Monday, October 4, 2010

Fall Cleansing: Perfect Timing and Optimal Process

By Sara Thyr, ND

Have you heard that spring and fall are ideal times to do a cleanse? In the spring, new buds signal a time of growth, and people are inspired to do spring cleaning. In the fall, as the growth season winds to a close, a cleanse is an ideal way to prepare for winter, the holidays and hibernation.

A biannual detox is a welcome addition to one’s healthcare regimen.

If you are living on this planet, even under the best of circumstances, you are exposed to toxins. They are present in many situations, and we easily absorb them into our bodies. Toxins are prevalent in pollution, and in average automobile exhaust. Just driving your car or walking down the street can add to your toxic burden. Everything from our food and medications to our homes and personal care products, such as lotions and aftershave, can add toxins to our bodies.

People come to do a detox for a variety of reasons: hormonal symptoms – such as PMS or perimenopause, skin issues, fatigue, headaches, infertility, autoimmune disorders, elevated cholesterol, and a variety of inflammatory disorders. Once people are aware of the many toxins in our environment, even those who eat organic and keep their cleaning products as clean as possible often want to detoxify a couple of times per year as a good preventive strategy.

Organs in our bodies that assist us in detoxification on a daily basis include the liver, lungs, kidneys, digestive tract and skin.

Many of the over-the-counter detoxification kits include intestinal cathartics – even natural ones like senna and cascara – which can induce explosive bowel action, cramping and discomfort in many people. Having optimal digestive function is critical for proper elimination and detoxification, but this type of abrasive action is not recommended. (If someone is continually constipated, then they likely need a detox more than most people, since their detoxification action in the digestive tract is limited. They may benefit from cathartics, but should use them only in the short term. Constipation can be resolved by treating underlying causes, not just depending on laxatives.)

While all of the organs of detoxification are important for optimal health, focusing on the liver and assuring excellent elimination makes the most sense. The liver is really the powerhouse of detoxification in the body. Most medications have to pass through the liver in order to be eliminated. Our liver function affects our hormones and our ability to clear other toxins to which we are exposed.

An ideal plan for detoxification includes diet changes, such as eliminating alcohol and caffeine, sugar, refined carbohydrates and any known food allergens.

Supplements that may be helpful will provide nutrients and herbs for liver support and a fiber source to improve elimination.

Saunas, steams and massage will also aid in the body’s detoxification process.

The type of cleanse that is best for an individual will depend on one's symptoms and personal goals. A licensed naturopathic physician can tailor a plan to their specific needs.

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