Spring Cleaning For Your Body

By Dr Monique Hallee BScHK ND. As the days become longer and the weather warms up, we naturally want to start cleaning out our homes and yards to welcome new growth of the year, but what about cleaning up our health? The concept of cleansing is not a new one. In ancient India people followed a type blood-cleansing program (Rasayana Kalpa) to detoxify their systems. Other practices include using spring-time teas that contains a number of local plants including the leaves from raspberry and blackberry bushes. Cleansing is still popular today, but has it become just a trend or does it serve a purpose?

Cleansing or detoxifying usually involves some sort of excretion of toxins from the body via various methods. I can emphatically tell you that cleanses can be one of the most powerful healing and preventative medicine tools that exist… if done properly. A healthy detoxification promotes regeneration and strengthening of organ tissues. The aim of any good cleanse is to rid the body of protein, toxin and fat depositions that have built up during our lives. Let’s go through elements of a healthy cleanse and debunk some myths associated with the “detox”.

How our Bodies Move Out the Clutter

In order to figure out why doing a spring cleaning on our bodies is important, we need to review our physiology. This also helpful to guide us when choosing the best method of cleansing.

When our bodies need to get rid of toxic build-up there are few different ways they can do it. The main “exit doors” from the body are through urination, bowel movements, breathing and through the pores of the skin (as through sweating). In order for our bodies to prepare waste for these exit areas, they need to be able to transport it and transform it. For this reason there are several other areas in detox that need to be addressed: the blood, lymph, liver and kidney.

Beyond the organs themselves, we must also look at the cleansing process down to a cellular level. Our cells contain organelles called mitochondria. The mitochondria are responsible for producing energy for the cell when the cell has a healthy oxygen supply. In order have that supply, our bodies need to have both healthy blood and blood vessels that are far-reaching to each cell.
Blood can supply nutrients to cells and also help with removal of wastes. There is another system, however, that is often forgotten but is also important in removing wastes: the lymphatic system. We only tend to remember our lymph when we become sick because we will have a swollen lymph node. Lymph tissues is found throughout our body and is capable of returning fluids back in the direction of our heart, just as our blood vessels can.

When blood circulates through our body, it passes through the lung area so that gases like carbon dioxide can be released through our breath, but the blood also passes through another valuable organ: the liver. Our livers are capable of changing the chemical structure of toxins in our bodies so that they may be excreted from the body. For example, the liver can make toxins more water soluble so that our kidney can filter it from the blood and send it to the bladder for urination.

Because our intestinal tract absorbs compounds from our digestive tract into our blood, it is important to keep that area of our body working well. If food sits in our gut for a long time (as with constipation), we have the chance to absorb more substances from that food – substances that can be good or bad.

Finding the Proper Framework

In our society we have been programmed to think that, if we want to do something to improve health, we need to take something in order to achieve success. We also tend to think more is better. I would encourage you to discard this thinking and rather think of it much like doing spring cleaning at home. You wouldn’t clean by bringing in more clutter into your home. Instead, you would move everything out, sort through things to discard, but keep the important things. So, when it comes to cleaning your body, don’t get caught up in consuming too many things. I will often tell my patients to use certain medicines during their cleanses, but I am also conscious of keeping things minimal and focusing on only supporting what may be deficient during the process. Having a reliable source for any herb or vitamin is also important because it is counter-productive to put in a useful substance which is mixed with harmful herbicides/pesticides or contains fillers that will inhibit the detox process.

Food or calorie consumption is a major aspect of the detox topic. Programs may involve calorie restriction, restriction of certain foods (or solids), or full fasting. Let me begin by clarifying that “fasting” does not mean “starving” or going hungry. Starving oneself can be hard on the body and result in harm to our organ systems and metabolism. Fasting is designed to enhance our metabolism and improve what is known as cellular respiration. Doing any sort of fasting or detox program will come with the disclaimer that you should be under the guidance of a qualified health care professional who can determine the appropriate amount of time and the degree of restriction to the diet. The majority of the patients that walk through my door would benefit from doing regular cleanses, but different patients require different types of programs and sometimes different cleanses are needed for the same person over time. For example, a young woman wishing to have her first child in about two years wouldn’t necessarily follow the same cleanse 5 years later after she has already had a couple of children. Some of the factors I consider with my patients include age, sex, activity level, stress level, family situation, cultural background and socioeconomic status.

I usually recommend to patients that they wait until they have time to relax to do their cleanses, such as a holiday break or even a long weekend. Cleaning out our bodies involves cleaning out our minds too. I like to recommend taking ample opportunity for prayer and meditation with only light activity, such as gentle stretching. This times allows people to literally “take a deep breath”, which also promotes cleansing our blood through gas release during expiration. Usually heavier physical activity promotes short, rapid breaths that are not as useful in cleaning our breath and blood. One useful activity that I do promotes is showering. Showers can further promote relaxation but also detoxification through the blood.

Something as simple as a shower can help the body in a number of ways. The alternation of hot and cold water when taking showers has a profound effect on our vasculature. The warmer temperature will make our vessels dilate and the cooler temperature will make them constrict. These sort of techniques in hydrotherapy are so powerful that they became the foundation of treatment for some of the founding fathers in medicine. They realized that hydrotherapy could perfuse the tissues with blood, which allowed any new valuable nutrients to enter the tissues while waste products could be pulled into the blood so that they could be excreted. Beyond the actual time in the shower, there is also the time spent drying off with a towel. Believe it or not, this too can help move toxins through the system.

As mentioned above, our lymphatic tissues is a commonly forgotten but important aspect to our body’s waste removal ability. By rubbing a towel in the direction of fingers to shoulders and toes to hips, we can promote the flow of lymph toward our core.
Using water in hydrotherapy is an effect tool for cleaning our systems, but also important is the consumption of water. Consuming good quality water is another key element of a healthy cleanse, as it allows us to flush our urination system. As with food restrictions for cleanses, the amount of water consumption varies from person to person, but in general I can say it usually involves consuming more water than the average person usually does in a day and also that that water should be room temperature.

Although these features of proper detoxification seem simple, I can assure that the physiological processes are body is going through are not. Be aware that many individuals will experience symptoms during this time that are annoying, uncomfortable or down-right concerning. These symptoms may include things like headache or felling ill. Another important factor to consider is the time leading up to the cleanse and the time after the official cleanse. Our bodies need to be eased in and out of any program like this. This is why I strongly recommend being under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional who can walk you through the proper steps and also be a point of contact if you experience any concerns along the way so that you can get the best cleanse that is right for you. Spring has sprung – let’s start our clean-up!

If you have questions about your own health that you would like answered contact Dr Hallee. If your question is a good article topic, it could be featured in a column!

For further information, see a health care provider for more tips on how to keep you and your family healthy or, if you have a specific question, use the comments box below or email Today Media to have it answered.

Dr Hallee headshotDr Monique Hallee BScHK, ND
Dr Hallee is a naturopathic doctor who has a family practice, with expertise in women’s health. She has been around the world to learn various aspects of health care and is now located in Langley BC at Meditrine Naturopathic Medical Clinic.

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