Detoxification and Spring Cleansing

Please see my article in the May issue of Within Kingston for a brief introduction to cleansing and detoxification.

Your body is an intelligent, self-regulating system. From this perspective, symptoms are an expression of your body’s attempt to heal and illness is a result of “obstructions” that prevent this healing process. Conventional medicine may understand these obstructions as foreign substances that disrupt normal functioning, such as bacteria, tissue growths, and environmental toxins. The common remedy is to kill or remove the offending agent (e.g. prescribe an antibiotic or cut out a tumour). Naturopathic medical philosophy moves one step further to consider the terrain in the person that allowed the bacteria or tumour to grow in the first place.  In naturopathic medicine, an unhealthy terrain is often the root obstruction that must be addressed to shorten healing time and prevent future disease.  One way to improve terrain is to engage in a regular body-cleansing program that removes toxic material and supports optimal organ function.

Diet is a very simple but powerful cleansing tool.  What you eat can be just as important as when and how you eat.  For example, regularly eating on the run can inhibit stomach acid production, which reduces nutrient absorption and creates an environment more susceptible to invasion by microorganisms, including H. pylori.   People who eat on the run also tend to eat infrequently, which puts undue strain on the pancreas and liver to regulate blood sugar for essential brain and body functions.   When completing a cleanse, attempt to eat in a quiet place and relax.  Eat small portions of clean, healthy food every three hours or so, and avoid excessive sugary foods, including refined bread products. And finally, which foods are helpful and hurtful for your particular state of health are unique to you and often require the help of a qualified healthcare practitioner knowledgeable in holistic nutrition.  I find that most people benefit from at least a few weeks of wheat, dairy, and/or sugar-free diets.   Foods that benefit most people during a cleanse include onions and garlic (powerful anti-microbial ingredients that double as liver support), turmeric and rosemary spices (potent herbal anti-inflammatories), and a variety of steamed and raw green, orange, and yellow vegetables. 

For added support, you may wish to include botanicals (herbs) in your cleansing program.  Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis), and milk thistle (Silybum marianum), are often used in detoxification supplements to support liver and kidney function.  Burdock root (Arctium lappa), and cleavers (Gallium aparine), are great support for the lymphatic system, which is one main vehicle for toxin elimination.   Every medicinal herb has numerous actions on the body and it is often possible to choose only a couple for your cleanse that encompass many health concerns and imbalances.  Carefully chosen herbal combinations also have a synergy in which the action of one botanical supports the action of the other.  Not all botanicals are safe for everyone and I encourage you to request the aid of a qualified practitioner who is trained in the pharmacology of botanicals and who is familiar with reputable suppliers that conduct quality-control tests.

Detoxification is generally an effective way to maintain a healthy terrain so that your body is a poor host for “obstructions” such as toxins and parasites. However, please also keep in mind that obstructions may also include behaviours, such as cigarette smoking, overeating, and working too hard. Understanding and changing health-harming behaviour is critical to ensuring lasting effects from your cleansing program.