Practiced for centuries by cultures around the world — including Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine systems — detoxification is about resting, cleansing and nourishing the body from the inside out. By removing and eliminating toxins, then feeding your body with healthy nutrients, detoxifying can help protect you from disease and renew your ability to maintain optimum health through a range of methods including yoga, meditation and more.
Basically, detoxification means cleansing the blood. This is done by removing impurities from the blood in the liver, where toxins are processed for elimination. The body also eliminates toxins through the kidneys, intestines, lungs, lymphatic system, and skin. However, when these systems are compromised, impurities aren't properly filtered and the body is adversely affected.
A detox program can help the body's natural cleansing process by:
"Detoxification works because it addresses the needs of individual cells, the smallest units of human life," says Peter Bennett, N.D., co-author of 7-Day Detox Miracle with Stephen Barrie, N.D., and Sara Faye.
Bennett suggests that everyone should detox at least once a year. However, Bennett cautions against detoxing for nursing mothers, children, and patients with chronic degenerative diseases, cancer or tuberculosis. Consult your healthcare practitioner if you have questions about whether detoxing is right for you.
Today, with more toxins in the environment than ever, "it's critical to detox," says Linda Page, N.D., Ph.D., the author of Detoxification: Programs to Cleanse, Purify and Renew. Page recommends detoxing for symptoms such as:
First, lighten up your toxin load. Eliminate alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, refined sugars, and saturated fats, all of which act as toxins in the body and are obstacles to your healing process. Also, minimize use of chemical-based household cleaners and personal health care products (cleansers, shampoos, deodorants, and toothpastes), and substitute natural alternatives.
Another hindrance to good health is stress, which triggers your body to release stress hormones into your system. While these hormones can provide the "adrenaline rush" to win a race or meet a deadline, in large amounts they create toxins and slow down detoxification enzymes in the liver. Yoga, Qigong and meditation are simple and effective ways to relieve stress by resetting your physical and mental reactions to the inevitable stress life will bring. Gaiam carries yoga mats, props and accessories for beginner yogis to advanced practitioners and a meditation seating to help you relieve stress.
There are many detoxification programs and detox recipes, depending on your individual needs. Many programs follow a seven-day schedule because, as Bennett explains, "it takes the body time to clean the blood." His program involves fasting on liquids for two days, followed by a carefully planned five-day detox diet to allow the digestive system to rest. Page recommends a three- to seven-day juice fast (drinking only fresh fruit and vegetable juices and water) as an effective way to release toxins.
Here are our five favorite detox diets:
After a detoxification program, you can cleanse your body daily with these diet supplements and lifestyle practices: