What are the keys to facilitating a good detox? Most cleanses do not go far enough. To get the most out of a cleanse be sure all these components are included in the cleanse you choose:
- address the blood sugar
- nourish the intestinal villa and restore proper eliminative function
- destagnate the lymph
- cleanse the liver
- flush the bile and reset the digestive fire
In a world where we are exposed to more environmental toxins and pollutants than ever in history, the need to detoxify on a regular basis seems to be a prerequisite for optimal health. While there are many detoxification programs to choose from, this article and video is designed to give you a checklist to know what to look for in a detox.
- Do you avoid gluten, dairy or other foods because you can’t digest them? This may be a red flag!
- The following are affected by – and can contribute to – a weak digestive system.
- The Blood Sugar: Enjoy 3 relaxing meals each day without snacks.
- The Gut: Stress decreases your body’s ability to digest well and detox.
- The GALT: Where 80% of the body’s immune function lies.
- The Liver: Has the big job of processing toxins out of the body.
- The Gallbladder: Healthy bile helps neutralize acids from the stomach.
- Do a safe and effective cleanse twice a year by addressing each of these major areas.
You Must Digest Well To Detox Well
Do you avoid gluten, dairy or other foods, because you can’t digest them? This could be a sign of a digestive imbalance. Did you know that you have to digest well to detox well?
I define good digestion by moving your bowels within the first hour of waking and when the stools are regularly formed, without loose stools or mucus. There shouldn’t be any symptoms of indigestion like heartburn, gas, bloating or belching.
Perhaps the best indicator of good or bad digestion is our habits. Often we insidiously modify our diet towards healthier, easier to digest foods because of an underlying digestive imbalance (like not eating gluten, for example). Though eating healthier is always a good idea, the original digestive imbalance will go untreated if the reason for making such dietary shifts is because you don’t digest certain hard-to-digest foods well.
Is the main reason you switched to a restrictive diet due to poor digestion?
Dietary changes that may be associated with an underlying digestive imbalance include: avoiding wheat, gluten, dairy, fat, nuts, soy, corn, sugar or greasy fried food. Sometimes the dietary shift is toward a more restrictive diet like becoming a vegetarian, vegan, raw foodist, or eating six small meals a day. Even just a simple shift away from the Standard American Diet (SAD) towards eating more vegetables and less heavy foods like breads, pastas or red meats may be an indicator that the ability to digest the heavier foods has decreased over time.
This slow digestive weakening over a period of time may also show up as a subtle but steady weight gain or nagging stiffness, chronic skin conditions, allergies, food sensitivities, fatigue or mood instability. We often relate these symptoms to the need for a detox – which I would agree with – but there is also a need to improve digestive strength.
Before we jump right into doing a detox, let’s run a fine-tooth comb through some concepts of the efficiency of our digestive system.
1. Check Your Blood Sugar
Enjoy 3 relaxing meals each day without snacks. One of my passions is the essential need to have stable blood sugar. According to a preliminary study I did based on my book, The 3-Season Diet, blood sugar could be better supported by shifting from eating six small meals a day to three satisfying meals. The participants noticed changes in mood, energy, weight, sleep and cravings.
When the blood sugar is unstable, the default fuel is sugar and carbs – not fat. For the body to detoxify well, the blood sugar must be stable so the body can shift it’s stress-related fuel supply from sugar to stored fat (where your body holds onto toxins).
My favorite screening for checking your blood sugar – in addition to getting regular blood tests from your Medical Doctor – is to see if you can eat 3 good healthy relaxing meals a day with no snacks between meals. If you are comfortable and do not experience any highs and lows in energy, mood or cravings, then your blood sugar levels may be fine. If you do experience discomfort, make sure that your blood sugar has been checked by your doctor before you embark on a detox.
2. It All Starts In The Gut
Stress decreases your body’s ability to digest well and detox. Take the time to relax and unwind. There are an inordinate number of stress receptors that line the intestinal track. When the stress levels are high, the intestinal mucus membranes can become irritated.
Initially, these membranes will dry out and cause elimination issues. In time, if the stress is incessant, the mucus membranes will produce a reactive mucus to lubricate the gut and relieve the dryness. Unfortunately this may clog and flatten the intestinal villi, where absorption of nutrients and removal of waste takes place. If you are experiencing regular bowel movements only with the addition of an herbal supplement, more fiber, veggies, water or the restriction of certain foods, you may still not have addressed the underlying irritation in the gut.
This reactive mucus can also create more frequent loose bowel movements that may have mucus in them. If you see mucus in the stool, then you may have proof that excess mucus exists and the villi could be congested.
A good detox plan must start with severing the relationship of stress to the gut and healing the intestinal mucosa. This would require a stress reduction plan and a strategy to pull the mucus off the wall of the gut and tone the intestinal musculature.
