for your health
The pros and cons (and
methods) of cleansing
By Irene Middleman Thomas
WE HAVE FILTERS on our furnaces, cars and vacuum cleaners.
Our bodies have filters too, namely the kidneys, liver and large
intestine, which some believe do the job they should. However,
others warn that these organs are overworked and need help in
cleaning out, or “detoxifying,” body pollution.
Detoxification is the conversion of fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble, nontoxic
substances that can be excreted. Natural
detoxification goes on all the time in the
body, preventing cells from being damaged
Proponents of supplemental detoxification of the body believe that a whole-foods
diet along with a regular cleansing program—
which includes fasting, purgatives and colonic
irrigation—are the ideal means of maintaining
health. The toxins that worry natural practitioners include such substances as mercury,
lead, food additives, dyes, hormones, pesticides and herbicides—substances, they argue,
that our bodies were not made to handle.
and Costco member.
“Colon cleansers remove electrolytes such
as sodium, potassium
and chloride from the
body. These electrolytes are maintained at
a very delicate balance
in the body; and when
they are disrupted, significant health concerns can arise.
“Do-it-yourself detox isn’t needed. The
body gets rid of waste naturally.”
“There are 80,000 chemicals in use in the
U.S. today, and human health and safety data
is available for only 20 percent of them,” says
Julie Wiener, a naturopathic physician in
Boston and adjunct professor at Massachusetts
College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
“You wouldn’t do to your best friend what
you do to your body,” says Delia Quigley, nutritional counselor and author of The Body
Rejuvenation Cleanse (StillPoint Schoolhouse,
2009). “What happens to your body is a direct
response to the abuse you put it through.”
Quigley’s program, unlike many short-term
procedures, takes five weeks to complete.
“Cleansing can’t happen overnight,” she says.
“The reality is that various factors can
impede one’s ability to detoxify,” says Wiener,
a Costco member. “I strongly believe in supportive detoxification methods on a case-by-case basis, and stress that individuals
considering a detoxification program should
consult with a naturopathic doctor or other
medical professional trained in this field
before beginning such a program.”
Fasting is perhaps the oldest and most
practiced of the main detoxification methods.
Fasting can vary widely—ranging from water
only to raw foods to juices only—and can
range in duration as well.
“Nonsense,” says Amy Jamieson-Petonic,
American Dietetic Association spokesperson
Advocates believe that periodic fasting
gives the body a break from digestion and
allows it to eliminate the toxins that cause disease, promoting healing as well as allowing for
a clearer mental state and increased energy.
Some claim that fasting helps health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, migraine
headaches and skin diseases.
usually recommended. Typical fruits headaches and skin diseases.
u b Some claim that fasting helps health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, migraine headaches and skin diseases.
Juice fasts typically last one to three days,
with only raw vegetable and fruit juices and
and two quarts of juice, along with large
Proponents of juice fasting use juice
because it is thought to be a good source of
vitamins and antioxidants. Between one
and two quarts of juice, along with large
amounts of water throughout the day, is
and vegetables include celery, carrots, kale,
cabbage, apples, pineapples, cranberries, spinach, beets and greens.
No matter how short the duration, fasting
is potentially dangerous for some people,
including pregnant and lactating women; people with cancer, diabetes, gout, hypoglycemia,
stomach ulcers or liver, kidney or lung disease;
or anyone with a compromised immune system. It is advisable to consult one’s physician
Purgatives (oral cleansers) use herbs,
fiber, dietary supplements and/or laxatives to
purge the colon and intestinal tract of toxins
and waste material. There are scores of at-home purgatives. It is advised to stay well
hydrated when using such products.
Colonic irrigation is the process of cleansing the colon by passing several gallons of water
through it with the use of special equipment.
The procedure, which should be administered only by a qualified practitioner, has
existed for decades. Normally, a series of treatments is required to achieve desired results.
Does detoxing improve health? The verdict, obviously, is still very much out. Only
you, and your doctor, can decide what is the
right choice for you. C
JANUARY 2010 ;e Costco Connection 41
Irene Middleman Thomas is a Denver-based
writer for many publications. She writes about
health, travel and food, among other topics.