6 easy ways to cleanse and detox
Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a pollution-free environment, where we drank only the purest water and ate untainted, natural foods? Where the homes we lived in were free of chemicals and the air we breathed, the water in which we swam and even the clothes hugging our skin were clean of any artificial substances?
Of course, this idealistic notion has probably never been the reality and is especially unlikely today. That’s why the next best thing we can do for our health is cleanse our bodies of these toxins from time to time using various methods of detoxification.
Detoxification refers, of course, to the elimination of poisons or toxins. Because of the huge amounts of environmental contaminants, our bodies are in serious need of regular cleansing to reduce damage to the immune system and metabolism. Detoxification is vital to maximise the body’s energy and to prevent chronic illness. It’s also a time-honoured way to keep digestive elimination regular, circulation under control and stress to a minimum. Detoxification maintains good health and promotes healing from illnesses.
Various types of massage have a very long history of improving lymph movement and blood flow, helping to get cellular waste products and accumulated toxins out of tissues, into the bloodstream and to the kidneys, where they are eliminated in urine.
Melinda Pizzano, a licensed massage therapist, matches specific massage techniques to a client’s constitution. One of her favourites is a salt massage, or salt glow. "I use this method to stimulate the large lymph glands and exfoliate the skin, as the skin is the largest organ of elimination." Pizzano uses a blend of salt, oil and an assortment of herbs and sugars during the massage, then rubs it off with hot towels.
“A Swedish massage, which uses a more vigorous rubbing technique that really stimulates the lymph and circulatory systems, might be better for someone else,” she adds, “while the lymphatic drainage technique might suit another individual."
Aromatic essential oils such as lemon and grapefruit enhance the detoxification process, as does regularity of treatments. Melinda suggests massage be enjoyed on a weekly, bimonthly or monthly basis to ensure the treatments reach the body’s deepest layers, where unwanted substances build up over time.
Hyperthermia techniques, which elevate body temperature slightly to remove toxins, have been used throughout history — by ancient Greek physicians, in the ornate bath complexes of the Romans, in the sweat lodges of the Native Americans and in the steam baths of the Scandinavians. These techniques are still popular today. Steam baths, hot tubs and saunas, in particular, are favourite ways to get the heart beating and blood circulating, which in turn improves toxin transfer from tissues to the bloodstream, then to the liver, which chemically alters many harmful substances into harmless ones.
Dry skin brushing is another European technique that has been used for centuries. Not only does it remove toxins accumulated in dead skin cells, it also enhances circulation. Dr Bernard Jensen, author of Dr. Jensen’s Guide to Better Bowel Care, recommends "your daily regime should begin with skin brushing for a period of three to five minutes. I believe skin brushing is one of the finest of all ‘baths’. No soap can wash the skin as clean as the new skin that you have under the old. You make a new top layer of skin every 24 hours. Skin brushing removes the old layer and lets this clean new layer come to the surface." Jensen recommends, "The whole body (except the face) should be brushed half an hour after rising and before the morning bath or shower. You may wish to skin brush again before retiring for the night."
Use an all-natural vegetable fibre brush with a long handle to reach out-of-the-way places. Brush from the outermost point — the feet and hands — toward the centre of your body; brush bottoms of the feet, as nerve endings here effect the entire body. Brush across your upper back and down the front and back of your torso. Use lighter strokes over breasts and don’t brush the nipples.
Foods and beverages
Certain foods and beverages help to inactivate toxins or remove them. These include fruits and fruit juices, fresh vegetable juices, chlorophyll-rich foods, herbal teas and sea plants. For optimal results, these foods should be organically grown and consumed fresh.
Blend or juice your favourite fruits in the morning for a detoxifying breakfast. Fruit juices speed up metabolism to release waste quickly and have an alkalising effect (acid-neutralising) on the blood. Citrus fruits and their juices, in particular, are rich in alkaline salts, mainly potassium. High-fibre fruits aid digestive regularity and stabilise insulin levels. Together, these properties reduce fat storage, speed metabolism and minimise sugar cravings.
Fresh vegetable juices provide the body with necessary vitamins, minerals and enzymes to power the natural detoxifying activities of cells. Leafy green vegetables have chlorophyll, a detoxifying agent that helps clear the skin, cleanse the kidneys and cleanse and build the blood. Eating any chlorophyll-rich food will help to boost immunity, treat illness and rid the body of unwanted substances. Spirulina (blue-green algae) and chlorella (green algae) have become popular supplements due to their extremely high chlorophyll content. Powdered concentrates of these green "superfoods" are available at your local healthfood store and may be added to fruit and vegetable juices.
Sea plants ("sea vegetables") aid in detoxification by transforming toxic metals into salts the body can eliminate. They are also rich sources of vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates and proteins. Seaweed, dulse, kelp, nori and wakame are examples. Two tablespoons of dry minced sea vegetables added daily to a bowl of miso soup is a wonderfully therapeutic addition to your diet.
China introduced us to the miraculous green tea, which is high in antioxidant content and combats free radical damage to protect against degenerative diseases. It also boosts enzyme production in the body. It has antiviral and antibacterial properties and is highly valued as a cancer preventative.
Milk thistle, one of nature’s best liver-cleansing tonics, used with honey by the ancient Romans, is also rich in nutrients and antioxidants to prevent free-radical damage. Burdock, known as the plant of longevity, is one of the best blood purifiers of the herbal world and its use dates back to ancient Greece. The leaves make a delightful medicinal addition to soups and salads, or chop it in vinegar to drizzle over green salads.
When taking these herbs in tea form, drink over a long period of time rather than all at once. This allows the tissues to absorb as much of the medicinal value as possible. Drink two to three cups daily for optimal medicinal benefits.
One of the most important detoxification methods is regular exercise. Exercise accelerates the removal of toxins through our largest organ of elimination — the skin — when we sweat. It also stimulates lymph flow, which depends solely on muscular movement (or massage). Lymph function is critical to our body’s ability to cleanse itself. Exercise also enhances metabolism and circulation.
Almost any kind of exercise, from riding a bicycle to planting flowers in the garden, increases the circulatory system’s transportation of oxygen and nutrients to our cells, while carrying away toxins and wastes from tissues to the organs of elimination. Further, exercise counteracts the greater risk for some diseases, such as heart disease, that correlates with a sedentary lifestyle.
India’s Ayurvedic system of health utilises breathing techniques, or pranayama, to settle, balance and detoxify the body. In the Ayurvedic tradition, prana refers to the vital life force and pranayama is the process by which this vital force is increased. Certain breathing techniques enhance the body’s ability to eliminate toxins because detoxification is directly related to the delivery of oxygen to cells and the removal of carbon dioxide.
Try calm belly breathing (breathing into the gravitational centre of the body to ease stress and anxiety). Start by lying down in relaxation pose — on your back, arms relaxed to the side and palms up, feet naturally splayed open and eyes closed. (If you need to modify this pose due to pain in the lower back, simply bend your knees, leaning them against one another, or if your legs are extended, place a towel underneath your head and/or knees.) Now exhale without force while observing your navel fall. Breathe in and out through your nose for five minutes; meditate (mentally focus on) your navel rising and falling during this period.
Aimee Christine Hughes N.D. is a certified Doctor of Naturopathy from Clayton College of Natural Health. She educates and writes on travel, natural health and sustainable living.