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 Detoxification Programs: General Detoxification and Cleansing 
 


Now that I have devoted so many pages to nutrients, foods, diets, and special eating plans to support health and to treat a variety of disease states, it is important to emphasize a number of programs in the category of elimination--both the basic process of detoxification and programs that will help us cleanse specific common toxins and habits from our lives.

It is somewhat difficult to separate the concepts and practices of detoxification from those of fasting. Fasting, or the avoidance of solid food, as I use the term here, is one method of detoxification, probably the most effective, yet extreme, form. There are many other ways to detoxify.

Toxicity is of much greater concern in the twentieth century than ever before. There are many new and stronger chemicals, air and water pollution, radiation and nuclear power. We ingest new chemicals, use more drugs of all kinds, eat more sugar and refined foods, and daily abuse ourselves with various stimulants and sedatives. The incidence of many toxicity diseases has increased as well. Cancer and cardiovascular disease are two of the main ones. Arthritis, allergies, obesity, and many skin problems are others. In addition, a wide range of symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, pains, coughs, gastrointestinal problems, and problems from immune weakness, can all be related to toxicity.

Toxicity occurs on two basic levels--external and internal. We can acquire toxins from our environment by breathing them, by ingesting them, or through physical contact with them. Chapter 11, Environmental Aspects of Nutrition, deals with chemical aspects of food and how they influence our lives and health. We all are exposed to toxins daily. We eat and drink them and impose them upon ourselves repeatedly and regularly. Most drugs, food additives, and allergens can create toxic elements in the body. In fact, any substance can have toxicity--water, sodium, and almost all nutrients can be a problem in certain circumstances.

On the internal level, our body produces toxins through its normal everyday functions. Biochemical, cellular, and bodily activities generate substances that need to be eliminated. The free radicals that have been discussed throughout this book are biochemical toxins. When these substances/molecules/toxins are not eliminated, they can cause irritation or inflammation of the cells and tissues, blocking normal functions on a cellular, organ, and whole-body level. Microbes of all kinds--intestinal bacteria, foreign bacteria, yeasts, and parasites--produce metabolic waste products that we must handle. Our thoughts and emotions and stress itself generate increased biochemical toxicity. The proper level of elimination of these toxins is essential to health. Clearly, a normal functioning body was created to handle certain levels of toxins; the concern is with excess intake or production of toxins or a reduction in the processes of elimination.

A toxin is basically any substance that creates irritating and/or harmful effects in the body, undermining our health or stressing our biochemical or organ functions. This may result from drugs which have side effects, or from patterns of physiology that are different from our usual functioning. Recreational drugs also usually have some harmful effects. The free radicals irritate, inflame, age, and cause degeneration of body tissues. Negative "ethers," psychic and spiritual influences, thought patterns, and negative emotions all can be toxins as well--both as stressors and by changing the normal physiology of the body and possibly producing specific symptoms.

Toxicity occurs in our body when we take in more than we can utilize and eliminate. Homeostasis means that our body functions are in balance. This balance is disturbed when we feed ourselves more than we can utilize or partake of specific substances that are toxic. Toxicity may depend on the dosage, frequency, or potency of the toxin. A toxin may produce an immediate or rapid onset of symptoms, as many pesticides and some drugs do; possibly, even more commonly, it may cause some long-term negative effect, such as asbestos exposure leading to lung cancer.

Of course, if our body is working well, with good immune and eliminative functions, we can handle our basic everyday exposure to toxins. The purpose of this section is to discuss ways to support the elimination of toxins, excessive mucus, congestion, and disease and to prevent, on a day-to-day basis, the buildup of toxicity. Through detoxification, we clear and filter toxins and wastes and allow our body to work on enhancing its basic functions.


OUR GENERAL DETOXIFICATION SYSTEMS
  • Respiratory--lungs, bronchial tubes, throat, sinuses, and nose
  • Gastrointestinal--liver, gallbladder, colon, and whole GI tract
  • Urinary--kidneys, bladder, and urethra
  • Skin and dermal--sweat and sebaceous glands and tears
  • Lymphatic--lymph channels and lymph nodes

  • Our body handles toxins by either neutralizing, transforming, or eliminating them. As examples, many of the antioxidant nutrients we have discussed so much may neutralize free-radical molecules. The liver helps transform many toxic substances into harmless agents, while the blood carries wastes to the kidneys; the liver also dumps wastes through the bile into the intestines, where much waste is eliminated. We also clear toxins through sweating, from exercise or heat. Our sinuses and skin may also be accessory elimination organs whereby excess mucus or toxins can be released, as with sinus congestion or skin rashes, respectively.

