There are many times when we become more lenient about the foods that we eat… among other healthy habits. The holidays bring endless temptations with unhealthy options at every party, workplace, and gathering. Colder weather has people spending more time indoors and less time outside in fresh air.
In addition to our unhealthy choices, we are constantly bombarded with toxins. Toxins cause weight gain, low energy, a weakened immune system, and inflammation throughout the body. One of the best ways to reverse the negative effects of toxins is to cleanse. This article will discuss what cleansing is, the toxins that are adversely affecting our bodies, the top 8 reasons to cleanse the body, and the right way to cleanse.
What is a Cleanse?
A cleanse is a dietary and lifestyle intervention designed to eliminate toxins from the body. It also supports the body’s natural detoxification system. Cleansing is critical because most people are overloaded with toxins from both internal and external sources.
1 | Internal Toxins
Internal toxins, also called endotoxins, are hazardous compounds that are produced by your body. Excess hormones, free radicals, bacteria, and yeast are examples of internal toxins.
When these internal toxins accumulate in the body, they can cause many health issues including inflammation, chronic infections, and allergic reactions.
2 | External Toxins
External toxins are also called xenobiotics or environmental toxins. There are toxins found in our bodies that are externally produced (or man-made).
Pesticides and herbicides found in our food, chemicals in cleaning and personal care products, heavy metals, mold, and prescription and over the counter drugs are all externally created toxins. New furniture, cars, paint, and carpet produce outgassing which is another toxin. Other sources of external toxins are environmental pollution from contaminated water, vehicle exhaust, and smoke, smog or debris. Even many of the toys we give our children have toxic chemicals.
3 | Endocrine Disrupting Toxins
Endocrine disruptors are toxins that can interfere with the body’s endocrine (or hormone) system. These toxins can produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immunological effects.
Endocrine disruptors can mimic naturally occurring hormones in the body. For example, many toxins produced by petrochemicals are xenoestrogens, meaning they mimic estrogens in the body. This leads to hormonal imbalances and immune suppression.
Unfortunately, endocrine disruptors are found in many everyday products. Plastic bottles, food cans, detergents, flame retardants, cosmetics, and pesticides may contain endocrine disrupting substances.
Is It Possible to Avoid Toxins?
With all the harmful effects of toxins, it would be great if we could just avoid them altogether. Unfortunately, this is not possible. Approximately 85,000 industrial chemicals are available for use, and chemicals are used in around 96% of manufactured materials and products. Adequate safety testing has not been done on most of these chemicals.
With the vast number of toxins to which we are continually exposed, it is critical to cleanse. Our bodies’ natural detoxification system cannot keep up with today’s toxic burden. For good health, we must take steps to remove these toxins from our bodies. Let’s look at the top eight benefits of cleansing.
Top 8 Benefits of Cleansing
1. Strengthens the Immune System
Your immune system is the first line of defense against toxins and is part of the body’s natural detoxification system. With continual exposure to internal and external toxins, our immune system can get overwhelmed and weakened.
Chemicals, drugs, and other toxins cause alterations in our immune system. The immune system can lose function when targeted by the toxin or when having an immune response to the toxin.
Toxins create free radicals which damage immune cells and wipe out cytokine pathways. Cytokines are the chemical messengers that your immune cells use to communicate. They regulate the body’s immune response to disease and infection.
Long-term exposure to environmental toxins can cause chronic inflammation and diseases. With repeated exposure to toxins, our bodies produce inflammatory mediators throughout the body.
The immune system becomes overwhelmed as the ongoing stimulus results in more cell recruitment, increased inflammation, and changes to cells. White blood cells will eventually start attacking internal organs or other necessary tissues and cells, leading to autoimmune diseases. By cleansing our bodies of toxins, we can strengthen our immune system.
2. Supports Your Vital Organs
Many organ systems are affected by toxins. Cleansing can support and protect your vital organs from damage due to this exposure.
You may be surprised to learn that your skin is your largest organ. Toxins can enter the body by being absorbed into the skin. Children are more at risk because their skin is more penetrable than that of an adult. Skin disorders such as dermatitis can result from toxin exposure through the skin.
