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The Ways of Detox

by Sally Mathrick(more info)

listed in detoxification, originally published in issue 168 - March 2010

Detox is taking the world by storm. Everyone's doing it, and with good reason. Detoxification, cleansing and purification of the body/mind are the path to longevity, optimal health and vitality. Recognized as the key to youthfulness, it also cures many diseases caused from over-consumption. The basic principles of Detox are simplifying and slowing down. Aligning with the pure, gentle rhythms of nature can be highly challenging when accustomed to the modern toxic buzz. Spas throughout the world are embracing elements of Detox, and provide a smorgasbord of cleanses, detoxification rituals and fasting programs to suit every body.

Vegetables for juicing

What Is Detox?

Detoxification is what our body's chemistry does to clean itself of unwanted chemicals. Chemicals can be derived from normal metabolic processes, produced by intestinal flora or incompletely digested food (called Ama in Ayruveda). Some toxins come from the air we breathe, the food, water and drugs we consume, or from products rubbed into skin or used on hair. Our world is becoming increasingly toxic, and consequently, so are we. A Detox is a program designed to minimize toxin intake, support toxin elimination and minimize harm during the process.

The major organ responsible for detoxification is the liver. It is constantly performing a two-step process, which transform toxins into harmless substances that can be excreted. The major elimination vehicles are faeces and urine. Minor elimination vehicles are sweat, breath, tears and other bodily fluids. For effective detoxification, all elimination channels must be operating optimally. If unable to leave the body, toxins move through the lymph system and can interfere with immune function. Toxic excess is often stored in fat cells throughout the body and brain.

During a Detox, toxins are liberated from storage, into the blood stream. If you feel nauseous or headachy during Detox, support your body with water, rest and nourishing herbs and vegetables. Once the toxins are transformed by the liver and excreted, you'll be feeling light and terrific. Detox clears old rubbish from the body.

Our mental processes are an important component of Detox. Recognizing and releasing toxic thoughts and negative attitudes serve to provide an uncluttered spaciousness. The study of psychoneuroimmunology is proving that our thoughts affect our physical function more than we ever realized.

Purification is a practice subscribed to by spiritual masters. Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights in the desert, and Buddha learnt to fast whilst cultivating compassion and patience. Cleansing our physical and mental self provides easier access to our subtle, spiritual aspects.

Finding or creating a supportive environment to assist your Detox makes the process easier. You are less likely to sneak off for some chocolate if you are being supported by a group or sitting in a forest. Resorts offering Detox programs are often set in glorious forest settings, to encourage sinking into the simplicity of natural rhythms. Tibetan medicine believes that the pulses of the earth heal our nervous systems. Allow yourself some quiet time to tune in.

The Detox

1. Total Fast
This most extreme form of Detox. It entails taking nothing, or only water into the body for the duration of the fast. Once the stores of glucose and glycogen used to fuel the cell are depleted, the metabolism shifts to two different pathways. One breaks down fats to produce ketone bodies for energy, and the other uses proteins to produce more glucose. 'Acetone breath' is a result of ketone bodies being used for cell respiration. Using these alternate fuels creates an acidic internal environment. Simultaneously, many intestinal bugs die off rapidly, releasing toxins into the body. Cells release stored toxins in to the blood stream, creating more free radicals and more damage. In addition, elimination from the bowel generally stops, prompting putrefaction and allowing a re-absorption of bile wastes. Total fasting can do more harm than good, and is not recommended!

2. Juice Fasting
Juice fasting is a smarter way to Detox. Regular introduction of antioxidant rich juices helps quench damaging free radicals and supports the detoxification process. In addition, it provides an energy source for the cells, preventing a shift to using ketone bodies. Juices can be either freshly squeezed, organic or spray-free vegetable or fruit. A lemon water to cleanse the palate, followed by a fruit juice is a good start in the mornings. Slowly drinking 2 to 4 vegetable juices for the rest of the day is advisable. Do your best to 'eat your drinks', and mix saliva with the juice to enhance absorption of the goodness. Vegetable juices are rich in minerals and vitamins, provide energy and have an alkalizing effect on the body. Carrot, beetroot, celery, cucumber are wonderful cleansing vegetable juices.

Juice fasting can slow or stop bowel motions. It is advisable to take psyllium husks and/or slippery elm powder to assist in maintaining movement, bowel cleansing and repair. Home water enemas, colonic irrigation or osmotic laxatives can also be used to keep things moving. Try a day or three of juice fasting in the warmer weather to see how you fare.

