By Ted H Spence, DDS, ND, PhD/DSc, MPH
Detoxification comes in many forms and refers to many different programs that cleanse the body of toxins. Today, our environment is toxic and the foods we eat, even the air we breathe and the water we drink is laden with chemicals foreign to our system. Therefore, everyone is undergoing some type of detoxification to maintain life and health. Although basic detoxification begins with diet, detox programs may include nutritional fortification for the liver, lungs, kidneys, bowels and blood. We will soon see why these organs are so important in detoxification. Detoxification for the body may refer to the cleansing of the bowels, kidneys, lungs, the liver or the blood, since these are the organs involved in detoxification of chemicals and toxins from the body. The liver acts as an "in-line" filter for the removal of foreign substances and wastes from the blood. The kidneys filter wastes from the blood into the urine, while the lungs remove volatile gases as we breathe.
Our body is designed to utilize natural substances, which includes foods, herbs and phytochemicals. Any foreign substance will serve as a stimulus to our immune system, which has the function of removing these substances. Although the toxicity of a chemical may vary, it is the job of the liver to reduce toxins into compounds that the body can safely handle and eliminate through the kidneys (as urine), skin (as sweat), lungs (as expelled air) and bowels (as feces). Maintaining these eliminative organs in good working order is essential for one's good health to continue.
While there are many detoxification programs available, they differ in their actions and their intent. Some detoxification programs (DP) work only with the bowels, others may cleanse the liver or the blood, and others may aid the kidneys or the skin in their functions. By combining these detox programs into a total health program, one can effectively restore their health to an optimal level and look younger in the process. When the body can eliminate toxins, then health is restored and energy and vigor are revitalized. Many different approaches to detoxification and wellness will work, even though they attack the problem at different levels. Any program that augments detoxification will improve health. Other factors must be considered in detoxification, like nutrition, water, and exercise, rest, sunshine, and fresh air.
Detoxification diets help the body to eliminate toxins in many ways. First, natural vegetarian diets include the fiber needed for stimulating good bowel eliminate. They also contain the proper amounts of vitamins that feed and nourish the bowels and the liver, as well as other eliminative organs. They also include a valuable source of enzymes since most vegetarian diets are eaten raw. The elimination of meat from the diet for a short period enhances detoxification because meat is so difficult to digest and requires many enzymes for its digestion. Therefore, vegetarian diets are cleansing diets and aid the body in elimination of toxins.
Of course, changing diets and lifestyle is easier said than done for some people. Many people want health and will go to any length to improve their health, including dietary changes. But there are others who do not want to change their life style for anything. These people will be difficult to motivate and will not stick with the detox programs for one day. They may not want to give up their sodas, or their cigarettes, their beer or their coffee. They may make a few changes, like drinking more water, or they may give up completely in a very short notice. Our way of eating has been cultivated over many years and will not change over night. But to those who do want better health and do not want to rely on pills/drugs for their existence, nutritional changes will be welcomed, especially when they start feeling better and having more energy.
Diets are very important and are usually the basis for any detox program, whether it is herbs, cleansing or other detox programs.[i] Detox diets will generally eliminate trigger foods, which may cause many problems with digestion and elimination. Foods like wheat (glutens) and dairy (milk, cheese) are often the cause of allergies. Sugar is eliminated because of its "empty calories" and tendency to produce hypoglycemia. Meats are eliminated because they may contain hormones, antibiotics and are difficult to digest. Caffeine is wise to avoid, since it has many ill effects on the body's digestion. Refined, processed and junk foods are also out for any detox program to work.
Generic diets for detoxification are good, but may not stimulate the liver, lungs or the kidneys as much as one would like. Therefore, herbal cleanses are indicated when we want to hone our cleanse to a "sharp edge" and be organ specific. Of course, herbs are foods too and provide one with vitamins, minerals and enzymes for excellent nutrition. Herbs are powerful, because they may be combined together to fortify those herbs that aid specific organs. For example, herbal combinations that aid the liver may be found in many organic food stores. The list below shows how herbal combinations help the various organs.
LIV-A Dandelion, red beet, liverwort, parsley, horsetail, birch leaves, chamomile, blessed thistle, black cohosh, angelica, gentian, goldenrod
Kidneys: Uva ursi, parsley, dandelion, juniper berries JP-X Parsley, uva ursi, marshmallow, ginger, goldenseal, dong quai, cedar berries
Lungs: LH Comfrey, marshmallow, mullein, slippery elm, senega, Chinese ephedra
While herbs may be taken at any time, they are best for detoxification purposes when they are used with a good diet also. It does not make any sense to take herbs to cleanse the liver if the bowels are clogged with junk or refined foods, since the liver dumps its toxins into the bowels. And while detoxification diets are effective by themselves, they may be reinforced and speeded up with herbs, which stimulate the eliminative organs.
