Now let’s take a look at some specific cleanses. These are all cleanses I have tried, or a close family member has tried, so what I share is just my personal opinion and experience, is not medical advice, and should in no way replace the recommendation of your trusted physician.
Vegetable and/or Fruit only Cleanses, including:
Vegetable juicing: using a juicing appliance to extract the juice from vegetables and fruits. A great deal of vegetable nutrients can be consumed in a small amount of juice, however the tendency to use sweet veggies and fruits (i.e. carrots and apples) can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes and exacerbate candida overgrowth.
Raw Vegetables: mainly a raw vegetable cleanse, can include raw juices. Some people eat “raw” as a lifestyle, and often include nuts and raw dairy, which are often avoided for a cleanse. The idea is to benefit from the live enzymes in the raw veggies, which help to break them down. However, raw vegetables can still be difficult to digest in persons without sufficient supply of enzymes for breaking down fiber and other plant carbohydrates.
Vegetable soup cleanses: another variation on vegetable cleanses. More vegetables can be consumed than in a raw cleanse, but enzymes are destroyed in cooking. More fiber than a juice cleanse.
Grape cleanse: when only grapes and water are eaten. The high sugar content may exacerbate candida or other fungal overgrowth.
Seneca Indian 4 day cleanse: a combination of all the above: day 1 raw fruit only but no bananas, day 2 herbal teas with maple syrup only, day 3 vegetables of all kinds: juice, raw or in soup, day 4 rich vegetable broth only.
Unless you are using organic vegetables, you can forget it as a detox. Other than the detox properties of the cleanse (with organic only), vegetable cleanses seem to focus cleansing on the colon. Since this organ stores and then moves waste out of the body, it would seem a logical organ needing a periodic cleaning. A few days to a week has been more than sufficient in my experience, however every body is different. Note that “cleaning out the colon” does not mean that flora imbalances are corrected: if you have overgrowth of Candida (fungal) or harmful bacteria, this kind of cleanse will not correct that (you will likely need a combination of herbal and/or pharmaceutical medicines and probiotic supplements supervised by a doctor, with follow-up testing to confirm efficacy). Vegetable cleanses are excellent for breaking food cravings.
Cleansing and/or detoxing while pregnant and breastfeeding is not recommended, since toxins will be mobilized and could harm a baby in the womb or at the breast. This can be very frustrating for women in the middle of childbearing years, especially when they plan to nurse beyond a year with each baby, and find breastfeeding and pregnancies come back to back. I have been told by a Midwife whom I trust that the only “cleansing diet” she recommends to her moms is a raw vegetable/salads with lemon diet for one week while nursing (not pregnant). However, this should only be done after the milk supply is well established (perhaps after 6 mo. postpartum of full-time nursing). I did try this with my first baby, but had a hard time feeling satiated/getting enough calories, so I gave it up after 2 days.
There is no doubt: vegetables are good for us. However, I do not advocate vegan or vegetarian diets as healthy: they just haven’t held up to science or to my own experience. And don’t think that only vegetables help us detox; meat protein contains many amino acids not found in veggies . . . amino acids which detox certain kinds of chemicals accumulated or manufactured in our bodies. So (as I state in the intro post on this topic) the best cleanse is a long-term clean balanced diet.
Your body is detoxing every single day, whether you are on a special diet or not! Another way to approach the long-term detox lifestyle is to purposefully include more of the detox powerhouses into your diet:
Foods that enhance liver detox:
all dark leafy greens: kale, spinach, romaine, chard
Foods that enhance kidney detox:
water, water, water (only purified)
While systematically removing detox blockers from your everyday diet:
any kind of heated vegetable oil, such as found in fried chips, baked chips, french fries, box cookies
Vegetable juicing. The raw food cleanse. The Lemonade fast. Water fasting. Coffee cleanses, Colon cleanses. Herbal cleanses. Heavy metal cleanses, Candida cleanses. Seasonal cleanses, Vegetable soup cleanses, grape cleanse. Sauna cleanses, Liver cleanses, Kidney cleanses. American Indian 4 day cleanse. The Twinkies cleanse. (OK, I made up that last one.)
It seems that there are cleanses for every organ of the body, and for more than a handful of the ailments afflicting mankind. So what are all these cleanses, and are they at all helpful?
The basic premise of most cleanses is that the human body collects toxins, heavy metals, acids, bad bacteria -in general terms, gunk- and that a periodic “housecleaning” is helpful to move on with greater health and energy. Some cleanses may be designed to rest a certain organ, like the liver, from its daily duties, or to help in breaking bad food habits, such as sugar or junk food addictions.
However helpful a cleanse may be, I’d like to pause before we begin to discuss actual cleanses and consider the following two thoughts:
1. The best body cleanse is a clean lifestyle.
Consider the following ridiculous conversation.
