The joy of living that being a healthy hedonist implies is based in feeling good over 95 percent of the time. That joie de vivre comes from having a natural, pain-free, energetic sense of well-being, which unfortunately is not universally common, even among the young. For too many people, their “get up and go done got up and went!”
While the U.S. medical industrial complex is great on acute care, like fixing broken legs and such, it is terrible on reversing chronic illness. As has often been noted, what the media, doctors and insurance companies call "health" care is, in fact, disease management. And frequently this disease management results in a downward spiral for the individual who never regains true, vibrant health again.
There's a basic difference in concept. Conventional, mainstream AMA-endorsed medicine would say that a person who had no symptoms is well. And if they could not determine a cause for symptoms for which an individual sought treatment, they would likely say, "it's psychosomatic ... all in your head."
Our concept of 21st Century Health defines health as vibrant well-being, as feeling good, and having enough energy to do what you want to do. Our concept places responsibility for health maintenance, not on the health care system and its providers, but with the individual. And our concept for regaining health, either with or without the help of healthcare practitioners, incorporates a detoxification of one's external personal environment as well as the internal.
This detoxification process will allow a cleaner personal environment (both inside and out) to be reestablished as a new basis for health. And the basic tool for accomplishing this is knowledge. It won't necessarily be insurance coverage, genetics, money, or social class that determines who is healthy in the 21st Century. A large part of it will be knowledge, and the individual's willingness to ACT on that knowledge.
Our goal here is to present you with information, gathered from many credible and credentialed sources, that will help you make the personal decisions that will bring you back to or help you protect vibrant health in the 21st Century.
Detox (short for detoxification) is a systematic approach to assisting your body to remove toxins stored in its tissues. It is a process that occurs naturally and marvelously within the body.
Unfortunately, in our polluted environment, many individuals’ bodies have simply become overloaded. This can result from cumulative exposure to environmental toxins, beginning even before birth. It can result from short-term high-level exposure, such as Gulf War Syndrome. It can be the result of lifestyle habits, such as a poor diet, combined with excesses of drugs and alcohol. It can also be the result of toxins generated within the body itself, as in the case of candidiasis, for example.
Regardless of the cause, the bottom line is that for many people, the body's systems cannot process these toxins as quickly as they are ingested or generated. The result is symptoms of toxicity. Numerous additional factors may impact an individual, such as stress, unresolved emotional issues, or another illness. These other factors all impact the immune system which is our body's defense against illness.
The good news is that you can improve or protect your health by implementing your own personal detox program.
For our purposes, what detox is not, is a means to overcome a serious addiction to alcohol, prescription or "street" drugs. Although our information can be of great help to a person trying to get "clean," because of the risk of seizures, a person needs to work with a qualified physician, or at least work through AA or NA. Check the Internet to find a listing for these organizations in your vicinity.
Are you overweight or tired all the time? Do you have headaches, other aches and pains, frequent colds and flus, constipation or digestive problems, high blood pressure, PMS, allergies or food sensitivities. Do you often drink too much alcohol, drink great quantities of sugary caffeinated beverages, smoke cigarettes, use over-the-counter or recreational drugs, or eat fast, fried or refined foods?
– Overweight? If you're overweight, you have more toxins in your body than a thin person because the body stores excess toxins in fat cells. But don't despair– one of the great additional benefits of detoxing is losing weight!
– Tired all the time? According to noted biochemist Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D., in his book, The 20-Day Rejuvenation Diet Program, "toxicology textbooks list the first symptoms of chronic poisoning as low energy, fatigue, muscle weakness, inability to concentrate and intestinal complaints."
Do you have
– Headaches? Food additives, sugar, alcohol, caffeine withdrawal, constipation, hormonal imbalance and exposure to irritants such as pollution, perfume or after-shaves are all causes of headaches that can often be relieved by detoxification.
Warning: if your headaches are accompanied by fever and stiffness in the neck, pressure behind the eyes relieved by vomiting, pressure in the sinus area, throbbing of head and temples, a pounding heartbeat, visual color changes, feeling as though your head will explode, light sensitivity, confusion or loss of speech, blurred vision, or chronic headache pain that worsens after coughing, exertion, straining or sudden movement, consult your health care provider.
– Other aches and pains? Holistic practitioners are finding that several forms of arthritis can be significantly relieved by a detoxification diet, plus proper supplementation. Drs. Barrie and Bennett, in their book 7-Day Detox Miracle, state, "Arthritis pain may be related to a toxic reaction to specific foods (food allergies), dehydration from inadequate intake of water, a very common problem, and bowel toxemia." (Pg. 33)
– Frequent colds and flu? Frequent colds and flu are signs of a suppressed immune system. Detoxification, appropriate nutritional supplementation, improvement in diet, improved stress management and regular, but not overly strenuous exercise are part of a comprehensive plan for improving your immune system.
– Constipation or digestive problems? A healthy digestive system eliminates its contents one to three times daily. If you do not have at least one bowel movement a day, or if you have flatulence or chronic indigestion, a detox program as part of a larger change of diet and awareness about food can often change those problems rapidly.
– High blood pressure? James F. Balch, M.D., and Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C., authors of Prescription for Nutritional Healing, recommend fasting (an ancient, but what we consider extreme, form of detox) for three to five days a month for those suffering from high blood pressure. Those who are motivated to change their lifestyle will find we recommend numerous less strenuous forms of detox that can achieve the same effect over a longer period of time, but that are much easier to endure. Caution must be exercised: High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of death in the United States and for those who suffer from it, there are many specific guidelines in reference to over-the-counter medications, supplements, herbs, foods, and food additives that must be observed to prevent stroke and heart attack. You need to be under a doctor's care, but we encourage you to work with a holistically oriented physician who can support you in lifestyle changes that will address many of its risk factors.
– PMS? In general, detoxing, at any level, enhances a woman's ability to deal with the ebb and flow of hormones that characterize her early adult years. Watch out, though, for the initial phases of more serious forms of detox, i.e going beyond more than gradual "pre-detox" diet improvements. The liver is major storehouse for excess toxins, which includes hormones. As you enter a period of more intensive detoxing, the excess hormones stored in the liver come back into the bloodstream for processing, and it's like the worst PMS you ever had. Just stay home with your stuffed toys, maybe your dog and watch sweet movies. Never mind that your own life is not a fairytale. After a day or so of the blues, everything is much better.
– Allergies or sensitivities? By and large, conventional health care only deals with masking the symptoms of allergies and food sensitivities, rather than attempting to resolve them. The first step that many alternative practitioners recommend is a change of diet that cuts out wheat and dairy foods, two common allergens. To do so is also the first step in "detoxing." Higher levels of detoxing, as well as additional immune support through nutritional supplementation, have been known to help many allergy sufferers. Allergies are, however, almost by definition, a very individualized condition. Allergy testing can yield important insights, but those who are disciplined may be able to forego the costs by following the extensive method for self-testing of food allergies offered in Prescription for Nutritional Healing by James F. Balch, M.D., and Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C.
Do you often
– Drink more than a small amount of alcohol? Are you ready to save your life as well as your relationships? If so, a detox program can help you feel better, younger and stronger. If you only have a few minutes, read this first. Of course, if you're not ready to quit drinking, (and realistically that's the only way most heavy drinkers can cut down), a weekend detox won't do you much good. No shame need be involved. When you're ready, you're ready, and if you're not, what's so bad about a liver transplant other than that they cost about $400,000? P.S. If you eat a very nutritious diet– Healthy Diet – and take daily Essential Supplements, you still might live to old age, even if you're decrepit when you get there. Don't kid yourself, healthwise, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is one of the worst things you can do.
– Drink caffeinated beverages? Most Americans do. And with the stress of our society, it's hard not to. Even if you're not ready to quit for good, a spring and fall detox can give your liver a chance to rest from detoxifying all that caffeine every day, and that can have tremendous physical benefits in terms of more energy, better sleep and reduced stress which in turn can also make it possible to cut down significantly on caffeine after your detox.
– Smoke cigarettes? Surely no one has to tell you they're toxic. But unless you're one of the few people who only smoke a couple at parties now and again, you've got an addiction that is not only expensive, but stinky, and truly unhealthy to others. One great way to look at this is if you can kick this habit (and you can) which is detoxifying in itself, other health improvements are going to be easy by comparison. Eldon Haas, M.D., had an excellent chapter on how to prepare to quit smoking in his book, The Detox Diet.
– Use over-the-counter or recreational drugs? Any drug (that's right, even if it's prescribed by your doctor, or sold in a drug store as safe-to-use) has to be metabolized by your liver, your prime organ of detoxification. Your liver is also busy doing a lot of other things that keep you alive, and if it gets too overloaded, it can't process all the toxins, so instead of processing them, it stores them within the liver itself, as well as in other organs and in fat cells. The process of detoxing as we present it supports the liver's ability to do its job by 1) reducing the amount of toxins you ingest; 2) supplying additional nutrients to help the liver transform toxins into molecules that can be excreted by the body's systems; and 3) giving you techniques that allow the stored toxins within your body to gradually reenter the bloodstream where the liver can prepare them for excretion.
– Eat fast foods, fried foods or refined foods? In addition to having very little, if any, nutritional value, fast foods, fried foods and refined foods have to be processed by the liver and take its energy away from other detoxification work it has to do. A low fat diet, with lots of whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables supports the liver with nutrients and easy-to-digest food. Switching to such a diet is the first step in an over-all detox program that can give you more energy, help you to lose weight and feel years younger.
If you have answered yes to any of these, you can significantly benefit from detox. Even if you haven't, detox can help you feel even better, and help you protect your health to an even greater extent.
The experts agree that young children, the elderly, the chronically ill, those suffering from a serious disease, anyone addicted to drugs or alcohol or who has been exposed to dangerous chemicals, heavy metals or radioactive material SHOULD ONLY UNDERGO DETOXIFICATION WITH THE HELP OF A QUALIFIED HEALTH CARE PRACTITIONER, one who is familiar with detoxification methods. Are you trying to find one? Here's our suggestions:
Finding Allies in Health Care
Also among those persons who should not undergo detoxification programs are pregnant women and nursing mothers.
In her excellent little book, Herbs for Detoxification (now out-of-print), C. J. Poutinen offers these suggestions for nursing mothers, and mothers-to-be: "...many of the guidelines suggested for the pre-cleanse phase can be adopted during pregnancy with excellent results, especially the use of tonic root teas, raw fruit and vegetable juices, probiotic supplements such as acidophilus, the prebiotic foods that support beneficial bacteria, mineral-rich vegetable broths and dietary fiber. Consult an experienced healthcare professional for assistance in modifying the pre-cleanse diet for pregnancy and breastfeeding."
Detox is a state of mind because this process MUST begin in the mind and heart. A detoxification process is not something someone else can do for you. It's not something you're going to succeed at unless you make up your mind to do so. And it requires self-discipline to resist countless, sometimes unintentional, temptations placed before you by friends, families, coworkers, advertising, aromas or just a walk through a food store. Yes, it is your mind that will prevent you from wavering as you gradually reduce your intake of the liver-stressing foods, drugs and drinks that we call Consumable Toxins; as you find ways to avoid toxins in products you use for Personal Care, and toxins found in your Personal Environment. At the same time, it is your mind that will process the information on how to gradually increase supplements, herbs and other substances that will amplify your body's ability to process out the excessive level of toxins all of us encounter in the modern world.
Detox is also a state of mind because it affects your mind. Some of the ways in which it does this are very pleasant, such as the buzz one gets after a couple of days of fasting. (It's not hard to see why fasting has traditionally been associated with intense religious experience, because it's very powerful.)
But it can also be very disconcerting. For women, as the detox process intensifies, stored estrogen reentering the bloodstream can cause intense PMS symptoms, including emotional disruption that can be mistaken as "real." Similarly for men, excesses of testosterone that the liver has postponed processing come back into the bloodstream during a detox. Also drugs (prescription, over-the-counter, recreational––all types) that have been consumed long ago and have never been fully metabolized reenter your consciousness as they reenter your bloodstream, doing whatever they didn't finish the first time around. These are experiences that you have to wade through with a sense of determination. It helps to understand and remain aware of what is going on so that you aren't confused by what you're feeling. The self-awareness and understanding are mental processes that accompany the successful physical process.
