This is a very informative and detailed article on detoxification.
Author: Leisa Wheeler N.D. is a Naturopath, proven Health & Healing Mentor and Raw Food Coach.
Detoxification is a natural healing process needed more than ever in today`s toxic world. With the onslaught of chemicals in our food, air and water, we can all do with undergoing a specific program of periodic cleansing. An approach that is designed to lower the toxic burden accumulated in our tissues, while supporting the organs of elimination in a supportive and nurturing environment, is the type of program that will offer the most effective results in our pursuit of outstanding health.
What is detoxification?
We have all heard about the role of detoxification in creating great health; and many of us have experienced the detox process, some by attending a health retreat designed for this purpose, and some by virtue of a supervised fast or cleansing program initiated by a naturopathic practitioner.
But what exactly is detoxification, and what is happening in the body when we engage in this type of specialized program?
Essentially, detoxification is the body`s ongoing process of neutralizing and eliminating toxins from the tissues and organs of the body. It is the job of the liver to take harmful chemicals, toxins and byproducts of metabolism from the bloodstream, and alter them into safer substances to be excreted via the organs of elimination.
This process is always happening automatically, just like we breathe and our hearts beat, and it`s not something we need to think about on a day to day basis. It is a natural state of the body to be continually cleansing, and most of the time we don`t even notice it is happening.
With the amount of potentially harmful chemicals in our environment, our food, our personal care and cleaning products, in air and water pollution, and in the recreational drugs and medications that many people take; our body burden of toxic substances can rise. It is estimated that there are 50,000+ chemicals in production, with 10,000 of these used in food processing.
When the liver is unable to deal with an excess amount of circulating toxins, they can continue to move through the body, causing disruption and damage, before eventually being stored mainly in the fat cells of our organs and tissues, often being stored for years or decades.
Depending on the type of toxins held in the body, we can experience all sorts of chronic and degenerative conditions that have their underlying cause in an overwhelming burden of chemical overload. For example, one molecule of mercury can inhibit the function of up to 1000 zinc molecules.
By engaging in a “detoxification program” we are actively assisting and supporting the body in its own natural cleansing actions, to help in ridding the body of substances that may be detrimental to our health.
Why a specialized detox?
Before essential nutrients can become available to the cells for renewal and repair, we need to remove:
Excess proteins (fibrosis)
Is there only one disease?
Many schools of thought promote the concept of there only being “one disease”, that of toxaemia.
This theory proposes that if the body can be kept free and clear of toxic debris and waste, and if good nutrition is provided, the body`s natural healing processes will enable it to heal from any disease.
All effective natural healing methods combine some type of detoxification process.
What is involved in a detoxification program?
In the natural medicine world, a detox is a specific program of dietary changes and often herbal support to:
1)lower the amount of chemicals being ingested,
2)to provide nutrients that enhance the body`s natural processes,
3)to support the organs of elimination in clearing toxins out of the body quickly and safely
There are many styles of detox programs, but the best ones are those undertaken in an environment where all of these factors can be addressed, and there is an opportunity to rest and relax and focus on healing.
1)Lowering ingested chemicals
The first part of detoxification involves lowering the ingestion of not only chemicals in the diet, but often also lowering the amount of food consumed, to give the digestive system a rest and to allow energy to be diverted to cleansing rather than digesting.
Fasting is a universal natural response to disease, and there are several ways to fast; water only, juices, and mono foods being the most common.
To this end, most detox diets will involve a period of fasting, such as drinking only freshly made vegetable juices for several days. Only organic produce should be used for the juicing, to ensure no pesticides or other chemicals or contaminants are consumed.
After a juice fast, it is sensible to spend a period of time eating plain organic fruits and vegetables to allow the body time to adjust to whole foods again, while keeping the burden of ingested toxins to a very low level.
Water fasting can be too extreme for most people in today`s world, as we are carrying such a load of toxins that we need more than just our stores of nutrients to help the body to detoxify them properly. Many people are already malnourished and depleted, so water fasting is not appropriate in these cases.
Fresh organic juice provides a plentiful supply of enzymes to assist in the breakdown of toxic matter, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to protect from free radical damage.
24 hours after starting a juice program, pancreatic enzymes are no longer needed for the digestion of food and can start digesting waste matter in the body. Not only do they start breaking down debris in the colon, but they can travel through the body and start digesting damaged cells, microbes, metabolic waste, acids, fibrosis, atherosclerotic plaques and deposits in the joints
As toxins are being released for excretion during the fasting phase, these substances can be highly reactive and create free radical damage. Not only as they circulate, but when they are processed through the first phase of liver detoxification, dangerous metabolites can be produced. A high level of antioxidants can offset this danger and protect the liver and the cells of the body.
This is why juice fasting can be so advantageous, as it supplies an enormous amount of concentrated vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are easily absorbed. Organic juice means no toxins are being ingested and by being in a clean environment this lowers the daily burden.
Some detox programs also support the body with green nutrition such as wheat or barley grass, chlorella or spirulina. These green foods supply a high dose of nutrients, protein for the binding of toxins, and chlorophyll which is a powerful blood cleanser.
By juice fasting and supplementing with concentrated green nutrition and herbs with fiber, we offer our body all it needs to cleanse and heal:
Enzymes: enzymes are specialized proteins that accelerate or instigate chemical reactions within our cells. Malfunction of just one type of enzyme can be fatal.
All animals eat foods which also contain enzymes for their own digestion
Enzyme reserves can be depleted by cooked food; the demands on digestion from cooked foods means that enzyme activity is used for digestion rather than cleansing and healing purposes elsewhere in the body.
