With hot summer breezes blowing through our windows, it’s a good time of year to clear the toxic energies from our homes and flush the stagnant chi from our bodies. The benefits of a spring cleanse are many, from more energy, to better sleep, weight loss, and a greatly reduced risk of disease.
Detoxing Your Home
A good spring cleanse begins first with detoxing the home environment so that items which trigger your allergies, stress your liver, and contaminate your body with pollutants are removed. That way, when you start to detox your body, your newly clean home environment will support you, rather than working against you. By removing carcinogens from your kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom, the toxic burden on your liver will already begin to lighten.
Laundry detergents: “Last fall, Women’s Voices for the Earth commissioned lab tests on 20 cleaning products and found that “problematic” levels of 1,4-dioxane [a carcinogen] were detected in original formula Tide detergent (63 parts per million) as well as fragrance-free Tide Free & Clear (89 ppm). Smaller amounts of the chemical were found in Bounce Free & Clear dryer sheets (less than 1 ppm).”(3) It is reasonable to assume that most conventional detergents contain similar chemicals. These detergents impact the body because their residues remain in the freshly washed laundry, and those residues off-gas on a constant basis (imagine sleeping on a pillow that has been washed in detergent, then marinated in fabric softener – you are breathing in the fumes all night). And detergents pollute the environment by off-gassing carcinogenic fumes into the air and carcinogenic residues into the water supply.
Solution: Switch to chemical-free, biodegradable laundry detergents, such as Seventh Generation, widely available in health food stores.
Fabric softeners: According to Eve Golden, who recovered from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity by detoxing her body and her home, “Fabric softener is the #1 cause of indoor air pollution. Whenever you smell that fresh “laundry smell”, you are inhaling toxic VOC’s.”
Solution: Dry your laundry on the clothesline to get an authentic fresh air smell, or spray the dryer with a natural fabric softener made with essential oils.(4)
Air Fresheners: EWG researchers found 87 chemicals in Febreze, several of which are known endocrine disruptors, neurotoxins, and carcinogens.(5)
Solution: To freshen a room naturally, get a natural air freshener from the health food store, or spray with a mixture of essential oils and water, or open a window.
Household cleaning products: The well known independent lab that tests products for toxicity, Environmental Working Group (EWG), gave all Swiffer products a “D” or “F” grade for asthma, allergies, and environmental friendliness. Some of their products are known carcinogens.(5b)
Solution: Use a few drops of tea tree oil, lavender essential oil, or lemon essential oil on a damp mop to get a non-toxic floor cleaning effect.
Reducing Your Exposure
According to Dr. Sherry Rogers, author of Tired or Toxic: A Blueprint for Health, chemicals get into the body by three major routes: 1) They are in the air and you breathe them; 2) you eat or drink them; 3) they are absorbed through the skin. (“Skin absorption is so good that more and more prescription medicines are being manufactured in a patch form.”) Here are just a few common offenders:
Plastics (water bottles, milk bags, food containers, cash register receipts, etc) contain Bisphenol A, a potent xenoestrogen which acts like “fertilizer” for cancer cells, making them grow faster.(6)
Solution: Switching to glass or stainless steel containers will stop the accumulation of plastics in the body’s fat cells. Or use BPA-free cans.
Hair dyes: research has revealed a greater risk of cancer amongst those who use conventional hair dyes regularly (1).
Solution: experiment with natural, non-chemical hair colourings to find the right fit for you.
Drugs (prescription or recreational): all drugs affect the liver, from acute liver damage caused by acetaminophen to liver tumours caused by oral contraceptives.(2) Further, these drugs pollute the rivers and lakes where they end up after excretion from the kidneys.
Solution: replace them with herbal medicines and vitamins wherever possible (visit a naturopath, orthomolecular physician, or other health professional for good guidance).
Brassieres: As with many clothing items, the majority of modern brassieres on the market are treated with formaldehyde because it makes them waterproof, stain resistant, and permanent press. Yet the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies formaldehyde as a human carcinogen.(7) As well, brassieres constrict lymph vessels, whose normal role is to drain metabolic waste from the breasts. After 15 or 20 years of bra-constricted lymph drainage, cancer can result.(8)
Solution: Reduce or eliminate your use of brassieres, especially the synthetic ones with metal underwire.