    Detoxification occurs on many other levels as well. Physically, this process can help clear congestions, illnesses, and disease potential. It can improve energy. I believe that many "detox" processes can help rejuvenate us and prevent degeneration. Mental detoxification is also important. Cleansing our minds of negative thought patterns is essential to health; the physical detoxification also helps this mental process. Emotionally, detoxification helps us uncover and express feelings, especially hidden frustrations, anger, resentments, or fear, and replace them with forgiveness, love, joy, and hope. On a spiritual level, many people experience new clarity and/or an enhancement of their purpose of life during cleansing processes. A light detox over a couple of days can help us feel better, while a longer process and deeper commitment to a new way of life, such as eliminating certain abusive habits and eating a better diet, will help us really change our whole life.

    Detoxification is part of a transformational medicine that instills change on many levels. Change and evolution are keys to healing. Enhancing elimination helps us deal with and clear problems from our past, from childhood and parental patterns to recent job or relationship stress. When our body has eliminated much of its toxic buildup, we feel lighter and are able to really experience the moment and be open for the future.

    Detoxification is a relative term. Anything that supports our elimination can be said to help us detoxify. Doing nothing more than drinking an extra quart of water a day will usually help us eliminate more toxins. Eating more fruits and vegetables--the high-water-content, cleansing foods--and less meat and milk products will create less congestion and more elimination. There are many levels of the progressive detoxication diets, from these simple changes to complete fasting. I want to express some concerns about overelimination or overdetoxification, which I see occasionally. Some people go to extremes with fasting, laxatives, enemas, colonics, diuretics, and even exercise and begin to lose essential nutrients from their body. A negative balance can be created in this manner, such as protein or vitamin-mineral deficiencies though congestion from overintake and underelimination is a more common problem in this culture. I believe that the best and simplest way to look at symptoms and disease is in terms of excess (congestion) and deficiency; this is the basis of the traditional Oriental philosophy.

    Who Is Best Suited for Detoxification?
    Almost everyone needs to detox, cleanse themselves, and rest their body functions at times. Cleansing or detoxification is one part of the trilogy of nutritional action, the others being building, or toning, and balance, or maintenance. With a regular, balanced diet, devoid of excesses, we will need less intensive detoxification. Our body has a daily elimination cycle, mostly carried out at night and in the early morning, up until breakfast. However, when we eat a congesting diet higher in fats, meats, dairy products, refined foods, and chemicals, detoxification becomes more necessary. Who needs to detoxify and when is based in part on individual lifestyle and needs.

    More common toxicity symptoms include headache, fatigue, mucus problems, aches and pains, digestive problems, "allergy" symptoms, and sensitivity to environmental agents such as chemicals, perfumes, and synthetics. People who experience these and others on the list may benefit from diet changes or avoidance of the drug or agent that may be influencing the symptom. It may be important to differentiate allergic symptoms from those of toxicity to determine the appropriate medical care. The diet and detox program here is fairly similar to the Allergy plan discussed earlier and is often helpful in reducing allergic symptoms. Fasting can be extremely beneficial for people with allergies. Of course, there may be subtle characteristics of toxicity that differentiate it from other health concerns.


    SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF TOXICITY
    Headaches Backaches Runny nose Fatigue
    Joint pains Itchy nose Nervousness Skin rashes
    Cough Frequent colds Sleepiness Hives
    Wheezing Irritated eyes Insomnia Nausea
    Sore throat Immune weakness Dizziness Indigestion
    Tight or stiff neck Environmental sensitivity Mood changes Anorexia
    Angina pectoris Sinus congestion Anxiety Bad breath
    Circulatory deficits Fever Depression Constipation
    High blood fats

    (Excerpted from Staying Healthy with Nutrition ISBN: 1587611791)
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     About The Author
    Elson Haas MDElson M. Haas, MD is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more
     
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