Your respiratory system is a target organ for toxins and the way many toxins enter the body. Asthma and other respiratory disorders can be caused by toxins.
The liver is your largest organ and the primary organ for detoxification. It has the most concentrated amount of detoxification enzymes and is designed to transform toxic substances into compounds that our kidneys can remove from the body.
As you are exposed to more toxins, the liver’s natural ability to detoxify can be weakened. This results in toxins being stored in our tissues and cells rather than eliminated.
The kidneys are the primary defenders against harmful external toxins entering the bloodstream. The kidneys can become toxic, a condition called nephrotoxicity, from the constant exposure to toxins. Nephrotoxicity is the poisonous effect of toxic chemicals and medications on renal function.
Neurotoxins are toxins that are poisonous or destructive to nerve tissue. They can affect both developing and mature nervous tissue. Neurotoxins can cause many nervous system disorders, including peripheral neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, seizures, and even death.
Toxins can target and cause a variety of adverse effects on the reproductive system. Pregnancy loss, early or delayed puberty, infertility, fetal death, menstrual irregularities, and more can be caused by toxic exposure.
Toxins act on the myocardial cells or the autonomic nervous system to affect heart rate, blood pressure, or cardiac contractility. Some toxins, such as lead, arsenic, and vinyl chloride have been implicated in the development of cardiovascular disease.
Cleansing is vital to support the body’s vital organs from the adverse effects of toxins.
3. Improves the Gut Microbiome
The gut microbiome is made up of trillions of microorganisms. It is important for the different types of bacteria that make up our microbiome to be in proper balance. When your gut microbiome is out of balance (dysbiosis), this can lead to numerous health issues.
Gut dysbiosis opens the door for opportunistic bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other foreign pathogens to enter the gastrointestinal system. These pathogens can damage the gut, release toxins, and crowd out healthy bacteria.
The gastrointestinal tract is the main route by which toxins enter the body. Some chemicals are directly metabolized by the microbiota in the gut. Toxins can inhibit bacterial growth and cause dysbiosis. Cleansing these toxins from the body can help improve the gut microbiome.
When you use fasting to cleanse the body, you are giving your gastrointestinal tract time to rest and heal. Energy that is normally used for digesting food can be diverted towards healing and repairing the immune system, joint tissue, brain cells, and other regions of the body.
4. Eliminates Unhealthy Cravings
Processed foods contain toxic additives, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners that lead to unhealthy cravings. In fact, many food manufacturers manipulate processed foods to make them addictive. Cleansing can help remove these toxins from the body and eliminate unhealthy cravings.
5. Supports Healthy Brain Function
Exposure to toxins can impair brain function. Our brains can absorb toxins such as solvents, chemicals, and heavy metals. This can cause symptoms like anxiety, memory loss, inability to focus, depression, fatigue, and seizures.
Over 200 chemicals are known to cause clinical neurotoxic effects in adults. Our children are especially vulnerable to these chemicals. Researchers have identified at least 11 chemicals that are connected to neurodevelopmental disorders in children. These disorders include autism, ADHD, and dyslexia.
Even low amounts of chemical exposure during early fetal development can cause brain injury to a fetus. Eliminating these chemicals from the body through cleansing helps support healthy brain function.
6. Slows the Effects of Aging
Exposure to toxins accelerates physiological aging. Aging occurs when healthy cells become damaged and lose their ability to divide. As cells start dividing more slowly, they also incur more DNA damage. Toxins can damage DNA structures and healthy cells.
‘Gerontogens’ are a specific class of toxins that put you at an increased risk for accelerated aging. Environmental toxins found in things like cigarette smoke, ultraviolet rays, arsenic, benzene, and chemotherapy are gerontogens.
Even the pollution in our air can accelerate aging. Toxic fumes in the air cause premature aging by accelerating wrinkles and age spots and worsening skin conditions such as eczema and hives. To slow down aging, avoid toxic exposure when possible and cleanse your body regularly.
