Would you benefit from cleansing?
Yes, if you:
Are regularly exposed to environmental toxins
Drink less than a litre of water daily
Drink soda pop, coffee or alcohol
Eat processed foods such as white flour baked goods and candy
Crave junk food
Are tired, constipated, bloated and lack focus
Have sticky or malodorous bowel movements
Have pasty skin or dark circles under your eyes
Have blood sugar problems
Have unstable emotions
Have unsatisfactory libido or sleep
Are over or under-weight
Use prescription or recreational drugs regularly
If you peruse natural health news, you certainly have read the word “detox” lately. You may have heard about how “body burden” of unnatural chemicals is higher than ever before. Industrial run-off into our rivers, pharmaceutical pollution flushed down toilets, burning fossil fuels belching into the air, fake food, plastic everywhere — all of this and more comprises an enormous burden for our internal self-cleansing systems.
The amazing human body has several mechanisms by which to rid itself of non-nutrients which come in daily through our nose and mouth. We process food across the entire mucous membrane from the mouth to the rectum. The enzymes in our saliva, the all-important stomach acid, the pancreatic enzymes, and the bile from the liver all prepare our food for digestion then absorption into the bloodstream. Elements of our meals which are deemed unsatisfactory for absorption will be eliminated, via the large intestine. In case you haven’t heard: pooping at least once daily is crucial to optimal health. It is unhealthy to allow waste products to linger in the colon. Once in the bloodstream, we have several other methods of screening for “toxins” which is defined as anything our cells can’t use for energy. As the blood passes through the kidneys, they are “strained” by hundreds of super fine sieves. Of important job of the kidneys is to remove nitrogen from the blood, which we pee out as ammonia. The lymphatic system, which has a vast network traveling alongside the blood vessels all over the body, also picks up “goop” in the blood and funnels it to the “master” lymph node, called the cisterna chyle, which is located between the heart and the left kidney. From there, the lymphatic fluid passes into the renal system (kidneys). Last, but not least, the skin is a large and important organ of elimination embedded with sweat glands. Ideally, strenuous exercise would induce free-flowing and non-odorous perspiration. Smelly sweat and drenching sweats at rest are signs of elimination difficulties.
Other signs of toxic congestion (and therefore need for “detox”) include constipation, bad breath, irritable skin, fatigue after eating, poor sleep quality and moodiness. A body which eliminates properly will stay healthy. It’s as simple as that. I approach “detox” with my patients as an opportunity to change bad dietary habits, and to become enamored of feeling great. The first order of business is to open the “emunctories” which is an old naturopathic word meaning the portals of elimination.
Start with the skin: I encourage everyone to take up the habit of dry skin brushing every morning. This is a marvelous “bath” which removes the outer layer of dead skin and not only cleanses but invigorates. Brush the entire body, fairly firmly, except the face, always towards the heart. See the sidebar for a more detailed description.
Next, the renal system: during cleansing it is advisable to drink lots of water. Pure water is the very best drink. I don’t agree with the idea of alcohol being “therapeutic”. It is toxic to the heart, liver and kidneys. Sure, it will help some folks relax — but there are better ways to relax! And if you are after the deep pigments of red wine, for example, you can take resveratrol in capsule form or simply eat lots of deeply colored fruits and vegetables.
Do whatever it takes to enjoy the daily poop. Three times a day, after each meal, is ideal, but many of us just can’t make time for that. I like using a stool, or “Welles step”, under my feet while at the toilet because it helps simulate a squatting position, which is how we were designed to poop. Cold stewed prunes (just put some prunes and water in a small covered jar and keep in the fridge) or 500 mg of Magnesium at bedtime are simple, non-addictive laxatives. Avoid cascara sagrada — it is too harsh. Digestive aides such as fennel seed, ginger root and mint leaves, in teas or whole form, can help improve digestion and elimination.
I advise my patients to avoid cleansing or fasting during cold weather, when we are directing energy towards staying warm..
It’s a good idea to cleanse or fast with at least one “buddy” if possible — so you can cheer each other and help maintain your mutual commitment to optimal health. I advise against advertising to all your friends and family that you are undertaking a cleansing project because they might not all be supportive. If they ask, you can tell. Figure out a good time and how much time you can commit. Remember, this is not a crash diet. It’s a chance to open the emunctories, enjoy some deep internal cleansing, and explore the possibility of healthy eating and healthy living every day for the rest of your life. The most important part of detox is coming off the program. Your stomach will be smaller and your internal organs more sensitive to “junk.”
