In a world where we are exposed to more environmental toxins and pollutants than ever in history, the need to detoxify on a regular basis has become a prerequisite for optimal health. While there are many detoxification programs to choose from, this article is designed to give you a checklist to know what to look for in a detox.
KEYS TO THE BEST DETOX PROGRAM
YOU MUST DIGEST WELL TO DETOXIFY WELL
Did you know that you have to digest well to detox well? I define good digestion by moving your bowels within the first hour of waking and when the stools are regularly formed, without loose stools or mucus. There cannot be any symptoms of indigestion like heart burn, gas, bloating or belching. Perhaps the most deceptive indicators of good digestion are our habits. Often we insidiously modify the diet towards healthier, easier to digest foods because of an underlying digestive imbalance. Though eating healthier is always a good idea, the original digestive imbalance will go untreated if the reason for making such dietary shifts is because you don’t digest certain foods well.
Dietary changes that may be associated with an underlying digestive imbalance include: avoiding wheat, gluten, dairy, fatty, greasy or fried food. Sometimes the dietary shift is toward a more restrictive diet like becoming a vegetarian, vegan, raw foodist, or eating six small meals a day. Even just a simple shift away from the Standard American Diet (SAD) toward more vegetables and less heavy foods like breads, pastas or red meats may be an indicator that the ability to digest the heavier foods has decreased over time.
This insidious digestive weakening may also show up as a subtle but steady weight gain or nagging stiffness, chronic skin conditions, allergies, food sensitivities, fatigue or mood instability. We often relate these symptoms to the need for a detox – which I would agree with -but there is also a need to improve digestive strength.
Before we jump right into a detox, let’s run a fine tooth comb through the efficiency of the digestive system.
CHECK YOUR BLOOD SUGAR
One of my passions is the essential need to have stable blood sugar. According to the preliminary study I did in my book, The 3-Season Diet, we correlated balancing the blood sugar by shifting from eating six meals a day to three meals a day with reduced: anxiety, depression, insomnia, fatigue, cravings and weight gain.
When the blood sugar is unstable, the default fuel is sugar and carbs – not fat. For the body to detoxify well, the blood sugar must be stable so the body can shift its stress-related fuel supply from sugar to stored fat (where your body holds onto toxins).
My favorite acid test for checking your blood sugar is to see if you can eat 3 good healthy relaxing meals a day with no snacks between meals. If you are comfortable and do not experience any highs and lows in energy, mood or cravings, then your blood sugar levels are probably fine. If you do experience discomfort, be sure that your blood sugar has been stabilized before you embark on a detox.
IT ALL STARTS IN THE GUT
There are an inordinate number of stress receptors that line the intestinal track. When the stress levels are high, the impact of this stress can irritate the intestinal mucus membranes.
Initially, these membranes will dry out and cause constipation. In time, if the stress is incessant, the mucus membranes will produce reactive mucus to lubricate the gut and relieve the constipation. Unfortunately this also clogs and flattens the intestinal villi, where absorption of nutrients and removal of waste takes place. If you are experiencing regular bowel movements only with the addition of an herbal supplement, more fiber, veggies, water or the restriction of certain foods, you are still constipated.
This reactive mucus can also create more frequent loose bowel movements that may have mucus in them. If you see mucus in the stool , then we have proof that excess mucus exists and the villi are congested.
A good detox plan must start with severing the relationship of stress to the gut and healing the intestinal mucosa. This would require a stress reduction plan and a strategy to pull the mucus off the wall of the gut and tone the intestinal musculature.
THE POWER OF LYMPH
Just outside the intestinal wall is the Gut Associated Lymphatic System (GALT). In this half inch between the villi on the inside of the intestinal wall and the GALT on the outside of the wall is the most important half inch of the body because it is where 80% of the body’s immune function lies. When the lymph is congested, a litany of symptoms arise: skin rashes, itchiness, achy joints, holding on to water or swelling anywhere in the body, allergies, headaches, sore throats, swollen glands, swollen or tender breasts, cellulite, extra belly fat, gas or bloating – to name a few.