Herbs may be used as teas, powders or extracts. Powders are usually encapsulated for easier swallowing, but are best when taken with meals and digestive enzymes. Extracts may be used when specific herbs are needed, but may be extracted with alcohol, which we need to avoid. Herbal teas are easily made and easily taken all throughout the day. They are mild and gentle and sometimes refreshing and sometimes bitter. Experimentation may be in order until one develops the right tea to drink. Herbal teas is a topic in itself, since there are so many and different ways to make them.
Example Herbal Cleanse:
Rising: Drink a glass of lemon water or Drink a glass of water with added: one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and one teaspoon of blackstrap molasses
Morning: drink a glass of water with psyllium husk powder (follow with another glass of water Meals: take 2-3 multi-digestive enzymes
Take liver herbs
In Between Meals: drink herbals teas, which support the liver
Note: Following a good diet is mandatory for herbs to work optimally. See section on diets for detox.
Detoxification should include some type of skin cleansing, because our skin it one of our best eliminative organs. Heavy metals are actually released through the skin's pores when we sweat. Sauna baths and steam rooms are great for removing toxins from the skin and regenerating one's health and energy. It has been documented that our skin's sweat glands when combined can perform as much detoxification as one (or both) kidneys. Therefore, it is very important to support our skin for detoxification to be maximal. If our kidneys are damaged, then helping the skin will help the kidneys ... indirectly, but effectively.
Good skin care is in order, if one's health is to benefit, also. Using chemicalized skin care products is not wise, even though they are cheaper. These chemicals may be absorbed into our circulation and provide more "toxins" for our liver to deal with. We are not made out of cast iron, and even the chemicals in our soaps and shampoos will make a difference with our health. Most people do not "see" the ill effects of these subtle chemicals, because their liver is able to metabolize them. But, individuals who are environmentally toxic will see a great change in their health when using natural soaps and shampoos. We should take their advice and use only natural skin care products also.
Cleansing our skin is rather simple. First, we need to bathe daily using natural soaps. Then we need to care for the skin by using only natural oils and products of natural origin. Even the clothes we wear can make a big difference in our health. Synthetic fibers do not absorb sweat (toxins), while natural fibers, like cotton, will absorb toxins. Dry skin brushing helps in removing the outer dead skin layers and keeps the pores open. Another good method of skin brushing is with vigorous toweling off after bathing. Towel roughly until the skin is slightly red. Change towels often because they will contain toxins.
Good skin care also requires good nutrition.[ii] Since our skin is mainly fat, we need high quality fats and oil from natural sources to give our skin health. Butter and olive oil are two excellent natural oils, which keep the skin in good condition. As always, the fats/oils should be natural ... only.
Use ½ cup of baking soda or use ½ cup of Epsom salt or use ½ cup of sea salt. Soak for 15-20 minutes and then scrub the skin gently with soap on a natural fiber. Within a few minutes the water will turn murky and "dirty." The darkness to the water is heavy metals coming out of the skin (aluminum and mercury). Do this once a week during detox and once a month for maintenance.
Fasting with vegetable juices can be another excellent way to develop good health and cleanse the body of toxins. Juices, minus their pulp (fiber), contain an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and enzymes. When the pulp is not added, one is able to drink more juice than they are able to eat. For example, one can easily consume the juice of several heads of lettuce in one sitting, but may not be able to eat the lettuce whole. This allows the body to get an abundance of nutrients with minimal processing (digestion). Fasting on mono-juices also allows the body proper time to process these juices and helps to preserve our valuable digestive enzymes.
Juice fasting has helped many people over come serious diseases like cancer, because it gave them optimal nutrition and allowed the body to cleanse itself of toxins. [According to many nutritionists, cancer is merely a toxic condition.] With some juicers, the pulp is discarded, but it may be saved and added back for fiber (not too much). Juices contain good sources of antioxidants and enzymes, both of which are needed for cleansing and eliminating toxins. Juices are also easy to digest and help those with digestive problems.
