Detoxification is an all-day activity that your body needs to perform in order to sustain life. Every moment of every day your cells are breathing, working, and generating waste. Each of the trillions of cells that make up your body manufactures a product, from hair to hormones, enzymes, protein, bone, cartilage, and countless others. Sugar from food and oxygen are what each cell uses for power. Sugar is burned to release energy, but it also generates waste (lactic acid) that must be disposed of. It is released into the circulatory system and then captured downstream by other cells whose function is to neutralize it. This process of neutralization makes these waste molecules nontoxic so they can be safely filtered out of the body by the skin (as sweat), the lungs (carbon dioxide), the kidneys (urine), the liver (which mixes them with bile and releases them into the intestines), and the intestines directly (as fecal matter). Getting rid of waste is as critical to survival as producing energy. Detoxification is an ongoing activity that the body is brilliantly designed to accomplish. An excellent read on detoxification and healing the gut is “Clean”, written by Dr. Alejandro Junger, a cardiologist who spent years researching the gut after experiencing his own health issues. Dr. Junger goes into great detail on how the body detoxes and also explains the health issues when the body is not supported in its efforts to rid waste. Toxins in food and drinks can upset the flora in the gut; Dr Junger explains how upsetting this flora can result in autoimmune diseases, heart disease, cancer, diabetes-virtually all health problems arise from the gut. As Dr. Junger puts it, “all health and disease begins in the gut.” I highly recommend it!

Cleaning and detox programs accelerate and enhance the removal of toxins. But the acceleration of the first action (toxin release) does not mean that the second action (neutralization) automatically speeds up to match it. The two processes occur through different mechanisms. Dr. Junger states “that’s why a successful and safe detox program requires that the two processes take place in a balanced way. Knowledge and experience are needed to equalize them, to avoid discomfort and even damage. This balancing of release and neutralization is what distinguishes the different styles of detox programs from each other as well as the speed at which the intestinal system is repaired.”  And there are a myriad of cleanses these days. There are one-day, three-day, 21-day, and even 30-day cleanses. Water cleanses, juice fasting, blended fasting, raw-food, and nutritional cleanses, Ayurvedic detoxification, and the elimination diet are all designed to cleanse your gut and then heal it by providing nutritional support and avoiding foods that cause allergic reactions or that are hard to digest. These cleanses promise everything from increased energy to weight loss. The only one I’ve had experience with is “Clean.” Several of my clients have done this detox program after seeing Dr. Junger appear on the Dr Oz television show. They have lost weight, increased energy, rid themselves of irritable bowel disease, mood is better, and sleep is improved. One clients wife lost 16 lbs. of fat in three weeks! The book “Clean” explains just how this happens.

So, how do we get so toxic anyway? Processing your last meal takes about eight hours; more (~10 hours) if you’ve eaten a big meal, less (~six hours) for a smaller meal. Then the body can get to the business of “cleaning up” not only the days mess, but also any accumulated junk that your body hasn’t had the time or energy for. This could mean days, weeks, months, or even years. Some foods delay the signal to start dumping toxins, like cooked foods (cooking destroys enzymes) and foods that cause an allergic reaction. Other foods speed up detox by supporting and enhancing the steps in absorption and digestion. Magnesium-rich foods increase intestinal motility and speed up transit through the gut. Olive oil helps transit by lubricating the walls as well as triggering the release of bile from the gallbladder. Raw foods like veges and nuts speed up the process by supplying the body with enzymes needed for digestion. Once your body gets to detox mode, the toxins and mucus that are released into the circulation must get neutralized and eliminated because they contain free radicals that can corrode tissues and damage cells. If these toxins circulate long enough without being neutralized, they will find fatty tissue to lodge within. Since fat is so hard to offload, these toxins must get transformed from fat-soluble molecules to water-soluble molecules, which can be more easily excreted. The central player for this is the liver. The liver converts toxins into a water-soluble product that can be put back into the blood where the kidneys see it and release it into the urethra and you pee it out. Detox complete. But, you have to help the liver. Since most detox work is done during sleep, one of the best things you can do is to eat a lighter evening meal, and eat by no later than seven o’clock; earlier if you can (I’ve become an early-bird special eater). I haven’t done a structured cleanse myself, but have taken bits and pieces from Dr Junger’s detox cleanse. Since I don’t usually eat breakfast until 8:30 or 9 a.m., I give my liver 12-14 hours to detox. I also drink two cups of warm lemon water first thing upon waking. The extra fluid gives the organs a boost, and lemon has an alkalinizing effect in the body and greatly aids liver function. Apple cider vinegar also does this. I’ve lost 36 pounds over the past 26 months, and people ask me how I did it. Well, it wasn’t all the exercise, although that played a part. Diet and timing are also huge. I eat as much raw food as possible; salads, nuts, berries, and seeds. I eat my largest meal at noon, and I eat by 6 or 6:30 p.m. There are times I don’t even eat supper because I’m not hungry. There is no rule that I know of that states I have to eat three times a day-if I’m not hungry, why eat? This plan has worked for me. Why not give it a try?

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.