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The Art of Gentle Detoxing

As we’ve seen, toxins build up in our bodies over many years and come from many and varied sources.  Our abilities to handle toxic loads are also quite varied (bio-individuality) and have varying effects in different parts of our body.  There are times when it’s critical to try and detox specific substances quickly, and I leave that to the experts (I don’t recommend intense and quick detoxes on your own).  However, for most people, most of the time, I suggest more gentle detox methods, a couple of which I’ll go over at the end of this post.  For now, a little bit on how toxins interact with our  5 major foundational systems.

Toxins and the Foundations

The Foundations to good health underlie almost all physiological function and dysfunction in our bodies.  They include the primary processes and systems of Digestion, Sugar Handling, Fatty Acid Metabolism, Mineral Balance and Hydration.  Underlying all of these is the most important Foundation of all, a good, healthy, Nutrient Dense diet.  Toxins and our ability to effectively detox play a huge role in the functioning and balance of each of these Foundations.  The following information is mostly excerpted from The Nutritional Therapy Association class binder on detoxification.

Diet

Diet is the main foundation that underlies all other foundations of good nutrition.  Eating processed, lifeless food (or as I call it, phood) is seen by the body as a toxic activity.  Also, any diet or eating plan that takes in too much food (volume) uses too much energy, and doesn’t leave enough for “house cleaning”, also puts a toxic burden on the body.  Finally, it’s important to take in the proper balance of Macro and Micro nutrients because they play such an important role in the body’s ability to detoxify.

Digestion

If a person isn’t digesting well, even a “perfect” diet can clog the body’s detoxification pathways.  Many people eat excellent foods (organic, whole, live) and still have major nutritional deficiencies because the nutrient intake isn’t properly balanced.  Specific amino acids in our diet play critical roles in the proper functioning of specific detoxification pathways in the liver. (for example, Methionine is necessary to run the liver’s Sulfation pathway ).  Poor fat digestion clogs the lymph system, and therefore the liver.

Blood Sugar Regulation

Elevated Cortisol and general blood sugar imbalance stress the Liver and other organs of the body.  This is often a result of way too many carbohydrates in the diet, especially simple sugars and starches.  The western SAD (Standard American) diet and even many so-called healthy diets are highly overloaded in terms of carbohydrate intake.  Blood sugar imbalances deplete many, if not all of the B vitamins.  B6 is especially needed for all liver enzyme functions and neurotransmitter synthesis (epinephrine, serotonin).  B2 is needed to make phase II detox enzymes  required by the liver.

Chronically high blood sugars create a buildup of free radicals and a general catabolic state, which robs the nutrients needed by the body to detoxify properly.

Fatty Acids

Fat tissues are one of the body’s major mechanisms used to store difficult to remove toxic waste (heavy metals, petroleum, other chemicals).  The liver metabolizes fats into their usable forms.  Improper ingestion and digestion of fats can cause liver stress.

Bile is made from healthy fat.  The bile is the “river” by which many toxins are removed from the body via the intestinal tract, so bad or sluggish bile also bio-accumulates toxins.  Healthy detoxing almost always includes creating healthy bile.

The proper balance of dietary fat helps to create a properly permeable cell membrane for all of our trillions of cells, allowing wastes to be removed from the inside of the cell in a timely manner.  Rancid fats create unhealthy cells which help to create toxic overload.

Mineral Balance

Detoxification processes can create acidic blood.  Minerals help to buffer this condition.  Toxins deplete minerals like magnesium, which can lead to deficiencies of enzymes that are necessary in healthy Phase I liver detoxification.

Certain minerals help keep heavy metals from collecting in the tissue. (heavy metals are minerals and therefore are kept in balance by other minerals).

Hydration

We must keep properly hydrated to keep the body flushing appropriately, moving bowels and urine regularly.  Perspiring (another form of natural detoxification)  requires proper hydration.

Proper hydration helps to keep our lung tissue moist so that we can respire healthfully and proper hydration keeps the blood fluid so that toxic material may be delivered more efficiently to the lymph and liver.

A Couple of Gentle Detox Techniques

There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of varying kinds of detoxification methods and techniques, and the internet is replete with them.  Be careful and do your research.  I suggest starting with gentle detoxing unless you’re under the care of a competent practitioner (and even then, gentle is usually best).  A couple of my favorites follow:

Oil Pulling – Step by Step

Step1: First thing in the morning on an empty stomach and before drinking any liquids (including water), put exactly about 1 tablespoon of sunflower or sesame oil , or my favorite, coconut oil, into your mouth.