Our bowel flora is also important for detoxification and normal health. Probiotics is the term given to the normal bowel flora, which are taken as supplements. It has been found that these normal flora actually defend our body from the pathogenic species of bacteria and perform many vital functions, such as detoxification of toxic chemicals and making valuable vitamins (mainly the B vitamins). When our normal flora are present they secrete mediators in which the pathogenic forms cannot grow. But the reverse is also true, that when the pathogenic forms take over, they will exclude the normal flora with their toxins.
Many scientists feel that it is the toxins secreted from the pathogens and not the pathogens themselves that create disease. The ability of all bacteria to change and grow under specific conditions of their immediate environment is called pleiomorphism. Cell wall deficient forms are "bacteria" which lack a defined cell wall, yet have all the specifications of being bacterial-like. Even viruses have been found to exhibit morphological forms, which resemble bacteria and fungus. While this is not widely accepted by modern medical scientists, it hass been proven beyond a shadow of doubt by eminent scientists, like Virginia Livingston Wheeler, Irene Diller, and Royal Rife. Their microscopic studies have revealed that bacteria and viruses and fungus may be all different forms of the same organism, differing only by the environment in which they are grown.
Antibiotics kill off the good bacteria as well as the bad and allow the bad to repopulate and develop antibiotic resistance. Natural forms of antibiotics are better, since they do not kill off the good bacteria with the bad and do not allow drug" resistance to take place. Garlic, for example, is perhaps, 200 times more effective against pathogens than most antibiotics today. And it does not produce antibiotic resistance forms, which is a danger to all our health. As antibiotics become more widely used, more antibiotic resistant forms will be encountered. Herbal antiseptics and anti-bacterial tonics are far better and less dangerous to our over-all health, because they do not kill of the good bacteria with the bad.
Replacing our natural flora is a good step for preventing disease and keeping our bowels healthy and populated with normal flora. Taking probiotics containing Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidus can help us in our detox program and also in repopulating the gut after a cleanse. Our normal healthy flora should be a part of any detoxification program.
The use of antioxidants, like vitamins A, E and especially C, are very essential for detoxification since they are involved with the detoxification of toxins. Antioxidants are involved with helping cells to neutralize free radicals that can cause mutations and cellular damage. As these free radicals are neutralized, the antioxidant vitamins will be used and exhibit low levels. Vitamin A and E are fat soluble and will be found in our fat tissues/stores, but vitamin C is water soluble and will be found mainly in our skin (between the cells according to Reams). Vitamin C is also involved with many other important bodily functions, like collagen formation, wound healing, energy production and fighting off colds (viruses).
The function of antioxidants is so important that any deficiency of them will be seen as catastrophic to one's health. When our antioxidants are low, energy is not available and detoxification cannot take place in a normal fashion. Therefore, toxins accumulate or are stored until they can be processed. The liver and many other organs are compromised in their functions when antioxidants are low. Just the lack of energy is enough to cause the body to have compromised or poor health, because it is energy that is required for the removal of toxins and wastes. Vitamin C should be taken with bioflavinoids to ensure that all the components of the vitamin C complex are taken together, since they work together. Pure ascorbic acid is called vitamin C, but does little by itself. We tend to think that ascorbic acid as vitamin C, but it is only part of the vitamin C complex. Vitamin C is very essential to any detoxification program, because that is what the body uses for energy to process and eliminate these toxic wastes. Think of vitamin C as the gas in the dump truck carrying toxins to the waste dump. Without gas the truck is not going to remove wastes or move at all. Without vitamin C our body is not going to "dump" its toxic load. Therefore, ensure adequate vitamin C and always take vitamin C with bioflavinoids for optimal benefit.
Vitamin C can be taken in very high doses until the bowel tolerance level [BTL] is achieved. This BTL is different for different people. Some persons reach tolerance at 4-5 grams (4,000-5,000 mg), while others may not reach tolerance until 10-15 grams (10,000-15,000 mg). Cancer patients notorously can take 20-30 grams (20,000-30,000 mg) of vitamin C before tolerance is reached ... meaning that they needed more vitamin C than most people. By taking vitamin C to its tolerance level we find out 1) what our BTL is and 2) how saturated our body is with Vitamin C. Vitamin C was found by Linus Pauling and Ewan Cameron to be very effective in helping many patients to over come that killer disease, called cancer. Perhaps, this was because vitamin C was needed for detoxification of toxins, which "caused" the cancer in the first place. Although Pauling and Cameron were greatly criticized for their work with vitamin C, they were able to help many people overcome cancer and without compromising their health as toxic chemotherapies often did.
