Detoxification: Do Cleanses Really Work?
Many of us have experimented with detox kits purchased from health-food stores and noticed huge changes. Some dropped weight, and others found their skin cleared up. Some had to spend the first couple of days in the bathroom until their bodies got used to the new regimen, after which they felt fantastic.
Others felt ill during the entire cleanse and remained depleted afterwards. They probably would have been better off not doing the cleanse in the first place.
Our primary organs of detoxification are the liver, gall bladder, kidneys and the skin, and all in all, they do a fantastic job considering what they have to deal with in this day and age.
Every one of us has PCBs, mercury, BPA, flame retardants and a whole host of other very unhealthy chemicals in our bodies that are difficult to eliminate. Because of the overwhelming number of chemicals our bodies are now exposed to on a constant basis, it is not surprising our detoxification pathways may be having trouble keeping up.
So, to deal with the backlog of toxins, the body stores them in our body fat so they can’t easily access sensitive areas that would be harmed by them. Stored toxins can be a reason some are unable to lose body fat, as releasing them may cause illness.
Toxins, whether they are heavy metals or other chemicals, or whether they are biotoxins from bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi, impact cell membranes, deforming their shape and distorting their function, which wreaks havoc on body systems.
Heavy metals and biotoxins dissolve in fats, easily move through cell membranes and are attracted to fatty areas of the body like the brain and nervous system. This is why many that are chronically ill from neurotoxins can be diagnosed with a large variety of ailments, such as fibromyalgia, MS, ALS, depression, Parkinson’s, Autism.
Toxicity can also play a role in cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes without family history, IBS, infertility, and Rheumatoid arthritis.
I think the best approach to detoxification is 1) preventing problems through reducing exposure to toxins as much as possible 2) supporting the body’s detox pathways through nutrition and lifestyle 3) detoxification protocols if necessary.
1) Reducing toxin exposure: The fewer toxins we come in contact with, the easier it is for our bodies to cope. Although we can’t possibly eliminate contact with all chemicals, we can reduce our exposure significantly by being picky about our personal-care products, cleaning products, paints and enamels, and our food, as well as avoiding omega 6 vegetable oils, plastics and unnecessary medications.
2) Nutrition and Lifestyle: Most of the time along with the capsules in a detox kit comes a suggested diet. I think the change in diet is key to the success of some of these cleanses, and to encourage better function of the detox pathways as well as to avoid negative reactions, starting the diet well ahead of the capsules is probably a good idea. Consider the diet alone to be the cleanse, and see what happens.
Generally we have an easier time wrapping our head around eating clean for 10 to 14 days and we can easily commit to that time-frame. A cleanse diet would see the elimination of sugar, white flour, alcohol, caffeine, processed and packaged food.
Pesticide/herbicide-free produce would be encouraged. Eating some food raw daily is a good idea. Factory-farmed meat and dairy are reduced or eliminated, so the hormones and antibiotics in those foods don’t enter the digestive tract either.
Fish is usually suggested which increases omega 3 intake and can improve health as long as the fish is not high in mercury.
If there are problems in the liver and gall bladder, and the bile does not flow, neurotoxins can get stuck in biliary sludge rather than being excreted in the feces. Low-fat diets, high processed-carbohydrate diets, fasting, and/or exposure to pathogens may stop bile from moving.
Eating a whole, unprocessed food diet that contains adequate healthy fats can get that bile moving again.
Balance between omega 6 and omega 3 is vital. Most people over-consume omega 6 due to high intake of vegetable oils and grains, but many on a health kick may potentially under consume omega 6 if they supplement with too much omega 3, and avoid grains, nuts and seeds. The optimal ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is 4:1.
If the body is deficient in certain important minerals, heavy metals are used as a “stand in”. For example, the stand-in for calcium is lead, which is deposited into bones causing osteoporosis and impairing red-blood cell synthesis.
Zinc is replaced with cadmium, which accumulates in the kidneys. Manganese is replaced by nickel which is a known carcinogen, and magnesium is replaced with aluminum which is implicated in Alzheimer’s.
Magnesium itself is a very potent detoxifier because it is utilized in many different detox pathways in the body. Glutathione, an antioxidant normally produced by the body and a detoxifier of mercury, lead and arsenic among others, requires magnesium for its synthesis.
As Dr. Carolyn Dean in her book The Magnesium Miracle explains, “Research indicates that ample magnesium will protect brain cells from the damaging effects of aluminum, beryllium, cadmium, lead, mercury and nickel. We also know that low levels of brain magnesium contribute to the deposition of heavy metals in the brain that heralds Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
It appears that the metals compete with magnesium for entry into the brain cells. If magnesium is low, metals gain access much more readily. There is also competition in the small intestine for absorption of minerals. If there is enough magnesium, aluminum won’t be absorbed.”
Magnesium deficiency is very common, as it is difficult to get adequate amounts from food due to our depleted soils. The best food sources of magnesium are kelp and other sea vegetables, nettles, chickweed, unrefined sea salt, and bone broths. Baths using Epsom salts can increase magnesium levels too albeit very temporarily.
Usually supplementation dosages in the range of 3 to 10mg per pound of bodyweight are recommended, and if magnesium citrate or magnesium malate cause too much of a laxative effect, one can try magnesium taurate or glycinate.
Those with kidney issues or bowel obstruction need to consult their physician before supplementing with magnesium.
Supporting the body includes the dilution solution – drinking lots and lots of pure water that has been filtered of chlorine, fluoride and other contaminants. Then through urine, sweat and breathing some toxins can be eliminated.
Exercise is important as well in a number of ways. Sweating directly aids in detoxification, and deforming the body through exercise also aids peristalsis in the digestive tract, helping to prevent constipation. Improved circulation makes the entire body function better.
Detoxification methods: Because detoxification protocols actually cause toxins to be released, it is important to have incorporated the above ideas first, and to be healthy before starting on a detox program. You need some reserves that your body can draw on to cope. Otherwise you will just feel very sick.
Using an infrared-light sauna regularly is very effective as a detox tool, as the heat penetrates much deeper into the tissues than a regular sauna would, raising the core temperature, increasing circulation which results in enhanced sweating.
The skin is the body’s largest organ, and forcing the body to sweat regularly can improve the skin’s ability to do its job. One can sweat out heavy metals, chemicals and other toxins helping to relieve the burden on the liver and kidneys.
Also, regularly raising the body temperature can help kill off parasites, viruses and fungi which some people can’t successfully eliminate due to a hypothyroid condition resulting in too low a body temperature.
Mercury from amalgam fillings can create a toxicity problem for many, and the only real solution is to get them removed by a biological dentist who knows how to do this safely.
Mercury is unfortunately also found in many fish, particularly the bottom dwellers like halibut, and also in tuna. Avoiding high-mercury fish is a good idea.
Chlorella, a fresh-water seaweed that can be found in health food stores in the form of a greens powder or in capsules, is excellent at removing heavy metals like mercury from the body. The herb cilantro works well too.
Once the preparatory work is done, the herbal detox formulas found in health food stores may be all that is needed.
Sometimes general detox protocols are not enough. If you are quite ill and you believe that part of the reason is a toxicity problem, it is worth being tested by a lab such as Biohealth Diagnostics. Once the toxin(s) are identified, specific protocols can be implemented to eliminate the problem.