Enzymes are at the heart of physiologic healing, they have been called the “spark of life”, a deficiency of which has been linked to chronic and degenerative illnesses
Metabolic enzymes build, cleanse and heal the body:
“After two decades of microscopic analysis of the cellular systems of thousands of people who have been guests at Hippocrates, we discovered and confirmed that digestive enzymes and enzymes found within plant foods clearly enhance the electrical frequency in and around cells of the body.”
Dr. Brian Clements
Author of “Hippocrates LifeForce, Superior health and longevity”
Director Hippocrates Health Institute, Florida, for over 25 years
Vitamins: essential for life, they are co-factors in enzymatic reactions and required for producing energy needed for detoxification.
Minerals: essential for life, they are co-factors in enzymatic reactions, are required for
energy production, and are utilized in the liver for the binding of toxins.
Antioxidants: required for neutralizing free radical damage caused by circulating toxins, and by Phase 1 liver detox processes.
Carbohydrates: provide fuel for energy.
Chlorophyll: cleansing, blood building, antibacterial, antiseptic, alkalizing and oxygenating.
Protein: is found in concentrated green nutrition and is needed for binding toxins via the liver.
Fiber: acts like an intestinal broom to drag toxins, mucoid plaque and heavy metals out of the bowel, and provide fuel for the good bacteria colonies.
3)Supporting the organs of elimination
There are many organs and systems involved in the detoxification process, but some are more important than others and supporting their function results in a more thorough and pleasant detox.
Liver: the liver is the organ which does the most work during a detox. It takes pollutants out of the bloodstream, identifies them and makes them safe for excretion.
The first stage of this is called Phase 1 Liver Detox and that involves making fat soluble toxins more water soluble, so that they can be eliminated through the bowels or the kidneys. The outcome of Phase 1 is highly reactive toxic metabolites waiting for Phase 2 treatment. A high level of antioxidants are needed to balance and neutralize these substances.
Phase 2 Liver Detox uses various protein molecules to bind these intermediate products and make them safe to be eliminated.
Bowel: a lot of toxins are excreted through the bowel, so a well-functioning, moving bowel is an essential part of the detox. Many detox programs include bowel herbs, bulking fiber such as psyllium husks, products like bentonite clay which bind toxins, or cleanses such as enemas or colonic irrigation.
By cleansing and supporting the bowel in this way, we ensure the maximum removal of toxic substances.
Kidneys: the kidneys are another organ that filters and processes a large number of toxins. During a cleanse, drinking plenty of fluid supports kidney function, and using juices such as watermelon, celery, cucumber or black cherry can all enhance their detoxification ability.
Kidneys are also the repository for our “chi” energy or lifeforce, so plenty of rest, meditation, keeping warm and gentle movement, will all help to revitalize and nourish our kidney energy.
Skin: the skin can release many toxins, especially when it is helped by dry skin body brushing, and by spending time in a sauna. Both of these practices enhance the effectiveness of our detoxification, not only by allowing the release of toxins through the skin, but by moving our lymphatic system which drains and transports many waste products.
Breath: yes, you often will have “detox breath” during a cleanse! Our lungs are powerful
movers of toxic matter, and deep breathing during yoga or meditation is another tool we use
to support our body.
How long do we fast for?
Short fasts, or fasting one day a week are not a good practice.
During the first day of the fast, glucose levels drop and glycogen reserves can be depleted. The body will then start to draw on protein from the tissues to create glucose.
Following day one, the body adapts and starts to use fat as a source of energy and preserves protein. One day fasts will deplete body protein and serve no purpose for deeper detoxification of stored toxins in fat tissues.
Three days is a minimum, but the general rule is to fast until you feel hungry again. Not from habit, but from a true hunger.
Intermittent fasting can extent lifespan by 20-30%
“Studies have shown that fasted cells have the capacity for assimilation and growth characterized by the cells of young animals, demonstrating beyond doubt that fasting rejuvenates cellular function.”
Sergius Morgulis, “Fasting and Undernutrition”. University of Nebraska, E.P. Dutton, New York 1923.
What is a healing crisis?
A healing crisis is also known as the “Herxheimer Reaction” where the body tries to eliminate toxins at a faster rate than they can be disposed of, resulting in a possible increase in symptoms, or at times nausea, diarrhea, headaches, dizziness or mood swings.
Many people are reluctant to participate in a detoxification program because they are worried about feeling ill or experiencing some type of healing crisis during the detox.
The first day there are often the common symptoms such as the “caffeine withdrawal” headache, but days two and onwards are when the deeper toxins are being removed
These symptoms, however, are much more likely to occur when the organs of elimination are not properly supported. During a professional cleansing program, these reactions are minimized, as every element is designed to move toxins quickly out of the body, for a pleasant and comfortable experience.
How will I feel afterwards?
A comprehensive supervised detox program of at least a week`s duration once or twice a year works well. After spending that period of time cleansing, building your nutritive status, resting and healing, you will feel like a different person!
Skin often becomes clearer, eyes become brighter, energy and vitality expands, sleep is improved, aches and pains are gone, the bowel works better, mental clarity and concentration is improved, and many people shed a few extra kilos over the week.
By lowering your body burden of toxins, you may very well be helping to prevent the chronic health consequences that can come from long term exposure to the thousands of chemical pollutants saturating our environment today.
What a wonderful gift to give yourself!
The Hundred Year Lie by Randall Fitzgerald
Lifeforce by Dr. Brian R. Clement
Be Your Own Doctor by Ann Wigmore
Detox and Live by Hilda Hemmes
Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Juices by Norman Walker