Saturday, July 19, 2008

Detoxification: Improve your health by eliminating toxins from your body.

In the last 200 years, we have drastically changed our environment. In today's world, millions of pounds of chemicals are released into our air, water, food, and soil every year. We live in an environment in which we are exposed to thousands of toxic chemicals daily-industrial poisions, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, radiation, auto pollution, and drugs to name a few. "Two hundred twelve million pounds of hazardous waste is generated every day in the US and more than 55,000 synthetic chemicals are now in regular production," states Sara Shannon, author of Good Health In A Toxic World (Warner Books, 1994). To make matters worse, we have refined away much of the naturally occurring nutrition in our food and replaced it with artificial additives, preservatives, and colorings. It's no wonder Americans are so sick. Many of us eat too much fat, not enough fiber, and relatively few, if any, fruits and vegetables per day. And how many of us think about the harmful effects common pollutants are having in our bodies? What happens to toxins after they've found a way into our bodies?

System Overload

The concern of medical doctors like Andrew Weil, MD and Elson Haas, MD, is not so much the short term effects, but the harm these pollutants are capable of inflicting over time. Toxins and pollutants are difficult or impossible for our bodies to break down. Therefore, constant exposure to environmental toxins is much more harmful in the long run. Some toxic chemicals can take months or years to accumulate to a level which outward signs of damage to the immune system are seen. As a result, we accumulate toxins much faster than our bodies can eliminate them, resulting in disease and illness. Common symptoms of overexposure to environmental toxins include: headaches, nausea, abdominal discomfort, vomiting, weakness, dizziness, fatigue, anxiety, joint and muscle pain, and depression. More serious reactions can include life-threatening diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Our immune defenses, gastrointestinal and liver functions, and other systems of elimination all play an important role in handling and eliminating toxins from the body. This is why we must take steps to ensure our systems are in good working order.

"If our body is working well, with good immune and eliminative functions, it can handle everyday exposure to toxins," says Dr. Elson Haas, MD, director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin in San Rafael, California and author of The Detox Diet (Celestial Arts, 1996). The body's natural way of eliminating and neutralizing toxins is through detoxification. Detoxification is a process your body undergoes to rid itself of accumulated toxins and pollutants through urine, exhalation, feces, and perspiration. This process frees the body's natural immune system from toxic overload.

Primary Cleaners

Our four major cleansing organs are the liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, and skin. The liver is the most important detox organ. When functioning well, the liver filters out and transforms toxic substances that have entered the blood into harmless substances that can be excreted in the urine, a process performed by the kidneys. Just to keep up with a minimal load of toxins, the liver must replace its 300 billion cells every six months. If the liver cannot keep up with the body's intake of harmful pollutants, it is at a high risk for overload. "It is estimated that at least 38 million Americans have a significant level of lead in their bodies, a metal that can cause significant physiological and psychological impairments," says Shannon. Toxic metals such as lead, mercury, aluminum, and cadmium overwork the liver and kidneys.

In a proper state of health, the intestine promotes elimination of toxins through regular bowel movements-eliminating the build-up of unhealthful microorganisms and internal toxins, and providing a strong and intact barrier to prevent the leaking of toxic materials from the intestines into the blood. On the other hand, chronic constipation or a badly impacted colon, provides a breeding ground for unfriendly bacteria that can cause problems, such as flatulence, indigestion, colitis, and bowel cancer.

The skin contains pores which allow toxins to leave the body when stimulated to perspire, and also provides a barrier against some toxins entering the body. Researchers have found that toxic substances such as industrial solvents, pesticides, and heavy metals can be excreted through sweat.

Getting Started

Almost everyone can benefit from detoxification. No one is immune to environmental toxins and no matter how careful we are, we can't completely avoid them. Fortunately, we can take steps to minimize them and keep our bodies in good working order, so that toxins may be quickly and efficiently eliminated. When you start any detox process you can begin to expect many changes: your digestion will improve, your skin will clear, chronic aches and pains will disappear, and your energy levels will rise. Your body will be devoting less of its time battling toxins and more time focusing on other important functions.

There are many different ways to help the body detoxify. The following are some of the most popular and well researched methods. Even if you choose to implement only some of these techniques, you will be protecting your healing system from harm by reducing or eliminating the number of toxins you would otherwise be exposed to.

Loving Liquids

Drink at least eight glasses of water a day. "Water is probably our most important detoxifier," Dr. Haas states. "As it helps us [eliminate toxins] through our skin and kidneys, and improves our sweating with exercise." Water is a solvent which carries elements through the blood, cleaning blood and allowing tissue building and repair. If you don't drink enough water, blood gets sticky and thick, clogging systems and taxing the body. Liquids can also include freshly squeezed juices and herbal teas.

