Do you know how many toxins you are exposed to on a daily basis? The possibilities are almost endless for the average person: pesticides and herbicides from different produce, antibiotics and growth hormones in conventional meats and dairy, sodium fluoride and who-knows-what-else in the water, preservatives in refined and processed foods, noxious cleaning products, and – depending on where you live – varying levels of smog/air pollution. I am amazed that our bodies can take all of this and still function! Our good friend (best friend, really) the Liver has the arduous job of helping these toxins (and more) from affecting the rest of our body but despite that, are there times when it could use some help?

Enter the detox

Detoxing is a popular word these days; you could almost call it a fad diet in a way. We see products on TV and on the internet all the time that purport to detoxify our body. With foot pads, body wraps, teas, powders, and pills being hawked at us, it's a dizzying mess. But is there more to detoxing than gimmicky items and bold advertisements? There certainly is! Detoxing has been a part of human culture for probably thousands of years. In her book Digestive Wellness, Elizabeth Lipski (Ph.D., C.C.N.) writes:

Throughout time and in various cultures, people have seen the need for periodic internal cleansing. Native Americans and Mexicans use sweat lodges. Ancient Roman bathhouses had rooms for bathing in steam, warm water and cold water. Jewish women have used ritual mikva baths to cleanse both body and spirit. Most Swedish people have home saunas, and our own health clubs have saunas, steambaths, and jacuzzis. People "take the waters" in Europe and parts of the United States. Hawaiians use steam and a form of massage called lomi lomi, where they scrub people clean with the red Hawaiian dirt and sea salt. In fact, mud and clay have been used worldwide to draw toxins from the body while simultaneously providing essential nutrients.

Dr. Lipski continues on with mentioning how fasting is an important part of many religious holidays and customs. Both Jesus and John the Baptist fasted to gain mental and spiritual clarity. During Ramadan, an important Muslim holiday, people fast during daylight hours for a month. Jewish people fast on Yom Kippur. Also, indigenous people of many cultures use fasting as a way to clarify thought and provoke visions.

While there are many mainstream doctors that are skeptical of detoxing, I must agree heartily with Dr. Lipski when she writes in her book that:

Removal of waste material – detoxification – is essential to the healthy functioning of our bodies. This is shown in the many different ways the body cleanses itself. Skin is our body's largest organ. In addition to being a protective organ, it is also an organ of elimination through perspiration. Sneezes clear out sinuses. Lungs breathe out carbon dioxide, and even the breath allows for removal of some wastes. Kidneys filter wastes from the bloodstream. Stool is the residue from the digestive process. The liver filters the substances that are absorbed through the digestive barrier into the blood stream. White blood cells gobble up bacteria and foreign substances, and the lymphatic system clears the debris from circulation. During a cleansing program, your body more rapidly recycles materials to build new cells, take apart aged cells, and repair damaged cells.

So how do you go about detoxing?

Previously I spoke of the infamous specialty products we've all seen on TV and maybe even in health food stores. While I doubt the quality of these products, I don't know enough about them to make a proper review of their claims. Instead, what I propose are methods that I feel will rejuvenate your body much more than any patentable product. I firmly believe that in a majority of cases, nature already has the best solution for us. With detoxing, nature certainly has some already existing options for us. Paul Pitchford writes in Healing With Whole Foods:

Chinese medicine recognizes certain common foods as toxin neutralizers: tofu, millet, mung beans, aduki beans, black soybeans, Swiss chard, radishes, turnips, and figs. These can be used freely in the diet during a transition and especially during healing reactions (if food is tolerated at all).

Salt and vinegar are also detoxifying, and are commonly used in both the West and East for this purpose. They are strong substances, however, and should be taken with care and primarily for digestive problems. One does not normally take straight salt, even medicinally; it should be diluted in foods or water, or taken in salt plum products. Apple cider vinegar is mixed a teaspoon at a time in 1/3 cup of water (take undiluted for food poisoning). We do not recommend the habitual use of salt and vinegar for digestive imbalances; it is better to overcome poor dietary practices instead.

However, once or twice a year, a full-blown detox program is suggested and these programs are numerous. I've seen coconut detoxes, lemonade detoxes, juice detoxes, fruit detoxes, 3 day detoxes, and even month long detoxes. Whether one method is better than another is a matter between you and your body. Detoxes always involve a very restrictive diet for a period of time and this can be very difficult for the individual who has a very stressful job that they can not take time off of during this cleansing period, and likewise some people are already in need of eliminating improper foods from their diet and so constantly being around these foods may be too much of a challenge as well.

To improve your likelihood of success, I encourage you to make your first detox a short one (a few days to a week long) so that you will be better able to finish what you started. If you can, try to do this during a time when you don't have to work and the stresses of your life are at a minimum. Also, spring is said to be the best time to start a detox. Dr. Maoshing Ni writes on Acupuncture.com:

Human cultures through the ages have instinctively cleansed themselves and their living environment upon the arrival of spring each year. The reasons are well founded from two perspectives. First, there is the natural need to cast off winter blues and feel renewed and second, according to Chinese medicine, and confirmed by the science of Chronobiology, the liver is most active in detoxification process during spring.

Detoxing Considerations

There are many, many different types of detoxes one can go through, and to list them appropriately would fill a book. Detoxing can be a difficult process for those who are used to eating less than efficiently (and also, even for those that are already health conscious). I very strongly suggest that you plan ahead appropriately for your detox because you will likely find it challenging since all detoxes require some sort of restrictions (namely, the vices of most people: Sugar and Caffeine).

If followed correctly for the appropriate amount of time, a detox program will yield wonderful results. The most common result I have noticed from my clients is an increase in energy. This is no surprise; if you read my article on coffee, you'll know that the lack of caffeine for a week will replenish the adrenal glands and fill coffee addicts with natural energy!

Because there are numerous detoxification methods, it's important to seek out a Holistic Health Counselor (such as myself), Acupuncturist, Herbalist, Holistic Doctor, or some other type of holistic health professional who can work with you and help you decide what method is right for you.

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