Patient to Doctor: Hey Doc, can you recommend a good cleanse for me? Maybe a colonic? Maybe a week of vegetables only?
Doctor: Well, you just really need to quit smoking a pack of cigarettes every day.
Patient: Oh, I know I should do that, but until I am able to, isn’t there like a one week diet, or herbs or something to clean me all up on the inside?
Please realize that I am not mocking those who smoke; I have a couple of dear friends who do and very much regret the addiction it is for them; quitting is not easy. However the above scenario highlights how silly it would be for a person to try to cleanse their body in a short amount of time, without removing the main source of the gunk going in.
It’s the same for all of us, whether your main “gunk” is over-the-counter-meds, pesticides or the wrong kind of food, or toxins you rub into your skin, drink in your water, or breathe in the air. Unless we make an effort to change our toxic exposure (where possible) short cleanses have little overall health benefit.
2. A helpful cleanse will be one that matches what needs cleansing.
No one cleanse will be helpful to everyone, and some cleanses may be harmful to some. Obviously if it’s the liver that needs cleansing, doing a kidney cleanse won’t help, and vice versa. If you just need more sleep, and different diet won’t fix that. This sounds so simple, and yet it is so easy to hear of a cleanse someone else has done and “how much better they feel” and assume that that diet must be what I need.
Consider carefully, and do seek the advice of your physician. Although many MDs have never had any training in these types of therapy, those who practice “functional medicine” or who have had additional training in natural or nutrtional medicine should be of more help.
I like to think of my toxic load as a bathtub: water (toxins in this analogy) are flowing in at the tap, and flowing out at the drain. If the drain is plugged, the bathtub gets fuller. If the tap is turned up very high, the bathtub may be getting fuller even if the drain is working. In terms of the toxins stored in our “toxic bathtub” the goal would be to turn down the faucet as low as possible, and to make sure the drain is wide open and draining faster than the water coming in. If this is accomplished, eventually the bathtub will empty and only the daily toxins coming in will flow right on through.
Toxins Coming In
We live in a toxic world, and it’s pretty hard to completely escape modern day toxins. Even if we could, our own metabolic processes in our bodies create toxins to be expelled daily. If we weren’t detoxing all. the. time. we would die. Like, within a day.
Nonetheless, it seems prudent to avoid the toxins of:
Heavy metals which may accumulate in tissues/bones
Off-gassing of chemicals from household products
Chemicals and metals in our water supply
Die-off toxins from internal bacteria/fungus/viruses
Stress from emotional baggage
Much of this blog has been dedicated to these topics.
Organ Systems and Cells
The toxins in our bodies are varied, and are stored in differing areas of our bodies. For example, an imbalance of bacteria in gut flora may be creating a significant toxic load in my colon, even without symptoms I connect to that organ of my body. I may have a high level of lead, stored in my bones. I may have petrochemical chemicals stored in my skin, along with parabens, pthalates (fragrance) and sunscreens (which can all act as hormone mimickers) from years of lotion and cosmetics use. I may have formaldehyde stored in my cells, fungal/yeast toxins and mercury in my brain. My fat cells may have antibiotic residues, chemical cleaners, medications, synthetic vitamins, pesticides, rancid/hydrogenated oils, and styrofoam. (Some researchers feel that cellulite may have a larger portion of these kinds of toxins, which the body has put in “cold storage” to protect itself.) Although not the kind of chemical toxins that are stored in the body, electromagnetic fields are toxic to our bodies while we are present in them, and may inhibit our detox pathways for hours after exposure. I recommend the book Zapped by Gittleman for limiting exposure to EMFs.
The organs and glands of the body may all be holding any of the toxins in the list above; often certain toxins have an affinity for specific organ systems.
There are 5 mains paths of detoxification: Colon, kidneys, liver (and thus through colon), skin, and lungs.
Where do we start?
I know, it can be overwhelming. First, congratulations that you’ve made it this far, even without much planned detoxing support! Next, make a plan.
[Remember: I’m not a licensed health care provider, and I can’t diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Nothing you read on my blog is a substitute for advice from your doctor.]
1. Turn down the faucet. Start to remove as many toxic sources as possible. No, you can’t do it all this week, but START. Food always seems to be an obvious one to most people, but don’t forget that everything that touches your skin gets absorbed, without the benefit of stomach acid and your liver as a filter. So think laundry detergent, any lotions or creams put on skin, deodorant. Your lungs absorb so much of what you breathe in; so open your windows each night to air out your house. See, you’ve already made huge progress!
I recommend the book Homes that Heal as a good resource for reducing toxins in your immediate environment.
