When the word detoxification comes up many people immediately contemplate images of sweat lodges, prolonged fasting, or colonics. Once again my theme in this website is to pursue the inexpensive easy to execute strategies that fit nicely into our lives. Any practices with extreme inconveniences or discomforts (physical or financial) will likely be rare events for most of us. I have
tried and experimented with many, but the simple daily ones are what I want to emphasize here. If someone does not execute the basics, the once a year trip to the desert spa or such will likely not help.
Detoxification is a simple term that describes the healthy recovery and corrective processes that are innate to our body. Examples include the glial-lymphatic system of the brain that releases build up neurotransmitter breakdown products during deep sleep that allows our brain to recover and reboot for the next day and consolidate memories from the previous day. Another example is the liver’s work following digestion, nutrient storage, and distribution followed by enzymatic neutralization of toxins that is critical in our daily eating cycle. The final example is our bodies molecular neutralization of reactive oxygen species from extreme exercise, stress, or toxic food, or energy (EMF, Ionizing Radiation, Microwave) exposures that require valuable ATP utilization and a functional symphony of enzymatic reactions.
On a large scale the body gets rid of "things" four ways:
Some say Colonics are not necessary for a healthy person and others say it's good practice once or twice a year. This procedure needs to be done via certified and trained practitioner cause injury can occur if performed wrong. I have seen videos done by practitioners who fasted for seven days and had clear fluid only bowel movements and then had a colonic and some old looking stool material got flushed out of the system. This finding implies there can be some material trapped in pockets or diverticuli that need to be flushed out intermittently. I have also sent some patients with chronic severe megacolon constipation for regular colonics, and it has dramatically improved their happiness and health. I've also sent some patients with refractory C. difficile overgrowth infection and they have had recovery after a few colonics. Large volume formal studies though are lacking on many of these topics.
Water or Low Calorie Fast
Yes, any fasting gives the body arrests to do some serious house cleaning. Think of the metaphor of a train that has run out of coal to keep the steam engine running, and the engineer will start throwing in the old dispensable furniture first to burn before getting into the newer more valuable stuff. There is a copious debate on water only versus low-calorie or low carbohydrate minimal intake versus how long these answers likely will never be known. From what I've read, if once to twice a year 3 to 5 day fast with proper electrolyte water intake and some low-level clean calorie or fat coffee intake will probably do the job.
Activated Charcoal Powder
You probably know that charcoal has been used in filters and is a binder of toxins for industrial uses and is safe for ingestion in the body. Capsules of fine activated charcoal are cheap; it is easy to throw down after or before the typically less than a healthy meal that we sometimes encounter. I also like to mix a capsule with some olive oil or coconut oil and gargle and swish in the mouth for 2 to 5 minutes to augment the typical “oil pulling” but don't scare yourself when you spit it out as it looks like tar.
Zeolite and other Binders
There are whole families of binders that strive to remove mainly heavy metals from our bodies. These generally require testing through hair and tissue analysis beforehand and afterward and are a more extended discussion than warranted here and the assays are not inexpensive. In sticking with the “keep it simple and lower cost theme," my compromise is to throw down some cheap chlorella tablets with my morning water which have a long history of binding toxins and a long history of safety.