Finally, when you've made it through the intense part of the detox and you're coming back into a more normalized diet (hopefully you'll stay with a more healthy diet), you'll feel a mental clarity you may not have experienced for a very long time. It's part of a larger mind/body feeling that has a sense of wonderment to it, like remembering the feeling of going outside on a spring morning as a child, seeing the flowers, hearing the birds and intensely feeling the crisp freshness of the world around you. You will be more present, more alive. You will be different.
For those who have been suffering from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or chemical dependency, detox can play a major role in helping you bring yourself back to a self-sustainable physical biochemistry that will improve not only your body, but also your emotions and ability to concentrate and make decisions.
In short, the decision to detox, and stick with it, can be one of the most important decisions your mind ever makes.
When we say "detox," we are talking about a series of steps, beginning with the consideration and decision to undertake a self-help detox. The second decision should be to move GRADUALLY into more assertive forms of detox.
Detox takes place during the gradual phases, but not as quickly. The gradual preparation is recommended because if you move into the intense detox phase too soon, you will experience more serious side-effects when toxins stored in your body re-enter the bloodstream, side-effects such as jittery nerves, racing pulse, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, insomnia, nausea, sinus congestion, bad breath, body odor and skin eruptions. Some people may be willing to tough it out through these "cleansing crises," and can stay with their detox until the toxins are excreted and feelings of well-being return. But we're betting that most of you won't, and forever after, when the word "detox" ever comes up again, it will bring back terrible associations and you'll tell your friends, "I've never been so sick as the time I tried to detox." Good news! Such experiences are unnecessary.
It's important to process toxins out gradually by improving your diet and making use of a number of techniques (see Set Yourself Up for Success. This includes supplying your body with the nutrients and supplements that your liver needs to change these toxins into new substances that can be excreted via the bowels and kidneys and skin.
Please remember the benefits of going through this process are that you are going to feel better. You are also going to look better because you can expect to lose at least five to 10 pounds. (If you're underweight, especially due to illness, this is one of the reasons you should only undertake this under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional.) Your eyes will become brighter. Your skin will become clearer. You'll have more energy because you will have given your internal systems, especially your liver, a well-deserved vacation. You'll also be able to think more clearly.
Dietary Considerations are one of the areas where great individualization of a detox program can take place. Given a choice of first reducing your intake of caffeine, meat, dairy, sugar and all manner of refined and deep fried foods, which do you choose? Start with whichever one is easiest for you to give up. After you've successfully kept that one out of your diet from anywhere between three days to three weeks, eliminate a second one as soon as you feel you are ready.
Actually, if you're young and healthy, you can take as long as you want to change your diet, i.e. give up or cut down on one a year–for example, beef, dairy, chicken, seafood, non-organically grown produce, etc. Many people are allergic to wheat and dairy and don't realize it. You could have yourself tested for allergies, or just try going without them for at least two weeks. Cutting them out can result in tremendous health improvements. This is a very slow and painless detox process until you drop sugar, caffeine, tobacco, alcohol or recreational drugs. We really caution you however about going "cold turkey" on more than one of these at a time unless you are under a licensed health practitioner's care.
All the while you will gradually be replacing these things you cut out with healthier substitutes. Now is the time to explore your local health food store and the produce section of your supermarket. Buy organic to the extent it's available and the extent to which you can afford it. (If you're ill, find a way to afford it, because health is priceless.) Buy a wok and health-oriented cookbooks or take some cooking lessons. Learn How to Cook Brown Rice.
Get into it. Plan plenty of time for cooking as you begin this phase. Listen to your favorite music as you prepare the meal. Bring home flowers for the table. Make meals an event where everyone sits down together. Turn down the ring on the phone–and turn off the television. Celebrate the meal!
We know changes of this nature can be tremendously difficult, especially if you have a family member who resists. Okay, so the kids want pizza once in a while, but order it from an Italian restaurant that can make you pasta with marinara sauce, with a green salad on the side. See The Italian Model.
If you don't like to cook, we hope you have an excellent health food store nearby, with a wide variety of pre-prepared foods available (check ingredients carefully), or have lots of money to spend at ethnic restaurants.
Buying frozen meals or deli items at the conventional supermarket is not going to be an adequate substitute here. The numbers of additives used in packaged foods runs counter to the process you're trying to accomplish. You want food made from fresh whole ingredients, with few, if any, additives, and as much organic food as possible.
Not all of the changes have to be that difficult. One of the advantages of eating more fresh fruits, for example, is that they require no advance preparation other than washing. Try eating at least An Apple a Day. Drinking more water is healthier, cheaper and easier than soda pop, and once you are used to it, water can be the most refreshing drink there is. Better Water Choices
Sticking with a healthier diet takes planning to make up for the times when you come home from work and you really just want to collapse into bed. More and more working people are finding that the best way to eat both healthily and affordably is to do most of their cooking or cooking preparation all at once, over the weekend, and then keep the food you'll eat within a couple of days in the refrigerator and freeze the rest.
The gradual improvement in your diet actually begins the physical detoxification by increasing the number of phytonutrients in your diet. For more information on this, we suggest you read The 20-Day Rejuvenation Diet Program, by Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D, one of the most highly recognized experts in nutritional biochemistry. This is the cutting edge of nutritional science. It's also easy to read and understand.
More pure water is a tremendous aid to the kidneys in their role in detoxification, especially if you're used to drinking mostly caffeinated beverages during the day.
One more very important step in your pre-detox phase is to make sure your daily intake of essential supplements matches up with the recommendations of some of the leading clinicians and researchers in the field.
1. Planning - Planning the timing of your detox health improvement plan is important. In general, spring and fall are very good times for these programs, but the most important aspect is finding a time in your life when your stress level is relatively low (we know that for most people any more, it's never very low, but some periods are a bit slower than others). If the only way to have a calmer time is to take time off work, it's worth it, but don't defeat your purpose by planning too many other "vacation" activities for the same time period.
2. Exercise - In his book, The 20-Day Rejuvenation Diet Program, Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D., one of the leading experts in the field of the benefits of personal detoxification, suggests 100 minutes of walking per week (that's just under 15 minutes a day, and no one can complain that's too much) for those who have previously been sedentary. According to Dr. Bland, "Regular activity helps your body detoxify and excrete toxins more rapidly, thus serving as a major contributor to an overall detoxification program." The most beneficial level of exercise is that which causes you to perspire--a point at which toxins are released naturally through the skin. Overexerting, however, becomes counterproductive, because it can induce oxidative stress.
3. Massage - Therapeutic massage, especially by a massage therapist trained in lymphatic massage, can be a tremendous boost to your detox. The lymph system carries metabolic waste products and toxins away from the cells. Stimulating the lymph system helps the body's natural detoxification processes. In their book, The 7-Day Detox Miracle, Drs. Barrie and Bennett describe why massage can be helpful in stimulating the extra-cellular matrix:
4. Hypnotherapy - If you have had problems in the past with sticking to diets, quitting smoking or maintaining other lifestyle improvements, hypnotherapy can help reprogram your mind. During the process and with your consent, the hypnotherapist "plants" suggestions in your subconscious mind. The American Institute of Hypnotherapy's website, https://aihcp.net/home/certified-members-directory1/, can help you find a reputable hypnotherapist.
5. Saunas - Saunas are a wonderful way to foster your body's detoxification processes, though they are not recommended for women who are pregnant. The heat from the sauna may cause neural tube defects in the fetus during the first trimester of pregnancy. Since many women do not know they are pregnant during this time, women of child-bearing age who are not using birth control pills should do a pregnancy test before beginning sauna treatment. Those with high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease or anemia should also refrain from saunas.
The heat of the sauna causes you to sweat, and while sweating , your body releases toxins, including heavy metals. In their book, 7-Day Detox Miracle, Drs. Barrie and Bennett state, "The body stores many toxins in fatty tissue. Sweating therapy reduces fat stores quickly, releasing these poisons for excretion through the stimulation of receptors in the fat. Tissue biochemistry and nervous system functioning undergo changes in sauna therapy, activating fat stores and facilitating fat loss." (Pg. 81) They devote almost three pages in their book to describe how best to use sauna therapy in conjunction with their seven-day detox plan.
If you have been exposed to high levels of heavy metals, this therapy should be done with the help of a qualified health care practitioner. Natural Detoxification: The Complete Guide to Clearing Your Body of Toxins by Jacqueline Krohn, M.D., contains a list of qualified clinics and practitioners in its appendix.
6. Epsom Salts - Epsom salts can draw toxins out of your body. Start with a very clean tub, take a shower first, then fill the tub with the hottest water you can stand. Begin with l/4 cup of Epsom salts, work up gradually to 4 cups, and as long as l/2 hour. If you experience light-headedness, drain the tub, and wait until you feel steady to leave the tub. Otherwise, take a shower after and dry off with a clean towel. With dry skin brushing, essential oils and soothing music, this can be a luxurious, yet inexpensive detox technique.
7. Yoga - Yoga can be a very powerful tool in conjunction with your efforts to detox.
Co-author Peter Bennett, N.D. says in The 7-Day Detox Miracle: Restore Your Mind and Body's Natural Vitality with This Safe and Effective Life-Enhancing Program:
"The benefits of yoga for detoxification are unequaled. In our experience, people who practice yoga regularly are by far the healthiest of all our patients. Our personal experience confirms that yoga training is ideal for attaining optimal health. Yoga encourages the proper circulation of blood and lymph fluid, enhances digestion, reduces nervous tension, strengthens the endocrine system, lubricates the joints, reduces excess fat, improves concentration, and provides resistance to hunger and to the extremes of heat and cold. Every organ system in the body benefits from yoga." (Pg. 231)
The first level of benefit comes from breathing exercises that will thoroughly oxygenate the bloodstream, providing energy and improving all the body's physical processes. Stale air is eliminated from the bottom of the lungs. (Most people breathe very shallowly.) Several of the postures provide gentle massage to the internal organs, stimulating them to gradually release toxins. In a larger sense, a yoga school is a very appropriate place to encounter and learn new lifestyle techniques. Many yoga schools, for example, offer vegetarian cooking lessons. Another aspect is instruction in purification techniques from people who are very familiar with them. These include fasting and neti (nasal cleansing). A yoga school can provide a great support network for individuals who are ready to make positive changes. Yoga's emphasis on purification is directed toward strengthening the body and improving concentration, which in turn can provide spiritual benefit. www.sivananda.org. Look for a yoga school where you feel no pressure to wear fashionable exercise clothing and yoga is not being used merely as a means of preserving physical beauty. Also, if you feel an inappropriate level of emphasis on a "guru" or pressure to pay large sums of money for any reason, trust your intuition and look for another yoga school.
Until you find a good one, many YouTube videos, DVDs and books are available. If you're doing yoga on your own, be very gentle with yourself. Never do anything that hurts. Breathe into the postures and your body will gradually become more limber.
7. Dry skin brushing - According to Drs. Barrie and Bennett, co-authors of the 7-Day Detox Miracle, dry skin brushing is an easy way to stimulate the lymph system, which in turn, enhances the body's natural detoxification processes.
Our independent research has found that skin brushing is a very pleasant and stimulating thing to do, and it does remove old skin cells, which can foster the skin's ability to excrete toxins through the skin.
Here's how to do it: Immediately before showering or bathing, start with the feet and gently brush up toward the heart. Brush from the extremities toward the center. Brush gently in a circular motion around your abdomen and breasts. It only takes a minute or two...not long! The right dry skin brush is made of vegetable bristles that are neither too stiff nor too soft. It shouldn't scratch, but you should feel some friction against the skin.
8. Detox Teas - A number of commercially prepared detox teas are available. They contain detoxifying herbs that assist your body's ability to convert endotoxins and exotoxins to molecules that can be processed out via the bowel or kidneys. If you'd like to create your own, Christopher Hobbs' Natural Therapy for Your Liver has some excellent recipes.