The use of enzymes in detoxification is important, because the body needs an adequate supply of enzymes, not only for digestion, for also for detoxification.[iii] Enzymes are best obtained from fresh raw fruits and vegetables, but may be taken daily with meals as nutritional supplements of multi-digestive enzymes. Enzymes in our food helps us to digest that food, but many foods today are processed, refined, heated (cooked), radiated and stored, which destroys enzymes and leaves it non-vital.[iv] Foods with enzymes destroyed will have a longer shelf life, but will not give one health when it is eaten.
Fresh raw fruits and vegetables are the best source for enzymes and help to give one vibrant health. Enzymes are also used by the body in detoxification of toxic substances. The liver is the source of most detoxification enzymes, which it must make, or store. To aid the body in removing and eliminating wastes and toxins, enzymes are best taken in between meals. This way they do not get involved with digestion, but go to the liver and to the blood for detoxification.
Many therapies have utilized enzymes for improving health and enzymes have long been the key to many detoxification therapies which have helped many to over come that dreaded disease, cancer. Kelley, Gerson, Moerman, and Neiper used alternative nutritional therapies with enzymes for curing cancer. The famous Wobe Mugos enzymes from Europe were utilized with Laetrile therapies for cancer. Never was Laetrile give alone, but was used with vitamins, diet and enzymes. This made the Laetrile therapy very successful in the 1970s. If cancer is a toxic condition, which many feel that it is, then taking enzymes will help it. And it does.
The use of raw foods in many detoxification diets are using the enzymes found naturally in those foods. Additionally, these raw foods provide fiber and, with proper food combining, will not waste the body enzymes reserves. Preserving enzymes is the key to over coming disease and living to ripe old age and remaining healthy. Yes, vitamins and minerals are important, but vitamins are enzyme co-factors and many minerals are use to activate enzymes. Therefore, the vitamins and minerals themselves are only augmenting the role of the enzymes which are detoxifying toxins and supporting metabolism.
Enzymes also help the bowels in cleansing, because they liquefy the bowel content, which makes transit much easier. The role of enzymes in digestion is to break down foods for digestion and absorption. When foods are broken down they become more liquid and the bowels move much easier and faster. Transit time is decreased and our health is increased when toxins are removed and eliminated. Perhaps, this is a link to breaking the "constipation chain." Enzymes are the key to health. Preserve our enzymes and we will be healthy for a long time.
Keeping the bowels clean and moving is a major step in regaining our health since the bowels are crucial in the elimination of toxins, especially those processed by the liver. [The liver dumps in to the bowel via the gall bladder.] This is why one hears a lot about the bowels, and bowel cleansing. In severe cases, enemas and colonics may be needed to breakup and washout long-standing bowel encrustations. Diet may do the same thing as an enema or colonic, it will just take longer. Also, one should be very diligent in repopulating after a total washout of the normal flora and probiotics will be necessary to restore that balance.
Constipation is a national pastime and slow bowels are more common today than years previous. For one thing, people not only ate better 100 years ago, they were more active and got out doors more. When the bowels slow down, toxins are not eliminated and are reabsorbed and carried back to the liver for recycling and elimination. Reabsorbed bile salts have been linked to increased cholesterol levels; therefore, cholesterol is a major indicator of constipation. Also, when the bowels get slow and toxin levels increase, the pathogenic microorganisms grow to out-number the normal flora causing dysbiosis. Although flora is needed to correct this, it is the clogged bowels that are the major problem. When the bowels move again, everything else will fall into order.
Our endocrine glands that control metabolism are also involved; since it is our thyroid that controls metabolism and metabolism affects how our bowels are functioning. In this way, constipation can be seen as a symptom of hypothyroidism. Low body temperatures (a symptom of hypothyroidism) are very common today ...although they are not "normal" ... as many authors have reported. One major factor in low body temperatures is the suppression of thyroid function by heavy metals, like mercury, which binds to our thyroid hormones and renders them inactive. Eliminate the mercury and the body temperature is likely to return to normal.
The easiest way to get the bowels moving is by using a high fiber diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables. Sometimes, one may add extra fiber during the day by drinking a glass of water (juice) with psyllium husk powder. The extra fiber adds to the bulk of the stool and decreases the bowel transit time, which means better toxin elimination and better health. It makes sense that if one can eliminate toxins their health will improve.