We will go over each one of these but first let’s review our organs that help things work for these actions. The liver is the main organ for detoxification as it processes the breakdown products from digestion as items come in through the portal venous system. Our livers not only need time for the absorption and storage and delivery of nutrients, but they also need time for cellular restoration of enzymatic pathways. That's why many wellness experts advocate a good ten to14 hour of non-eating to let the liver “reboot” each day. This fast also has excellent benefits to increasing insulin sensitivity and thus lowering baseline glucose levels while fostering autophagy (appropriate clear out of old cells). The liver is also sensitive to our lifestyle insults and will struggle from excess alcohol intake and develop alcoholic fatty liver disease, excess fructose intake (soft drinks and processed foods) and develop nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), viruses and develop hepatitis, and finally pharmaceutical injury as well (acetaminophen and many others). So given the livers critical importance to detoxification, we need to do everything we can to protect it. The first strategy is as mentioned to have a long non-eating window of 12 to 14 hours. We should try to have 1 to 2 bowel movements today so that the system processes efficiently. Grandma knew something when she came at you with the cod liver oil, and it wasn't all about vitamin D. Many times at autopsy, cancer patients are found to have impacted colons with pounds of old fecal material jamming up their digestion and portal liver system. It's no wonder why sometimes people die of unclear causes during pharmaceutical treatment that impacts the liver. Revisit the discussion on nutrition where soluble and insoluble vegetable choices should be the mainstay of your food intake. When “in doubt get it out," and much can be told about someone's health by the stool in the toilet. Try to utilize food rather than pharmaceuticals to stay regular. A useful tool is to consider putting 1-2 TBS of aloe vera gel or juice in your morning water. This aloe vera addition step helps with mucosal problems such as gastritis or heartburn while helping with the elimination. Another easy mechanical step is the famous “squatty potty” which does enable proper body alignment for elimination. This position means your feet are elevated on a platform in front of your toilet while you try to straighten up (like doing a back dive position) which mimics squatting in a forest. This position aligns the rectum and the sacrum, so the channel is fully open (the difference between throwing a sandbag at the carnival through flat perpendicular loop verses an angled, slanted loop). One does not even need the wooden stool that fits in front of the toilet, try getting on your toes and leaning back in the back dive position. Once again one should eliminate 1-4 times per day depending on intake and for those who believe I have “always been constipated” and go much less and think this is fine then think again. Chronic constipation is a sign and may reflect problems such as medication side effects, poor diet, inadequate daily exercise, dehydration, emotional issues, bowel flora overgrowth or more. This basic function is a fundamental process and warrants attention to get right before chasing exotic solutions. At the end I will mention some of the more aggressive detox options so stay tuned.
Like the bowel, our observation of the regular urine release is excellent feedback to our state of hydration (note the theme-“Be your own best doctor”:-)). The color, volume, and smell have physiologic information. Mainly one should recognize:
Concentrated or dark urine means the body is trying to hold on to the fluid and needs more to equilibrate. If urine is clear and copious and is having a good flush, then we are probably hydrating well.
There're other issues when one is urinating too often as in the case of hyperglycemia and other specific symptoms and signs.
We all know about eliminating carbon dioxide by expiration, and we probably remember scenarios where peoples breath smelled unusual during different illnesses or after consumption of certain foods. As mentioned earlier, dedicated nostril breathing better filters the air and abdominal breathing pulls deeper in the lungs to better aerate and thus flush out all the little alveoli or air pockets of exchange throughout the lungs. This deep exchange is one of the benefits of aerobic exercise or any deep breathing practice. One of my favorite methods is called Wim Hoff breathing named after the originator and is a great tool to enhance vagal tone and thus rest, digest and relax balance of our sympathetic nervous system while also flushing out the deep reservoirs of our lungs.
We all have likely noticed that after a particular type of food intake our sweat or body odor can smell different. Yes, the skin is a large surface area of sweat glands and oil glands that help with temperature regulation and excretion. A good sweat through exercise or other practices such as a sauna or steam bath can move toxins out of the body. The skin is a porous system that can also absorb chemicals so don't put anything on your skin that you wouldn't feel safe to eat. To keep the skin functioning with excretion, regular sloughing of the dead epidermis around the body is essential. As an individual ages, the sloughing process requires more active intervention with the wash towel or loofah tool. I also raise concerns about over washing with antibacterial soaps. Remember our skin has a natural flora the keeps fungus and harmful bacteria (MRSA) from overgrowing and becoming a problem. I usually suggest using soap on the four “Ps” (peds, paws, pits, and pubs) regularly and just rinsing the rest of the body with water. If one doesn't have access to a sauna or steam-bath, a good Epson salt bath soak will open up the skin, slough the dead stuff, help release some dormant toxins and offer some good magnesium to the body at the same time. I call it a poor man's test for magnesium if you feel good after an Epson salt bath you're probably running low on magnesium typically.