Detox Your Life
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Whether you’re livin’ a little too large or just plain living in a world such as ours, the toxic burden on your body eventually builds up. Learn what bad stuff may be floating around inside you and how to do some housekeeping.
Oops. You did it again. Stayed way too long at that holiday bash, indulging in countless hors d’oeuvres, enough wine to deputize a designated driver and one too many desserts. Sure, you had a great time, but you undoubtedly felt it the next day: achy head, waistband a tad tight and little energy.
Luckily, you don’t make a habit of partying till the wee hours. If you did, your body would simply be a wasteland of toxic soup.
But those nights out, in combination with toxins absorbed from everyday living, are a problem for all of us, since years of exposure to pollutants slows down the body’s ability to eliminate them. In addition to eating and drinking items filled with toxins, day after day and year after year your body absorbs harmful chemicals through gas fumes, paints, second-hand cigarette smoke, plastics, pharmaceutical drugs, pesticides, food additives, hair dyes, household cleansers and lawn chemicals. Stress only exacerbates the problem, adding its own brand of toxicity to the heart and other organs.
It’s a dirty world out there and though your body may be a good housekeeper—automatically cleaning itself up by neutralizing toxins through the liver, colon, lungs, skin and lymph system—it’s just not enough. Doctors and scientists link environmental toxins to many prevalent medical conditions, including cancer, while the American Medical Association considers emotional toxicity to be a contributing factor in 75% of all disease.
If you’re like most Americans, you likely suffer from one or more of the following: headaches, poor digestion, constipation, insomnia, depression, indigestion, adult acne, allergies, weight gain, bloating, or respiratory or sinus problems. With so many chemicals in the environment and so much stress in daily life, finding and exorcising the so-called “smoking gun” that causes these maladies is nearly impossible. But making changes in your lifestyle that reduce exposure to toxins and improve your chances of living longer isn’t as tough as it seems, however. A detoxification program—clearing your system of all that junk—may be just what your body needs.
Steven Kowalsky is physically fit, but regularly goes on detoxification retreats anyway as a vacation from the stresses of everyday life. During these retreats, he doesn’t have access to unhealthy foods, television, telephones or computers. “I need to detox from life,” explains Kowalsky, who co-owns a demanding business in Utica, New York. “There’s no major medical problem, but what I do have is stress from my business and my life in general. There is a calmness to what the environment and the food at the retreat does to me.”
Amid 60 acres of woodlands and ponds at the Body Mind Restoration Center in Spencer, New York, Kowalsky indulges in massages, saunas, exercise and colonics (a sort of extremely thorough, professionally administered enema) to detoxify his body, and dines on organic foods, wheatgrass and other juices. He also uses yoga, guided visualization and meditation to reduce stress and calm his mind. (For a list of similar retreats, visit www.retreatsonline.com/guide/fasting.htm.)
“These practices would benefit anybody,” says Kowalsky, who claims he is more at peace since his body and mind are clearer. We can all take a page from Kowalsky, whose daily routine now incorporates fresh vegetable juice, some raw foods, little or no meat and almost no sugar. “My diet is better than it used to be.
I take a sauna almost every day and I try to get in three colonics a month. I have a lot more energy. Of course, I’m not perfect all the time.”
In fact, the majority of us are far from perfect. Many of us are engaging in poor dietary choices, inactivity and smoking—all of which contribute to inner toxicity. The combined stresses of work, relationships and family responsibilities only aggravate this toxicity, leading to less sleep and more between-meal and late-night eating.
“You can’t fool the body,” says Marcia Radin, MA, founder and director of Body Mind Restoration. “It’s an incredible computer that requires the right data.” The culprits that crash this computer, reckons Radin, are acidic foods, such as meats, fowl, dairy products, eggs and coffee, together with sugary foods, which create an acid buildup in the body, ultimately releasing toxins and creating an imbalance. Meats, she says, are especially toxic: “Meat houses a lot of toxins, which are stored in the animals. Then you’re eating it and storing their toxins.”
What each of us can do, suggests Radin, is eliminate sugars and cut back on acidic foods. Instead, load up on organic vegetables, fruits and juices. “The ideal detox eliminates toxins while giving the body what it needs: a diet that facilitates elimination and provides enough calories so the body does not shut down,” notes Radin.
When it comes to choosing a diet designed to detox, the options can be head-spinning: juice fasts, raw foods, herbal remedies and colon cleanses abound. If you’re opting for a detoxification program without the advice of a professional, the best idea is to go slow and make it simple. For instance, for seven to 21 days, opt for a cleansing diet of juices, fruits, vegetables, cooked whole grains and filtered water. Add a colon detox with fiber and, if possible, enemas or colonics.
If you’re a woman, chances are you’re hauling around even more toxins, since the fairer sex typically carries as much as 10% more body fat than men. Since so many toxic materials are fat-soluble, that makes women especially vulnerable to soluble synthetic chemicals, such as flame retardants and other known carcinogens linked to hormone disruption and breast cancer. These same chemicals are transferred in utero and through breast milk to children, affecting fetal development and childhood growth.
“Fat is an easy place to store toxins, yet it’s not an area your body needs,” says Radin. So what’s a gal with a few extra pounds to do? Apparently, cutting back on caloric foods and dropping excess flab can actually be more harmful than helpful when it comes to purging toxins from the body. “We store toxins unless we are eliminating them in some way,” says Radin. In other words, losing weight does not equate to detox. Though pounds melt away, the toxins themselves are left to re-circulate and build up inside the body.
Toxins are released via many areas of the body, including breath, sweat, hair, tears, earwax, urine and bowels. “It’s how you get them out of the body that matters,” explains Radin. “If you do aerobic exercise, you can sweat it out. If you drink lots of water, you can pee it out.” The bottom line? Eat a cleansing diet, drink a lot of filtered water, and get moving.
Body, Mind and Spirit
Juicing, fasting and refraining from alcohol or smoking won’t offset the stress of daily living. A detoxifying diet won’t transform your mundane job into a dream career, nor will it eliminate nagging family issues. But a detox process that incorporates activities such as meditation and yoga can provide the opportunity to purge the day-to-day pressures and emotional baggage that weigh us down, and help us reach our greater potential.
It’s well documented (often in Energy Times, in fact) that stress, anger and depression can harm our physical health. While the complexity of emotions are not always easy to articulate, sitting quietly in a meditative state is an easy way to look within, while techniques including breath work, yoga, reflexology and massage can help to release tension. Simple visualizations and affirmations, such as “I will not shout at my spouse today,” can work wonders towards controlling anger and keeping other emotions in check.
Bolster the physical detoxification process with a supplement program geared toward purging the body of toxins. As a result of its many metabolic functions, the liver is the most important detox organ, so it makes sense to use liver-supportive nutrients, such as the B vitamins and vitamins A, C and E, along with zinc, calcium, selenium and L-cysteine. Enzymes, obtained from fresh raw fruits and vegetables, can also be ingested daily in supplement form. In addition to boosting detox efforts, enzymes help cleanse the bowels.
The ultimate question is, how much do you want to detoxify and find a greater sense of wholeness? Your answer will define the extent of your lifestyle changes, including dieting, drinking more water, exercising daily and even enjoying an occasional massage. Detoxification also takes some planning: if you’re headed out for a night on the town or a week-long cruise, watch your diet, hit the sauna and work out beforehand and afterwards. You might find the occasional indulgence to be even more gratifying—and less guilt-inspiring—with your healthy detoxification regimen in place.