March 2000 AIMÃ¯Â¿Â½ Partners Magazine
Very simply, toxins
undermine our health and removing them from the body is one way to
maintain digestive health as well as good overall health.
Elson Haas, M.D., in his book
Staying Healthy with Nutrition, defines
a toxin as “any substance that creates irritating and/or harmful effects
in the body, undermining our health or stressing our biochemical or
More specifically, a body overloaded with toxins can result in a number
of symptoms. These include constipation, stomach bloat, poor digestion,
gas, fatigue, weight gain, excessive mucus, poor concentration,
headaches, poor skin, poor memory, depression, body odor, and bad
practitioners relate toxins to specific diseases such as chronic fatigue
syndrome, multiple chemical sensitivity, and fibromyalgia (muscle and
joint pain). Indeed, there is a new medical category, clinical ecology,
which deals exclusively with how toxins in the environment affect our
The body does
have a system in place to detoxify these harmful toxins. The most
important cleansing organ is the liver. Eliminative channels include the
bowels (the digestive system), kidneys, skin, lungs, and lymphatic
the body is doing its job and is not overburdened with toxins, the blood
carries toxins to the liver, which uses enzymes to detoxify the harmful
substances, rendering them harmless or converting them into a
water-soluble form, which is then eliminated via the urine or feces.
Unfortunately, this system can handle only so many toxins and was built
for “natural” toxins, not the man-made ones we have to deal with today.
For example, protection against an age-old toxin—alcohol—is built into
our genes. One gene, expressed in the liver, codes for an enzyme that
converts alcohol into substances the body can use or excrete.
Our body does not, however, always know how to handle the new toxins in
our lives. It cannot understand how to excrete them, and they may then
accumulate to harmful quantities or be converted to odd, unknown
substances that can interfere with metabolism. According to the textbook
Nutrition, Concepts and Controversies,
this can result in cancers or birth defects.
Helping your body detoxify
When our bodies are bombarded with unfamiliar toxins, are producing too
many toxins, or are not eliminating toxins effectively, the toxins build
up and can cause health problems. Then it is time for a detoxification
program—supporting the body’s natural elimination process and preventing
the day-to-day buildup of toxicity.
The key to detoxification is knowledge: understanding the link between
feeling subpar and toxicity, understanding where toxins come from, and
understanding what you can do to help yourself:
Drinking water is
instrumental in detoxification. Water flushes toxins and waste from the
body and transports nutrients to where they are needed. Try to drink
eight to ten glasses of pure water a day.
Water is also useful externally: baths and saunas can help
detoxification. Hot water increases blood flow and capillary action near
the surface of the skin, causing faster release of toxins. The heat also
increases sweating and opens up pores. Be sure to bathe in pure water
and be mindful that hot water and the detoxification effect can cause
dizziness. Also, there are a number of substances you can add to your
bath to help the detoxification process.
Eating a healthy diet
ensures that you get proper nutrition and also helps the cleansing
process. Fresh, raw foods and grains ensure that you get the enzymes
necessary to adequately digest your food. Avoid foods that contain
additives or are nutritionally bankrupt. Avoid sugar, salt, saturated
fats, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol. Avoid meat, as animal protein
puts a tremendous strain on the digestive system. You should also eat
yogurt, as this helps maintain a proper bacterial balance.
Exercising stimulates body systems so that metabolic efficiency is
stepped up. This, of course, includes the systems that are integral to
cleansing, Exercising stimulates body systems so that
metabolic efficiency is stepped up. This, of course, includes the
systems that are integral to cleansing, Exercising
stimulates body systems so that metabolic efficiency is stepped up.
This, of course, includes the systems that are integral to cleansing,
such as the digestive system. It also strengthens the body and the mind.
Practicing stress management is important because stress affects us
physically. It weakens the immune system and robs the body of important
nutrients. Stress hinders digestion and the cleansing process.
Using herbs, fiber,
and supplements can be very important to a cleansing program. Many herbs
facilitate the cleansing program and contribute important vitamins and
minerals. Fiber "sweeps" the digestive tract clean and quickens the
transit time of waste elimination. It absorbs toxins and escorts them
out of the body. A probiotic supplement helps balance the good and bad
bacteria in the digestive tract.
Fasting has been used for centuries to cleanse the body. However,
fasting can be harmful and should only be done under the supervision of
a health practitioner.
Using enemas and colonic irrigation helps flush toxins out of the colon.
Enemas can be self-administered, but colonics should be done under the
supervision of a health practitioner.
Preventing toxins from building up in the future should be ongoing. This
is easily done by drinking pure water, eating a plant-based diet,
exercising, and practicing stress management. Avoid environmental toxins
as much as you can. Wear protective clothing or a mask when working with
household or workplace toxins.
number of heath professionals have developed detoxification programs.
These programs usually combine the previous factors in a set schedule,
and prescribe specific foods and herbal and fiber supplements.
If you follow a
program, or simply take the previous factors to heart, you initially may
notice that your overall health appears to worsen. You may experience
acne, fatigue, headaches, coated tongue, cold extremities, intestinal
and digestive stresses, and mood swings during detoxification. These are
positive signs that mean the elimination process in the liver and other
organs is occurring.
The toxins in your body have been building up, maybe for years! It can
take much more than a few days,
or even a few weeks, to flush out the toxins and begin to feel better.
Most people experience a cycle; at first they feel somewhat worse, and
then better. As they continue the detoxification program, toxins buried
deeper come out, and symptoms reappear, only to disappear as they are
eliminated. With each cycle the feeling of being healthy is longer, and
feeling worse is shorter. Eventually, you feel better all-around.
This is a modified reprint of an article that first appeared in the May
1997 issue of Partners.