Detoxification: Essential Steps to Wellness and Anti-Aging
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The human body is exposed to millions of toxins every day. These toxins come from pesticides, food additives, heavy metals in the water, industrial chemicals, pharmaceutical drug residue, and many other substances. Toxins are also produced naturally by the body and are therefore absolutely impossible to avoid. Research has revealed that toxicity is responsible for rapid aging, promoting degenerative diseases, and breaking down the immune system. Despite these threats to our health, there’s good news: Damage from these pollutants can be battled through a variety of natural approaches to maintain a healthy and clean body.
The digestive system is known as the cornerstone of good health. It has been believed and proven for centuries that our mental and physical energy stems from good digestive function, which is responsible for the assimilation, or uptake, of all nutrients and elimination of waste and toxic substances. When this system us healthy and in good function, all of the body’s processes and systems run smoothly. When the body is not digesting well, signs of gas, bloating, nausea, constipation, obesity, and emotional imbalance will be present. When these symptoms appear, the body is not detoxifying to its full potential and the liver is overwhelmed with toxic substances.
The liver is the main filtering agent, which detoxifies the blood and rids the body of pathogens and bad bacteria. The liver cells have fat soluble membranes which may store toxins for extended periods of time and then release them when the body is physically straining, stressed and starved. When a build-up of toxins is finally released, exhaustion is the first prevalent symptom. In order to keep this organ continually cleansing; there are a variety of methods, which are used to maintain liver and digestive system health. Fasting, botanical remedies and diet modification are the most popular routes to detoxify and cleanse. Some health care professionals use all three together while others have a particular preference for one.
A Fast Way to Cleanse
There are various types of fasts which people use to cleanse and rid themselves of toxins. Usually they are done in the spring or autumn, and can vary from a seven-day water fast to a three-day juice fast. It is very important for individuals to consult a health care professional before fasting and the longer the fast, the more strict supervision should be. According to Dr. Leon Chiatow, author of The Body & Mind Purification Program, “During a fast the body uses up nonessential tissues, such as fat, as a source of fuel, but spares essential tissues. These nonessential tissues are used by the body as safe ‘dumping grounds’ for unwanted toxic materials such as heavy metals and pesticides.” It is important to tailor a fast to an individual’s needs and conditions. Diabetics are usually not recommended to fast and instead may try a “monodiet” which is eating the same food (such as apples) for a few days. Many experts who recommend fasting stress that rest and relaxation are extremely important, so the body will channel the energy towards cleansing. The entire metabolic rate of the body slows down during fasting as does the body’s temperature, blood pressure, pulse and respiratory rate. Fasting is considered the quickest way to eliminate toxins and recharge the body’s natural healing processes. It can be a strong first step in adopting a long-term detoxification program and lifestyle.
Fasting is a very controversial method of cleansing, too. Many health experts reject fasting as a healthful way to detoxify the body. In the December 1995 issue of the Townsend Letter, Jeffrey S. Bland, Ph.D. stresses that starvation and long-term fasting can deplete the body’s detoxification process. Lack of essential nutrients can increase susceptibility to toxicity. Among the antioxidants, which are drained from exposure to toxins, is glutathione. This amino acid is found in high levels in the organs, which detoxify especially the liver. According to Dr. Bland, “During times of increased exposure to toxins, there is a greater demand upon glutathione reserves in the body. If the individual is fasting or not eating an appropriate diet, exposure to toxins can have serious adverse effects which have been associated with increased biological aging.”
There are a variety of botanicals, which have been found to support the liver and assist the entire cleansing process. To protect the body against toxemia, when the stored toxins are dumped into the blood, herbals are recommended to help the liver remove these “poisons” from the blood stream. Silybummarianum or milk thistle, dandelion root, and goldenseal root are the most popularly recommended herbs to assist the liver. In Chinese medicine, licorice root has been used for centuries to detoxify. Chinese studies have found that licorice root extract may eliminate over 1200 toxins as well as help balance blood sugar levels. For digestion, cascara sagrada and aloe are two popular herbals, which have been used for ages to stimulate bowel and colon activity. These herbals are a few of the many, which have been used for years to assist cleansing. Refer to the comprehensive list at the end of this article to see what other detoxifying properties botanicals offer.