Parabens: According to the Breast Cancer Sisterhood: “Widely used as preservatives in many cosmetic and toiletry products like antiperspirants, parabens have been found to have an estrogen-like effect in the body, and estrogen is an established risk factor for breast cancer. Numerous studies have questioned whether parabens can be linked to the development, growth and progression of breast cancer. Most recently, the University of Reading, in England, studied 160 tissue samples from 40 women who underwent mastectomies between 2005 and 2008. This month, the findings were published online in the Journal of Applied Toxicology.” (11a, 11b, 11c)
In Detoxify or Die, author Dr. Sherry Rogers explains in painstaking detail the herbs, vitamins, minerals, and strategies needed to completely detoxify heavy metals and other pollutants from a diseased body. She also explains the link between heavy metals and illness. For example: “In one study, hair mercury content was assessed in 1,014 men ages 42 to 60 years. One of the strongest predictors of who would get arteriosclerosis over the next four years was who had the highest hair mercury levels. Mercury is also a major cause of chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and cancer.” The detox protocols she recommends are complicated and thorough, which is important for those looking to prevent or treat serious illness using this methodology. What follows here are more basic and simple measures that can start you on the road to cleansing your blood, organs, and tissues of the toxic pollutants typical of our modern lifestyle.
- Dandelions – These are some of the first wild plants to emerge from thawing spring soil, and in fact are my favourite herbs for liver cleansing. You don’t even have to wait for the wild ones to appear since organic cultivated dandelions can already be found in health food stores. To bring their healing power into your daily diet, simply start adding the raw leaves to your salads and sandwiches. Dandelion leaves, according to Susun Weed’s Healing Wise (Ashtree Publishing, New York; 1989) are high in vitamins, minerals, and medicinal sap.
As well, dandelion roots are a favourite of herbalists for liver strengthening and clearing; simply pull them out of the ground in uncontaminated areas of gardens and parks, chop them up, and then steam or stir-fry. (Best used right after the ground thaws and before the buds form on the plant.) According to Rosemary Gladstar’s Family Herbal (Storey Books, 2001): “The entire dandelion plant is restorative and rejuvenating. The root is a prized digestive bitter, particularly stimulating to the liver, inducing the flow of bile and cleaning the hepatic system.”
Overall, the liver cleansing properties of dandelion work to alleviate menstrual problems, improve mood, clear headaches, and restore joie de vivre. Regular consumption of the leaves and/or root also improves digestion, reduces cholesterol, and cleanses the blood and lymphatic pathways.
- Cilantro – Rudolph Ballentine, author of Radical Healing, recommends the herb cilantro for detoxing heavy metals. His Cilantro Detox involves: a) one quarter cup of cilantro per day, eaten in salads or mixed in juice; and b) a tablespoon of bentonite clay mixed with water, taken once a day to absorb and carry the toxic substances mobilized by the cilantro out of the body.
- Lemon or Lime water: one easy way to flush the liver, kidneys, and lymphatics in the morning is to have a cup of warm water with a piece of lemon or lime in it, on an empty stomach. This simple morning tonic helps to balance the body’s pH by alkalinizing the blood, and also works to cleanse the kidneys and bowels.
- Beets: Revered for its ability to enrich the blood and cleanse the kidneys, beet root is a fabulous spring tonic. I like raw beets; simply slice the beetroot thin, place in a bowl, add a couple tablespoons apple cider vinegar, plus a splash of Japanese mirin vinegar and tamari, and it’s ready. Use as a crunchy side dish with your spring suppers.
If eating whole beets is not for you, then combine them with your favourite fruits and vegetables for a juicy morning pick-me up that will make your liver sing in spring. Here’s a recipe from The Raw Energy Bible by Leslie Kenton (Vermillion, London; 1996): “You have to be careful how you handle beetroot juice, which is most valuable for flushing the kidneys and enriching the blood, but can cause a dramatic cleansing action if taken in quantities of more than half a glass at a time. Cut the fibrous rootlets off the bottom of your beets, but there’s no need to peel them so long as they’re thoroughly washed. You can include the leafy tops too.”
Juicy Beet Treat
In a juicing machine combine the following:
1/2 whole beetroot, including leafy top, 2 carrots, 1 apple, 1 stalk of celery, 3 cm section of cucumber
Turn on the juicer and process. Drink immediately to get the full enzyme complement from the juices.
If you’re too busy to make up fresh squeezed juices in the morning, use powdered green drinks instead. These formulas are chock full of high octane nutrients which can cleanse the blood, liver, and lymphatics; simply add a tablespoon to a glass of water or juice first thing in the morning, and drink it down on an empty stomach.