7. Helps You Lose Excess Weight
Exposure to toxins promotes weight gain. Toxins negatively affect your metabolism, your body’s ability to balance blood sugar, your hormones, and the function of your brain. Obesogens are a type of environmental toxin linked to obesity.
Toxins can affect the number of fat cells, the size of fat cells, and the hormones that affect appetite, satiety, cravings, and metabolism. One of these hormones is leptin, which tells the brain to burn fat for energy.
Another hormone affected by toxins is insulin. Insulin is produced by the pancreas and signals cells to absorb glucose for energy. Insulin resistance is the decreased ability of the body to respond to the effects of insulin. This creates surges of insulin which can cause obesity and other health issues. There is a strong correlation between insulin resistance and environmental toxins.
Toxins can also lead to weight gain by contributing to fat storage. Rather than being eliminated, toxins can be stored in body fat. With toxic overload, your body gains more fat cells to store the excess toxins.
Interestingly, researchers have found that chemicals cause weight gain mostly from developmental exposure. Chemical pesticides in food and water have even been linked to increased body mass index in children. This is another reason it is critical to protect children from toxins.
8. Restores Antioxidant Levels
Antioxidants are substances that slow damage to cells by neutralizing and removing free radicals from the body. Free radicals are highly reactive and unstable molecules that are produced naturally as a byproduct of metabolism or by exposure to toxins. Toxins create free radicals and deplete the body of antioxidants.
Antioxidants are naturally found in many foods such as fruits, vegetables, coffee, and chocolate. They have numerous health benefits including reducing inflammation, supporting heart, prostate, and eye health, protecting the skin, and boosting the immune system. Cleansing is a fantastic way to restore antioxidant levels in the body.
How to Cleanse
Now that you know the many benefits of cleansing, let’s look at how to cleanse. There are many ways to cleanse including an anti-inflammatory diet, drinking enough fluids, regular exercise, intermittent or extended fasting, juicing greens, using an infrared sauna, essential oils, and oil pulling. There are also numerous supplements you can use to cleanse such as glutathione, activated charcoal, and a greens powder with chlorella and spirulina.
Before you begin a cleansing fast, it is important to prepare your body. There are also strategies you should incorporate during the cleanse. Always consult with a professional before fasting.
Prepare Your Mind
Preparing yourself mentally and emotionally is an important first step to cleansing. Write down positive affirmations and prayers to combat any self-defeating behaviors or limiting beliefs you may have. Put the list in a place you will see often and recite these affirmations and prayers several times a day.
Consuming a low carbohydrate diet for at least 3 days before your fast is important. Your body will begin to go into a state of nutritional ketosis, using ketones for energy rather than glucose. This will create energy stability, reduce your hunger and cravings, and stabilize your appetite and stress hormones.
Consume Fat and Protein
Prior to cleansing, be sure to eat plenty of healthy protein and fat to stabilize blood sugar. Healthy protein sources are grass-fed beef, organic eggs, and organic poultry. Avocados, coconuts, olives, and their oils are healthy fats. Combine the protein and fat with phytonutrient-rich vegetables and herbs. By consuming protein and fat, you will be better able to tolerate the fasting period, feel more mentally alert, and have less cravings.
It is normal to feel tired and sleepy the first few days of a cleanse. This is a sign the body wants to focus on healing. Set aside extra time to rest and relax during the cleanse. Disconnect from life and give yourself time take a nap, enjoy an Epsom salt bath, diffuse essential oils, meditate, and just slow down.
Low Intensity Exercise
It is important to avoid high intensity exercise during a cleanse. High intensity exercise stimulates stress hormones. The cleansing process does not provide the necessary fuel to recover from high intensity exercise. Instead, try small bouts of low intensity exercise. 20-30 minutes of yoga, walking, or light elliptical work are great exercises to do on a cleanse.
Optimal hydration is key during a cleanse. Fermented vegetables, filtered water, bone broth, and herbal teas are all great to use while cleansing.
