These days, detoxification seems to be a catch all phrase for curing whatever ails you. Popular magazines are plastered with many suggestions on the proper way to detoxify, many of which are irresponsible.
This is not to say that the need for detoxification is a hoax. On the contrary, the world we live in today is ever increasingly toxic. The air we breathe, the water we drink and bathe in, the food we eat, and the clothes we wear are all potential contact points for toxic exposure.
The little daily exposures add up to a life time of poisoning our bodies. Dr. David Brady, ND, author of Detoxification for Health, compiled a list of situations that could lead to toxic exposure:
- Physical, such as injury, inflammation and excess exercise (excess lactic acid).
- Nutritional such as excess food, additives, alcohol and transfatty acids.
- Infection, including bacterial, fungal and parasitic.
- Chemical, such as xenobiotics, like plastics and organic substances.
I would also add, emotional stress, mostly caused by our relationships with other people and our reaction to them.
It is no wonder that many people are interested in learning how to detox. But as in every matter, the way we approach something makes all the difference in the world. The professional irresponsibility in recommending detoxification to everyone is wide spread and worrisome.
Not everyone should detoxify, but everyone should support their body’s ability to move waste out, to detoxify and cleanse.
What Is Detoxification?
Typically, only liver function is considered when discussing the topic of supporting detoxification, but the entire body serves as a site for detoxification.
At a 2006 conference held in Los Angeles titled, “The role of detoxification and the gastrointestinal environment in chronic disease, “Brady linked many chronic diseases to the toxic burden our body bares and its inability to remove waste efficiently. So let us briefly look at the physical structures involved in this process.
The various systems the body uses to carry away harmful substances include the sweat glands, lymph nodes, tears, nose, gastrointestinal tract, throat, lungs, kidney, gallbladder and the liver. A dysfunction in one system can lead to an overburden and failure of another, so they all must function as a team.
Toxins that are not eliminated by other systems are passed to the liver where it selects the best enzyme to convert the substance into something the body can then excrete.
We do not have an endless supply of enzymes. The body must make these enzymes from nutrients in the body. If the body is deficient in any one of the nutrients needed, the enzyme will not be formed properly and the process won’t work.
Some very important nutrients to have in abundance in the body are the antioxidants, vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, vitamin A, selenium and zinc. It is critical that one builds up reserves of these nutrients to support the detoxification systems. If the liver isn’t functioning properly and is slow, the body can slowly poison itself.
It is important to note that the body has difficulty in excreting many chemicals because they are oil based (mostly the manmade chemicals). Our bodies use water as the means to break down chemicals (water being the universal solvent).
If the chemical is not water based, it settles in our body. Mercury is infamous for lodging in the fatty tissues of our body like the brain and reproductive organs.
Supporting the Detoxification System
There are various methods, foods, herbs and nutrients that can help remove waste. However, it is of paramount importance to build up the body by giving it proper foods, clean water and a healthy lifestyle.
Below is a list of things I personally use to help cleanse my body and recommend my clients to use:
– Having a positive self image and positive out look on life. Self doubt is toxic, as are all negative emotions.
– Super foods like green and red powders made from dehydrated herbs, fruits and vegetables. There are various types available at health food stores. I like these powders because it is a quick and easy way to provide your body with most of the phyto (plant) nutrients it needs in 1-2 tablespoons.
– Probiotics (life giving) provide our bodies with the healthy bacteria it needs to break down and utilize foods and prevent infection.
– Fiber is extremely important because it binds toxins to it so they can be excreted. Fiber is found in leafy greens, fruit, and flax seeds.
One table spoon of ground flax seeds in 8 oz of water is usually enough. If you are not accustomed to consuming large amounts of fiber, go slowly. Do not over do it. The consequences can be very painful. Avoid most commercially available fiber products.
– Dry brushes made of natural fibers can be used to move the lymph found in lymph vessels that lie just below the skin. Start on the right side of your body and gently use upward strokes, always towards the heart. Drink plenty of water afterwards.
– A simple hot bath once a week or even once a month, can do much by opening pores, especially if you remain in the bath until the water cools. Adding relaxing herbs like lavender, chamomile and lemon balm help alleviate stress.
– Some helpful herbs to support the liver are dandelion, burdock root, milk thistle seeds. They can be taken as teas or ground and sprinkled over food. Check with a health care practitioner for dose.
– Some body work methods are sauna, self massage with oil after bath, reflexology, acupressure and acupuncture. Something that I benefited the most from was jin shin jyutu.
– Exercising 3-5 times a day for 15-30 minutes helps the liver and gets things flowing.
– Lastly and most importantly is water. Without water, no process in the body can take place. To find out how much water you should be consuming divide your body weight in pounds by two and drink that amount in ounces. If you weight 160 lbs, you would need 80 oz of water.
In closing, you may feel worse before you feel better. You may get a bit of diarrhea, but hang in there. It may take your body a few days, weeks or months to adjust to the changes you made.
Note: If you are pregnant, nursing or planning to become pregnant never attempt to detoxify yourself. If you are chronically ill, or are recovering from a chronic or acute illness, you should build yourself up before you detoxify. Detoxification should never be attempted without the supervision of a certified health care practitioner. You need to be sure that your liver and other detoxification pathways (like the bowel) are functioning properly.
This article was first published in 2001 and is currently republished for its importance.
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