Totally Clean

A good cleansing system needs to address all the body’s detoxification needs.

By Lisa James

May 2012


It’s a dirty world out there. According to one environmental watchdog group, the average person’s body is burdened by 92 separate toxins from substances they breathe, touch and ingest. Add internally produced poisons, such as the free radicals that occur when cells generate energy, to the mix and it’s no wonder that detoxification for greater well-being has been a part of traditional medicine for thousands of years. What’s more, modern researchers have found that toxins in body fat disrupt metabolism, making weight loss much more difficult—a crucial, if overlooked, aspect of our current obesity epidemic.

However, many cleansing protocols don’t address the full range of detoxification issues. As crucial as fiber is to a good cleanse, for example, simply using fiber like a broom to sweep toxins from the gastrointestinal tract doesn’t do a complete job of freeing the body from its toxic burden.

Multi-System Multi-Tasking

As the chief organs of elimination, the colon and kidneys play a vital role in any cleansing routine. But the need for detoxification starts deeper within.

The liver is the body’s primary processing station for substances of all kinds, including toxins from both food and the bloodstream. Traditional healers have long understood the role this organ plays in detoxification, which explains why herbs such as milk thistle, dandelion root, fenugreek and turmeric have been used in various cultures for liver support. Many of these same herbs also support the lungs, which help eliminate toxins through respiration (and why deep breathing is recommended for general health).

The blood and the lymph not only brings nourishment to the cells but also take wastes away, making them key detox pathways. To this end, garlic and other herbs have long been used as blood and lymph cleansers.

Gastrointestinal cleansing begins with the large intestine, for which fiber—including such sources as acacia and rhubarb—is well suited. But inefficient stomach activity fosters toxin production, as does a poorly operating small intestine. And the entire system is controlled by nerves and muscles that regulate peristalsis, the movement of food through the system. That requires herbs such as fennel to promote healthy peristalsis and function of sphincters such as the cardiac, which keeps stomach contents from backing up in the esophagus.

Organic Advantage

Undertaking a bodily cleanse is a little like cleaning the windows of a house: Clean towels will leave glass clear and streak-free, while dirty ones may leave it even dirtier than before. Apples and grapes (as grapeseed), often employed for their cleansing properties, appear on the Environmental Working Group’s “dirty dozen” list of produce most likely to be contaminated with pesticides. That’s why all of the produce, herbs and other botanical elements of a cleansing protocol should come from sources certified as USDA Organic—to ensure a more complete and effective detoxification process.

No cleanse, no matter how thorough, is going to help over the long term without appropriate diet and lifestyle changes. That means going to a diet based on organic produce, whole grains, lean proteins and healthful fats, such as olive and flax seed oil. At least 30 minutes of daily exercise should also be in the mix, along with adequate water intake, stress relief, restful sleep and detoxifying skincare practices such as dry brushing.

Do you want to free your body from the toxins within? Cleansing can help—but only if it addresses all your detoxification needs.

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