Please go slowly in the week after a detox program. Do not plan or attend a gastronomic extravaganza soon after cleansing.
Three Day Plan
This is an all-fresh fruit cleanse. Fruits are high in water, fiber and slow-releasing sugars. They are tasty! Neither juice nor dried fruit is allowed — too concentrated. Eat whatever fruits appeal to you, one serving every two hours while awake. A serving means 1 large or 2 small apples, 6 apricots, 1 medium banana, 1-2 cups berries, cherries or grapes, 2 oranges or nectarines, 1 cup of pineapple, 1 large pear, 2 kiwis, 3 plums or tomatoes, 2 cups of cubed melon. Mix it up! Eat only fruit. For a complete description see “Fruit Flush” by Jay Robb.
Seven Day Plan
This involves 2 days of preparation, 3 days of “fasting” and 2 more days of slowly re-introducing your regular (but hopefully transformed) diet. During the first 2 days, eat only raw food: mixed salads, fruit, steamed veggies. Drink plenty of water between fruit or veggie meals. Avoid juices. However, during the 3 “fasting” days you will drink diluted juices and broths and tea and plenty of water. No solid food because the idea is to give the digestive system a rest. Sip on fluids all day long. Fresh juices are best. Green drinks or protein powders are fine. The last 2 days are like the first 2: raw fruits and veggies only. I recommend fruit only in the morning and veggies after noon. For a complete description, see “Prescription for Nutritional Healing” by James and Phyllis Balch.
Fourteen Day Plan
This allows 3 days of preparation with raw food only, and also using a bulking drink (1 T psyllium husk or other fiber such as ground flax seeds, mixed with water) three times daily, ½ hour before eating. Next follows 5 days of liquid only: broths, fresh juices, tea, water. You should be able to go to work and do your normal day, you will have good energy, but don’t plan extra activities. Allow for more rest in your schedule. If no stool is produced during the liquid-only days, an enema is strongly recommended. Colonics are fine too if you are squeamish about giving yourself the treatment! The last 6 days are the most important. You will SLOWLY re-introduce foods one day at a time. For a complete description of this plan see “The Fasting Diet” by Dr. Steven Bailey.
Twenty Day Plan
This is a slightly longer but less rigorous cleansing plan. The rules are simply to eat foods high in beta-carotene (sweet potato, carrots, spinach, cantaloupe, pumpkin, kale, winter squash) and high in Vitamin C (citrus fruits, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes, melons, potatoes, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, cabbage) for 20 days. Additionally you will drink plenty of water between meals and snacks. You are allowed to eat anything in moderation except for the following:
Wheat and other gluten-containing grains
Milk and dairy products
Eggs, meats or farmed fish
Foods containing artificial flavorings, colorants or preservatives
The idea is, you will feel so good after this program that you’ll decide to eat this way for the rest of your life! For a complete description see “The 20-Day Rejuvenation Diet Program” by Dr. Jeffrey Bland.
Brushing your skin with a long handled dry skin brush (I like Bass or Yerba Prima brushes) each morning before or instead of showering is the finest “bath” your body could ask for. Nearly 80% of ordinary household dust is shed skin cells from the outermost layer, a completely natural process. Brush in long firm strokes towards the heart. I start standing next to a chair or bathtub so I can put one foot up at a time. Brush firmly under the sole of the foot then up and all around the leg. Repeat on the other foot and leg. Then gently brush the hips and buttocks, which should turn a bit pink. Brush the hands and up the arms. Stroke the belly in a clockwise direction (to follow the flow of the colon) and up the side ribs. Brush up under the breasts (and, ladies, be aware of the consistency of your breasts as you do this). Brush under the chin and down the top ribs, then reach behind with the long handle and scrub the back as thoroughly as possible. Don’t forget the shoulders. You may want to get a small soft brush for your face. This feels absolutely divine and is marvelous for your skin.
When you give your body a rest from the daily onslaught of processed food, elimination begins to progress immediately. This can “stir up” toxins that have been stored in the colon or in fat cells and create a variety of reactions such as depression, headaches and fatigue. Your skin may break out as toxins are eliminated. Here are several ideas that can help:
1) drink more water to flush toxins through the kidneys more quickly
2) increase Vit C to up to 10 grams for tissue repair and to hasten the ridding of toxins
3) use bentonite (clay) baths to pull toxins out through the skin. These baths may be taken twice daily: use ½ cup liquid clay in a tub of warm (not hot) water and soak for 20 minutes
4) eat steamed organic beets, which will turn your stool deep purplish.