Historically, almost all cultures have some form of detoxification or purification ritual performed, at minimum, on an annual basis. In Catholicism, there is the practice of fasting for Lent and dietary restrictions on Fridays. Other detox programs or rituals include the “Vision Quest” of the Native Americans, the 6 weeks of “Pancha Karma” performed annually in the Ayervedic tradition and the “Purification Rundown” in Scientology. At Oaktree Wellness Center, we generally encourage our patients to detoxify twice per year, both spring and fall.
Toxins in Our World
Based upon the world in which we live, our bodies are detoxifying the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink every minute of every day. By not giving our bodies a break, daily life is like vacuuming without ever changing the vacuum bag.
Modern society has dramatically changed the chemistry of the environment in which we live. In 1996 alone, over 418 million pounds of chemicals were released into the ground; 45 million pounds were released into surface waters such as lakes and streams; and more than 1 billion pounds of chemicals were released into the air we breathe. The most common toxins we are exposed to routinely are heavy metals, pesticides and solvents. These chemicals have a significant impact upon our neurological, hormonal and immune function.
In addition to these added extras that make their way into our food, there is a problem with what is lacking in our food. The most common foods in our diet have become so refined that the nutritional quality of our food is significantly depleted. We have replaced the nutritional content of our food with colorings, flavorings and preservatives. Depletion of vital nutrients leaves overloaded detoxification pathways further overwhelmed.
Our bodies have methods intended to minimize our exposure to the toxins in our world. Unfortunately, all are challenged. Our five senses are intended to be our first line of defense, but we have become accustomed to ignoring their warnings. Our skin, although not good at absorbing water-soluble compounds, readily takes up fat soluble compounds, which unfortunately, most toxins are. Finally, due to the prevalence weak or compromised gastrointestinal issues, our intestines are unable to protect us from the exposures in our food and drink.
Metabolic Cleansing and Detoxification
There are a wide variety of ways to cleanse, or “detoxify”. It can be as simple as eating a whole foods diet, in conjunction with elimination of some of the more allergenic foods. Or it can be as drastic as a fast, which should always be conducted in conjunction with an appropriate medical supervision. Choice of a proper detoxification program tailored to your needs and goals is important, and it is important it is chosen in conjunction with a healthcare provider.
From a naturopathic perspective, there are five important components to a detoxification program. These include a hypoallergenic diet, adequate water intake, daily exercise, physical medicine treatments and proper supplementation.
The hypoallergenic diet gives your body a vacation from foods that are eaten on a daily basis, most are difficult for your body to digest, and often are full of additives and preservatives. A hypoallergenic diet emphasizes good quality, nutrient-rich, organic, whole foods.
Adequate water is essential for every function in your body. Dehydration can lead to a multitude of symptoms, some of which include dry skin, heart palpitations, light headedness, inappropriate hunger pains, fatigue and vision changes. Thirst is largely a late and unreliable sign of dehydration. Daily exercise is essential for supporting healthy lung function. More importantly, it increases your basal body metabolism and helps to mobilize fat soluble toxins.
Physical medicine treatments are incorporated to specifically support the channels of elimination. These channels of elimination include the liver, GI, kidneys, lungs and skin. As an example, dry skin brushing supports the skin and promotes healthy function of the lymph & immune system.
A proper supplementation regime includes nutrients and botanicals that support the channels of elimination, protects against the toxins being mobilized, and can be tailored to the individual needs of a person. Examples include extra antioxidants to protect against damage from free radicals, acidophilus for the GI tract, and essential fatty acids for overall support.
Is a Detox Right for Me?
Some level of detoxification can benefit anyone. A yearly detoxification protocol can be a good health promoting practice. A few of the specific indications for detoxification are:
|fatigue||autoimmune diseases (MS, RA, SLE, UC, scleroderma)|
|depression/anxiety||chronic conditions (sinus, skin, yeast infections, etc.)|
Everyone can benefit from some degree of detoxification. An annual or biannual detoxification program can be a very health promoting ritual, and programs are tailored to the specific needs of the individual. The hypoallergenic diet creates better eating habits which, in turn, support better blood sugar regulation. Improved blood sugar regulation results in more energy throughout the day, improved sleep quality, and decreased food cravings. Additionally, many people struggle with underlying food allergies and, by following the hypoallergenic diet, food allergies can be identified with proper food reintroduction. Other benefits of a properly designed detoxification program can include decreased gas and bloating, decreased abdominal discomfort, decreased PMS, decreased headaches and improved bowel habits….to name only a few.