Along with herbal extracts, fibers are also very necessary to cleanse the colon, bowel and entire digestive system. Psyllium is probably the most commonly used fiber to ingest because of its proven effectiveness in the intestinal tract. The average diet has a very slow fiber content due to the over processing and contamination of foods. Surprising to many health-conscious eaters, foods such as garden salad, although healthy in many respects, is very low in fiber content. Fiber is a true cleansing agent, which can sweep and rid the system of toxins from food, which infest the digestive tract. Fiber is the key to naturally keeping elimination regular and solving many common digestive complaints.
Just as it is important to rid the body of toxins, it is necessary to regenerate the “good” bacteria, also known as “friendly flora.” Probiotics, such as acidophilus and bifido bacterium, perform protective and therapeutic functions. It has been found that using a probiotic supplement can assist effective digestion, produce natural antibodies and relieve a variety of conditions from candidiasis to acne. Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) are the natural carbohydrates used by “friendly flora”. When FOS is present, the healthful bacteria are sustained and the intestinal function is at an optimal level. The probiotics are an important part of supporting and building a healthy system during detoxification.
Controlling the Diet
A very effective way to combat the overwhelming effects of toxins is to maintain a diet with plenty of nutrient-rich foods and supplements. Before identifying what foods are the best for you, it is necessary to assess the foods to avoid. According to nutritionist Robert Crayhon, author of Nutrition Made Simple, there are several foods to avoid as much as possible for detoxifying the body:
*All foods grown with pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides
*Toxic fats (margarine, fried foods, and refined vegetable oils)
*Coffee, alcohol and other stimulants
*White “enriched” flour products
Proper protein, carbohydrate, essential fatty acids and amino acid ingestion are vital to detoxification. When these levels of nutrients are low, they deter the overall uptake of other nutrients, which are imperative for detoxification. Foods, which are consumed in the whole form, promote nutrient absorption. To ensure optimum utilization and ingestion of protein, carbohydrates and fats, nutritional supplementation is very important in addition to the whole food diet. When supplementation is taken with the whole food diet. When supplementation is taken with a whole food meal there is optimum utilization of nutrients. Rice dextrins are an excellent example of a low allergenic source of antioxidants and ferulic acid, which provide carbohydrate benefits, too. Research has revealed positive results for easy digestion and detoxification with rice based diets.
In order to enjoy the benefits of good health, detoxification should be a continual practice. Since there is constant exposure to toxins, supervised programs, which are designed for the individual, are recommended. Whether it is a fast, herbal cleanse, modified diet or another safe method, the program should be easy to follow and carefully monitored. Compliance with a regimen can offer many benefits. When the body is perpetually cleansing and ridding of toxins, the degenerative diseases and conditions, which occur with age, can be combated.
Robert Crayhon, M.S. Nutrition Made Simple (New York:M. Evans and Company, Inc., 1994)
Leon Chiatow, N.D., D.O., The Body & Mind Purification Program (New York:Simon& Schuster Inc/Gaia, 1990)
Jeffrey S. Bland, Ph.D. “Food and Nutrient Effect on Detoxification”, Townsend Letter, December 1995; 40-44.
Michael Murray, N.D. and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D., Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine(Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1991), 156-166.
Botanicals and DetoxificationAloe– bowel purgative and laxative properties
Apple Pectin– helps eliminate metals and radiation
Barberry– assists cleansing of the digestive system and liver function
Black Cohosh– neutralizes toxins in blood stream
Burdock– promotes kidney function and blood purification
Cayenne– improves circulation and boosts immune system
Cascara Sagrada– promotes colon health and regularity of the bowel
Chamomile– eases digestive problems and improves function
Dandelion Root– stimulates the liver function and purifies blood
Echinacea– immune booster and blood purifier
Fennel– helps to cleanses toxins and promotes digestion
Ginger Root– assist digestion and intestinal cleansing
Goldenseal Root– good liver regulator and blood cleanser
Licorice– stimulates the glands to improve immune function as well as remove toxins
Milk Thistle– stimulates the glands to improve immune function as well as remove toxins
Milk Thistle– stimulates and regenerates liver function as well as remove toxins
Psyllium– stimulates the colon and bowel promoting cleansing and regularity
Slippery Elm Bark– helps purify the blood and neutralizes stomach acidity
Turmeric/Triphala– Ayurvedic herb with potent anti-inflammatory and mild laxative properties
Yarrow Flower– helps regulates liver function
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These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and always consult with your physician before fasting, detoxifying or taking any herbal product.