by Lisa Tsakos
A client of mine began a mild detox recently. She called to ask if the detox should be discontinued when symptoms of an allergic reaction began to appear. Ten years ago her doctor prescribed a medication she was allergic to. Her current symptoms were identical. It turns out she wasn’t having an allergic reaction to the detoxifying substance. Instead, her cells and liver were releasing residues of the medication she took for only two days a decade ago!
Detoxification is the process of clearing toxins from the body. Many of these toxins come from external sources (diet, drugs or alcohol), but others are produced inside the body. The body detoxifies itself daily via a variety of organs and systems. The colon, liver, skin, lungs, lymphatic system, and the urinary system are the primary organs of detoxification. In a healthy body, toxins are neutralized, transformed or eliminated by these systems. The colon excretes most toxins, and ‘leftovers’ are transported to the liver where they are transformed into harmless substances and released to the kidneys for excretion in the urine. In an unhealthy body, however, toxins are not completely removed and store in tissues of the liver, nervous system and in fat cells.
There is much evidence indicating that degenerative diseases may arise from congestion and stagnation in these detoxifying organs. This stagnation can be cleared with regular detoxification techniques in addition to the body’s daily work. ’Regular’ can imply mild detoxification on an ongoing basis or a more aggressive cleanse of a specific organ.
Signs and symptoms that indicate it may be time to detoxify include bad breath, headaches, muscle aches, constipation or abnormal stool, frequent colds, sinus congestion, indigestion and skin rashes.
Sugar, sodium, excess fat, trans fat (in baked, packaged and fried foods) and alcohol stress liver functions, alter the blood’s pH and disrupt intestinal flora. Any of these alone can seriously suppress the immune system. It’s no wonder many of us are fighting colds right now.
Anything that supports elimination helps us to detoxify. Begin with the colon and follow with ingredients that stimulate liver functions. Remember, when one organ is stimulated to ’clean up’, all detox organs and systems respond. That means that although you’re working on the colon, toxins may exit through the skin (acne). Signs that the detox is working include acne, changes in the stool’s appearance, headaches and lethargy. These are good signs!
Spring is an ideal time to detoxify. Here are some spring cleaning suggestions:
The colon often ‘backs up’ when fiber intake is low or with consumption of ‘white’ starchy foods (which act like glue in the intestines). An imbalance of intestinal flora may lead to yeast infections, dry itchy skin, brain fog and intense sugar cravings. It is crucial that this 4-foot organ is emptied daily. Many of us carry a minimum of 10 lb of waste products in the large intestine. Try a ’transit time’ test with corn or beets to determine how efficiently your colon functions. Allow about three months to thoroughly cleanse the large bowel. The detox may safely be repeated every two years.
Gradually increase fiber intake to 25 g or more daily. Good sources of fiber include beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruit and whole grains (such as brown rice, rye and buckwheat).
Fiber supplements made with rice bran, psyllium and/or flaxseeds gently cleanse the intestinal tract. Fiber products also contain herbs that ’exfoliate’ the colon wall removing layers of mucus and impacted stool. Additionally, most include ingredients that kill parasites. Take these supplements daily for three months. Be sure to drink at least two glasses of water with each dose to flush out the bowels.
Probiotics (opposite of antibiotics) protect the colon. Acidophilus is found in capsules and in plain organic yogurt.
If you find you’re suffering from a yeast infection or discharge, try a few drops of oregano oil taken in water daily (3 weeks max). Oil of oregano can quickly destroy bacteria, yeast and mold.
Colon hydrotherapy effectively and rapidly detoxifies the colon removing yeast, bacteria and impacted stool. It’s valuable to explore this time-honoured treatment particularly if you have a history of constipation or irritable bowel.
The liver plays a role in controlling cravings, digestion, and is a primary cleansing organ.
Begin each day with a glass of water with a squirt of fresh lemon or lime.
Sip on water with liquid chlorophyll throughout the day.
Dandelion root, artichoke leaf and indole-3-carbinol (provided by vegetables of the cruciferous family) support the liver and hormones.
For an aggressive liver cleanse, take a dropperful of milk thistle tincture just before bed for 21 days.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, the liver is the organ that creates emotional harmony. Expect detoxification symptoms to include frustration and anger.
Take extreme caution with harsh cleanses (many described on the internet can be harmful) and kits that claim to aggressively cleanse all elimination organs simultaneously. It’s better to work on one organ or system at a time as detoxification is quite taxing to the body. This way you become more aware of your body and habits, and if you happen to be sensitive to a particular ingredient you’re more likely isolate the culprit.
Please consult your naturopath, nutritionist or doctor before beginning a detoxification program.
Lisa Tsakos, RHN, is a nutritionist specializing in the design and implementation of corporate nutrition programs.