Your body is an irreplaceable machine that, like a car, needs regular maintenance. This month, as you prepare to give your home a thorough spring cleaning, why not also treat your hard-working body to a good cleanse?
Detoxification, or internal cleansing, can rid the body of stored toxins. Chemicals, drugs, excess hormones, waste products, pesticides, and heavy metals build up in our bodies naturally as well as through exposure to pollutants in food, water, and air.
Increasing evidence suggests this accumulation can affect negatively on our health, and many doctors advocate detoxification to rejuvenate the body.
"You do not need to do a major cleanse to get great results," says Alison Vandekerkhove, a naturopathic physician based in Langley, BC. "Small dietary changes, lots of water, and a few simple herbs and supplements will do the trick."
Before starting a cleanse, Dr. Vandekerkhove urges people with medical concerns to consult a professional. It is then important to prepare a well-rounded plan that will not stress the body too much, particularly the liver, the largest detox organ.
Take the case of one of her patients, a 35-year-old woman complaining of premenstrual syndrome-cramps, bloating, and irritability. To help remove toxins and enhance liver function, she was put on a mild cleansing diet of organic fruit and vegetables, brown rice, fish and chicken for three weeks. She tried to avoid processed food and sugar. She added a daily protein supplement, as well as a liver support herbal formula. After one month, her symptoms had vastly improved.
"With today's lifestyle you need more than herbs to get full benefit from detoxification," explains Dr. Vandekerkhove. "A diet low in refined foods and sugars is important. I can not emphasize enough to drink eight to 10 glasses of water daily."
Getting the body moving regularly also assists in cleansing. Exercise need not be strenuous-yoga or walking will do. Deep breathing to promote relaxation and to clear the mind is also beneficial.
As for those herbal helpers, Dr. Vandekerkhove suggests milk thistle to protect and regenerate liver cells. Oregon grape stimulates the liver and gallbladder and aids in digestion and elimination. Artichoke protects and stimulates the liver. Burdock rejuvenates the liver and strengthens the circulatory and lymphatic systems. These herbs are sold alone or in combination in capsule or liquid (tincture) form.
"There are also lots of great cleansing teas on the market, and they're an easy way to take herbs," says Dr. Vandekerkhove.
Other nutrients to consider include selenium, needed by the liver to produce glutathione-essential for detoxification. A protein supplement can also be beneficial, as the liver requires adequate protein to break down toxins.
So who would benefit from a cleanse? "Pretty much everyone," says Dr. Vandekerkhove. "Spring is an excellent time, but any time of year would work.