9. Supplements - Happily, there seems to be a lot of agreement on the supplements one should take to make sure the body has the essentials for facilitating its natural detoxification processes. To understand why these supplements are SO important, we suggest you read either Sidney MacDonald Baker, M.D.'s Detoxification & Healing: The Key to Optimal Health or Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D.'s The 20-Day Rejuvenation Diet Program. In the meantime, read about how the body detoxifies.
Here's a list derived from several sources, including Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D.'s The 20-Day Rejuvenation Diet Program, Christopher Hobbs, L.Ac.'s Natural Therapy for Your Liver Therapy and Elson M. Haas, M.D.'s The Detox Diet. The authors do not exactly agree on quantities, but do agree that it's important to take them all in combination. (see How the Body Detoxes). We've listed conservative amounts. As with all aspects of detoxification and preventive health care, we urge you to listen to your body. Start with the lower amounts. Increase gradually.
Vitamin C (buffered or Ester-C)- 500-2000 mg.
Natural Vitamin E (tocopheryl acetate) - 200-400 mg.
Vitamin A 5,000 - 7,500 IU
Beta Carotene 15,000-30,000 IU
Bioflavonoids - 200-1000 mg. (Possibly in a product that combines these with Vit. C)
B Vitamins (probably in a B compound tablet)
Thiamine (B1) 10-25 mg.
Riboflavin (B2) 10-25 mg.
Niacinamide (B3) 50 mg
Niacin (B3) 50-2000 mg.
Pantothenic acid (B5) 250-500 mg
Pyridoxine (B6) 10-25 mg.
Cobalamin (B12) 50-100 mcg
Folic acid 400-800 mcg.
Minerals: (probably in a mineral tablet or solution that includes)
Zinc (picolinate or oxide) 10-30 mg.
Manganese (gluconate) 5-10 mg.
Copper (gluconate) 1-3 mg.
Molybdenum (sodium molybdate) 50-200 mcg.
Selenium 50-200 mg.
Amino Acids: 500-1,000 mg.
(probably in a general blend that includes)
L-cysteine 100-300 mg.
L-glutathione 50-200 mg.
L-methionine 250-500 mg.
Silymarin (milk thistle)
Decaffeinated green tea or green tea extract
Flaxseed oil (extremely important) 1-2 tablespoons or 2-4 caps
Psyllium seed 2-4 teaspoons or 8-12 caps
10: Books on Detox - When you understand "why," the "what-to-dos" of detox are a lot easier. Take the first step to understanding, on an intellectual level, why detox is so important, what it can do to protect your health, and in many cases, how it can reverse conditions leading toward chronic illness. This step will improve your attitude toward the changes in lifestyle and diet, the increases in supplementation and the other cleansing techniques that are suggested to improving your body's ability to detoxify itself. You will also then have a map by which to show your friends and family this goldmine of personal preventive health measures, what Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D. refers to as "managed self-care."
11. Nutritional Counselor - Seek out a nutritional counselor familiar with detox. How to find one? You can search on the Internet, but don't stop there. Consult the Alternative Yellow Pages. To obtain the number of a practitioner who is familiar with functional medicine as defined by Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D., in his book, The 20-Day Rejuvenation Diet Program, visit the Institute for Functional Medicine’s website. https://www.ifm.org/find-a-practitioner/. Do you have friends who are into health foods and alternative medicine? Ask them. Call all the chiropractors in your area and ask them who they refer to. Look for ads in local health publications. When you find someone whose name pops up in more than one place, call first and find out what the counselor's training is, where they studied and how long they've been in practice. Make sure their training is from an accredited school. Some holistically oriented M.D.s center their practice on preventive medicine and clinical nutrition. If you cannot find a good nutritional consultant in your area, you might want to begin a process of self education on nutrition. Again, we suggest Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D.'s book, The 20-Day Rejuvenation Diet Program, as well as Dr. Bland's other books, such as The Disease Delusion, https://jeffreybland.com/books/.
12. Enemas and Colonics - If only for the sake of curiosity, be sure to read this section on enemas and colonics. Your grandmother, and her mother, probably knew a lot more about enemas than most people do now. This is not new information, but until colonics started to again become popular about twenty years ago, almost no one was still familiar with the health benefits that colon irrigation techniques could provide.
The bowel is one of the four primary systems for excretion of toxins, both those that originate outside the body--exotoxins--and those that originate inside the body--endotoxins--as a result of the processes of metabolism. Combinations of bad diet, not enough fiber, too many toxins, lack of exercise, too much stress, as well as illness, can all contribute to poor colonic health. A healthy bowel moves one to three times a day.
Enemas and/or colonics can give a great boost to a person's detoxification efforts, as well as helping to resolve chronic constipation. The reason they are an important part of detoxification efforts is that during this time, toxins that have been stored in the liver, the gallbladder and in fat tissue come back into the bloodstream in higher quantities. An enema or colonic can eliminate these toxins in a hurry and resolve symptoms such as headaches that they cause. If you're in a city where colonic clinics are easily available, you may want to try this approach. Don't just make an appointment over the phone. Go to the clinic. Is it scrupulously clean? Do you like the personnel? Ask if you can meet the person who will be administering the colonic. If you don't think you would be comfortable with the person, maybe this is not something you want to do, at least not there. Enemas are done in the privacy of your own home, but without our reservoir of common knowledge on this subject as to how to do them, you may feel that doing one yourself at home is more of an adventure. However, you can educate yourself by searching YouTube for “how to do an enema yourself.”
A. Family Issues
"Complex" is one word to describe the family dynamics and logistics involved in one person launching into a more healthy lifestyle without the support and participation of the rest of his or her family.
If you are the meal planner, supply sergeant and chief cook, you're in a position of control as far as what everyone else eats, but only if you have the time and energy to cook. Don't give in to sugar and fat-addicted family members' threats. People generally will not voluntarily starve themselves before they'll eat vegetables. They may, however, end up spending too much of their own money on junk food. Young kids will come around. Teenagers will do as they please with their own money regardless, but at least they're getting a positive food message on some level. They're seeing what you do and the fact that it has a positive effect on you will imprint somewhere in their brains. They may not return to that message for a few years, but it will register.
What if your spouse doesn't like the idea of sticking with a healthier diet? If you didn't need a support group while going through the detox processes, you may need one now to help you wade through this family issue, especially if we're talking about more than diet, which is to say if your spouse has addictions to alcohol, drugs and/or tobacco that he or she is not ready to give up.
People use substances as a coping mechanism to deal with stress, uncertainty and feelings of being out of control. On a certain level, they are owned by the "pain relief" the addictive substances provide to them. And yes, this can be true of food, as well as the substances commonly regarded as addictive. Dairy foods, fried foods and sweets are all comfort foods. People don't give these up because someone else browbeats them into it. They give them up when they either feel good enough about themselves to make a positive change, or scared enough to be willing to do almost anything to save their life.
12-Step Programs are a place where the patterns you're confronting would be well understood. You might try some "Overeaters Anonymous" or Al-Anon (for family members of substance abusers). Otherwise, find someone to talk to about these issues. It's very tough to have to choose between your health and your relationship with a spouse or other close family member. You shouldn't have to.
On the purely logistical level, it is difficult if you have made a decision to improve your diet but are not in control of what is bought at the grocery store and placed on the family dinner table. If you are a young person still living at home, we suggest you work around the chief cook's schedule and prepare some of your own food, frequently preparing enough to offer everyone else some of what you've lovingly prepared. Vegetable soups can be made in large enough batches to last for several days and they can be frozen to last indefinitely. With a salad on the side, you've got a whole meal. The ingredients to make them are all very inexpensive as food items go, so there shouldn't be a huge problem with the cost, whether you buy them yourself, or ask the supply sergeant to purchase them for you. You may need to invest in a large soup pot. If you're a working person, we suggest you control your diet at breakfast and lunch and then eat gingerly around the meal that's placed before you at home. Maybe you have to make a big salad when you get home, and load up on that instead of the fried chicken, French fries and ice cream.
B. Access to Good Food
1. In your Home Town. The degree of difficulty in finding high quality food depends a lot on where you live. The modern food delivery system makes it possible for people throughout the country to have fresh and affordable vegetables all year round. The past few years have also seen a greater availability of organic, i.e. pesticide-free produce. During warm months, there are also numerous farmers' markets that set up once a week in various locations. Not all the farmers are offering organic produce, but a lot of them do. The farmers' markets are fun, colorful, and some great bargains are possible. All in all, the food is well worth the money, but you do have to make sure you can find the time to prepare the veggies. (Another great benefit of fresh fruit is that it doesn't need much preparation. Just wash it and even if you can't peel it and pop it in your mouth like a banana or an orange, it's still usually only a matter of a minute or two from preparation to mouth.)
If you're not in one of the nation's major veggie producing states, it might not be quite as easy, but your demand for high quality produce, especially organic, will help pave the way for that to happen, if it hasn't already.
We're assuming you're already familiar with a local health food store, which should be able to supply you with some, if not exclusively, organic produce, grains and oils, as well as other items that you can't find at the supermarket.
Keep your ears open for community- supported agriculture (CSA) to become available in your area. CSA is a system in which households "subscribe" to an organic farm. It's a cooperative venture that takes the risk out of organic farming for the farmer and assures the household with an abundance of high quality produce during the growing season. Many of these families then preserve–by canning, drying or freezing–some of the wealth of produce from the growing season and are then able to enjoy the food year-round. If you're a great organizer, maybe you could start one yourself. Talk to the organic farmers at the farmers' market and see if any of them are interested in a CSA arrangement. Then start talking to your friends, place announcements with the local newspaper, post a bulletin at church, the day social media, et cetera, to begin a list of subscribers. Usually people are very excited about the possibility of knowing exactly where and how their food is grown and the experience is very valuable for children. Is it worth the money? The answer is always, "What is your health worth, and that of your family?"
2. While Traveling
Obtaining high quality food while traveling can be quite a challenge. When planning air travel, remember to request a special meal. Vegetarian is widely available, some airlines even offer "non-dairy vegetarian" meals and some even offer "non-gluten" meals. Airports are harder, as are other terminals. Pack some food with you is the best advice. An apple, a nut butter sandwich on non-wheat bread and a small bag of almonds can tide you over without doing too much damage to a diet.
Restaurants increasingly offer a vegetarian dish. If you're still doing fish and chicken, you shouldn't have a problem anywhere, unless you're eating in a coffee shop or equivalent restaurant that fries EVERYTHING. At such restaurants, a baked potato and iceberg lettuce salad may be the best you can do. (It can be rather grim.) If you can anticipate such fare, for example when traveling by car, perhaps you want to carry your own healthy salad dressing with you, and some healthy alternatives from the health food store for eating on baked potatoes, such as nutritional yeast flakes (very tasty) and Bragg's liquid amino acids (tastes like soy sauce but is unfermented, a very healthy condiment that we often spray on pop corn along with the spray-on olive oil.) Several of the fast food chains, including Wendy's and Carl's Jr.'s, offer salad bars, and again, with your own salad dressing, they’re reasonably good. If you're not a snob, Taco Bell and Del Taco offers possibilities for no-meat-, no-dairy-, no-wheat-eaters at righteous prices. You can get a bean tostada without cheese or just pintos without cheese for about a $1.50.
In better restaurants, explain that you're on a strict diet and ask the waiter what the chef is able to prepare for you. Hopefully he can stir up some pasta with lots of garlic and fresh tomatoes and basil and you'll be very happy. You may end up with the steamed vegetable plate. French, German and other European restaurants are the worst for not offering alternatives. If you can steer the group away from those, you should have more to choose from. Barbeque restaurants are miserable unless you really like cole slaw. Ethnic restaurants are the easiest. In any Italian, Chinese, Indian or Thai restaurant, you can find non-meat, non-dairy and non-wheat possibilities. Mexican restaurants are usually a good choice, but once in a while, you still find yourself in one that flavors their pinto beans with lard, and the chips have been fried in oil that’s been around for a while. If you're health impaired and have to be very serious about your new detox diet, you shouldn't be eating anything that has been deep fried, but from personal experience, it's one of the things that I bend on so as not to feel deprived.
