In 52 Healthy Changes, Essential Oils, Evergreen, Everyday Life, Food, New Year
Healthy Changes 49 - To Cleanse Or Not

ur bodies are incredible works of art. They have the innate ability to cleanse, purify, sustain and detox from a whole host of environmental toxins and pollutants. There’s no question “detoxing” is all the rage these days, from juice cleanses, to detox programs, everyone seems to want to be rid of toxins. With good reason! 

How Toxins Build Up in Our Body

Toxins can build up and accumulate over time within our bodies wreaking havoc on our overall health and wellness. But are cleanses the answer to good health? Is detoxing with some overpriced costly product the road to well being? Maybe! But maybe not!

First, it’s important to understand why your body is overloaded and burdened by toxins. It’s true we’re exposed to more chemicals from pesticides, chlorine, bleach, ammonia and carbon monoxide than the average man a mere 100 years ago was exposed to. And it’s also true that these toxins can build up over time and cause disease, but I don’t think a detox cleanse is the first or best line of defense.

How do we know if we have excess toxins in our body?

Well, start off by asking yourself a few basic questions:

If you answered yes to any of these, then you may have excess toxins overloading your body. But this doesn’t mean you should run out and buy a cleanse! What this means is you should take a good look at your lifestyle. Are there things you can do to limit exposure to unnecessary toxins and chemicals without spending gobs of money? Surely drinking more water could help (do your best to make sure your water is filtered) or taking up an exercise routine…these are both free! How about cooking more meals at home instead of take-out? This way you know the ingredients in your food and you’re saving a few bucks! 

An additional word of warning, if you’re not eating a well-rounded diet, rich in vitamins and minerals, your body will actually use toxic heavy metals as “stand-ins” for those minerals you’re lacking.

“For example:

  • Calcium is replaced by lead, which deposits primarily in bone, and disrupts the formation of red blood cells. Lead contributes to poor bone health such as osteopenia and osteoporosis.
  • Zinc is replaced by cadmium, which tends to accumulate heavily in your kidneys. Cadmium overload is associated with peripheral neuropathy.
  • Magnesium is replaced by aluminum, which, among other things, induces neurochemical changes and has been identified as a contributing factor to developing Alzheimer’s.
  • Manganese is replaced by nickel, which is carcinogenic.” (Source)

As you can see, it’s not only important to obtain vital nutrients through your diet to avoid this toxic metal replacement process, but having adequate nutrients will actually aid your body’s own natural detoxification process.

Why I Don’t Love Cleanses

It’s true, cleanses and detox programs are appealing. They even lure me in from time to time! Just last week a close friend emailed me to ask about a cleanse she wanted to start in the New Year. She sent the link to the product and I found myself reading through all the facts, totally intrigued by the appealing promises, until I saw the price tag and the ingredients! 

The truth is, this friend is someone I know quite well, and I know that she eats a very healthy diet, gets regular exercise, drinks plenty of water, has eliminated household toxins by revamping her cleaning and beauty supplies and eats mostly organic food cooked from scratch. I did my best to encourage her and gently shooed her away from the overpriced product. The changes she was making on a daily basis will do far more good (in the long run) than a 28 day cleanse ever would.

That’s one of the tricks the marketers of these cleanses and detoxes play, they get us to think we’re overloaded with toxins from environmental exposure and make us think the only way to rid our bodies of these toxins is through their amazing, specially formulated, one of a kind detox system. There’s no mention of price until the very end, once they’ve got ya, hook line and sinker! Because to rid your body of toxins, once and for all, for the low, low price of $___ seems like money well spent…am I right? 

The truth is, these cleanses are usually just herbs that have a gentle laxative effect, encouraging sluggish bowels to do their job of…what?…ELIMINATING TOXINS! But unless you change your diet and lifestyle, you’ll be back to square one in no time.

How Our Bodies “Detox” and “Cleanse” Naturally

A healthy person ought to have frequent bowel movements…take my toddler, for example…he’s eliminating toxins three and four times a day! Super healthy! And my kiddos don’t miss a day either. The average, healthy person should have a bowel movement once or twice daily, and should never have to strain or force things along.

The liver is the body’s pathway for toxin removal. It converts harmful chemicals, or toxins, into water-soluble molecules that are then flushed out through urine or feces. However, if we’re “backed up” in that area, these toxins will remain in your system longer, causing more harm. (Source)

There are some people whose bodies simply don’t detox the way they were created to, and for them, in addition to working with a naturopathic doctor, my recommendations remain the same as they do for those whose bodies do detox normally. Elimination of toxins from household chemicals and beauty products, a “clean”, real food diet, plenty of water and exercise are going to be the best line of defense.

The Top 5 Priorities for Detoxification

While keeping stress low and emotions in a healthy balance are very important, we’ll focus on the following as the top five priorities for keeping our bodies healthy and naturally detoxified:

  1. Healthy Living (including lowering chemical exposure)
  2. Avoiding EMFs
  3. Drinking Plenty of Clean Water
  4. Eating a Healthy Diet
  5. Getting Adequate Healthy Exercise

If these five things are your top priorities in keeping a healthy, detoxified body, then it’s my personal opinion that you’re on the right track. Now, if you’ve implemented the above for 3-6 months and you’re still having trouble “eliminating”, have chronic constipation or abdominal pain, then my recommendation would be to seek out a licensed naturopathic doctor.

A Cautionary Note on Detoxes

While looking into various cleanses and detox programs that are available on the internet, I noticed very few of them give warnings (at least in the initial “sell” of their product) about the possible dangers of a cleanse/detox. First of all, you should never start a cleanse when you’re sick or have a compromised immune system (such as following an antibiotic treatment). Your body needs to be healthy first in order to have an adequate store of minerals to draw on for your liver to properly detox. Forcing a detox can easily overwhelm your liver’s ability to process the toxic substances that are being eliminated causing you to become very sick, negating the hoped for positive effects of the cleanse.

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