Step 2:

Swish the oil around in your mouth without swallowing it. Move it around in your mouth and through your teeth, as if it was mouthwash (don’t tilt your head back to gargle though). You’ll find that the oil will start to get watery as your saliva mixes with it. Keep swishing.  If your jaw muscles get sore while swishing, you’re putting too much into it. Relax your jaw muscles and use your tongue to help move the liquid around the inside of your mouth. When you do this correctly, you’ll feel very comfortable. Pretty soon, it will become second nature.

Step 3:

As the end of the oil pulling session approaches, you may notice the oil/saliva mixture in your mouth has become thicker. This is quite normal, since it is pulling out toxins from your body.When 20 minutes is up, spit out the oil into the toilet (outside or in a container if it is coconut oil).  Don’t be alarmed if it looks yellowish–this is also normal.

Step 4:

Rinse out your mouth a couple of times with warm sea salt water and spit into the toilet. Rinse with a good completelely natural mouthwash.   Some people prefer to dilute with water (or use full strength), regular hydrogen peroxide and rinse and spit with that. The hydrogen peroxide is very effective at rinsing out any toxins which may be left in the mouth.

Using Clay Baths and Cleanses to Detoxify

The following comes from Michael King at Vitality Herbs and Clay.  I highly recommend the pyrophyllitic clays from Michael’s business in southern Oregon (obtained from the environs of Crater Lake), because of their extreme gentle yet powerful actions.

External Detoxification Methods

Who would have guessed that Nature has had a simple remedy available to us from the beginning of mankind’s walk upon the earth, for just such a day as the one we now live in? Who would have thought that the answer would be as simple and enjoyable as a soothing clay bath?

There is nothing more gentle in the realm of detoxification than a clay bath or shower slurry (for those who do not like baths). A shower slurry is accomplished by simply spreading a thin layer of a moist clay paste all over the body and hanging out in the shower for awhile. A clay bath is accomplished by adding a half cup or more (even several pounds) to your bath water and basking in the warmth for 30 minutes to an hour or more, as desired. The addition of sea salt and/or humic substances to your clay bath increases its detoxification potency.

A clay bath is a gentle, yet powerful detoxification method due to one simple fact – toxins are able to leave the body through every skin cell from head to toe at once.

More effective than foot baths, more effective than Epsom Salt baths, and more effective than isolated poultices, clay baths draw toxins out of the body simultaneously from every square inch of the skin surface exposed to the clay.

Internal Detoxification Methods

Now, let’s discuss internal detoxification. There are a few natural substances when taken internally, that work powerfully well in combination with clay baths. The reason the two are recommended together is to reduce, as much as possible, detoxification reactions caused by doing too much, too fast.

Detox reactions are common early on in a good healing program, yet eventually the body processes them out and the detox symptoms go away. A clay bath will usually reduce or eliminate any detox reactions within minutes.

A detox reaction can show up in several ways: a sluggish feeling, a fuzzy head, a headache, a rash, a breakout, dry skin, aches and pains, flu-like symptoms, etc.

At the very beginning of an internal detox program it is best to be more cautious due to the possibility of unexpected heavy detoxing precipitated by something as simple as a teaspoon of chlorella, or a quarter cup of cilantro, or a teaspoon of clay, or a pinch of humic substances, or a few ounces of an extremely hydrating water source. From just these small amounts, surprisingly intense detox reactions have been experienced by some with a history of exposure to toxic substances.

By being sure to combine frequent baths with your internal detox program you provide yourself with the best chance of minimizing detox reactions and their potential duration. At the first sign of a detox reaction from an internal detox program, take a clay bath or a shower slurry, drink lots of pure water, and if you have the opportunity, do some sweating in a sauna.

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Toxicity—we’re surrounded by it, infused with it, breathe it, drink it and live with it on a daily basis.  This has been the way it’s always been (pretty much from the beginning of “life on earth”).  42-15534096It’s part and parcel of  balance and homeostasis: there are the creating or nutritive elements of life, and then there are the destroying or toxic elements.  All part of the ebb and flow of the cyles of life.

