Cleanse That Body!
by Lisa James
January 6, 2005
When toxins accumulate in your
tissues, you can become fuzzy and sluggish. Here's how a New
Year's internal cleansing can make you feel fresh and
What's your New Year's resolution? Losing weight? Getting
fit? Kicking the [fill-in-the-blank] habit? Whatever the
shape of your dreams for 2005, it won't be easy launching a
self-improvement program unless you give your body a fresh
start. Where to begin? Detoxification-an internal cleansing
that can supply the energy you need to succeed in achieving
No one can avoid toxins in our contaminated world, so many
of us suffer from toxic overload, which can lead to fatigue,
digestive problems and reduced immune function. " When we
get out of balance, we get congested and toxic," says Elson
Haas, MD, founder of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin
in San Rafael, California (www.elsonhaas.com), and author of
The New Detox Diet (Celestial Arts), "and our bodies'
regular elimination systems cannot keep up with it. We have
problems with our skin, our intestines, our sinuses. We also
become deficient in vitamins, minerals and essential fatty
acids. Most people have both congestion and deficiency, and
they would benefit greatly from detoxification."
Toxins Within, Toxins Without
Life's fundamental activities-breathing, eating, walking
around-generate waste in the form of free radicals, the
unstable molecules that can ravage cells and tissues. What's
more, Dr. Haas says that just "being under stress, being
afraid, being anxious all produce more free radicals in the
body" (like when a work deadline hits on the same day your
car dies). When you add to your internal toxins all the
noxious items coming from the outside, including the dietary
ones, the recipe is very unhealthy.
" People are making poor choices in what they're putting in
their mouths," says Dr. Haas. "They're taking in too much
refined flour and sugar. There's a common problem in our
country I call 'obese malnutrition'-people eating too many
calories and not getting enough nutrition. People do a lot
of junky fats and have a deficiency in the essential fatty
acids that help protect cells."
Our bodies are also awash in manmade poisons such as food
preservatives and additives, and residues from pesticides
and herbicides. "The amount of toxic chemicals we are
exposed to in our environment is staggering," says Susan
Lark, MD, clinical nutrition expert and author of The
Chemistry of Success (Bay Books). She notes that the average
American is exposed to 14 pounds of such assorted chemical
junk each year.
The body, however, does do its own housekeeping-and all of
our cells detoxify every second of every day. "It's always a
balance of garbage in, garbage out," says Dr. Haas, who has
30 years of experience in helping people detoxify. "Some of
the toxins we break down into smaller components, some we
just dump into the intestines for elimination."
Problems arise when there's more dirt than the internal maid
service can sweep away. Dr. Lark notes that toxins wind up
being stored in cells, especially fat cells, where they can
hang out for years. When they are finally released "during
times of low food intake, exercise or stress" complaints can
range from tiredness to dizziness (sound familiar?).
That's where detoxification comes in, says Dr. Haas: "I
think detoxification is a vital health care tool,
particularly in this day and age when people are exposed to
too many chemicals."
The process of detoxification starts with cleansing the
intestinal system. Alternative health practitioners observe
that discombobulated bowels can become overly permeable (a
condition called leaky gut syndrome) and allow in all sorts
of things that they shouldn't, such as semi-digested food
particles, leading to inflammation and complaints that
include rashes and joint pain.
Cleansing can be as simple as cutting down on what Dr. Haas
calls the SNACCs-Sugar, Nicotine, Alcohol, Caffeine and
Chemicals-or as thorough as a complete diet-and-supplement
program with colonic irrigation (a sort of super-enema,
professionally administered; if you're interested, contact
the International Association of Colon Hydrotherapy at
210-366-2888 or www.i-act.org). The more powerful the
program, though, the more likely you are to experience
toxicity reactions such as nausea and headaches because of
the volume of material being released. As Dr. Haas puts it:
" If you did water and green salads for a week, you'd
detoxify more intensely than if you just gave up sugar and
white flour." If you're feeling extremely rundown, take a
gentle approach at first or consult a nutritionally aware
practitioner, especially if you have a preexisting medical
Getting more fiber is essential. Laurel Vukovic, a natural
health teacher and author of 14-Day Herbal Cleansing
(Prentice Hall), suggests following this daily regimen for
two weeks: a teaspoon of psyllium (a fiber supplement); at
least seven daily servings of fruits and vegetables,
especially fiber-rich ones like apples, cabbage and carrots;
and six glasses of water, along with daily exercise. Extra
fiber "supports the intestines in eliminating the larger
amounts of toxins that are released," says Vukovic, "prevent[ing]
their reabsorption into the bloodstream." Some people find
premixed cleansing formulas convenient; check your health
food store shelves.
