These three terms conjure up a myriad of reactions and ideas among the patients that I see. When asked, many of them have tried a variety of cleansing techniques, some of them were on the right track, but many turned to techniques that were poorly contrived and in some instances, downright unhealthy and contrary to the end goal of increasing the health and vitality of their bodies.
It is quite possible that humans have been purifying and cleansing their bodies in some manner throughout their existence. In fact, it appears in many animals to be part of a natural response to an innate feeling of ill health.
Anyone who has owned a dog has seen their household pet grazing on the nice green lawn, in part because dogs are omnivorous and not strictly carnivores, and therefore probably gaining some needed daily nutrient requirement.
Quite often the grass comes right back up and some vets would suggest that this may be satisfying the dog’s need to rid itself of an upset digestive tract. At this time, I can't expand on the value of the chlorophyll as a great nutrient in the cleansing process; however, I would not suggest that eating grass is a good start to a cleansing routine!
Reasons to Cleanse
I have seen hundreds of patients wanting to cleanse and while they have their own personal reasons for doing so it usually comes down to the same simple request: they all want to just feel better that they currently do.
So, as spring begins, are you still feeling any of the following symptoms?
- tired, lethargic, lack of energy
- difficulty with weight management, even with diet restriction and increased exercise
- increased cravings for sugar or salty foods
- increased cold or flu-like symptoms
- skin breakouts or looking pale
- rollercoaster mood swings
Any one of these symptoms may be an indication that your body is overwhelmed with its daily need to cleanse itself and to get rid of accumulating metabolic waste, or to cleanse itself of a number of substances that we are exposed to through air, food or water.
The Body’s Cleaning Tools
The body is equipped with a number of organs and systems that help to filter out waste substances that accumulate over time. The primary systems are: the lymphatic system, the liver (bilary), the digestive tract, the kidneys and urinary system, the lungs (respiratory) and the skin.
Each of these systems is equipped with its own unique traits of helping the body to eliminate that which is no longer needed or was not useful in the first place. While these systems are all very important to the cleansing process, and in fact they work together, supporting them all is critical to a healthy cleanse.
I usually refer to the liver as the Master Organ in terms of its role in cleansing due to the fact that all of the blood in your body has to circulate back through the liver before it goes to the heart and lungs for recirculation.
It is here where the liver uses several enzyme reactions to breakdown and neutralize both metabolic toxins (produced by the body) and toxins that would come from the outside sources such as drugs, pesticides, chemicals, or even bacterial or viral toxins.
The liver produces the substance bile which is part of its own waste removal, but is also used in the digestive tract to breakdown and help digests the fats we consume in our diet. To that end, the better the bile production, the better digestion and absorption of healthy fats from our diet.
This system begins in the mouth where a balance of enzymes and bacteria begin to breakdown some of the food that we put in there. The stomach is another line of defense from toxins. When it is functioning properly it produces strong acids that can kill or neutralize unwelcome bacteria or other toxins that are ingested into this system.
In fact, when I see that patients have a history of using acid blockers such as Prilosec or Pepcid, or even mild antacids such as Tums, I am concerned that the functional waste removal of the stomach may be compromised. In addition, it may impair the body’s natural breakdown of proteins into amino acids which the body then rebuilds into the very enzymes that the body uses to neutralize toxins.
With its rich supply of blood and lymph, the skin can naturally rid the body of waste through the pores and sweat glands. Unhealthy looking skin is often a clear indicator that the other organs or systems of detoxification are failing to do an adequate job and it is now beginning to show in the skin. Chronic smokers typically show premature aging due to the excessive toxicity of smoking and the chemicals it produces in the body.
Also richly supplied with blood to be re-oxygenated, the lungs are also equipped to purify the blood by removing waste substances and “gassing off” those impurities. Alcohol, as we know, is removed in this manner as evidence in the breathalyzer tests to determine how much has been consumed.
Tools to Help the Tools
- Whole Food Diets – There is no getting around the fact that your body cannot detoxify or cleanse properly without the benefits of the hundreds of nutrients that are found in whole, unprocessed foods. Starvation or “fasting” cleanses can create excess free-radical production due to the process of the body catabolizing,or breaking itself down to find needed energy to keep the body functioning.
- Hydrate, Hydrate, And Hydrate - Water is the universal solvent of the body. Which is to say that the body uses water movement in and out of cells, to help remove the waste or toxins out of the cells and along to the systems and organs of elimination.
- Mild or Moderate Exercise - Physical activity increases the need for oxygen which stimulates the lungs which in turn helps to remove carbon dioxide, a waste product. Exercise also creates muscular contractions which promote lymph movement throughout the body, eliminating wastes and bringing immune system cells to support repair and maintenance of the body.
- Massage and Sweat Baths – These have been used for centuries by many cultures as a natural means of increasing the body’s ability to remove waste through sweat and increasing the flow of blood and lymph throughout the body. The body can perspire up to a quart of water per day under normal conditions; sweat baths can accomplish this in about 15 minutes. Be prepared to hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate!
Cleanses to Avoid
- Liver Flushes – these come in a variety of concoctions, but primarily consuming a citrus juice such as apple or lemon, combined with garlic, ginger, cayenne and even Epsom salts dissolved in the juice, followed by large quantities of olive oil. The oil is intended to cause the gall bladder to rapidly pump out bile to emulsify the oil, hence flushing the gallbladder and perhaps any gall stones you may not even know you had. It can trigger very painful gallbladder contractions and may even lead to a gallstone obstructing the bile duct.
- Colon Cleansing/Enemas – These also come in a variety of forms, from harsh laxatives to running large amounts of warm water into the colon through the rectum. These can be dangerous if not done properly and may damage or perforate the colon causing inflammation or sepsis. This is best done under medical supervision if is needed at all. “Washing out” the colon may sound like a good idea, but bear in mind that the colon contains hundreds of species of beneficial bacterial that may in fact be helping you to cleanse. Therefore, washing them out may be contrary to the goal of cleansing.
If you feel like your “house” is in need of a good spring cleaning, now is the time.