One of the most important metabolic tasks undertaken by our body each day has to do with "detoxing" harmful or used up substances. A reasonably well-selected detox regimen or cleanse can be an important start for a weight loss program, and it can help with a variety of health problems, ranging from bad breath to constipation to arthritis to body odor to assorted digestive troubles to yeast/fungal/candida overgrowth and more.
While most of us may think of the process of waste elimination in terms of bowel movements and urination, the fact is that our bodies are equipped with a variety of "detox" tools including the skin, and various organs such as the lungs, the liver, plus the blood and the lymph system - and the colon and kidneys.
Such a design enables our bodies to deal with significant amounts of naturally occuring toxins present in even the most optimal environments. Further, this design is such that when one of our "detox" systems becomes overwhelmed the other "detox" systems can, under reasonable conditions, help take up the slack.
Unfortunately for us, our modern world has become awash with chemicals, heavy metals, fungal toxins and more - all of which have the ability to overwhelm every one of our body's "detox" tools, which then can cause significant health problems for us. For example, it has been estimated that the average person ingests fifteen pounds of chemicals found in and on foods, drinks and drinking water every year.
Worse yet, many substances now common throughout our environment have been identified as endocrine disrupters which means that they disrupt the body’s natural hormone balance by imitating the action of the natural hormone estrogen. These endocrine disrupters are thought to influence the abnormal sexual development in animals and humans including the feminization of male animals. Dozens of studies over the past few years have concluded that these chemicals lower sperm count and contribute to the sharp increases seen in testicular and prostrate cancer, breast cancer and endometriosis.
Adding to the environmental contributors of internal pollution are the toxic by-products (called mycotoxins) which Bechamp called "mycrozyma" that are formed when the body's internal environment or biological terrain becomes unbalanced or compromised.
All of us are more aware than we care to admit - even to ourselves - that we are living in a very toxic world. But few of us realize - or care to think about - the full extent of this toxicity or the immense impact it can have on our health. Nevertheless, the fact is that we are continually exposed to toxins through our food, drinking water, the air we breathe, almost all personal care products, certain types of cooking and eating utensils, household cleaning and gardening products and more. And then there are the toxic by-products or mycotoxins that are formed as a result of a biological terrain that is itself increasingly compromised by these assorted toxins.
Some of these toxins can cause noticeable, short-term symptoms. Others accumulate (mostly in our fatty tissue) over many years without making their presence apparent, even though they have the disastrous potential to unravel DNA and disrupt hormone balance. Fortunately, there are a number of things we can do to substantially minimize the damage of both the long and short term effects of toxins.
First of course is minimizing exposure. Second is consuming a diet rich in nutrients, probiotics, vegetables, and enzymes. Third is to “detox” periodically.
According to Joseph Beasley, M.D. in his book Betrayal of Health: The Impact of Nutrition, Environment, & Lifestyle on Illness in America, the role of diet and nutrition cannot be over-emphasized. This is because NUTRIENTS PLAY A CENTRAL ROLE in how the body:
- metabolizes harmful chemicals.
THUS, according to Dr. Beasley: "greater attention must be paid to the known role of nutrition in strengthening the body’s own defenses against invading microorganisms and toxic substances."
The closer we are to optimal health and dietary practices, the less urgent it is to pursue an intense, short term “detox”, but virtually all of us would benefit from at least a minimal, ongoing “detox” regiment. However, pregnant women, nursing moms and those with extreme fatigue, emaciation or feebleness are among those who should not introduce formal cleansing regimens.
Importantly and because so many of us suffer unawares from compromised health, the best approach to detox may be the long, slow, gentle approach beginning with foods and supplementation, then moving to more intense herbal cleanses and the like if needed. Such a regimen might start with the "healing plate" with a heavy emphasis on vegetables and a reasonable - that is to say sufficient - amount of good fats such as fresh ground flax seed, high quality coconut oil, cod liver oil, raw pastured butter, butter oil or ghee, and extra virgin olive oil, together with some easily digestible protein. Whether foods are cooked or not will depend on the health of the gastro-intestinal tract. Weaker systems may require cooked foods.
It is interesting that many people use a season-specific vegetarian-style diet for a week or two as a gentle method of cleansing - either instead of or in preparation for an herbal cleanse. Others, including Cherie Calbom in her book The Coconut Diet: The Secret Ingredient That Helps You Lose Weight While You Eat Your Favorite Foods, employ cleansing regimens very similar to the "healing plate" with the addition of "targeted" herbs, supplements and foods. And Aajonus Vonderplanetz in his very provocative, amazing books and advocates an all raw diet emphasizing animal protein, good fats and fresh green drinks. (Note, this last diet can produce very dramatic and often prolonged cleansing effects which can be difficult, even unproductive for some - especially older people, as the author himself states.)
All of these diets eliminate white sugar and flour along with a variety of food additives that come with nearly all packaged food - organic or not. All of these diets also serve to improve "PH" or acid/alkaline balance along with digestive functions through increased intake of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, probiotics and/or soluble fiber. (Please see our PH or Acid-alkaline page for clarifications of "acid" balance. ) The Vonderplanetz diet (and similar diets) also employs raw enzymes and certain fats as both building and cleansing agents along with superfood supplements such as bee pollen. Thus, diet together with appropriate supplementation are two essential keys for "detoxing" both short and long term.
An on-going "detox" program could employ a combination of the following:
- Short term, "targeted" diet regimens that feature vegetables and/or vegetable juice fasts and/or broths
- Improved long term dietary intake that includes a high proportion of raw and naturally fermented foods and sufficient good fats
- General Herbal cleanses and/or "targeted" programs used for limited time periods
- Exercise programs that promote sweating, improve lean muscle mass, and "alkalizes" through increased oxygen intake
- Detox baths, colonics and saunas
- Skin brushing
- Adequate, personally appropriate nutritional supplementation
If you wish to undertake a more intensive, periodic cleanse understand that the type of cleanse you choose depends on your needs and goals. In addition, many people in a weakened state may need - or want - to "build" before they cleanse. And again, pregnant women, nursing moms and those with extreme fatigue, emaciation or feebleness should not undertake a cleansing program. Also if you suffer from inflammatory or irritable bowel, you may want to avoid all products containing bentonite or clay.
A note of caution applies with any cleanse - if you experience headache, diarrhea, nausea, intense flu-like symptoms you most likely are experiencing a "healing crisis" from too-rapid die off of yeast or other micro-organisms. Reduce program or discontinue if necessary.