C. Periodic maintenance
Maintaining your body is kind of like maintaining your car. You know you need to have the oil and the filter changed every so often, more often if you want the car to last longer.
The same is true with personal detox. What you're doing is cleaning the filter–your liver, as well as the pathways that both nutrients and toxins travel, the blood and the gut.
Most detox experts recommend doing a seasonal detox twice a year, spring and fall. But anytime you feel sluggish or for any other reason feel that you especially need one is a good time to do it.
D. Supporting others
When a personal detox program works for you, lots of people will ask what you've been doing differently. Don't feel shy about telling them. If you're in a situation where you can spend a couple of minutes to explain that you've been "turned on" to and successfully tried out the latest in scientific biochemical concepts–concepts that will bring mainstream and alternative medicine much closer in the next 20 years–you will begin to acquaint your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and fellow parishioners with a concept that can also add life to their years, not just years to their life. And if the information we've provided has been helpful, don't forget to mention our website!
Detox Actions Everyone Can Safely Take
(Note: These actions are generally appropriate for everybody, including children. They are listed in rough order of increasing difficulty or expense.)
Drink more pure water
Grow air-filtering houseplants or use air purifiers
Eat more fresh fruits & vegetables
Eat more whole foods
Get more vitamins, anti-oxidants & essential fatty acids
Use non-toxic personal care alternatives
Eat more organic foods
Decrease or Eliminate:
Saturated and hydrogenated fats
Refined flour products
Conventionally raised meat
Late night eating
Food preservatives & additives
Use a dry skin brush daily
Devour this website
Read detox books
Replace household toxic chemicals & materials with safer alternatives
Get plenty of rest
Take up yoga or another meditation/relaxation exercise
Improve digestion by eating slowly, and chewing thoroughly
Address unresolved emotional issues
Participate in support groups
Double-Edged Swords: Detox Actions Appropriate for Some People, but not Everybody
Regular use of detox-support herbal supplements
Use of herbal "Detox Kits"
Fasting – of which there are many forms, too numerous to list here, but please consult the books we’ve mentioned.
Use of saunas, hot tubs or sweatlodges
Reduction of prescription or over-the-counter pharmaceutical use, in conjunction with natural alternatives, and in consultation with a licensed healthcare provider
Note: Some of these actions can be harmful to certain individuals no matter how carefully they are pursued.
People for whom a licensed healthcare practitioner's advice is absolutely recommended:
Pregnant or breast-feeding mothers
People taking prescription medication
People with specific diagnosed illnesses (including mental illnesses and alcohol or drug dependency).
We live in a Sea of Toxins. While there are a few success stories, by and large, the environment is more polluted than ever.
If you live in a city, the air is polluted. Water sources are increasingly suspect. Many individuals are exposed to chemicals at work, but are afraid to quit their jobs for fear they can't make as much money somewhere else. Furniture, clothing, carpeting, new cars all "outgas" toxins into our indoor or Personal Environment. Most of us apply chemicals directly to our bodies in the form of personal care products made from petroleum and other toxic substances.
The body might be able to handle all this if we all ate nothing but healthy food, drank pure water, got just enough of the right kind of exercise, were emotionally stable and well adjusted and took just the right amounts of supplements while avoiding second-hand smoke and rarely indulged in caffeine, alcohol or recreational drugs. Though some of us know people like that, most of us are a bit more relaxed.
Your first level of insight must be to consider what that all means for your body. It means that your body, especially your liver, must process out all the toxins, along with the rest of its activities. Some of these activities include:
When the liver can't accomplish all these functions, you eventually begin to experience symptoms, such as fatigue, skin eruptions, headaches, allergies, and numerous other health complaints that can lead to disease-states, mental confusion, inability to concentrate, "failure to thrive," or the blues. You thought it was your boss, or your spouse, or your (fill in the blank _______). No, it's your poor overworked liver!
This is a job that calls for DETOX. Basically, you have to learn to take a load off your liver. The good news is THIS IS DOABLE. When you understand why you need to, a little bit about how the liver works to detoxify all those poisons, and a little more than you already do about some other systems of the body, you're going to understand SO much more about current health research in general. That's because detoxification is a unifying principle behind many of the current findings in medical research. Then you'll understand why people who eat a Mediterranean diet are less likely to get cancer, and why people who get enough Vitamin C are likely to have fewer colds, why people who eat enough fiber have fewer intestinal problems and why people who live simple peasant lives in countries where they eat yogurt can live to be very old. They're all related to the unifying principle for body function that detoxification provides, the ideas that inform functional medicine.
Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D., states in The 20-Day Rejuvenation Diet Program that
"Toxicology textbooks list the first symptoms of chronic poisoning as low energy, fatigue, muscle weakness, inability to concentrate and intestinal complaints. These symptoms are virtually identical to those experienced by the chronically ill." (Page 23.)
He goes on to explain that the concept of viewing metabolic poisoning as responsible for poor metabolic performance explains the "walking-wounded" symptoms from which so many people today suffer.
Metabolic is the adjective derived from the word metabolism. Bland defines metabolism as "the process which enables [the body] to convert protein, carbohydrate and fat from foods into energy for cellular repair, immune function, muscle contraction, nervous system function, reproduction, digestion and a myriad of other activities." (page 80)
Metabolic poisoning is poisoning on the cellular level, which is the level where metabolism takes place. Bland believes metabolic poisoning can be caused by chemicals, viruses, bacterial infections, allergies, pollutants, intestinal infections, poor metabolism, drugs and alcohol that adversely influence the functioning of various organs in the body, or the body's basic chemistry. After years and years of exposure, this metabolic poisoning begins to manifest as various disease states. Individual differences in genetics, levels of exposure and whether the individual mitigates these exposures through healthy diet and other lifestyle considerations account for the great differences in the ways individuals react to toxins.
Bland continues: "When my colleagues and I began to look at long-term ill health from the standpoint of chronic toxicity, we came up with an approach for the management of symptoms of reduced health and vitality. Simply stated, the approach we use in the Rejuvenation Program is to identify and eliminate or reduce exposure to the exo- [external] and endo- [internal] toxins to which an individual is sensitive, improve his or her body's ability to detoxify and excrete those substances...and support the function of the person's immune system." (Page 23.)
What if the very structure that keeps you warm and secure, that provides a place to relax and enjoy your friends and family is also contributing unnecessarily to your toxic load? It could be difficult to accept, so we'll start with the easy stuff.
Cleaning chemicals. As with personal care products, unless you've already made the switch to naturally derived, nontoxic products for housekeeping, the products you're using are toxic. You breathe these toxins in and your skin also absorbs those toxins. The solution is simple. The next time you run out of one product or another, whether it's floor cleaner, window cleaner or bathroom cleaner, replace it with something less harmful. The replacement could be something very simple such as white vinegar or baking soda. For lots more information on how to clean without toxins, as well as every other aspect of creating a more healthy home environment, we suggest Debra Lynn Dadd's excellent book, Home Safe Home: Protecting Yourself and Your Family from Everyday Toxics and Harmful Household Products. Your local health food store also stocks a number of nontoxic yet highly effective cleaning products.
Insecticides. The chemical industry has perpetuated a myth that pesticides are safe for humans. The testing that substantiates these claims tests only one product on mice or other creatures whose nervous systems are substantially different from those of humans, and they do not account for cumulative exposure from multiple chemicals over a prolonged period of time. If you have less than perfect health, all the more reason to stay away from pesticides. Your body already has enough to contend with. Any toxins that your body is unable to process out are stored in your body, and as they accumulate, symptoms and disease will also accumulate. Will they kill you? They may not, but they can. Why take a chance with something as precious as your life and health?
If you have kids or grandkids around, they're much more susceptible than adults. Think about it. A ball bounces on a lawn that's been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. The ball becomes coated with the stuff. Children play with balls, then put their fingers in their mouths without washing their hands. Result? Poisons go straight into the child's mouth.
Find nontoxic methods to deal with household pests, inside and out. Numerous books and websites are available to help you with this process. Ask yourself about your reaction to insects. If you have a phobia or fear of them, perhaps you should deal with it directly, rather than with poisons that can be very damaging to your health. Very few insects are actually hazardous to humans and it's rare to find them inside. Good housekeeping (and storing foods in airtight containers) will usually keep the most odious critters like cockroaches out of the house. Ants find their way in through holes. Try plugging the hole with some caulking compound before you reach for the poisons. Others insects like daddy long-leg spiders, are perfectly harmless. Consider just giving the bug a lift to the great out-of-doors next time you find one, instead of dosing the bug, and yourself, with poison.
Furniture, toys and carpeting. Here's an ironic twist. This is one time when old furniture and old carpeting are a real blessing. Why? Because they don't "outgas" chemicals into the atmosphere within your house (though if they are moldy, they can emit allergens into the air). New carpets can be heavy contributors to toxic load, especially if they're in an area where you spend a lot of time, like your bedroom. As with carpets--furniture, children's toys, and mattress covers made of plastic also outgas toxic fumes. Sometimes you can even smell the fumes. One way to significantly reduce (though not eliminate) their outgassing is to set them out in strong sunlight for a day or two before bringing them into your home or giving them to your children. Thoroughly washing plastic toys and furniture can also help.
Much of the furniture made today is made of composite materials, such as wood chips stuck together with toxin-containing glue and other chemicals. As attractive and useful as they may be, if furniture containing pressboard or plywood is less than a couple of years old, they're contributing formaldehyde, a carcinogen and the substance used for embalming, into the air you breathe. A simple short-term solution? Keep your house well-ventilated. Also, bring lots of houseplants, especially spider plants, into areas where you have new furniture and carpet.
If you're considering a new carpet and haven't bought the carpeting yet, investigate the purchase of a natural fiber carpeting or other natural floor coverings. Hardwood flooring finished with a nontoxic coating is attractive, durable and safe. So are tile floors, which are easy to damp-mop and very durable. Area rugs in strategic spots will keep your feet warm and soften noise. If these alternatives don't work for you and you're still convinced you want carpeting, select nylon carpet with jute backing. Better yet are natural carpets made from untreated wool, cotton, seagrass and sisal, with natural latex backing. Also, ask for "rag pad" padding (a standard carpeting industry term), made from recycled rags and polypropylene felt. Have the carpet installed in the summer, when you can leave the windows open more often to let those fumes out when the carpet is newer and more outgassing is occurring.
If you live in a manufactured home, or a newly built conventional house, you're probably experiencing a lot of outgassing from plywood within the walls, the cabinets, as well as under the flooring. Depending on your state of health, and your ability to ventilate your home, you might want to consider a high quality air filter. Make sure furnace and air conditioning filters are replaced regularly. Otherwise ventilate, ventilate, ventilate, and bring in those houseplants, lots of them.
Unless you've already removed it, if you're in an older house, built before 1980, there's a possibility that your house has lead paint inside it. (According to Deborah Lynn Dadd, author of Home Safe Home: Protecting Yourself and Your Family from Everyday Toxics and Harmful Household Products, "Manufacturers removed much of the lead from paint in the 1950s, and the federal government banned lead in paint altogether in 1978.") Lead paint chips can be a big problem but it's not one you need to worry about immediately unless you have small children in the house. If you do, it's extremely important to their brain development to prevent their contact with tiny paint chips. These paint chips are common in areas such as window sills and the floor in front of them where friction from the window causes a rain of tiny particles, and where toddlers are frequently creeping around on the floor and pulling themselves up to look out. Proper and frequent cleaning can drastically reduce the problem. Proper steps must also be taken to remove the paint when you decide to remodel.
In some parts of the country, naturally occurring radon gas can also be a big problem. It's the second leading cause of lung cancer. If you have a basement or rely on well water, it's important to test.
If excessive moisture in your home is creating molds, it can contribute to your toxic load. How much is excessive? It depends on your health. If you're suffering from allergies, excessive fatigue, depression or other health problems, it could be part of the problem. This problem is not an easy one to solve, especially if you live in a damp climate. Cleaning with chlorine bleach can help (though it's toxic to humans and is an environmentally damaging cleaning product). Again, ventilate! ventilate! during any use. You may have to replace moldy wood. If mold damage is extensive, you may have to move. Before you face that possibility, consider consulting an immunnologist who may be able to boost your immunity and reduce your reactions. Personal detoxification can also help boost your immunity by bolstering the capacity of your detox system.
