Put Spring in Your Step with a Seasonal Cleanse

by Laurel Sterling Prisco, M.A., R.D., C.N.

Ah, spring! 'Tis the season we thrust open our windows, declutter closets, wash grimy windows, sweep cobwebs, and desalt cars. This "house cleaning" is a necessity for our bodies too. Heavy winter food and excesses likely prompt a need to cleanse our systems.

Benefits of a Cleanse

Why do we need to cleanse? The liver, lungs, kidneys, lymph, blood, GI tract, and skin work together to eliminate toxins. In a pristine and perfect world, they would function effortlessly, making detoxification unnecessary. The sheer volume and variety of toxins that bombard us daily, however, easily overwhelm these organs.

Signs of toxin overload include fatigue, headaches, poor concentration, depression, muscle and joint pain, skin irritation, poor complexion, sluggish immune function, even weight gain. Other signs may include allergies, autoimmune conditions, and reproductive disorders. Those with toxin overload also may note marked sensitivity to environmental chemicals, odors, and medications.

What is a Toxin?

A toxin is defined as any substance that has a detrimental effect on the function or structure of your body. Unfortunately they are everywhere—in our food, air, and water.

Most toxins fall within one of four categories: heavy metals, liver, microbial, and metabolic. Heavy metals include lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, nickel, and aluminum, which enter the body as a result of industrial contamination. Other sources include: lead from pesticide sprays and cooking utensils; cadmium and lead from cigarette smoke; mercury from dental fillings, contaminated fish, and cosmetics; and aluminum from antacids and cookware.

Liver toxins are compounds that must be neutralized by the liver. They include alcohol, chemicals, drugs, solvents, formaldehyde, pesticides, herbicides, and food additives. Just to give you an idea of scope, there are 85,000 different chemicals produced in the U.S., with at least 3,000 new chemicals introduced each year (EPA Report, 1998). In 1999-2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested approximately 2,500 people for 116 chemicals. Every person in the study, regardless of age, location, or lifestyle, tested positive for environmental toxins. Even chemicals, such a PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), that have not been produced for over 30 years are still ubiquitous in the environment!

Microbial toxins are produced by bacteria and yeast in the gut and are absorbed into the bloodstream, and metabolic toxins include compounds such as ammonia that result from the body's breakdown of proteins.

Detoxification involves metabolic pathways where cells transform toxic substances into relatively harmless metabolites, which are then excreted through the urine or bile. Most toxic substances are fat-soluble and must be converted to a water-soluble form before they can be excreted. This is done in a two-step process that largely takes place in the liver.

If you have never cleansed before, I highly recommend you begin slowly. Prep work for an effective cleanse includes a healthy diet with gradual decreased consumption of foods like alcohol, saturated fats, sugar, and caffeine to lessen withdrawal symptoms. Cleansing is generally recommended at the start of each change of season. I usually suggest at least two a year, typically the beginning of spring and fall. If you have questions, ask a qualified health care professional for guidance.

A good focal point of your cleansing program is Thisilyn® Cleanse with Mineral Digestive Sweep from Nature's Way. This clinical-strength kit uses a comprehensive tri-phase approach to whole-body cleansing.

Phase I, Whole Body Detox, of this uniquely designed kit contains: Thisilyn® standardized milk thistle extract, artichoke, turmeric, and dandelion root to support liver and gallbladder function; cranberry, asparagus, and parsley for the urinary tract; and burdock, red clover, cleavers, and Oregon grape for the lymph, blood, and skin. Phase II, 6-Fiber Blend, includes: an easily dispersed fiber combination of psyllium, oat bran, guar gum, LignaMax high-lignan fiber, grapefruit pectin, and FOS that help capture toxins throughout the intestines. Phase III, Digestive Sweep, contains magnesium hydroxide to support toxin elimination via bowels and urine. As an added bonus in Phase III, Triphala extract, peppermint, ginger, fennel, and marshmallow provide additional intestinal tract support.

So thrust open the "windows" of your primary organs of detox and allow a comprehensive, yet gentle whole-body cleanse to sweep the debris from you system as it adds renewed zip to your step.