3. Monofasts
Monofasting involves restricting food intake to only one type of wholefood. Apples, called the 'body's broom' in traditional medicine, are a good choice. They provide a great nutrient profile, including flavonoids, antioxidants and fibres including pectin. Brown rice contains a good range of vitamins and minerals, stabilizes blood sugar and provides good fibre for the bowel. The bowel generally functions well during a monofast if the food chosen is fibrous. As the body requires a large array of nutrients for optimal functioning, a single day monofast is recommended.

4. Raw Food Vegan Diets
Raw food programs generally start with a juice fast and continue on raw foods alone. Raw foodists believe that cooking devitalizes food, whilst raw foods provide vital, life giving energy. Heat denatures proteins, as evidenced by an egg white when fried. Cooking destroys some nutrients, particularly vitamins. Microwaving broccoli and cruciferous vegetables destroys 97% of all cancer preventing phytochemicals!

Raw food enthusiasts shine and radiate good health. Their diets are free of animal products and consist of sprouts, sprouted breads, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds prepared in all manner of ways. Nut cheeses are an interesting delicacy. Many schools and retreats offer raw and living food programs that subscribe to a simple and logical philosophy to stay true and in balance with natural laws. Educate yourself about this way of living to ensure you receive the daily nourishment that you require.

5. Macrobiotic Fasting
Macrobiotic comes from the Greek macro, meaning great, and biotic, meaning life. Macrobiotic is a total system that considers the greater view of life. The concepts of yin and yang are used to explain the dynamic polarities that exist within life – female and male, expansive and constrictive, black and white. The concept is applied to what food is eaten and how it is prepared. Macrobiotic fasting requires a practitioner to tailor an individual program. In general, whole food staples of whole grains and vegetables predominate in a macrobiotic diet. Adopting macrobiotic dietary practices, in the strictest sense, requires dedication and patience.

Breaking a Fast

A gradual reintroduction of whole foods follows any fast. Most importantly, eat slowly. Allow your cephalic digestive processes, the 'mouth-watering phase', to kick in by smelling and admiring your foods. Then chew your foods well; good mastication is paramount to good digestion. Enjoy the flavours and textures after your period of abstinence. Reconfigure your relationship with food.

Perhaps start with fresh fruit salad or raw or lightly steamed vegetables. Then introduce a wholegrain, such as brown rice or millet, the following evening. Seeds and nuts are eaten the next day after. Introduce live bacteria into the bowel. Try low fat yoghurt containing an array of different bacterial strains, with a teaspoon of oat bran. Breaking the fast unwisely can undo all the good the fast has done.

Supporting Detox

  • Supplementation with antioxidant nutrients – vitamin A, C, E, bioflavonoids like heparin and rutin, Zinc and St Mary's thistle;
  • Colon hydrotherapy (colonic) involves gently injecting warm water into the rectum and large intestine. Water is retained then released, washing away toxins and dislodging stools stuck to the bowel wall;
  • Body-work stimulates lymph and blood circulation and relaxes muscles to aid the Detox process;
  • Dry skin brushing with a vegetable bristle brush before showering, stimulates the skin's circulation and exfoliates dead skin cells;
  • Yoga is a complete system of healing. It provides 'no mind' time, whilst stretching, toning and balancing the body. It is a wonderful aid during a Detox.

The Retox

Sensitivity and awareness increase during a Detox. On re-entering the world, the noise, air, water and food pollution can be down right disturbing. Try these to assist the transition.
  1. Invest in some flower essences to help readjust to the hectic pace. Australian Bush flowers Angelsword and Fringed violet assist in protection. Bottlebrush or the Bach flower essence, Crab Apple, helps cleansing on an emotional level;
  2. Take antioxidants regularly;
  3. Reduce, recycle and reuse. Incorporating environmental sustaining practices into daily life helps in powerful ways;
  4. Re-introduce toxins slowly and in small amounts. Don't overload your purified system;
  5. Prioritize time out for yourself everyday. Whether 5 minutes of shut eye on the train to work, 25 minutes sitting meditation before breakfast, or counting 3 breaths slowly while waiting for a lift, tuning in is a cornerstone to spaciousness of body and mind.


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About Sally Mathrick

Sally Mathrick MNHAA BNat (SCU) BArts (Melb) Dip Rem Mass is a practising Naturopath and Corporate Wellness provider in Australia. She is director of the Byron Integrative Medicine Conferences, which bridges paradigms in practice for best patient care. She writes a detox column for Wellbeing Australia magazine and is a health feature writer. She was university trained and worked in a medical center in Byron Bay, a renown 'healing region' of Australia. She now lives in Melbourne. She can be contacted on

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