Dust means dust mites. They're ugly little critters, though you need a microscope to see them. One answer is to dust more frequently and wear a dust mask if you're going to be exposed to a whole lot of dust at one time. A HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance) vacuum may be a worthwhile investment for persons with respiratory problems, allergies or a compromised immune system. They can eliminate particles as small as .3 microns in size-- the size range of dust, pollen and plant and mold spores. Your mattress, mattress pad, and pillows may be a source of dustmites--especially if they contain feathers. Non-woven fabric covers are available to prevent dustmites from bothering you while you are sleeping.
Then there's the question of our dear pets and their animal dander. We can't imagine how hard it would be to have to find a new home for a pet because you'd become allergic to it, but we know it happens. Frequent vacuuming with a HEPA-filter type vacuum, and running a high quality air filter in the home could reduce the impact of animal dander if you have allergies or respiratory problems.
As important as your home is to you, it's less important than your health. If your health, and that of your family members, is good and you simply wish to protect it, there's no great rush about making your home less toxic. (Reducing consumable toxins and doing a periodic detox will be more helpful in the short term for most people.) You can detoxify your home over a course of years, simply incorporating the new philosophy toward nontoxic living into your household maintenance routine. Do the easy and less costly things first. On the other hand, if you're already suffering effects that indicate symptoms of toxicity, make changes as quickly as possible, starting with the easy ones first. Those improvements, along with detoxification processes, may contribute to significantly improved health.
"It was the best of times. It was the worst of times."
So began Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities. And so it is now. We live in an exciting, tele-connected small world. Knowledge is expanding exponentially. Possibilities are endless. Opportunities abound. And yet, the world has never been so polluted, so populated and so vulnerable.
Our communities reflect this dichotomy. Cities are exciting, vibrant places, full of fascinating, happening people. But they're also dirty, stressful, polluted and sometimes dangerous. Is the answer to go "away" to the country and telecommute? Though being away from the city may be calmer and safer in many ways, there are a lot of other aspects, especially social, that a person would have to consider before making such a move. Also, being "away" from the city may not be your comprehensive personal solution to pollution, because unless you're moving to a mountaintop, there's no "away" anymore. Well water in rural areas may be contaminated from any number of sources including leaking septic tanks, old military bases, waste dumps, leaching from mine tailings, and of course the herbicides and pesticides sprayed on farms, gardens, and roadsides. In fact, in certain agricultural areas, pollution and toxic dangers can be much worse than in most urban locales, because there is less regulation, monitoring, and enforcement of environmental health standards.
In some cases, unfortunately, it may be advisable to uproot and actually move out of a "toxic community." Do you suspect that your health, or that of your family is impacted by the pollution? For example, if you're living east of Los Angeles, and your child has asthma, or you're living down-wind of a refinery, an electrical generating plant or in a neighborhood where black particulate matter can be wiped off cars and window ledges on a daily basis, and persons in your household are suffering from respiratory illnesses, cancer, chronic fatigue, or a host of auto-immune illnesses--then the best answer may be to move.
Usually the situation is not so drastic however. We believe that in general the solution to pollution is in how you address the situation, not how far you try to run away from it.
The first part of the solution, which is applicable to every situation, is to continue to do everything possible to control your immediate environment as outlined in the Consumable Toxins, Personal Care, Personal Environment and Work Environment sections of our website. You will want to steadily improve all aspects of your diet, as well as your home, garden and hopefully work environments. If you live in your own home, you can also increase the number of trees and shrubs around your house, which will help to cleanse pollutants from the air. Strategically planted shade trees can also play a major role in reducing the cost of cooling your home in summer, while still leaving windows closed during the afternoon when outdoor air pollution tends to be heaviest. Unfortunately, planting trees is not a short-term solution. Creating health and beauty takes time and planning.
While water pollution tends to be the main threat in rural areas, urban areas tend to suffer more from air pollution. In the U.S. and many parts of Western Europe, moderately effective enforcement of clean air laws beginning in the early Seventies has improved the air in many cities. Millions are healthier today thanks to the dedication of environmental activists and the courage of caring legislators from decades past. Nevertheless, unhealthful air still finds its way into urbanites' lungs--the main causes being, of course, stationary sources such as factories and refineries, and "non-point" or moving sources such as cars, trucks and buses. People and homes near freeways, bus terminals, and heavy traffic areas are also more affected by particulate matter such as diesel exhaust, which recent research shows can be very damaging to health. Though in recent years greater efforts have been made to reduce water pollution in coastal areas, the bays and shores near cities are often polluted from toxic run-off as well as dumping of partially treated sewage. This won't affect you directly unless you swim in it, or eat locally caught fish.
Questions should be asked when buying real estate in urban areas. What was the area before it became houses? Is there a history of oil production, or an old toxic or solid waste dump or chemical plant in the area?
Suburban areas tend to be less toxic, but appearances can be deceiving. The same questions about "What was here before there were houses?" should be asked. In the infamous case of Love Canal, a middle-class suburban neighborhood was built on the spot where a chemical company used to dump its waste. People got sick--very sick--and a concerned housewife grew to become a major national environmentalist. Another suburban source of toxins is golf courses. As beautiful as they are to look at, dozens of chemicals (in one case we know of, over 100 different chemicals) are used to keep them green and lush. Gas station "excavations," which are usually done because of leaking underground gasoline storage tanks, can also emit toxins into the air, at least while the clean-up is underway. (The same applies to the environmental remediation of industrial sites, which are more likely to occur in the impoverished parts of cities). Finally, suburbanites living under major high-tension electrical lines may suffer from damaging effects of "electro-magnetic" pollution, commonly referred to as EMF.
Regardless of whether you live in an urban, suburban, or rural environment, you can make a difference in its health. Beyond implementing the basic personal environment solutions available to you, there is an incredibly wide range of opportunities available to wed your talents to your concern for the health of your community. The first step is to become informed about the toxic threats that face you and your family out in the community. Read local newspapers and identify your local environmental groups. Local environmentalists will be able to help you identify problems of toxicity if you're not already aware of what they are and how serious they are. There are also services, and in some cases kits, that can test for water quality, radon gas, and carbon monoxide.
Once you know what toxic influences and environmental degradation need attention in your community, we suggest you think a bit about which ones concern you most, and dream a little about how your special talents and unique personality can make a contribution. Are you reserved but have a knack for writing? Do you love to meet people, to listen, learn, and teach? Do you have a gift for keeping things organized? Are you good at research and like investigating things? Do you enjoy working with your hands? Are you a fighter, or perhaps a leader? Can you make signs and banners? Are you good on the phone? How are you at folding and stuffing--those underrated, yet crucial skills to the success of any nonprofit? Whoever you are and whatever talents you've developed, and whether you've got a little or a lot of spare time, you can find opportunities to, as Tolstoy said, "add your light to the sum of light." Our communities and our planet need a detox as much as most of us people do. It can change your life.
Empowerment through Information
Because every person is unique, and because the body is complex, becoming more knowledgeable is a vital step if you intend to reclaim and protect vibrant health.
"The Quality Letter for Healthcare Leaders," a health care industry trade newsletter, devoted its August 1998 issue to the subject of "the empowered patient." It described a new trend in health care--patients who eagerly, even voraciously, seek information regarding their health issues.
The convenience that personal Internet access provides to a wide range of heath care information is a significant factor in the trend. Another aspect is that insurance companies have discovered that making members more knowledgeable can save them money because "…patient behavior has an enormous impact on outcomes." Insurance companies are supporting the trend by providing more information to members. The third aspect the article cites is what the newsletter refers to it as baby-boomers' tendency to "question authority." This factor makes it less likely that boomers facing chronic illness will passively accept such deterioration in health as a natural part of aging.
The article also talks about how hospitals, for example, are beginning to provide libraries for patients. Another example was of a health care organization that provides a list to patients of what it deems to be the 100 or so "best" Internet health sites.
About halfway through, the article addressed the topic of "The Physician's Role in Collaborative Healthcare."
"Over the past decade, as patients have found new sources of information and taken more control over their own care, some physicians have had difficulty adjusting to this shift in roles. ‘Physicians tell us when a patient arrives with a stack of information and asks detailed questions, they interpret this as a lack of trust,' says Edgman-Levitan, president of the Boston-based Picker Institute, a non-profit organization that promotes patient-centered quality assessment and improvement strategies. ‘They don't realize this patient just wants to understand what's going on.'
Frankly, we find it astounding that physicians so easily and cavalierly forget that anyone going to a doctor is being asked to entrust his or her life and body to that physician – as if the good doctor had a 100% success rate on every person treated. Doctors, especially in a managed care setting, are pressed for time and while we do know that many of them are concerned about quality of care issues, it doesn't change the fact that they generally have no more than 15 minutes to spend with each patient. They are constrained by "care models and protocols" dictated by insurance companies that establish the basis on which care will be reimbursed.
There's More to your Health than any "Magic Bullet" Can Handle
Finally, doctors--most without being aware of it--are simultaneously supported and limited by the parameters of the scientific method. The result can be simplistic, over-generalized and "under-individualized" treatments for patients.
In his book Detoxification and Healing: The Key to Optimal Health, Sidney MacDonald Baker, M.D., explains that "Modern scientific thinking favors experiments in which a very limited number of variables are studied while all the other circumstances are controlled. That approach translates into selecting a single drug, nutrient or other intervention to be studied, avoiding the confusion that would result from the introduction of several variables at once."
"The same question comes up every day in my practice. After taking a history and doing tests that indicate a lack of certain nutrients and/or the presence of certain allergens or toxins, I suggest that my patient undertake several remedial steps at once. These may also include advice to exercise, learn diaphragmatic breathing, meditate or verbalize strong feelings such as anger or grief. ‘But how will we know what is working?' asks an occasional patient. ‘If you get better, you may be quite confused. It is preferable to be confused and better than to be so selective that progress may be impossible. Remember that if you are sitting on two tacks and you remove just one, you will not feel 50 percent better. Chronic illness is multifactorial. It is downright negligent to focus so exclusively on a single treatment that you fail to address the whole picture.'"
And yet that is exactly what mainstream medicine usually does today.
You Hold the Power, If You But Grasp It
There are still many medical conditions where there really is a single cause, a ready diagnosis, and a clear-cut treatment available. Standard medical treatments are the most efficacious in these cases. For instance: A broken arm from a skiing accident that needs setting and immobilizing… A cut from broken glass that needs stitching…
But more and more health conditions are, as Dr. Baker reminds us, "multifactorial." Perhaps the broken arm snapped because osteoporosis weakened the bone… Perhaps the person suffered a dizzy spell before falling into the glass… (Both osteoporosis and dizzy spells may be related to toxic processes.) And did the doctor know to prescribe high doses of Vitamin C, which recent research has shown speeds tissue repair? Furthermore, the fact is that most health problems suffered by most people in modern society are far more complex than these simple cases. They are generated by multiple causes and could respond in unpredictable ways to a variety of treatment possibilities and preventative measures.
What is the answer?
You're in the middle of all this, and therein lies your power. We believe that today's "empowered" patients will become, in many ways, more knowledgeable about their state of health than their doctor ever can. How is that possible? If you are driven to find answers, you have several factors working in your favor.
Factor 1) Because you're on the inside looking out, you have an intuitive sense about the factors affecting your health care. You have the advantage of being able to compare your variations in symptoms more accurately than your doctor can. You can adjust for your individuality. When a doctor's training has taught that something "rarely" occurs, she or he is predisposed to dismiss the possibility that it could be happening with you. This can be a problem because some conditions that were rare in the past are occurring more frequently today – caused by the interaction of thousands of toxins to which our bodies are now exposed. So if a doctor tells you, "Oh that's extremely rare," we suggest you tell him or her, "I want to check it out, nonetheless."
Factor 2) You know you're not crazy. Your doctor doesn't know whether you are or not. You do, however, have the personal responsibility to yourself and your healing process to address the emotional "tacks" that may be preventing you from healing. (see Detox as a state of mind.)