Fasting is a more intense detox approach that, according to
Dr. Haas, "promotes relaxation and energization of the body,
mind and emotions, and supports a greater spiritual
awareness." He especially recommends fasting in the spring
and autumn, which are times of transition. Some people do
water-only fasts, but fresh vegetable juices are probably a
better option, particularly if you haven't fasted before.
Juices and plenty of fresh water also help cleanse the
kidneys, another vital detox route.
Instead of juices you can use a special cleansing formula,
such as the Spring Master Cleanser: 2 tablespoons freshly
squeezed lemon juice, 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup and 1/10
teaspoon cayenne pepper in 8 ounces of spring water. Dr.
Haas recommends drinking eight to 12 glasses daily (and
rinsing your mouth after each glass to protect your teeth
from lemon's acids), augmented by water, laxative herb tea,
and peppermint or chamomile tea.
Try fasting for a day to see how you feel. Dr. Haas suggests
starting out by fasting from early evening through the
night, and eating a light breakfast the following day.
Subsequent fasts can gradually increase in
length-experienced fasters may go up to two weeks without
Break your fast properly; for juice or cleansing formula
fasts, eat a raw or cooked low-starch vegetable, such as
spinach or other greens. "Go slowly, chew well and do not
overeat or mix too many foods at any meal," says Dr. Haas.
Don't forget your liver, the organ that transforms noxious
chemicals into substances your body can eliminate. The herb
milk thistle, used since ancient times as a liver tonic,
contains silymarin, which protects the liver from pollutants
and helps it renew itself after toxic damage. Dandelion not
only promotes the flow of bile from the liver, which helps
clean out the junk, but also acts as a diuretic, helping the
kidneys do their job. Green-food supplements, such as
spirulina and cereal grasses, help neutralize toxins.
To maintain your cleansing gains, eat a healthy diet after
detoxing. Focus on fresh organic foods, especially produce,
beans and peas, whole grains and seeds (add organic poultry
if you eat meat). Organic yogurt provides healthful
probiotics, while fresh fish and ground flaxseeds provide
Clean Living Pays
The body's largest organ-the skin-provides a valuable
contaminant exit path. Sitting in a hot tub or sauna
"benefits the internal organs of detoxification," according
to Dr. Lark, "by lessening the amount of toxins they must
process." When sweatin' out the bad stuff, drink plenty of
water and replace the calcium, magnesium and potassium lost
Another way to stimulate skin circulation is dry brushing,
which also removes dead skin cells for a healthy glow (and
is easier to fit into a daily routine). Using "a moderately
soft, natural vegetable-fiber bristle brush" (Dr. Lark's
suggestion), work in from the hands and up from the feet
with light, short strokes that always move towards the
heart. Vukovic says that a hot towel scrub is another
option; put three drops of lavender essential oil in a basin
of very hot water, dip in a rough terry washcloth and wring
out, and then rub the skin briskly, starting with your feet
and working your way up.
Once you've detoxified your body, you can start in on your
immediate surroundings. Dr. Haas warns against using plastic
food storage containers: "When food is heated in plastics
some of the plastic material ends up in the food, especially
if the food contains acids." Use glass containers instead.
He also recommends avoiding aluminum pots and pans, and
using stainless steel as an alternative.
Dr. Haas has seen what a good detox program can do: "It's
amazing the kind of results people get-looking and feeling
younger, more vital and healthy. They say, 'I'm sleeping
like a baby,' they have fewer aches and pains. They have
more peace in their bodies. I think detoxification is one of
the keys to preventive medicine." So cleanse that body and
let detoxification bring balance and renewal to your life.