The lymphatic system begins in the lacteals or intestinal villi where they pull nutrients and fat soluble toxins off the intestinal wall. The problem is that if the gut is constipated or there is excessive reactive mucus bogging down the villi, the lymph and its white blood cells cannot provide immunity or detoxification. These cancer causing fat soluble toxins – like heavy metals, environmental toxins, pollutants, pesticides, preservatives, plastics, and parasites, to name a few – are defaulted to the liver. In most people, the liver is no longer able to deal with these toxins which had originally been earmarked for detoxification through the gut and the lymph.
Therefore, the detoxification you engage in must also destagnate your lymphatic system.
A LIVER’S WORK IS NEVER DONE
At the end of the small intestine many of the undigested fat soluble toxins are re-absorbed back to the liver. Over time this can overwhelm the liver. The liver may become sluggish, become fatty or spill the undigested fats into the blood stream where they look for other places to store in the body. The fat cells can hold numerous cancer and disease producing toxins for many years until they are properly detoxified. But if we just flush them out from storage, where do they go? If the liver is congested and the lymph is sluggish, these toxins just recirculate and end up stored in the fat cells again.
There is one catch: the fat cells have a saturation point. They will only allow so many fat soluble toxins to be stored. When the saturation point is reached, the toxins spill back into the blood and often end up being deposited as neuro-toxins in the brain because it is a major concentration of fatty tissue.
Before we detox these dangerous chemicals from the fat cells we must be sure the liver has been cleansed so it can help process these toxins out of the body.
THE GALLBLADDER TO THE RESCUE
One of the side effects of liver congestion mentioned above is that the bile gets too thick, viscous and sluggish. Often times non-emulsified cholesterol residue can build up and create those pesky gallstones. Before they become stones they create a sluggish, sludgy bile flow.
The word cholesterol comes from two words: chole and sterol. Chole means bile and sterol means steroid, or stress related hormone. So cholesterol is a combination of excess steroid hormones or stress and bile. Another interesting factoid is that the word melancholy comes from the word black bile, which is basically toxic or thick bile that often has an associated symptom of a depressed mood.
Thick bile simply cannot neutralize the good and bad fats we ingest, which causes: bloating, indigestion, heart burn, nausea, belching and gas. Healthy bile also neutralizes acids from the stomach. If the bile flow is insufficient the stomach acids can scorch the intestinal wall and cause burning. This sends an urgent memo to the stomach to turn down the production of acid – even though it is necessary for proper digestion – because there isn’t enough bile to neutralize it. So the stomach turns down the flame to a simmer. Instead of cooking the food and emulsifying any toxins, the stomach just warms things up. It is this dance between acid production in the stomach and the flow of bile that determines our digestive strength.
Sluggish bile can also congest the common bile duct, which is shared with the pancreatic duct. As a result, the flow of digestive enzymes can be compromised when the bile becomes congested. Many people are unnecessarily told to take supplemental digestive enzymes that ultimately end up weakening the digestive system. Once the bile flow is restored the need for additional enzymes is eradicated. Be sure your detox plan has a bile and liver flushing component and a way to determine if the digestive fire has been reset.
Here at LifeSpa we offer four different types of cleanses to choose from, all of which cover the main areas to detox that I write about in this article.
1. The Short Home Cleanse (www.lifespa.com/ShortHomeCleanse): A comprehensive 4 day cleanse that is available for free on my web site and can be done by anyone, anytime, anywhere. Print out the self-guided instructions and you are ready to go.
2. The Colorado Cleanse (www.lifespa.com/ColoradoCleanse): This May I will guide you through a 2 week detox with video, conference calls, daily emails and an online community to connect with others who are on the Colorado Cleanse. This is longer, deeper and more comprehensive than the Short Home Cleanse. The Colorado Cleanse will address all the essential components needed to detoxify the deep tissues of the body.
3. Consultation with Dr. Douillard (www.lifespa.com): If you feel your condition needs personal guidance, schedule either a Phone Consultation or an In Person consult with me. Often I find that individuals need special attention and a supervised detox on the road back to health. For this I suggest we consult directly to make sure you are best served with a detox strategy to address the cause of what is ailing you.
4. Panchakarma (www.lifespa.com/Panchakarma): We offer 3, 7, 14 or 21 day detoxification retreats at LifeSpa in Boulder, Colorado. Panchakarma is the pinnacle experience of Ayurvedic medicine because it prepares and detoxifies the physical body so we have the clarity to choose a life free of emotional ups and downs and become poised to live a more authentic, loving and fulfilling life.