Factor 3) You're more motivated. In our litigious society, many doctors are not willing to try anything that falls outside of peer-reviewed medical journal published research and insurance company protocols. As Dr. Baker said above, this can be limiting. If it's your health and your life at stake, you have greater incentive than the doctor to find answers. If you're willing to take responsibility for the results, you can explore alternative treatment modalities that a doctor won't. This does not suggest that conventional doctors are of no help at all, or that you should go about trying out holistic health treatments modalities willy-nilly. Many people who try this find that they are given conflicting answers and treatments. No, we believe that you have to be more deliberate. Seek information first. Then act on the information you find most pertinent to you-- ideally information coming from more than one well-credentialed source.
The information on this site will provide you with a central organizing theme--an understanding of how the body naturally accomplishes the process of detoxification, and how you can facilitate the process. There are a lot of techniques that can facilitate this. No single technique will work equally well for every person, nor will all techniques fit into the lifestyle and preferences of everyone equally well. That's where your experimentation comes in.
IF… You suffer from one or more of the many complaints that are generated or antagonized by toxins, and you engage in an effort to reduce your toxic load, and you support your body's natural detoxification processes by supplying the proper biochemical ingredients in terms of truly nutritious food healthy diet, essential supplements, appropriate exercise, and adequate rest, THEN your body will better succeed in its job of healing itself.
Doing No Harm?
Doctors have a hard time admitting that a rather high percentage of chronic illness in this country is "iatrogenic" – meaning caused by the treatment of a physician resulting in an adverse condition in a patient. Among these iatrogenic chronic conditions are those caused by a virtual epidemic of over-prescribed antibiotics. Another threat is over-use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, aspirin, etc. Adverse drug reactions, from too many prescriptions, are common especially among the elderly and cause thousands of deaths and hospitalizations each year, as well as untold minor reactions. Exactly when the medical community in this country will openly address all this suffering and waste, we don't know--because they are one of the major problems with "pill and a bill" medicine. At this juncture, it is basically up to you to assess whether your physician is aware of these problems and works conscientiously to prevent them.
The untold thousands of iatrogenic illness our healthcare system is a basic violation of physicians' Hippocratic oath to "First, do no harm." It's not an exaggeration to say that much of today's health care should be labeled, "this treatment may be hazardous to your health."
A good time to "question authority" takes place every time a doctor writes you a prescription. Ask a lot of questions. What does it do? Why does he think you need it? What are the possible side effects? How long does she think you need to take it? Ask him if you can look at his copy of the Physician's Desk Reference and read through the information on the drug before you leave his office. Then make notes. Maybe the office staff will photocopy the reference for you. Go ahead. Be a polite but persistent pain in the butt to them. IT'S YOUR LIFE and you have the right. If the doctor brushes you off, you may want to look around for another physician. – or at least for a copy of the Physician's Desk Reference in your local library.
Have you been pegged? -- Diagnoses of convenience
With increasing research on iatrogenic illnesses and with the gradual realization among medical doctors that informed patients are more likely to attain health, it's likely that in the future, a lot of this will be sorted out. In the meantime, your best defense is knowledge, and reframing your doctor-patient relationships as a partnership of mutual responsibility to support, heal, and "do no harm." It's your life and body on the line.
We are reaching an exciting time in healthcare where patients are beginning to do more to influence the quality and methods of the treatments they receive. This shows up in the huge percentage of Americans who are willing to pay out-of-pocket for access to alternative healthcare. Likewise, more and more insurance companies are beginning to recognize that many alternative forms of health care can be more effective and less expensive than conventional strategies.
Detoxification will be one of these areas. If most doctors don't currently recognize the value of scientifically based nutritional, supplemental and other lifestyle techniques for supporting the body's natural detoxification processes, they will still eventually be convinced by the improvement in their patients who try these techniques and recount them. Eventually they'll be asking their patients how, exactly, it worked for them.
Exposure to Toxins is Unavoidable, But Why Expose Yourself to More than a Minimum?
We live in a sea of toxins. Worldwide, exposure to chemical pollutants continues to increase, resulting in increased contamination of our air, water and food supply. In the developed world, wise laws have been passed and often even enforced which have led to reductions in air and water pollution of several known toxins, yet at the same time thousands of new and untested "bio-active" chemicals are being introduced. Likewise, science continues to discover new health threats from existing chemicals, such as endocrine system impairments from estrogen-mimicking pesticides.
The petrochemical industry has grown from isolated experimentation a hundred years ago to a multi-billion dollar industry today, from a handful of researchers to thousands of petrochemical producers making millions of tons of both old and new chemicals -- most of which are toxic. Yet today even individuals who consider themselves generally well-informed are unaware of the many sources of toxins in their immediate environment and the threat they can pose to health.
One of the easiest ways to visualize the impact on your own health is to see yourself as a boat afloat in a sea of toxins. If a boat is trustworthy, it can carry a specified load without problem. Good News! If your general health is good, your body can process a certain amount of environmental and other toxins without any apparent problem.
But a craft may not be seaworthy, and no boat can keep afloat if it is simply overloaded. Similarly, even the strongest immune system can be swamped if overloaded with too many toxins.
In your day-to-day life, you are exposed to toxins on numerous levels, some within your control, some totally outside it, and others somewhere in between. Accordingly, it makes sense to learn something about the various kinds of exposure that you encounter daily, in order to make informed choices to reduce your overall level of toxic intake.
It may be helpful to think of yourself as standing in a series of concentric circles. The closest rings are the areas that lie within your control. Each ring radiating outward means less personal control in areas where you interface -- your home, neighborhood, workplace, and your community.
At the center of the target -- the first level of toxic exposure -- are internal bodily toxins. These are the natural byproducts of your metabolism, which the body's natural detoxification processes are designed to handle. Those natural detoxification processes can be overwhelmed if the body generates an excess of internal toxins, for example when a prescription for antibiotics kills off the friendly intestinal flora, allowing unfriendly microbes such as Candida albicans -- a yeast bacteria -- to proliferate. The yeast generates high levels of toxins. The Yeast Syndrome by John Parks Trowbridge, M.D., and Morton Walker, D.P.M. is a good source of information on how to address the many health impacts of a yeast problem.
The need to love and be loved qualifies as a physical need. Conversely, another source of internal toxins that most people do not consider as such are emotional toxins. The potential sources are innumerable -- whether unresolved trauma or abuse that occurred as a child or as an adult, or unhappy relationships with a relative, a spouse, a "significant other," a boss, co-worker or even a neighbor. The pursuit of vibrant physical health is undermined when these unresolved emotional toxins are not dealt with directly. Complicating this process is the fact that though a person can leave a job or even a spouse, or avoid a relative or neighbor -- the simple fact is that unresolved trauma doesn't just go away, nor can one move away from it. Work with a counselor or mental health care provider can be helpful in launching the process, but ultimately its a spiritual journey in the deepest sense. Emotional toxins are ultimately under your control, but mastering them can be the battle of a lifetime. (For more information, search on psycho-neuro immunology and post traumatic stress disorder.)
Consumable toxins are toxins that enter your body directly by way of your mouth. Here, you have the greatest amount of control. You decide what goes into your mouth. But to make that decision wisely requires knowledge of the sources of "consumable toxins." They include water-borne toxins, some foods (particularly for the millions of people with food allergies), chemical additives in packaged foods and beverages, tobacco and alcohol, pharmaceutical drugs, "recreational" drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and toxins absorbed from dental work.
The next ring also allows a high level of personal control. It involves toxins found in anything that is applied to or absorbed by your skin. Sources of toxins in this category can include not only personal care products, such as cosmetics and hygiene supplies, but also some sources you may not have considered. For example, PVA (poly-vinyl alcohol) -- the carcinogenic formaldehyde-based substance that creates "perma-press" fabrics -- can be absorbed by your skin. The skin can also absorb chemical or fragrance additives to soaps and cleansers. Fortunately, many new non-toxic personal care alternatives are now on the market.
(By the way, we've found that when people begin to learn about all these toxic threats, it's easy to get overwhelmed. If you should begin to feel an acute episode of information overload coming on, try this article on How to Get Started.)
The third circle of your toxic load involves substances you encounter in your immediate personal environment: your home, garden or automobile. While still under your control, these areas often have to be negotiated with other people. Household exposure affects other family members, and garden exposure might have to be shared with neighbors. Still, your level of control over pollutants from these sources remains relatively high. These toxins can include biological pollutants -- such as pollen, dust, mold, mildew, animal dander and bacteria -- or chemical pollutants found in the house, garden and auto. They include outgassing from carpet and furniture or radiation from smoke alarms. Radon, a naturally occurring form of radioactive gas found in many soils may also be present. Electromagnetic fields (EMF), waves of electrical energy emitted by home electrical wiring and electrical devices including computers and appliances, is almost certainly present. Additionally, chemical agents are found in cleaning compounds, waxes and polishes, disinfectants, garage fumes, insecticides, weed killers, and car-care products. "Detoxifying" your home is one of the greatest contributions you can make to your health and your family.
Unless you work at home, you have less control in terms of work environment, where toxic exposure may be controlled by fellow employees, bosses, and building owners or managers. Many of the toxins found in offices or work environments duplicate those found in the household -- for example, carpet outgassing, cleaning compounds, insecticides, and disinfectants. But office environments also carry the risk of chemicals used in clerical work, such as photocopier toners, "white out" and glues, or the effects of sick building syndrome. Many work environments bring exposure from automotive fumes or chemicals, chemicals associated with carpentry, construction, or manufacturing, or exposure to agricultural chemicals. Protecting yourself may involve anything from a simple change in equipment to quitting your job. Ouch!
If you work in an office there are a few simple steps you can take to make your office safer. Bringing in plants and buying an air filter for your space are probably the easiest. Drinking lots of filtered water is also recommended.
The largest circle, and the one over which you have the least immediate control, is your community. The type of toxic exposure experienced at the community level can vary widely depending on whether you live in an urban, suburban or rural environment. Urban residents face increased exposure to lead, to air-borne particulates from diesel engines, and to contamination from industrial sites. Suburban residents run the risk of air pollution from commuting or chemical exposures from golf courses and gardens, while rural residents are more likely to encounter high levels of fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. There are basically two ways to protect your and your family's health from the threat of toxins found in the community. First, you can insulate your personal environment somewhat from community toxins -- for example by increasing the number of air-filtering plants in and around your house, or by using an air filter indoors. Second, you can join others in your community to press for a healthier environment. Life can become very rewarding when your concern for personal health starts to extend toward positive action for the health of our communities and planet. It's certainly more fulfilling than junk food!
In this toxic sea upon which we sail, it’s easy to see how even a well-constructed and well-maintained boat can become swamped with toxins. It takes an active crew for safe sailing. If you bring awareness to the process, and start making active choices, you can protect yourself and your loved ones. For more detailed information on a specific area of exposure, check out the links listed below.
If You Ingest More Toxins Than Your Body Can Process, Poor Health Can Be The Result
As a consumer, you're the target of hundreds of chemical companies trying to sell you products that contain toxic ingredients. Your mouth is their bull’s-eye. The amount of toxins that surround you can seem overwhelming at times. But your vigilance is the first line of defense. Taking one step at a time, you can make important choices—little changes that add up to a significant decrease in your exposure. Those steps begin with awareness. Toxins found in food and water enter your system by way of your mouth. With consumable toxins, you decide what goes in, but do you know what's toxic?
The first area to be aware of is water-borne toxins. Water can be an integral part of a successful detox plan—six to eight glasses a day will flush toxins from your body and aid your natural detox systems—but only if that water is pure. Do you know what's in your drinking water? Most "tap" water, though meeting governmental health standards, contains chemicals which add to your toxic load: including, of course, chlorine and often flouride. Chlorine is toxic to humans. Fluoride has been found to inhibit enzymes crucial in the digestive process. The readily available alternatives, including bottled spring water, filter systems and purified water, are worth the expense. Be careful with drinking distilled water, as it lacks essential minerals (unless you take a carefully designed selection of mineral supplements].