Eating Well is Your Best Defense

Many of us consume a congesting diet loaded with meats, dairy, oils, and processed foods, which makes cleansing even more important. Even minor dietary changes will initiate and promote better detox function, including an increase in fluids, more raw foods, and fewer congesting foods. Eating a wholesome, plant-based diet, sticking to organic foods, and keeping caffeine, and other stimulants to a minimum will go a long way in keeping you healthy. Whole foods also provide nutrients like fiber that help absorb and transport toxins from the body. These foods are also high in carbohydrates which are much easier to digest than proteins and fats.

By emphasizing organic vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes, your environmental toxin load is already greatly reduced. Toxins become more concentrated at each stage of the food chain. Shannon describes the process: "A toxic chemical such as mercury, which causes free radical formation, may be released from a paper factory into a lake and be absorbed by algae, plankton, and bottom sediments. It may then be eaten by small fish, which are eaten by larger fish, increasing the concentration of mercury. These fish may swim down the river into the ocean, to be eaten by even larger fish, such as swordfish or tuna. In this way the large fish, which is high on the food chain, would contain a much greater concentration of mercury than originally found in the algae in the lake where the toxin was released." Eating low on the food chain ensures you're getting the fewest amount of toxins. All animal products are high on the food chain, in general, leading to higher concentrations of toxins.

Supplements for Detoxification

Free Radical Protection

Free radicals roam the body damaging cells and causing a long list of diseases and ailments: premature aging, heart disease, arthritis, cancer, cataracts, etc. Free radicals are molecules with an unpaired electron, and because electrons usually come in pairs, free radicals will go out in search of their missing electron. Sometimes, they take electrons that are already paired, which can erode cell membranes and damage genetic material, a process also known as oxidation.

These free radical scavengers form during the body's natural metabolic process, but are also created under the influence of outside factors such as, daily exposure to environmental pollutants, lack of exercise, and poor diet. Free radicals are usually kept in check by the body's internally generated antioxidant enzymes until free radicals become too numerous to handle.

This is where antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, & E, come into play. Antioxidants block the further formation of free radicals by donating an electron to stabilize the free radical. The most effective free radical fighters are found in whole, natural foods, preferably organic. All of which contain essential nutrients that help your body resist disease, prevent cancer, and resist the effects of chemical pollution. The most effective way to ensure you're getting all of the antioxidants you need is to eat at least five servings per day of fruits and vegetables.

Unfortunately, you can't always get enough protection from Mother Nature alone. With the extreme amount of toxins many of us are exposed to, it is important to look at the protective and healing use of supplements. Vitamins and minerals play an important role in helping the body break down and eliminate toxic chemicals. To ensure full antioxidant protection, Andrew Weil, MD, author of Spontaneous Healing (Fawcett Columbine, 1995), suggests supplementing with the following: 1,000 to 2,000 mg of vitamin C and 25,000 IU of natural beta-carotene in the morning; 400-800 IU of natural vitamin E and 200-300 micrograms of selenium at lunch; 1,000-2,000 milligrams of vitamin C with dinner; and another 1,000-2,000 milligrams of vitamin C before bed (if convenient).

Herbal Support

Plant medicines have been used for centuries to help heal our bodies and make us look and feel better. Many herbs support and encourage detoxification. "This is the real strength of herbal medicine. Hundreds of herbal possibilities exist for blood cleansing, tissue cleaning, or strengthening the function of specific organs," says Dr. Haas. (See page 4 for which herbs to try.)

Exercise, Massage, and Bodywork

Many toxins are eliminated through the skin every day. Therefore, it is important to keep the skin clean and circulation flowing to ensure proper elimination. The following techniques promote relaxation while excreting toxins through the pores.

Exercise is one of the best ways to help the detoxification process as well as being good for you overall. With regular activity, toxins, which cause stiff aching muscles, are eliminated through the sweat glands. Exercise encourages respiration, another way to eliminate toxins. It also increases the circulation of the blood and stimulates the lymphatic system. Exercise is also beneficial on an emotional level-reducing stress, anxiety, lethargy, and depression.

Massage increases circulation to and from the tissues and helps you to relax and release stress.

A dry skin brushing, with a soft bristle brush, just before showering helps remove toxins from the pores and may help stimulate the lymphatic and circulatory systems. It also gets rid of old, dead cells and invigorates the skin.

Saunas are also a very effective detox method. People have used saunas for centuries to cleanse the body of impurities. Saunas induce a healing, cleansing fever, causing therapeutic sweating. Heating the body speeds up metabolism, and vital organs and glands are stimulated to increased activity, greatly enhancing the detoxification process. Pores open and the body sweats, helping the body rid itself of toxins.