The ultimate getaway for those wanting to do a spring detox without the work of preparing fresh raw juices is the popular Nonpareil Natural Health Retreat. They specialize in raw, organic, juice fasting and cellular detoxification, and offer everything from 3-day programs to 2-week programs. If you’re stressed out, burned out, and on toxic overload, the folks at Nonpareil will take care of you.(8b)
- Vitamins & Minerals – According to Sat Dharam Kaur N.D, author of The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health: “You can improve both Phase 1 and Phase 2 detoxification with the following nutrients: curcumin, ellagic acid, amla, rosemary, schizandra, milk thistle, vitamins A, B complex, C, and E, choline, selenium, zinc, magnesium, manganese, coQ10, indole-3-carbinol or DIM, limonene from essential oil of lemon, flaxseed and fish oil, and foods containing cysteine and methionine. Using a combination of these, you will maximize your liver’s ability to deal with carcinogens and decrease your total body burden.”(8c)
- Vitamin D – According to Dr. Zoltan Rona, the inflammation that results from toxic overload can be effectively treated with vitamin D: “Vitamin D is anti-inflammatory; if you have inflammation (arthritis, iritis, thyroiditis, pancreatitis, anything ending in “itis”), you need more vitamin D.”
Any manual therapy that functions to clear congested lymphatic pathways, cleanse the blood, and reduce the toxic burden on liver and kidneys should be stepped up at this time of year. Such therapies can include massage or shiatsu therapy which utilizes finger pressure to clear the tissues, acupuncture to clear toxic heat from the meridians, and lymphatic drainage techniques that target the body’s garbage disposal system. All of these therapies help the body to throw off accumulated waste, thereby reducing the load on the liver, kidneys, and intestines.
Reduce Heavy Metals and Break a Sweat
Air pollution, dental amalgams, junk foods and sodas, and home renovations can all significantly increase your blood levels of heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium. Spring is a good time to start detoxing these heavy metals via the skin and organs of elimination.
To eliminate toxins through the skin, exercise at an intensity level that will cause you to sweat, or spend time in an infrared sauna (at least a couple hours per week). According to Dr. Kaur: “The skin is a major organ of detoxification and we release toxins through it when we sweat. Perspiration carries out with it cellular and water-soluble toxins and toxic minerals. Substances that have been shown to be excreted through the skin during saunas are morphine, methadone, amphetamines, chlorinated pesticides, herbicides, and PCBs. One Vietnam War veteran who had been exposed to Agent Orange (dioxin) was placed on a 37-day protocol using exercise, vitamin and mineral supplements, and saunas. By the end of the treatments, a fat biopsy showed a 97% decrease in levels of PCBs and DDE.”
If you’re going to use the infrared sauna for ramping up detoxification, check out Dr. Sherry Roger’s Detoxify or Diefirst. It contains hundreds of helpful tips on how to make your sauna experience more effective, and how to replace the minerals lost in sweating. You can buy your own infrared sauna from SaunaRay (9), or ask your local naturopath or other health professional if they offer sauna sessions at their clinic.
Make plans to start having your old dental amalgams replaced with the more modern non-toxic variety, and be sure to take 5,000 to 10,000 mg of vitamin C per day for two weeks after the dental work since vitamin C will bind with any heavy metals released, and help carry them out of the body. In the longer term, a maintenance dose of 2,000 to 3,000 mg of vitamin C per day (in doses of 500 mg each) is advised to keep the arteries clear and reduce inflammation.
Many of those with experience in the world of detoxing recommend the coffee enema. In Detoxify or Die, Dr. Rogers states: “The detox enema is one of the fastest ways to unburden the daily work of the detox system in the gut. I have seen it abort flus, colds, and infections of all sorts, as well as rescue folks from everything from hangovers to cancer.” Her book contains a description of how to prepare and administer the treatment. Coffee enemas are also used regularly at the Gerson Institute and by Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez as part of his program for curing pancreatic cancer.(10) Another description of how to administer a coffee enema can be found in Balance…Nature’s Way to Heal Your Bodyby Susan MacDonald who describes all of the techniques she used to cure herself of advanced lymphatic cancer.
Fresh Air and Exercise
The therapeutic benefits of walking or working outdoors in a park, forest, or other fresh air environment are becoming widely known. By walking at a moderate pace and observing the budding trees and singing birdies you are bringing your body and mind into balance with nature’s cycles. Deep breathing the oxygen-rich air has a tranquilizing effect on the nervous system and a cleansing influence on the kidneys and bloodstream. During your walks, avoid sunscreen. By allowing the sunshine to penetrate your skin, your body is able to manufacture vitamin D, a nutrient that most northerners lack due to low levels of sunlight.
The more muscle tissue you develop, the faster your metabolism will burn calories. So try walking up and down hills to increase the challenge to your muscles and encourage formation of new muscle cells. If you manage to walk for 30 minutes, at least 5 times a week, the weight loss starts to kick in. And that’s a good thing because our fat cells are a storage depot for all kinds of pesticides and plastics.