Foods can also be toxic, particularly for people with food allergies. Undiagnosed food allergies affect millions, but physicians are often reluctant to test for food allergies—many doctors have been educated to believe that allergies are not "real" illnesses. But we all can recognize that foods affect different people in different ways. Lactose intolerance, which puts milk products off-limits for many people, is one example.
Foods can add to your toxic load in other ways. Many people simply get too much of a good thing, particularly when it comes to high-fat foods or meats. The liver has to metabolize the fatty acids delivered by the bloodstream after fats in the diet are broken down and absorbed in the small intestine. The more energy the liver has to expend in this final process of the digestion of high-fat foods, the less it has available for other detoxification work. Here more information about your liver.
Even if you limit fats, many toxins come in the form of chemical additives in packaged foods and beverages. Immunologists advise individuals who are immune-suppressed to eat only fresh food. You may want to do the same. Preservatives and chemicals that ensure fresh color or appearance can be toxic. Foods like white flour and white sugar rob your body on two levels of failing to provide real nutrition while depleting nutrients used in their digestion. It is best to minimize the consumption of processed foods, especially desserts, snack foods and fast foods.
The Italian Model can show you how to enjoy life without ingesting too many toxins.
And reconsider the old adage "An Apple a Day."
While most citizens of the developed nations avoid thinking about the dangers of junk food, most now understand the health risks from tobacco. Whether you smoke yourself or you have friends, family or colleagues who smoke in your presence, smoking is one more factor in environmental toxins. In addition to the toxins it directly imparts to your body, smoking also harms the cilia, which the respiratory system uses as a transport mechanism to help detoxify your body. It is ironic that tobacco, which was used very sparingly by Native Americans as a sacred ceremonial herb, has now become the industrialized world's most widely abused intoxicant. If you do smoke (or chew or dip) tobacco and aren't ready to quit, it is even more important that you balance out your toxin load in other areas, and take supplements to replace nutrients depleted by the tobacco. The best source of information we've found on either quitting or giving yourself additional nutritional support until you do comes from Eldon Haas, M.D. book, The Detox Diet.
Though alcohol can never be called healthful, moderate amounts of alcohol—one or two glasses of wine or beer daily—may not be overly harmful. Nonetheless, it still places a detox load on your liver. Immoderate drinking of alcohol over-stresses the liver and its detox capacity. In the past few years, medical studies have shown that some of the constituents of red wine can be helpful to the body, though the alcohol it contains still must be detoxed, and unless the wine is organic, it may also contain toxic pesticide residues. People who want the benefits of red wine without the toxins can drink (dark) grape juice, or try one of the "red wine" or "grape-skin extract" supplements now on the market. If you drink, you may want to read more about Eldon Haas, M.D.'s special detoxifying program, in The Detox Diet, which has been created especially for minimizing the negative effects of alcohol.
According to immunologist Lewell Brenneman, M.D., Ph.D. of San Francisco, some of the most difficult detox cases he's ever encountered have been those of individuals detoxing from pharmaceutical drugs. Just because your doctor prescribes a drug doesn't mean it's not treated as a toxin by your body (like red wine, something can be both helpful and toxic). Rather than being a passive ingester of whatever drug is handed your way, take personal responsibility to work actively with your physician and your pharmacist. Make sure that you are taking only pharmaceutical agents that are absolutely necessary. Even for necessary drugs, a lower dosage may still be effective. Ask your doctor whether you can safely experiment with taking a reduced amount. Make sure you understand any risks and possible side-effects associated with drugs—especially if they are prescribed for long-term use, or if you take multiple medications. You can check them out yourself in the Physician's Desk Reference, available at most libraries. Also, remember that, through consultation with an alternative medicine-oriented M.D. or naturopathic physician, many people have found alternative therapies or lifestyle changes which can eliminate or reduce the need for pills.
Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs become part of your toxic load as well. Occasional use of an OTC remedy may have no ill effects, but be careful about long-term or repeated exposure to any chemical agents. Again, work with your pharmacist and learn all you can if you believe you need over-the-counter medications for more than occasional use. The same can be said of illegal drugs which also have to be detoxified by the body. All substances, legal or illegal, prescribed or over-the-counter, need to be considered possible contributors to your toxic load, as well as monitored to avoid adverse drug reactions.
Finally, more and more information is being discovered about the negative effects of toxins absorbed from dental work. So-called "silver" fillings, which are really a mercury amalgam made of mercury, tin, copper and zinc, have actually been declared a hazardous waste by the Environmental Protection Agency. Yet, the American Dental Association still approves them for use in your mouth. The World Health Organization indicates that a single filling can release from 3 to 17 micrograms of mercury a day, and mercury toxicity has been associated with anorexia, depression, fatigue, insomnia, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, irritability, memory loss and gum disease, among other disorders. Though it is costly and unpleasant, you may want to consider gradually replacing "silver" fillings with newer, less toxic materials. Certainly you should ask for these materials if you or your children are going to have new fillings. You can also be tested for allergic responses to dental materials prior to having significant dental work done—such testing is now available from many dentists.
The upshot of all this? Good News! When it comes to consumable toxins, you are in the driver's seat. You can control your exposure to many toxins just by watching what you put in your mouth -- water, food, alcohol, pharmaceutical and other medications, or dental work. It's a lot to consider, so take it one step at a time. You can begin making the informed decisions that limit your toxic exposure. Knowing how the body detoxes is also extremely helpful. Awareness and information give you greater control. Once you have developed a good idea of your toxic load in terms of consumable toxins, you're ready to look at the next circle of exposure ÷ toxins absorbed by your skin.
Personal Care Products
Petrochemicals in Conventional Personal Care Products Are Absorbed Through the Skin.
Another group of toxins comes into your body through personal care products. The same products that are designed for beneficial results--smooth skin, silky hair, seductive scents, or preventing body odors--can be bringing you into direct contact with numerous chemical substances. It is important to remember that your skin is not an impermeable substance. It is your largest single organ and an important part of your body's detoxification system. It can release toxins via sweat, but it also absorbs them. Any chemicals you apply in the form of personal care products go through your skin and into your bloodstream.
Take a brief inventory of chemical substance that you apply directly to your body, from head to toe. Do you use shampoos or conditioners with strong chemical components? Read the labels on the products you are currently using. Are there chemicals you might be wary about absorbing into your body? Do you regularly use hair spray or hair dyes? If so, what chemicals do they include? What about face care? Do you need to reconsider your use of shaving products, after shaves, and lotions or conditioners? Or does your facial care include use of moisturizers, deep cleaning agents, or the daily application of cosmetics? Do you know what chemical agents are included in those products?
What about your body? Are you currently using chemically based antiperspirants? Do you use body lotion or medicated lotions? Are you a regular user of insect repellents? Is your sunscreen chemically based? Do you use scents daily? Did you know some petrochemically produced perfumes have the same chemical structure as neurotoxins? Do you wear dry-cleaned clothes regularly? If so, do you air them first to help rid them of chemical agents used in the dry-cleaning process? Are you absorbing chemicals from residues left by your laundry soaps or treatments?
Another group of toxins can come through care of your hands and feet. Many municipal areas classify nail polish as a hazardous waste for disposal purposes. And polish removers also contain strong chemical agents. Are you using hand lotions or medicated creams on a daily basis? Do you use glues or other chemicals associated with artificial nails?
While none of these agents may be toxic individually, remember, you're calculating your overall environmental load. Each one is a little more cargo in your boat. Here are a few tips for shopping for nontoxic personal care products.
Controlling these elements may leave more space available for those exposures to toxins that you can't control. Fortunately your body is one area where you can exercise a high level of control. Another is your personal environment--chemicals you come into contact within your home, garden or auto.
The Detox Diet ( a review)
The How-to & When To Guide for Cleansing the Body of: Sugar, Nicotine, Alcohol, Caffeine, Chemicals and More
By Elson M. Haas, M.D.
Detailed Plans for Nicotine and Alcohol Withdrawal as well as Nutritional Support for Those Who Drink
In his book, The Detox Diet, Dr. Haas has made an invaluable contribution to the literature on detoxification that we have not seen in any other book. That contribution is specific plans for detoxifying the body of some of the most common consumable toxins, including sugar, nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, drugs and other chemicals.
These plans include detailed lists of supplements with dosages, plus dietary suggestions, as well as strategies for overall lifestyle and relationship approaches to successfully quitting a habit. The best of these is the chapter he devotes to nicotine withdrawal, definitely worthwhile for anyone who is seriously planning to quit and is willing to go about it systematically.
The downside to Haas's systematic approach to detox is that it starts to feel that he doesn't believe in half measures here. Maybe he can't advocate moderation as a health care professional, but "all or nothing" feels rather narrow to me.
The book begins with a note that I hope is not missed: "Ending your addictions is a serious undertaking. Going 'cold turkey' from sedatives, stimulants, narcotics and alcohol can have very serious consequences, including seizures. This book is intended as a supplement, not a substitute, to the interventions of an experienced, professional healthcare practitioner." This prerequisite disclaimer addresses those with serious addictions, i.e. drug and alcohol dependencies. If you have them, and you are reading this, the point is well made.
He continues, in a similar, if milder tone, on the page entitled "Renewal."
"Abuses and addictions touch almost every person's life. I realize that the development of these habits is multi-faceted and as much a part of our social and cultural upbringing as they are our responses to dealing with a stressful family, school, work and society at large.
I don't want you to feel bad, weak, or inferior if any of these potentially destructive habits applies to you. I know the struggle between light and dark–between picking up that cup of coffee or glass of wine or that pack of cigarettes and the desire to stop or to never have started."
I wonder what tiny percentage of the population can truthfully say they are not addicted to alcohol, caffeine, sugar or drugs of any kind. Dr. Haas's potential readership is huge and I'm one of them. But personally I don't feel bad, weak or inferior because of my addition to caffeine. I feel entirely normal. At least I'm aware it's an addiction. Everything in moderation is my philosophy. I'm not an ascetic, don't intend to become one, and I feel aligned with the vast majority of the population in that one.
But I do believe in protecting one's health, and despite the fact that he makes me feel like an unrepentant sinner, I find Haas' book to be very useful. Though it's mostly a very left brain approach to the question of detoxification, throughout the book there are statements that give a glimpse to a decidedly spiritual side of Dr. Haas, such as the paragraph that states, "fasting is a catalyst for change and an essential part of transformational medicine. It promotes relaxation and energization [sic] of the body, mind and emotions and supports a greater spiritual awareness. Many fasters let go of past experiences and develop a positive attitude toward the present." This kind of thought is found in many books on detox and fasting and offers great hope to those who are somewhat hesitant about what this approach to health might mean. The answer is that it can be a great adventure for those ready to set sail!
If you're sick, there's no substitute for finding a skilled, caring and knowledgeable health care practitioner who can help you help yourself back to health.
We know that with the growth in acceptance of alternative medicine, there is a corresponding growth in confusion as to what kind of practitioner can provide the best care. This is one area in which we believe there's no substitute for doing your homework.
You need to check out your options very carefully. Below are links to websites and a toll-free number that can help you find a qualified health care consultant in your area. If you have more than one to choose from, you'll want to make a decision on who has the better training and experience.
We IMPLORE you to seek care from licensed health care practitioners with as much training as you can possibly find, preferably from four-year post-graduate institutions. There are three designations that fit that description--M.D.s, D.O.s and N.D.s who have graduated from one of the two ACCREDITED North American colleges that train naturopathic physicians--Bastyr University in Seattle and the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Portand, Oregon.
When we refer to M.D.s, we're talking about holistically oriented M.D.s, of which there certainly are not enough to go around. The great advantage of a holistic M.D. is they have the ability to see your situation from the broadest perspective. They also have the ability to order tests that, say, a chiropractor or nutritionist would not be able to order. Finally, they have the ability to prescribe. There are somethings that can be very helpful if you need to detox that you can't buy over-the-counter, for example, oral anti-fungal medications to combat yeast infections.
