It seems as though every television station, magazine, and Internet ad you see talks about “Detoxing” and “Cleansing,” but does this really work? Do you even need it? Are these plans safe? And how do you separate MYTH from FACT when everyone is trying to sell you their version of the latest and greatest detox plan? Well I’m going to give you the truth, and a simple cleanse protocol that I recommend to my patients.
Eating healthy foods, drinking plenty of water and exercising keeps your body detoxified all year long. However, if you are not always perfect at following these rules it is a great idea to do an annual detoxification. Spring is a great time to cleanse your body of all the pollutants you are exposed to and bad foods you’ve consumed during “sugar season” which starts with the Fall holidays and runs through the Spring holidays. Along with excessive amounts of sugar, consuming too much caffeine and alcohol can clog your liver making you feel sluggish and irritable.
Five subtle (or not so subtle) signs that you need to detoxify your body are:
- Irritability/lack of mental clarity
We are exposed to toxins every day in the foods we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. We can limit our exposure to toxins, but we cannot avoid them completely. “Body burden” is the term used to refer to the build up of toxins in our bodies. The best way to support your body is to eat a clean, healthy diet, get good quality exercise, drink plenty of RO water, and periodically detoxify to reduce your toxic body burden.
Avoid processed foods that come in a box or a can. They are usually filled with chemical additives and preservatives designed to enhance the flavor and extend the shelf-life. Since these chemicals cannot be broken down and used nutritiously, the body must either eliminate then through our skin, stool and urine or store them in our adipose tissue (fat) and brain cells. The more toxins that are stored in our fat cells, the more unattractive our skin looks. Classic signs of unhealthy skin include cellulite, wrinkles, and acne. When your skin looks unhealthy, you look unhealthy!
Toxins affect our internal health as well as our external health. Allergies are a sign of increased toxic body burden. When we are consuming foods laden with chemicals and pesticides, our immune system gets overwhelmed and cannot deal with common airborne allergens. All the toxins circulate in our blood cause headaches and fatigue. They can also make us irritable which affects our relationships with family, friends, coworkers, and clients. Making healthy lifestyle choices positively affects our performance in all areas!
Eating a clean diet means consuming raw and organic foods whenever possible. The Environmental Working Group has a fantastic website that lists the fruits and vegetables which are highest and lowest in pesticides. Go to www.ewg.org to learn more. When consuming animal products make sure they are free range or grass fed and hormone free. By reducing the toxins in our food, we reduce the toxic burden that our bodies must process and eliminate.
Eat high fiber foods like brown rice bran and ground flax seeds to avoid being constipated and keep your intestinal track clean, helping your body lower its toxic burden. If you suffer from constipation, the toxins that you should be eliminating stay in the digestive track too long and may be reabsorbed back into the bloodstream. This increases your total body burden, affects your digestive and nervous systems, and makes you feel really sick with headaches, nausea and fatigue. Overall colon health is crucial for successful elimination of toxins. Colonics are a great way to eliminate constipation and restore normal bowel function. I recommend them as part of any cleanse regiment whether you are constipated or not.
Exercise is good for you for so many reasons! It improves circulation, aids in weight loss, reduces stress, strengthens your muscle and bones, and stimulates your liver to detoxify. You should be getting 45-60 minutes of good quality exercise 4-5 days a week. If you are doing a cleanse program, I recommend light forms of exercise such as gentle forms of yoga or walking, otherwise, I want to see you sweat!
What cleanse program should you choose?
There are a lot of cleanses out there from water fasts to colon cleanses. Talk to your doctor before starting any cleanse, especially if the cleanse directions include stopping medications. Here is a simple cleanse protocol that I often recommend patients follow for two weeks:
1. Remove all wheat, dairy, caffeine, sugar, artificial sweeteners and alcohol from your diet – they clog up your colon and liver
2. Increase fiber in your diet – it binds to toxins, helping you eliminate them
3. Drink plenty of reverse osmosis or spring water – water flushes toxins out of the body
4. Apply castor oil packs over the liver every other day – they detoxify and heal the liver (instructions below)
5. Take good nutritional supplements, such as a multivitamin, B complex, fish oil, and probiotics – they support your body as it cleanses and heals
Note: If you drink a lot of caffeine it is best to cut your intake in half each day until you get down to the equivalent to just a quarter cup of coffee a day prior to starting this program as opposed to stopping caffeine cold turkey. This will lower the chance of you getting a “caffeine headache” and make you more compliant to the “no caffeine” rule.
After two weeks, patients definitely notice the benefits of this Detox protocol and often ask if they can continue this eating program. And my answer is “absolutely!” There is no need to continue the castor oil packs, but the rest of the “cleanse” is a great way to care for your body.
Benefits of detoxification that you may experience include:
- weight loss
- more energy
- improved sleep
- improved digestion
- clearer, younger looking skin
So do your “Spring Cleaning” and look and feel great!
Instructions for Castor Oil Pack:
1. Buy castor oil at any local Health Food Store
2. Get a cloth about the size of a wash rag – ideally it should be wool, but that can be hard to find. Use a cotton cloth if necessary.
3. Fold the cloth in half, then half again. Then pour a generous amount of the oil on the cloth.
4. Place the cloth, oil side down, over your liver.
5. I recommend putting a piece of saran wrap over the cloth because castor oil is very thick and messy and can stain clothes.
6. Put a hot water bottle over the saran wrap and cloth and leave for 45 minutes to an hour. Some people may need a towel between the hot water bottle and the saran wrap in case the hot water bottle gets too hot. Then they can read a book or watch TV while they sit there.
7. I recommend doing these every other night for the two weeks they are detoxifying, but they are very safe and effective and can be done at any time.
Guest Post: Dr. Ann Lovick, NMD, specializes in comprehensive women’s health care. She focuses on the diseases and conditions that affect women throughout their life, providing natural and effective treatments and prevention strategies. Dr. Lovick is also an educator, football fan, and triathlete. She can be reached at www.integrativehealthcare.com and 480-657-0003.