However, in recent years, starting about 200 years ago with industrialization and intensifying greatly about 60-70 years ago, toxins have played an increasingly important role in the “cost-benefit” analysis of life on earth, including our own health.

Toxins

A toxin is basically any substance that creates irritating and/or harmful effects in the body.  Toxins come from external sources (like air pollution) and internal sources (like cellular wastes).

Toxicity can occur from the side effects of drugs or from patterns of physiology that are different from our usual functioning.

Most drugs, food additives, and allergens can create toxic elements in the body.  In fact, any substance can create toxic elements in the body if overindulged or used in an unbalanced manner: even basic substances such as water, sodium, and almost all nutrients under certain circumstances.

Traditions of Detoxification

Purification/cleansing processes have been around for thousands of years.  Techniques include fasting, saunas and sweat lodges, herbs, water, rest and meditation, enemas, exercise, and a variety of bodywork techniques.

Detoxification occurs on many levels:

  • Physically: Assists the body in clearing congestion, illnesses and disease potential.  It can also improve energy
  • Emotionally: Helps uncover and express feelings, especially hidden frustrations, anger, resentments, or fear, and replace them with forgiveness, love, joy and hope.
  • –Spiritually:  Many people experience new clarity and/or an enhancement of their purpose in life.

Ayurveda (India) Perhaps the oldest organized health system around, the word means “wisdom” or “science” of health and teaches that the fundamental cause of disease is toxins in the system and has two types of treatment for eliminating toxins:

panchakarma

  • Pancha karma: Physical elimination processes such as purgatives and medicated enemas
  • Palliation:  Therapies that neutralize toxins such as fasting, herbs, exercise or sunbathing

Hippocratic Medicine (Greece) started about 500 BC with the beginnings of western philosophy and ideas, and grew into the first principles of western scientific medicine.

  • The Hippocratic Greeks  believed health depended on an equilibrium between the four humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile.
  • Early treatments (such as bloodletting, massage, and fasting) focused on cleansing and balancing techniques to reestablish humoral equilibrium.

Purification Rituals (Native America)

  • Sweatlodge: An enclosure physically similar to a steam sauna that induces sweating and therefore the release of toxins.
  • Smudging: Smoke from burning sage is waved around a person to eliminate negative energy.
  • Fasting: Used to purify oneself before ritual ceremonies .

Where toxins go in the body

While toxins can be, and are, stored in every one of our 10 to 40 trillion body cells, some parts of the body are especially problematic.  These include our fat cells (where many types of toxins are put in storage), liver cells (which has so much to do with detoxifying processes), our skin (the largest organ of our body and where many toxins migrate), our brain (so important for all nervous system processes and made up mostly of toxin attracting fats), and the cell membranes of all of those trillions of cells (cell membranes are also predominantly made up of fatty acids).

Organs and systems of detoxification

Because of the natural balance between nourishing/metabolic support and cleansing/catabolic processes, many of the body’s organs and organ systems are involved with detoxification.

These include the organs of elimination such as the lungs, the digestive system (especially the stomach and colon), the urinary system (comprised of the kidneys and bladder and very importantly, the skin).

It also includes the internal “freeway” systems of the body, made up of the cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system, liver, gallbladder, and the multifaceted immune system.

So, what is detoxification, anyway?

Right out of my classes in Nutritional Therapy come the Big Ideas of Detoxification:

        1.  Detoxification is a parasympathetic process

–this means it works most effectively while we’re sleeping at night and when we’re in a calm and relaxed state

        2. Detoxification frees vital cellular and organ activities to function productively and efficiently

–this is kind of like clearing out your closet to make way for new clothes; as long as physiological “clutter” clogs up our cells and cellular processes, our systems can’t function in an optimal way

        3. NEVER, ever, ever, detoxify without addressing The Foundations first (digestion, sugar handling, hydration, mineral needs and fatty acid balance)….ALL elimination pathways must be open –Otherwise systems will back up and create even more problems (don’t attempt a major detox if you’re constipated, your bile is not moving, you have serious bladder infections, etc.).  Moving into gentle detoxing, as I’ll explain later, though, can be extremely helpful.

Next time we’ll look at the effect of toxins on the main foundations and discuss some gentle, yet powerful, detoxing regimins that I think you’ll all find very helpful in reducing toxic build-up and keeping the toxins in us to a minimum.

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