American Academy of Environmental Medicine
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine was formed by over 400 physicians to study and treat people with illnesses or health problems caused by adverse, allergic or toxic reactions to a wide variety of environmental substances. Treatment begins with detailed environmentally oriented histories of their patients that endeavor to determine possible cause and effect relationships to environmental exposures. They perform various forms of allergy testing to further discover what substances are causing the patient's reactions. Drug treatments are avoided as much as possible. Treatment more likely takes the form of immunological therapy to boost the individual's ability to withstand contact with offending substances. Avoidance strategies and rotation diets are also recommended. The goal of treatment is to allow the patient to live comfortably without constant medication or fear of reaction. Their website can help you find a nearby specialist.
American Holistic Medical Association
AHMA was founded in 1978 to unite licensed physicians who practice holistic medicine. AHMA membership is open to licensed medical doctors (MDs) and doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) from every specialty, and the medical students studying for those degrees. Associate membership is also open to those health care practitioners certified, registered, or licensed in the state in which they practice.
The mission of the AHMA is to support practitioners in their evolving personal and professional development as healers and to educate physicians about holistic medicine.
Another group of practitioners with the ability to prescribe are doctors of osteopathic medicine (D.O.s). They receive training similar to that of an M.D. but differ in that they take a holistic, preventive approach toward treatment that includes an emphasis on skeletal manipulation similar to that of chiropractic. Though their licensure allows them to pursue specialization, the majority of D.O.s serve as primary care physicians. There are an estimated 45,000 osetopaths in practice in the U.S., representing 5.5% of the total U.S. physician population. Their training in preventive health may make them more amenable to detoxification procedures than most mainstream M.D.s.
American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
Founded in 1986, the AANP represents licensed NDs in the United States. Their site will help you locate a licensed ND in your area. The attached page from their website explains more about the history and tradition of naturopathy. https://naturopathic.org/
To locate a practitioner experienced in "functional" medicine as described in Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D.'s The 20-Day Rejuvenation Diet Program, visit https://www.ifm.org/find-a-practitioner/
(Functional medicine is Bland's term for a holistic medical approach that focuses on bodily function, including detoxification.)
There are two major detoxification systems operating within the body--the antioxidation system, and the liver's detoxification processes. They both work in conjunction with the body's circulatory and elimination systems. Even superficial understanding of how these systems work can give you a whole new basis of health, because with this understanding, you can improve your body's ability to detoxify, based on a scientific framework. You will understand how and why these measures help to protect your health.
We credit Sidney MacDonald Baker, M.D., author of Detoxification & Healing: The Key to Optimal Health, and Jeffrey S. Bland, Ph.D., author of The 20-Day Rejuvenation Diet Program for helping to make this biochemistry lesson understandable. They both offer more extensive, yet easy-to-comprehend explanations of these processes in their books. We recommend them both.
The first process to understand is how the body prevents oxidation. You've probably heard the word "antioxidant" many times in reference to vitamins, supplements, foods or teas. In case you do not understand it, please read the following slowly and carefully and try to follow the thought progression:
Thought 1. We need oxygen to live. That's obvious.
Thought 2. Why do we need oxygen? Because oxygen plays an important role in metabolism, in the breakdown of food into energy and the raw materials to supply every other function that goes on inside the body. Every cell of the body--trillions of them--needs oxygen to carry on its individual function. Brain cells, for example, begin to die after only three minutes without a fresh supply of oxygen.
Thought 3. Oxygen is, however, a reactive substance, i.e. it reacts with other substances. That's the reason why you have to be very careful in the presence of pure oxygen or you could have an explosion, i.e. a powerful reaction. (The air we breathe is only 20 percent oxygen.)
Thought 4. When oxygen reacts with other substances, it causes oxidation. Fire, for example, is rapid oxidation. We also see it when iron rusts; the rust is oxidation. An apple cut in half and exposed to air turns brown; the browning is oxidation.
This process of oxidation also occurs within the body, where it's called biological rancidification. Researchers have determined that biological rancidification is one of the primary causes of aging.
Dr. Bland states, "The way biological rancidification occurs in the body is similar to how oxygen combines with fat in a cube of butter and causes it to become rancid...The 20-Day Rejuvenation Diet Program page 80). ...activated forms of oxygen--oxygen radical or reactive oxygen species (ROS)--are manufactured in the body following exposure to radiation, pollution, viruses or other infectious agents, drugs and medication (including alcohol and cigarettes) and even as a consequence of the activation of the body's immune system." (Page 81.)
Thought 5: The biochemical forms of oxygen that are most likely to cause this biological rancidification are commonly known as "free radicals." Free radicals are molecules that are missing an electron, so they steal a replacement electron from another molecule, causing oxidative damage to the "victimized" molecule and the tissue of which it is a part.
Thought 6. Unfortunately, there's a domino effect caused by free radicals in the body. They don't just cause one reaction and stop. The "victimized" molecule now steals a replacement electron from yet a third molecule...and on and on it goes.
Here's how Dr. Bland describes the effect of free radicals on the body: "...imagine a Ping-Pong table covered with mousetraps. All the traps are set, 'baited' with a carefully placed Ping-Pong ball. Then imagine tossing another ball onto the table. That ball springs one trap, bounces off and begins a reaction that in a short time triggers all the mousetraps on the table, with Ping-Pong balls bouncing everywhere. This is very similar to the explosive chemical reactions which are initiated by free radicals..." The 20-Day Rejuvenation Diet Program (Page 84.)
Dr. Baker clarifies how this pertains to the body: "If a fatty acid molecule [back to that pat of butter] gets its electron ripped off by oxygen in the air, it is damaged...If the fatty acid molecule is nested among millions of others in ... our cell membranes, we call the damage 'oxidative damage'..." Detoxification & Healing: The Key to Optimal Health, (page 69).
Understanding Oxidative Stress
Dr. Baker helps us understand electron exchanges from the larger perspective of chemistry in general: "...oxygen and all related oxidative stresses...put our molecules at risk of losing an electron. Such a loss is a necessary part of all chemistry in which molecules participate voluntarily...chemistry has to do with the sharing, gaining or losing of electrons from one atom or molecule." Detoxification & Healing: The Key to Optimal Health, (Pg. 69)
Thought 7. Fortunately, the body has a system that prevents damage from free radicals, if it has an adequate supply of essential nutrients.
The essential nutrients are vitamin C, E, B2, bioflavinoids, beta-carotene, glutathione, selenium and zinc.
First a vitamin C molecule gives the "victimized" molecule a replacement electron and then the vitamin C molecule itself receives a replacement electron from a molecule of the bioflavinoids. The bioflavinoid molecule in turn receives a replacement electron from a beta-carotene molecule. The beta-carotene molecule in turn receives a replacement electron from a vitamin E molecule. The vitamin E molecule in turn receives a replacement electron from glutathione. As you can see, and as Dr. Baker informs us..."Antioxidants do not work alone." (Pgs. 69-71)
The nutrients all work together and if the diet lacks any one, there will be oxidative stress. For example, a beta-carotene molecule with a missing electron becomes unstable and toxic when its missing electron is not replaced by one from vitamin E and vitamin E cannot replace beta-carotene's missing electron if it is not able to borrow one from vitamin B2.
Dr. Baker uses a bucket-brigade analogy to describe the chain of electron exchanges among the different antioxidants that prevent oxidative damage. If one of the antioxidants in the chain is missing, that's the point where the process stops and damage begins.
Dr. Bland emphasizes the same point: "In order for oxidant free radicals to be properly quenched and detoxified, all of the antioxidants must be in balance one to another. Taking high levels of a supplement of one antioxidant without increasing the others could significantly impair the effectiveness of the single protective nutrient." (Page 93)
A state of "oxidative stress" can result when the body does not have the adequate nutrients. Most of the chronic illnesses that affect our society are related, in one way or another, to oxidative stress. This explains why some people age more quickly than others. It is because, over the years, they have not supplied their bodies with adequate supplies of these nutrients.
Both physical and psychological stress (see psychoneuroimmunology) increase the body's need for nutritional supplementation, as do exposure to toxins, lifestyle choices and internal toxins such as those generated by candidiasis, i.e. intestinal yeast infections.
The antioxidant defense system takes place throughout the body, on a cellular level.
Another critical detoxification process takes place in the liver. This is a two-phase process involving a series of enzymes.
Peter Bennett, N.D., and Stephen Barrie, N.D., describe it in their book 7-Day Detox Miracle: Restore Your Mind and Body's Natural Vitality with This Safe and Effective Life-Enhancing Program. "Think of this detoxification process as a two-phase wash cycle. Enzymes are like the soap that liberates grease into little droplets, removing impurities that the water can't remove on its own. In the first part of the wash cycle, enzymes break toxins down into intermediate forms...Some toxins are ready for elimination at this stage, but others require a second wash cycle. In Phase Two, these intermediate compounds are routed along one of six chemically driven detoxification pathways, where they are further broken down, and then bound to specific types of protein molecules which act as 'escorts' to guide them out of the body, allowing them to exit through the kidneys (in the form of urine) or the bile (in the form of feces). This process is called conjugation." (Pg. 97-98.)
Many toxins are fat-soluable. The liver's job is to transform them into water-soluable substances so they can be excreted via the bowel or the kidneys. (The bowel and the kidneys cannot process them out until they're water-soluable.) When hormones, drugs, chemicals or other toxins enter the liver in the blood, the first group of enzymes, the Phase One detoxification system, go to work to transform them. When the Phase One enzymes have "biotransformed" the toxins into intermediate forms, Phase Two enzymes combine with the "biotransformed intermediates" to create nontoxic water-soluable compounds that can then be excreted. If there aren't enough nutrients to generate these Phase Two enzymes, a dangerous bottle-neck in the detoxification process is created. The necessary enzymes are derived from various vitamins and minerals, plus amino acids (glycine, glutamine, taurine, methionine, cysteine and glutathione) found in high quality proteins.
These biotransformed intermediates have another name we're now more familiar with, oxygen free radicals, and if they can't be immediately processed out due to lack of nutrients, they begin to cause oxidative stress within the liver and to other tissues where they're carried in the bloodstream. The free radicals, can be MORE DANGEROUS than they were in their original form as toxins entering the liver.
Dr. Bland reports "These intermediary materials have adverse effects upon the hormone-secreting endocrine system (the thyroid, adrenal and pancreatic glands), the immune system, which provides the body's defenses, and the nervous system. These three organ systems seem to be most sensitive to endo- and exotoxicity [that is, toxins of internal and external origin], and the symptoms patients experience are often related to thyroid difficulties, adrenal stress problems, immune hypersensitivity or immune suppression problems associated with increased inflammation or "catching every bug that comes along," and chronic nervous system problems that may, in some individuals, progress to become such serious disorders as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease." (Pg. 116)
The enzyme system in the liver is very delicate. Like the antioxidant system, it depends on having the right combination of an assortment of nutrients that is almost impossible to get without nutritional supplementation, even from a very healthy diet. The enzyme system is also subject to great genetic variation. Dr. Bland reports that when all the health-conscious members of his staff had their liver detoxification processes tested, they found a 10-fold difference in Phase One detoxification ability among these "normal" individuals. "In fact," he writes, "individuals among the staff who had the slowest cytochrome P450 [i.e. the liver's enzyme system] detoxification activity were the most sensitive, with histories of allergy, asthma and environmental sensitivity. On the other end of the continuum, those who had very active cytochrome P450 and liver detoxification systems appeared to be the staff members who never got sick when they traveled internationally, experienced no allergies to foods or other substances and had no eczema or asthma." (Pg. 114)
Another complicating factor can be that a person may naturally have one phase that works better than the other. Fortunately, there is now simple, noninvasive testing that tests a person's Phase One and Phase Two detoxification processes, allowing the individual to make dietary and nutritional adjustments to account for their individual differences.
If the body does not have the nutrients to process out the toxins when they enter the liver, they are stored, either in the liver or in fat tissue. Persons who are overweight have a higher level of stored toxins. During dieting, as the body uses the nutrients stored in the fat cells, these toxins come back into circulation, causing many of the unpleasant effects of dieting, such as jittery nerves, light-headedness and sometimes mild nausea. If inadequate nutrition is being ingested during dieting, the additional biotransformed intermediates can cause extra oxidative stress while dieting. For this reason, both Dr. Bland and Dr. Bennett believe fasting may not be the safest way to detox.