What do you think of when you see the word “cleanse”? Years ago I would have thought a cleanse was simply flushing out the colon. I had heard about “colonics” and there was no way I would ever do that. Someone mentioned they take a Senna “cleanse” once a week. That sounded a bit like just catching up with some irregularity. A few of my friends have done the Master Cleanse, living on cayenne laced lemonade for 10+ days. None of these seemed like they would fit into my life. I’ve been pregnant and nursing babies the past 15 years and had a good excuse not to participate in any drastic forms of cleansing – which should never be undertaken when pregnant or nursing as any released toxins will most likely go to the baby. I have, however adopted some daily cleansing routines that I think are gentler on the body and can keep toxins from accumulating in the body over time. These are also good steps to begin before undertaking any serious cleansing under the supervision of a holistic practitioner. And always seek the advice of your doctor before beginning any serious cleansing regime. The following principles can be applied by anyone desiring to have a healthier home and body.
Step one is to identify toxins in your diet. This includes the things we put into, on and around our bodies. First, and foremost is food. We are creatures of habit and like our food & beverages. This is where cleansing involves our physical and emotional being. Real cleansing involves letting go of the unhealthy and embracing the alternative for improved vitality and life. I have plenty of my own healthy favorites, which have evolved over time. I have replaced all the worst processed food in my life (yes, I used to drink caffeinated diet soda and eat packaged foods) with healthy alternatives that I love even more because I feel much better eating them. I can honestly say I am free of processed food and have more energy than when I relied on caffeine to keep me going.
The next step in beginning to cleanse is identifying toxins in your our environment. Cleansing your body includes taking inventory of your surroundings. We are chemical beings and our bodies absorb chemicals from our surroundings. Household cleaners, health & beauty products, clothing, furniture and cookware are common sources of chemicals. Even perfumes and artificial fragrance have been found to accumulate in your tissues and affect endocrine functions. If you need a place to start, sign up for my newsletter and you can get a Healthy Home Checklist I’ve put together. Environmental toxins, whether from plastics, fabric finishes, cleaning products or pesticide sprays on fruits & vegetables, are absorbed in our bodies and often stored in major organs like our liver & kidneys – and in our fatty tissue. If you are still not convinced, you can read more about some studies done on newborns. Scientists are finding toxic chemicals from our environment in the cord blood of newborns. One study found 232 different chemicals in the cord blood of one baby, many of them everyday chemicals found in shampoos, cosmetics, plastics and electronics. Once toxins take up residence in your fatty tissue and organs your body will not eliminate fat until you lose the toxins.
For those of you unfamiliar with this line of thinking, there are currently over 80,000 chemicals registered with the EPA. About 2,000 of them have been tested for safety. You can do the math pretty easily and figure there must be at least several thousand toxic chemicals in our environment. The FDA and EPA are constantly finding chemicals once thought safe as being harmful in the long run. You’ll probably even find them in your home. A famous disinfectant wipe _ysol says right on the bottle “keep out of reach of children”. Does this mean don’t let them eat the wipes? Wipe their hands with them? Touch surfaces cleaned with the wipes? These guidelines are not clearly defined on the label. I tend to err on the conservative side and avoid products like this all together. The FDA allows these products to be sold so consumers can make their own choices, just like cigarettes. So be informed, read labels and know what your are buying and putting in your home.
There are so many toxin-free options from household supplies to health & beauty products it’s pretty easy to transfer most of your buying to healthier options. Better yet, eliminate some things altogether and simplify your life. This is the last step in this phase of cleansing, adjusting your thinking and perceptions about your environment. There is something freeing about letting go of material things – whether it’s extra clothing, toys or 20 different cleaning products under your kitchen sink. Take time now to look at your environment and see what you can eliminate that may be exposing you and your family to toxins.
Home furnishings, fabrics, window treatments, bedding and carpeting are just some of the top offenders of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s). This is actually an industrial term defining how much toxin a material is producing. You’ve probably smelled it in “new carpeting” or “fresh paint”. Someone in my yoga class got a new mat for Christmas. Minutes after unrolling it she detected the strong PVC (that’s polyvinyl chloride, an odorous toxic plastic) and she had to continue class with the mat covered with a thick wool blanket because the smell was making her sick. Usually the stronger the smell the more toxic it can be causing symptoms like nausea, headache, vertigo, itchy eyes and throat. All these airborne toxins can be absorbed into your skin and bloodstream and make their way to your fatty tissue where they won’t let go. Unfortunately, odor is not always detectable and once the symptoms of exposure occur damage has been done. So it’s safest to avoid any products that might be harmful if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
Cleansing your internal body begins with cleansing your environment. You can do all the cleansing regimens in the world, but unless you reduce the toxins in your surroundings, your body will continue to absorb the chemicals- and store them in fatty tissue. If this is new information to you, don’t panic about what toxins you might have been exposed to. Change happens over time and the first step is awareness. From there, take baby steps and make changes for a lifetime. For the time being, you can keep eating your cake. I’ll be getting to some food elimination articles soon enough.