Eliminating Toxins From the Body
As a naturopathic physician, over the years I have worked with many patients whose symptoms eluded diagnosis by conventional medicine. These symptoms include fatigue, nervous system disorders, poor memory, immune system problems, heartbeat irregularities, skin conditions, aches and pains, allergies, arthritis, insomnia, coughs, gastrointestinal problems, asthma, headaches and sensitivity to environmental agents such as chemicals, perfumes, and synthetics. Many of these patients’ symptoms were caused by the load of toxins they had accumulated in their bodies over the years. A toxin is basically any substance that creates irritating or harmful effects in the body, undermining our health or stressing our biochemical or organ functions.
The Chemical Feast
In the last 100 years or so, humans have managed to drastically change the basic chemistry of our planetary environment. In 1989 alone, more than one billion pounds of chemicals were released into the ground, affecting the soil in which we grow our food and filtering into our water supply. And that’s not all. Over 188 million pounds of chemicals were discharged directly into our lakes and rivers and more than two billion pounds of chemical emissions were released into the air we breathe. The total volume of these pollutants is staggering.
Again, that’s only part of the picture. Food grown in depleted soil with artificial chemicals lacks nutritional value. We have further refined and adulterated these already compromised foods and have added artificial colorings, flavors, preservatives and conditioners. Furthermore, hormones and antibiotics added to animal products contribute to the toxic load we are carrying and may cause endocrine and immune problems as well.
Then there is the matter of the internal pollution our bodies create as a byproduct of normal metabolic processes. I don’t think I need to belabor the concept of the toxic load we are carrying in our tissues. Suffice to say that both our present vibrancy and the experience of life we will have in our later years have been compromised. Fortunately, there are a variety of detoxification programs we can undergo that will assist our bodies in cleansing and rejuvenation.
Fasting is Not Enough
In the past, water or juice fasting was the only approach employed for detoxification. The principle of fasting is that by avoiding food, the body is able to clear stored toxins and heal itself when the stress of digestion and further input of toxins is eliminated. Fasting is still an effectively utilized method of cleansing. However, the sheer weight of the toxic loads most people are carrying has made fasting somewhat risky. The body’s clearing mechanisms simply cannot handle the volume of toxins being released from the tissues through fasting. In addition, prolonged fasting weakens muscles and various organs because of protein depletion and a gradual slowing of metabolic activity as the body tries to conserve its depleted energy resources.
Principles of Modern Detoxification
It is important to understand that our bodies are as healthy as what they take in and utilize in the tissues and that there will be a negative outcome if our bodies hold on to things they do not need, like toxins.
Our bodies handle toxins by either neutralizing, transforming, or eliminating them. Research over the past 15 years has revealed that the body’s natural detoxification mechanisms are nutrient supported. This discovery has made it clear that water or juice fasting slower and less complete than supporting the body’s natural processes with the nutrients and raw materials it needs to efficiently eliminate the toxic loads.
The modern, scientifically attuned approach to detoxification involves a twofold program:
1) Providing high-quality protein, complex carbohydrates and essential fatty acids, to give the body what it needs to prevent muscle and organ breakdown and depleted energy resources.
2) Providing nutrients that support the function of the organs directly involved in detoxification: the liver, the intestinal tract and the kidneys.
Detoxification: More Than Physical
Physical or metabolic detoxification is a component of an integrated, holistic approach called transformational medicine that focuses on changes on the physical, emotional and spiritual levels of being. The primary tenet of transformational medicine is that fostering and adapting to change and evolution are the keys to vibrant health.
Physical cleansing often has the side effect of releasing long-held thought patterns that have become toxic in our conscious and subconscious realms. This emotional release helps us uncover and express feelings, hidden frustrations, anger, resentments and fear, and replace them with forgiveness, love, joy, and hope. On a spiritual level, many people experience new clarity and an enhancement of their life purpose during the cleansing process. A light detox over a couple of days can help us feel better. A longer process can also help us develop a deeper commitment to a new way of life, including eliminating self-abusive habits and developing new diet patterns. Making positive fundamental life changes is the goal of transformational medicine.
A Final Word
In recent years, detoxification has reached the pinnacle of health faddism. The cult of cleansing is of evangelical proportions and is accompanied by hype, hoopla and hysteria. There are a confusing number of commercial products sold in health food stores or through multi-level marketing programs that claim miraculous outcomes if the purchaser follows their directions. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
I have purposefully not included a generic detoxification recipe or program to follow in this article. Because of biological individuation, every person has different detox needs. I encourage you to work with a qualified health professional who can assist you in developing a program that will address your specific needs and health concerns.