One of the best ways to improve the bowel function is with herbal remedies that act as bowel stimulants or laxatives. These products range from the very mild - slippery elm - to the stimulant - cascara sagrada- to the very harsh - aloes and senna. Everyone may react differently to these products, so they should be taken cautiously at first. Some persons may take two aloes with no effect (meaning they are heavily blocked), while others may take a mild herbal and get a much greater effect than most. Herbal bowel combination formulas are excellent because they not only stimulate the bowels to move, but give the bowels the nourishment it needs to move on its own.
Herbal formulas should not preclude a wholesome natural diet, since diet comes first in matters of health. One should not become overly dependent on herbal laxatives, since they deplete potassium and may be "addicting" as some authors claim. Yet, herbal products play a key role in getting the body to eliminate toxins by stimulating the eliminative organs like nothing else can and, therefore, cannot be ignored.
The Herxheimer Reaction occurs when the body is detoxifying too rapidly and toxins are being released faster than the body can eliminate them.[v] When this occurs, one will suffer from headaches, nausea, vomiting, and malaise. Even though this is but a short period of the health program, it can be severe and deter one from reaching their intended goals. Also, the person may not know what they are experiencing and think that they are regressing.
To minimize the Herxheimer Reaction:
Drinks lots of pure distilled water
Get minimal exercise daily
Lots of sunshine
Take detoxification slowly ... one step at a time
Don't increase the dose of herbals
Keep the organs of elimination (bowels, lungs, skin, kidneys) open
Take detox baths
Use aromatherapy oils for aches -like peppermint, birch, and wintergreen
Sweat by using exercise, saunas, baths, and herbs
Avoid foreign chemicals and refined processed foods
If the Herxheimer reaction occurs, cut back on your health detoxification program. Reduce the dose of herbs and follow the above outline to reduce the symptoms of toxin elimination. The more toxins there are to eliminate, the sicker one is when they come out. Generally, one will feel better when all is over and health is restored again. Just remember, don't give up.
Detoxification may produce symptoms of headaches, nausea, malaise and vomiting due to the toxins being released [Herxheimer Reaction]. If this occurs, one should back off the program and proceed slowly. Proceeding to fast with detoxification can have disastrous results when toxins are released into the circulation. Our body should be primed and ready to eliminate toxins before they are released. We do this by getting the bowels working, keeping the skin clean and getting the kidneys and lungs operating. Only by having all organs of elimination in proper operating order can our body begin to dump toxins efficiently and maximally. Keeping the skin clean and healthy is of prime importance also.
Detoxification is essential for good health to exist. Our body must eliminate toxins daily or we would die immediately. Since our environment is more toxic today, our livers are over stressed with environmental toxins to deal with daily. Processing other toxins, when the liver is stressed, may be delayed. Detoxification is also a lifestyle change. For it is by the way we live that determines our health and how our liver processes toxins. Detoxification is easy if we eat a wholesome natural organic diet and live life in a natural way. But for those who want their cake and eat it too, detoxification may be compromised. A change your lifestyle may be needed and detoxification will be forthcoming. Nature has afforded us the chance to live in a toxic environment and not be affected by it. Of course, we have to live right to get that chance. Without detoxification we may not get a second chance.
Good health is within our reach, but first we must cleanse this "temple" and eat a wholesome natural diet that provides us with maximal nutrients and fiber. Herbs can help us stimulate the liver, lungs, kidneys and bowels when needed, but diet is the first priority in any detoxification program. Don't become overly dependent on herbal laxatives. When toxins are released one may feel bad for a day or two, but when our good health is restored we will have renewed energy and will "soar on the wings of an eagle". Many people living today have never known what good health "feels" like. They survive with an abundance of toxins and an existence less than healthy.
Good health is not hard to find, but does require diligence and life style changes which are compatible with toxin elimination. Sir Jason Winters Says, "Death begins in the colon." With good toxin elimination through natural detoxification programs our health and energy are restored.
[i]. "The Best Way to Detox," Jill Ruttenberg, Natural Health, Oct 1999, p 88-92, 152.
[ii]. Aubrey Hampton, Natural Organic Hair and Skin Care, 1987, Organica Press, Tampa, FL 33614
[iii]. Harold Loomis, DC, Enzymes: The Key to Health, Vol 1, The Fundamentals, 1999, 21st Century Nutrition, Madison, WI
[iv]. Anthony J Cichoke, DC, Enzymes and Enzyme Therapy, 1994, Keats Publishing, Inc, New Canaan, CT
[v]. Ibid, p 148