Fermented beverages provide organic acids, probiotics, potassium, and enzymes. Organic acids and probiotics help to balance your intestinal microflora, potassium helps to flush toxins from the cells and through the elimination channels, and enzymes assist the body in healing. Coconut water kefir, kombucha, apple cider vinegar, water kefir, and fermented whey are great to include in your cleanse.
For water, aim to drink at least half of your body weight in ounces per day (½ ounce per pound). It is great to use reverse osmosis water with added minerals (or add ¼ tsp of pink salt per gallon). Filtering chlorine, fluoride, heavy metals, and pharmaceutical drugs from your water with a high-quality filter is crucial.
Herbal teas are another option for hydration. They provide immune-stimulating superfood herbs that contain antioxidants and phytonutrients. This clean energy source facilitates deeper cleansing and has detoxifying properties.
Dry brushing is great for detoxification. Before you shower, brush your skin in a circular manner beginning with your extremities and moving towards your torso and heart. Use a natural bristle brush and follow brushing with a warm shower. Dry brushing has many health benefits such as cleansing the lymphatic system, removing dead skin layers, improving the nervous system, and removing excess fluid from the body.
Saunas and Sun Bathing
Spending time in a sauna is a great way to stimulate the release of toxins. Infrared saunas are the best form of sauna.
Sunbathing also enhances immunity and stimulates deeper cellular cleansing. Spending time in the sun with help to boost your vitamin D levels and charge your system with biophotons.
Enemas are extremely effective at ridding the body of putrefied waste that is encased on the colon walls. There are different types of enemas, including water enemas, probiotic enemas, wheatgrass juice enemas, or organic coffee enemas. Coffee enemas stimulate the liver to produce greater amounts of the master antioxidant glutathione. This can accelerate your results during a cleanse.
Fasting to Cleanse the Body
Another great way to cleanse your body is with fasting, where you go without food for periods of time. There are numerous health benefits to fasting. The top 12 benefits include:
- Reducing inflammation
- Stimulating the development of stem cells
- Improving genetic repair mechanisms
- Reducing the risk of chronic disease
- Stimulating cellular autophagy
- Reducing stress in the digestive system
- Stimulating fat burning
- Boosting energy levels
- Improving insulin sensitivity
- Enhancing mental health
- Improving relationship with food
- Spiritual growth and fine-tuned intuition
There are two primary ways to fast. Intermittent fasting, or time-restricted feeding, is the practice of eating foods within a certain time window. Extended fasting is fasting for over 48 hours.
Different types of intermittent fasts include simple fasts, brunch fasts, cycle fasts, strong fasts, warrior fasts, and one-day food fasts. Intermittent fasting is divided into the building or feeding window, when you consume foods, and the fasting or cleansing window, when you are going without food.
The best way to start fasting is by doing a simple fast. With a simple fast, you consume only water for the 12 hours between dinner and breakfast. This gives the liver a chance to complete its cycle. Having a consistent pattern with intermittent fasting is the best way to develop metabolic flexibility and the energy efficiency that strengthens our body’s internal resistance.
Extended fasting is fasting for over 48 hours. There are greater benefits of extending the fast beyond intermittent fasting. With extended fasting, your body can heal and repair cells, tissues, and organs on a higher and deeper level. Extended fasting is one of the most powerful healing tools you can utilize for a quick health transformation.
Other Fasting Approaches
There are other fasting approaches that include small amounts of certain calorie sources. Generally, the calorie load is ¼ of a person’s normal daily intake. This can be a helpful approach for someone who is not ready for more challenging fasts. Bone broth fasting, green juice fasting, fat fasting, keto fasting, and the fasting mimicking diet are examples of these fasting approaches.
To recap, before you cleanse, you should prepare your mind and body. Give yourself time to rest during the cleanse and perform low intensity exercises. Hydration is key during the cleanse so be sure to hydrate with clean water, fermented beverages, herbal teas, and/or bone broth. Dry brushing, saunas, sunbathing, and enemas are great for cleansing.
Fasting is another great way to cleanse your body including intermittent fasting and extended fasting. To feel great and have good health, try these strategies for cleansing your body!