Cleansing is an ancient practice and can take on many forms—from simply fasting, to drastically changing the diet, to adding supplements that support and cleanse the colon, liver and other body systems of detoxification. Whichever form cleansing may take, the underlying purpose is basically the same: to help rid the body of accumulated toxins by supporting the organs of elimination and detoxification.
Experts tell us that the average North American is exposed to more toxins through water and air pollution, household cleaning supplies, pesticides, disinfectants and food additives than ever before in human history. Stored in fat and tissue for years, these toxins can eventually overwhelm the body and open the door to chronic health problems and disease.
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Cleansing kits are an excellent way to give your body a “tried and tested” introduction to detoxification. While there are many different products available, the more popular kits often feature a two-part program that involves both colon cleansing and liver (or other organ) detoxification and support. Some also contain meal plans that help to ensure maximum benefit by eliminating “problem” foods and maximizing healing foods. Ranging from three to 30 days, there’s sure to be a program that’s right for your needs. Ask your natural food store staff to recommend a well-respected product.
Another option for spring cleansing is to simply concentrate on rejuvenating the liver, the body’s hardest working and most important organ of detoxification. As the liver constantly filters the blood to help remove countless harmful chemicals and bacteria, it inevitably becomes “congested”—just like the oil filter on our car. As herbalist Christopher Hobbs explains, certain herbs “stimulate increased blood flow through the liver, removing debris, old cells, toxins, etc. At the same time, they protect and stimulate the liver cells, thus…helping to maintain a proper biochemical environment.”
Two well known liver-supporting herbs are milk thistle and dandelion.
• Milk thistle: A bioflavonoid complex in milk thistle called silymarin can both prevent and repair damage to liver cells caused by toxins. In studies, hepatitis patients given milk thistle extract actually showed a reversal of liver cell damage! Milk thistle also increases glutathione, critical in the liver’s ability to detoxify the blood.
• Dandelion: This well-known liver herb stimulates bile flow and aids in detoxification. The leaves are diuretic, and therefore help flush excess water (and toxins) from the body—but without stripping the body of potassium, as many other diuretics do.
While such cleansing programs are safe, do seek the advice of a naturopath if you have a medical condition or rely on medications.
Sources: The Green Pharmacy by J Duke, St Martin’s:1997; Natural Liver Therapy by C Hobbs, Botanica:1997; Dietary Supplement Information Bureau