For example, many of the antioxidant nutrients, such as vitamins C and E , beta-carotene , zinc , and selenium may neutralize free-radical molecules. The liver helps transform many toxic substances into harmless agents, which the blood carries away to the kidneys; the liver also sends wastes through the bile into the intestines, where it is eliminated. We also clear toxins by sweating , either from exercise or heat; our sinuses expel excess mucus when congested; and our skin releases toxins as skin rashes .
Mental detoxification is also important. Cleansing our minds of negative thought patterns is essential to health, and physical detoxification can aid this process. Emotionally, detoxification helps us uncover and express hidden frustrations, anger, resentments, and fear, and replace them with forgiveness, love, joy, and hope. Many people experience new clarity of purpose in life during cleansing processes. A light detoxification over a couple of days can help us feel better; a longer process and deeper commitment to eliminating certain abusive habits and eating a better diet can help us change our whole life. Detoxification is part of a transformational medicine that instills change at many levels. Change and evolution are keys to healing.
Some people go to extremes with fasting, laxatives, enemas, colonics, diuretics, and even exercise and begin to lose essential nutrients from their body. This can cause protein or vitamin-mineral deficiencies. So, although congestion from over intake and under elimination is a more common problem in this culture, excessive detoxification can be equally harmful.
What Is Detoxification?
Detoxification is the process of either clearing toxins from the body or neutralizing or transforming them, and hence clearing excess mucus and congestion. Fats (especially oxidized fats and cholesterol), free radicals, and other irritating molecules act as toxins on an internal level. Functionally, poor digestion, colon sluggishness and dysfunction, reduced liver function, and poor elimination through the kidneys, respiratory tract, and skin all increase toxicity.
Detoxification involves dietary and lifestyle changes that reduce the intake of toxins while improving elimination. The avoidance of chemicals from food or other sources, including refined food, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, helps minimize the toxin load. Drinking extra water (purified) and increasing fiber by including more fruits and vegetables in the diet are also essential steps. Moving to a less congesting diet will also induce healing.
Detoxification therapy-particularly fasting-is the oldest known medical treatment on earth and a completely natural process.
Who Should Detoxify?
Almost everyone needs to detox and rest their body from time to time. Some of us need to cleanse more frequently or work more continually to rebalance our body. Cleansing or detoxification is but one part of the trilogy of nutritional action (the others being building, or toning, and balancing, or maintenance). A regular, balanced diet devoid of excess necessitates less intensive detoxification. Our body has a daily elimination cycle, mostly carried out at night and in the early morning up until breakfast. When we eat a congesting diet higher in fats, meats, dairy products, refined foods, and chemicals, detoxification becomes more important, particularly to those who eat excessively, and to those who eat excessively at night.
Our individual lifestyle provides clues for deciding how and when to detoxify. If we have any symptoms or diseases of toxicity and congestion, we will likely benefit from detoxification practices. It is like a vacation for our body and digestive tract.
Common toxicity symptoms include headache, fatigue, congestion, backaches , aching or swollen joints, digestive problems, "allergy" symptoms, and sensitivity to environmental agents such as chemicals, perfumes, and synthetics. Dietary changes or avoidance of the symptom-causing agents is usually beneficial. However, it is important to differentiate between allergic and toxicity symptoms in order to determine the appropriate medical care. This detox program, fasting, and juice cleansing can be genuinely helpful in reducing allergy symptoms; however, allergies present a dynamic subtly different from toxicity.
Signs and Symptoms of Toxicity
- Joint pains
- Sore throat
- Tight or stiff neck
- Angina pectoris
- Circulatory deficits
- High blood fats
- Itchy nose
- Frequent colds
- Irritated eyes
- Immune weakness
- Environmental sensitivity
- Sinus congestion
- Runny nose
- Mood changes
- Skin rashes
- Bad breath
Detoxification and cleansing can contribute to the healing of many acute and chronic illnesses that result from short- or long-term congestive patterns. Detox and cleansing benefits people with addictions to numerous substances.
Detoxification is also an important component in treating obesity. Many of the toxins we ingest or make are stored in the fatty tissues; hence, obesity is almost always associated with toxicity. When we lose weight, we reduce our body fat and thereby our toxic load. However, during weight loss we also release more toxins and need to protect ourselves from nutrient depletion through extra supplementation, including taking additional antioxidants to balance these toxins. Exercise will also promote the loss of excess pounds and help further detoxification.