Fundamentals of Fasting

Eating heavy, fatty foods uses up energy in digestion and elimination, which is why many of us feel tired and stuffed after a meal. Fasting can help increase the process of elimination and the release of toxins. Most detox experts agree, that juice fasting is the smartest and safest way to fast, supplying your body with the many vital nutrients it needs without stressing your digestive system.

Dr. Haas believes fasting is "the 'missing link' in the Western diet," and recommends the following for a short (2 to 3 days) cleansing juice fast. For at least three days before you begin your fast, eat only easy-to-digest, nutritious foods. Eliminate alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and sugar. Drink lots of water to flush your systems. Two or three quarts of water and juices daily are good amounts during a fast to cleanse and support our bodies. Freshly squeezed, organic juice is best. You do not need to take any supplements during this time.

Dr. Haas and fasting experts believe that as your body begins to release toxins, you may feel dizzy, irritable, tired, and headachy, depending on your level of toxicity. Some feel nothing at all. You will be hungry, so try not to think about it, walk, nap, read, write in a journal, garden, etc., just don't eat. Ending your fast must also be gradual. On the first day eat only steamed vegetables, on the second, add a starch, such as brown rice. You will be very hungry, but don't stuff yourself. Usually by the last day you will feel much better-cleaner, refreshed, and more aware of the effects food has on your body.

Cleansing Techniques

Other popular cleansing therapies include, enemas, colonics, and natural laxatives. Enemas increase the release of colon waste, encouraging the discharge of parasites, and freshen the GI tract. Water is usually used to flush the colon of waste and toxins. Generally, enemas are administered every other day during a fast. Dr. Haas believes colonics, performed by a trained therapist are most thorough. Colonic irrigations flush the lower bowel out with water, freeing the colon of waste matter. Haas recommends one at the beginning, midpoint, and end of a fast.

If you'd rather skip the enema or colonic, laxative herbs work well. Herbal laxatives are commonly taken during fasting to encourage elimination and keep things moving. There are many natural herbal laxatives that are effective (See page 4).

You can safely and easily begin your detoxification process with a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and regular exercise. For more rigorous forms of detoxification, consult with your doctor and get periodic medical checkups during your detoxification process.


The following day to day tips will help you eliminate waste and reduce toxic intake.

  • Drink lots of liquids
  • Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Chew your food well
  • Drink lots of water
  • Take your vitamins
  • Eats lots of fiber
  • Exercise at least 3 times a week
  • Treat yourself to sauna, a steamy bath, or massage-an important part of detox is being relaxed and relatively stress free

The following supplements can help provide daily support and promote detoxification.


artichoke-bile flow enhancer, a liver tonic, helps to eliminate toxins from the body

burdock root-diuretic, with antibacterial and antifungal properties

echinacea-immune booster, anti-infective

garlic-powerful antibiotic, antifungal, and anti-parasitic, helps to thin the blood and helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure

ginger root-diuretic, digestive aid, helps to relieve digestion, soothes the gastrointestinal tract, and relieves congestion

green tea-rich in antioxidants, unfermented green tea leaves have been enjoyed by Asian cultures for centuries

milk thistle-important liver supporter which contains silymarin, a compound that protects the liver from damage and speeds up liver's ability to return to normal, silymarin is also a powerful antioxidant

reishi mushrooms-diuretic, laxative, immune stimulant, antioxidant, liver protector, and detoxifier

schisandra-liver protectant, antioxidant

turmeric-digestive aid used to stimulate bile flow


beta-carotene-25,000 IU daily. Good sources: sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, spinach, and other dark green, leafy vegetables

vitamin C-2,000-5,000 mg daily. Good sources: pineapple, broccoli, peppers, cantaloupe, strawberries, oranges, kiwifruit, and pink grapefruit

vitamin E-400-800 IU daily. Good sources: vegetable and nut oils, including soybean, sunflower, and corn; sunflower seeds; whole grains; wheat germ; and spinach

selenium-200-300 micrograms daily. Good sources: Brazil nuts and whole grains


cascara sagrada-a stimulating colon cleanser.

psyllium seed husks-helps increase the bulk of stools and helps to sweep colon free of debris, an excellent colon and intestinal cleanser

senna-stimulating colon cleanser, acts as a stool softener

1 comment:

Unknown said...

It is a very wonderful blog on Toxins removal. But we can't get the Organic Fruits and vegetables. Everywhere it is processed or containing pesticides in it. In that case even with fruits and vegetables we can't remove toxins. What is the solution for this ???