3. The Power of the Lymph
Just outside the intestinal wall is the Gut Associated Lymphatic System (GALT). In this half inch between the villi on the inside of the intestinal wall and the GALT on the outside of the wall is the most important half-inch of the body because it is where 80% of the body’s immune function lies. When the lymph is congested, according to Ayurveda, you may experience: skin rashes, itchiness, achy joints, holding on to water or swelling anywhere in the body, allergies, headaches, sore throats, swollen glands, swollen or tender breasts, cellulite, extra belly fat, gas or bloating – the list goes on.
The lymphatic system begins in the intestinal villi (called the lacteals) where they pull nutrients and fat-soluble toxins off the intestinal wall. The problem is that if the gut is constipated or there is excessive reactive mucus bogging down the villi, the lymph and its white blood cells may not provide immunity or detoxification.
Fat-soluble toxins – like heavy metals, environmental toxins, pollutants, pesticides, for example – are defaulted to the liver. The liver may not be able to deal with these toxins that had originally been earmarked for processing through the gut and the lymph. Therefore, the detoxification you engage in must also destagnate your lymphatic system.
4. A Liver’s Work is Never Done
At the end of the small intestine many of the undigested fat-soluble toxins are re-absorbed back to the liver. Over time this can overwhelm the liver and spill undigested fats into the bloodstream where they look for other places to store in the body. Fat cells can hold numerous toxins for many years until they are properly detoxified. But if we just flush them out from storage, where do they go? If the liver is congested and the lymph is sluggish, these toxins may just recirculate in the blood and end up stored back in the fat cells again.
There is one catch: the fat cells have a saturation point. They will only allow so many fat-soluble toxins to be stored. When the saturation point is reached, the toxins may spill back into the blood and often end up being deposited as neuro-toxins in the brain because it is a major concentration of fatty tissue.
Before we detox these dangerous chemicals from the fat cells we must be sure the liver has been cleansed so it is functioning optimally and can help process these toxins out of the body.
5. The Gallbladder to the Rescue
One of the side effects of liver congestion mentioned above is that the bile gets too thick, viscous and sluggish. Often times non-emulsified cholesterol residue can build up and create those pesky gallstones. Before they become stones they create a sluggish, sludgy bile flow.
The word melancholy comes from the old Latin word for black bile, which is basically toxic or thick bile that has often been associated with a depressed mood.
Thick bile simply cannot neutralize the good and bad fats we ingest, which can cause bloating, indigestion, heartburn, nausea, belching and gas.* Healthy bile helps neutralize acids from the stomach. If the bile flow is insufficient the stomach acids can scorch the intestinal wall and cause burning.* This sends an urgent memo to the stomach to turn down the production of acid – even though it is necessary for proper digestion – because there isn’t enough bile to neutralize it. The stomach reacts by turning down the flame to a simmer. So, instead of cooking the food and emulsifying any toxins, it just moderately warms things up, allowing hard-to-digest proteins – like gluten, dairy, soy and others – to pass into the wall of the small intestine where they act as intestinal irritants and lymphatic congestors. It is this dance between acid production in the stomach and the flow of bile that determines our digestive strength.
Sluggish bile can also congest the common bile duct, which is shared with the pancreatic duct. As a result, the flow of digestive enzymes can be compromised when the bile becomes congested. Many people are unnecessarily told to take supplemental digestive enzymes that they can become dependent on. Once the bile flow is restored the need for additional enzymes may be eliminated. Be sure your detox plan has a bile and liver flushing component and a way to determine if the digestive fire has been reset.
Why is an Ayurvedic Cleanse a great option?
Here at LifeSpa we offer different types of cleanses, all of which cover the main areas above that I wrote about in this article.
- Free Short Home Cleanse: A comprehensive 4 day cleanse booklet that is available for free on my web site and can be done by anyone, anytime, anywhere. Print out the self-guided instructions and you are ready to go.
- The Colorado Cleanse: Twice a year, in the Spring and Fall, I’ll take you through a 2 week detox with conference calls, daily emails and an online community to connect with other cleansers. This is longer, deeper and more comprehensive than the Short Home Cleanse. The Colorado Cleanse will address all the essential components needed to detoxify the deep tissues of the body.
- Personal Consultations with Dr. Douillard: If you feel your condition needs personal guidance, schedule either a Phone Consultation or an In Person consult with me. Often I find that individuals need special attention and a supervised detox while on the road back to health. For this reason, I suggest we consult directly to make sure you are best served with a detox strategy to address the cause of what is ailing you.
* Please Note: We cannot effectively or legally answer personal health questions here, for further assistance please consider a personalized Ayurvedic Consultation.