Problems Related to Congestion / Stagnation / Toxicity
- Fibrocystic breast disease
- Heart disease
- Infections by:
- Uterine fibroid tumors
- Kidney stones
- Kidney disease
- Prostate disease
- Menstrual problems
- Varicose veins
- Peptic ulcers
- Mental illness
- Multiple sclerosis
- Alzheimer's disease
- Parkinson's disease
- Drug addiction
- Tension headaches
- Migraine headaches
Of course, not all of these problems are related solely to toxicity nor will they be completely cured by detoxification. Still, many conditions are created by nutritional abuses and can be alleviated by eliminating the related toxins.
When Is the Best Time to Detoxify?
Whenever we feel congested, our first step is to follow detoxification procedures fine-tuned to our specific needs.
Our bodies have natural cleansing cycles when they want a lighter diet, more liquids, and greater elimination than intake. This occurs daily (usually from the night until midmorning, about an hour after we wake) and it may occur weekly and more commonly for a few days a month. Women, in particular, are aware of this natural cleansing time with their menstrual cycle. In fact, many women feel better both premenstrually and during their periods if they follow a simple cleansing program of more juices, greens, lighter foods, and herbs.
To summarize, seasonal changes are key times of stress when we need to reduce our outer demands and consumptions and listen to the way our inner world mirrors the natural cycles. Spring is the key time for detoxification; autumn is also important. In spring, we may eat more citrus fruits, fresh greens, juices; while in autumn we may dine on harvest fruits, such as apples or grapes , and seasonal vegetables. An abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables are appropriate for summer; and whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and soups best simplify our diet in winter.
The sample yearly program provided here is designed for a basically healthy person who eats well. It is not appropriate for people with heart problems, extreme fatigue, underweight conditions, or poor circulation (those who experience coldness). More complete, in-depth fasting programs may release even greater amounts of toxins. Releasing too much toxicity can make sick people sicker; if this happens, they need to increase fluids and eat normally again until they feel better. People with cancer need to be very careful about how they detoxify, and often they need regular, quality nourishment. Fasting should be done only under the care of an experienced physician. All people should avoid fasting just prior to surgery, and should wait four to six weeks before detoxifying after it. Pregnant or lactating women should avoid heavy detoxification, though they can usually handle mild programs, which should be undertaken only with the guidance of a qualified practitioner.
Where Can We Detoxify?
During basic, simple detoxification programs, most of us can maintain our normal daily routine. In fact, energy, performance, and health often improve. For some, the detox process may produce headaches, fatigue, irritability, mucous congestions, or aches and pains for the first few days. Any of the symptoms of toxicity may appear, however usually they don't. Symptoms that have been experienced previously may reoccur transiently during detoxification; sometimes it is hard to know whether or not to treat them.
It is wise to begin new programs, diets, or lifestyle changes with a few days at home. In time, experience will show what works best. Most of us can maintain a regular work schedule during a cleanse or detox program (and we may even be more productive). However, it might be easier to begin a program on a Friday, as the first few days are usually the hardest. Some of us may be more sensitive during cleansing to the stress of our work environment or to chemical exposures. Also, co-workers or family members may provide temptations or challenge our decisions. Having supportive guides or co-cleansers can be a great comfort and source of positive reinforcement when our inner resolve begins to fade. At the end of the first or second day, usually around dinnertime, symptoms like headache and fatigue may begin to appear, and it is good to be able to rest and spend time in familiar, undemanding surroundings. By the third day, we usually feel pretty stable and ready for work.
Still, many people like to start new programs on a Monday, knowing that they will do fine, using willpower and visualization to see themselves through. People often feel better than ever and are able to accomplish tasks and meet challenges more easily than usual. In fact, experienced fasters may utilize fasting during busy work periods to improve their productivity. Preparing and planning, clearing doubts and fears, and keeping a daily journal are all useful during this vital process and are crucial to any successful undertaking.
We detoxify/cleanse for health, vitality, and rejuvenation-to clear symptoms, treat disease, and prevent future problems. A cleansing program is an ideal way to help us reevaluate our lives, make changes, or clear abuses and addictions. Withdrawal happens fairly rapidly, and as cravings are reduced we can begin a new life without the addictive habits or drugs.
Detoxification can be helpful for weight loss, although this is not its primary purpose. However, just the simplification of our diet will have some detoxifying effects in our body. Anyone eating 4,000 calories daily of fatty, sweet foods in a poorly balanced diet, who begins to eat 2,000-2,500 calories daily of more wholesome foods will definitely experience detoxification, weight loss, and improved health simultaneously.
We also cleanse/detoxify to rest or heal our overloaded digestive organs and allow them to catch up on past work. At the same time, we are inspired to cleanse our external life as well, cleaning out rooms, sorting through the piles on our desks, clarifying our personal priorities, or revitalizing our wardrobes. Most often our energy is increased and becomes more steady, motivating us to change both internally and externally.