Detoxification a Missing Link in Healthcare

Since ancient times humans have incorporated detoxification practices to cleanse both the body and the mind. Fasting, dietary modifications, physical treatments, herbs, teas, meditation and prayer have to varying degrees been used to “purify” one self. To this day, most cultures and medical philosophies, except that of Western society, continue such customs. In fact, Western medical thought not only discourages such behaviour, but also relates it to “quackery” with no rational scientific basis. However, when most people are asked how they feel after a “cleanse”, a majority state that they have realized significant benefits.

What is Toxicity?

A toxin is basically any substance that creates irritating or harmful effects in the body. Toxicity occurs when the body cannot effectively eliminate or neutralize the toxin. Dosage, frequency of exposure and potency of the toxin play a role in the overall negative effect.

Toxicity occurs on two basic levels: internal and external. On the internal level, our body produces metabolic waste and by products through its normal everyday functions. Cells generate a host of substances such as uric acid, lactic acid, carbon dioxide, free radicals, cellular debris, and microbial remnants that are removed by the organs of elimination. These organs include the intestines, liver, kidneys, lungs, skin, and lymphatic system. External toxicity can be acquired by breathing, ingesting, or having physical contact with toxins. Accordingly to the World Health Organization, hundreds of millions of pounds of chemicals enter the environment yearly. Industrial pollutants, smoke, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, heavy metals, plastics, petrochemicals, drugs and the list goes on, make their way into the air, soil and water which in turn enters the food chain, surroundings and atmosphere.

It is believed by some that toxicity not only leads to an increased body burden but also causes eventual disturbances in DNA and the genetic blue print. Although the human body is quite hardy, eventually thresholds are reached and decompensation ensues. Many speculate if the dramatic increases we now see in allergies, autoimmune diseases, cancer, degenerative and mental illness are related to toxins.

The Do’s and Don’ts

Detoxification is a relative term. Anything that supports our elimination can be said to help us detoxify. Drinking pure water, eating organic fruits and vegetables, reducing processed foods, skin brushing, exercising and maintaining regular bowel movements are essential. Therapeutic detoxification under the supervision of an experienced physician may include specific techniques and prescriptions appropriate for one’s condition and current state of health. It is important to choose detoxification therapies that are not too extreme or too subtle. If difficulties arise, adjustments to the program or stopping the program may be necessary.

Detoxification is most effective in an environment when both body and mind are focused and engaged with little or no added commitments or responsibilities. The fall and spring have historically been times to initiate these treatments, however, one can follow one’s own natural cycle. Try to keep the body warm, comfortable and feeling as nurtured as possible. Rebuilding and strengthening techniques must always follow cleansing.

There are various contraindications and one must not go to extremes, which are unsafe and counterproductive. Menstruating, pregnant and lactating women, psychosis, wasting and end state disease, severe anemia, severe liver, kidney, digestive, heart or lung diseases, recent surgery, the very elderly and the use of certain drugs are conditions where detoxification is best avoided or used only when under careful observation by a professional.

Detoxification Reactions

The body may initially react to the cleanse in what is called a “healing crisis”. The healing crisis can last from several days to up to 2 to 3 weeks depending on the technique used and base line level of toxicity. In general, healing crises are welcome signs that the body is reacting and responding to the therapy. Some symptoms include fever, headaches, muscle and joint aches, fatigue, skin eruptions, gas and bloating, constipation or diarrhea, bad breathe, and mood swings. Many patients incorrectly discontinue treatment at this point in fear that they are getting worse or they think they are having side effects. In fact, the opposite is true and if one persists, one eventually feels much better.

The Gastrointestinal Tract

“Death lurks in the bowels,” is an ancient saying referring to the significance the gut has on one’s overall health. The stomach, small and large intestines are a source of many ailments and a cause of many symptoms humans experience. Restoring the shape, tone and function of the intestines, establishing proper pH and flora, removing excess mucus and inflammatory by products and normalizing bowel movements is crucial for success in all chronic diseases.

Detoxification procedures for the bowels include supervised fasting, colon irrigation, enemas, cleansing herbs and teas, probiotics, bentonite clay, psyllium, activated charcoal, abdominal massage and strengthening exercises, visceral manipulation, and adequate water intake. Of course, a whole food, organic diet is mandatory.

The Liver and Gallbladder

The liver is responsible for literally over 500 different functions and is second only to the brain in terms of complexity and importance. In this day of high toxic burden, the liver is been worked constantly.

Liver cleansing can include a myriad of Western, Chinese or Ayurvedic herbs such as milk thistle, dandelion root and bupleurum. Castor oil compresses, coffee enemas (without cream or sugar), and the dreaded liver/gallbladder flush using lemon or apple juice, garlic and olive oil are stronger interventions. A variety of homeopathic remedies are available too.

The Kidneys and Bladder

The kidneys are an important avenue for elimination and should be kept healthy.

Herbal detoxifiers include gravel root, parsley, dandelion leaf, poria, uva ursi, rehmania and goldenrod to mention a few. A ginger compress applied to the back is a useful technique to draw toxins out of the kidney area. Drinking 1-3 litres of pure water daily is essential to long-term kidney health.

The Lungs

Breathing is synonymous with life. High diary intake, smoking and air pollution contribute to excess mucus and lung disease.

Lung cleansing therapies include the botanicals, lotus root tea, ephedra, mullein, wild cherry, licorice root and fenugreek. Mustard plasters are effective. Inhaled ionized oxygen, segmental neural therapy and acupuncture are potent considerations.

The Sinuses

Chronic sinus congestion, infection and associated head pain is rampant in our society. Many sinus disorders are related to food intolerances, digestive dysfunction and lung problems and therefore improve when these underlying concerns are dealt with.

Sinus lavage with salt, baking soda, homeopathic remedies or plain water is effective. A neti pot, an Ayurvedic container specifically used for cleansing the sinuses, can be purchased. Essential oils, humidifiers, sinus neural therapy and acupuncture are other stronger possibilities.

The Lymphatics

The Lymphatics are part of the circulatory and immune systems. Lymph nodes and vessels are strategically placed all over the body. Lymph cleanses are particularly recommended during or after acute illnesses.

Regular exercise like walking or rebounding is an excellent way to maintain lymph drainage. Deep breathing exercises, yoga, whole body massage, Vodder manual technique, herbs like red clover, echinacea and thuja are further choices.

The Skin

Skin cleansing has been done for centuries using herbs, saunas and sweat lodges. The tissue below the skin can be a major depository for toxic substances especially if the other organs are not capable of processing and eliminating these compounds.

Skin brushing with a natural bristle brush is a very potent cleansing technique. Five minutes twice daily is ample avoiding sensitive areas like the face and genitals. Baking soda, Epsom salt or hydrogen peroxide added baths could be used one to three times weekly. The use of a sauna interspersed with cold-water showers is one of the best methods. An assortment of hydrotherapies can also be applied. Last but not least, adequate sunshine and fresh air exposure is vital.

The Mind

Mental detoxification is also important. Relieving our minds of negative thought patterns and replacing them with positive ones helps instil greater mental clarity. Rest, respite, recreation, meditation and prayer can contribute to overall wellness.

Many other strategies for detoxification exist such as chelation therapy, magnetic therapy, cupping, supplements and nutraceuticals.

The use of detoxification methods can sometimes make the difference between an effective healing program and endless frustration.


Copyright © 2003 by Dr. Garrett G. Swetlikoff