2. Flush. Drink all your water every day. Even if you can’t buy a really good water purifier this month, get a Brita which takes out some of the bad stuff. Everyone (unless your Dr. has you restricted) should be drinking half their body weight in ounces, every day (that means, if you weigh 150lbs, you are drinking 75oz water). Herbal tea counts as water, but add 8oz water for 8oz coffee or black tea consumed. Juice, milk, etc. don’t count for anything. Don’t drink soda. Just don’t.
3. Begin to cleanse the detox pathways, colon, kidneys, liver, skin, lungs, in roughly that order. I have read a lot of detox books/methods over the years, and done several types of cleanses. I recommend the book Inner Transformations by Deardueff as one book with several suggestions on cleansing each of these pathways, and even further into non-pathway systems. The author recommends some tried and true methods like Master Cleanse, veggie juicing, Candida diet, coffee enemas, Epsom Salt baths, skin brushing, as well as specific products to try.
4. Food. Yes, this is important. Not just to get clean sources (organic, grass-fed, etc.), but to have a broad spectrum of foods in fruit, veggie, proteins, and fats categories (dairy and grains not required for cleansing, and often inhibit cleansing). My experience has been that a Paleo type diet is a great jump start for food cleansing, but I recognize that Vegan diets are good cleanses too (think veggie juicing!). However, I don’t think that long term the Vegan approach supplies enough quality proteins/amino acids for some crucial metabolic detox processes. The book It Starts With Food is a good read if you feel helpless to change your diet.
Some foods that are super cleansers are fermented foods (homemade sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, etc.), dark leafy greens, the whole cabbage/broccoli family, the artichoke family, citrus, berries, and fresh fats/oils like coconut, cod liver oil, flaxseed, and avocado. But really, the fermented ones top the list.
5. Exercise/Sweat. I don’t love to exercise, but I feel more energetic and happier when I do. I use the T-Tapp 15 minute workout because it is very lymphatic; focuses on opening up the lymph channels and pumping lymph fluid (clear fluid in our bodies that does not have a pump like the heart pumps the blood). Any “pressing” type movement such as walking, running, or trampoline moves lymph, and this is very important for daily detox. In addition, when we sweat, we release toxins through the skin; terry-towel off that sweat if you’re not showering immediately.
6. Essential Oils. In the past year I have begun to study therapeutic vs. fragrance use of essential oils, and have begun to introduce them into our family as therapies. We have seen a few mild detox reactions, but I have heard and seen more dramatic reactions from others beginning EO therapy. Many EOs do have the ability to cleanse cells of petrochemicals and even do some chelation of heavy metals. Because EOs are absorbed directly into the cells, and can be within every cell in the body (even brain cells) in about 20 minutes, they carry huge potential for detoxification. Lemon juice squeezed in water has long been a detox standby, but a drop of lemon essential oil is far more potent and powerful than the juice; best to start very slowly before ramping up to one drop per glass of water (glass only, no plastic!).
Because of their ability to penetrate every cell in the body, it is very important to have absolutely pure essential oils, from a distillery which preserves every naturally occurring (balancing) chemical constituent. At this time I only recommend Young Living brand EOs (see my Essential Oils tab above).
Essential oils can also assist with emotional detox by opening up hormone pathways, and stimulating the lymbic area of the brain which stores memories and emotions (and is the area which receives signals from scents). I believe that Jesus is the true answer to the needs of our souls/emotions, and that Scripture which reveals Him is cleansing to our minds. I have found that repeating Scriptures to myself which relate to my emotional needs, within a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, have helped me to heal past hurts, depression, and unload emotional baggage.
Detoxing is good, but too much, too fast can create some uncomfortable detox side effects: rash, itching, headache, sinus drainage, feeling hot, feeling grumpy, restlessness, loose bowel, nausea, tiredness. It’s likely that the longer a person has been pursuing a detox lifestyle (has a less-full bathtub) the less they will experience these reactions. When these symptoms do strike, here are some things I have done to ease them:
Rest/sleep (it takes a lot of internal work to detox!)
Epsom salt baths (pull toxins out through the skin so it doesn’t all have to flow through liver/colon/kidneys)
Coffee enemas (no more than once a week, and only done in a safe way with electrolytes in the enema)
Cease heavy exercise; stretch instead
Go back over the list of toxins to find ways to “turn the faucet down” more
Consider backing off the detox of the moment, then ramp it up again more slowly.
Although we should discuss diet/exercise/detox plans with our doctor anyway, there are some situations which require a doctor’s help for detox. These would include chelation for heavy metal poisoning, heavy industrial chemical poisoning, and advanced cardiovascular disease chelation. A doctor knowledgeable in environmental medicine would be worth enlisting in these cases; it’s likely that he/she will be recommending at least some of the ideas above, so the more educated a person is about home therapies for detox, the faster their progress will be.
Additionally, some people have genetically faulty metabolic processes for detoxification; MTHFR gene defect, inability to methylate B vitamins, insufficient amino acid production, anemia of many types, thyroid and other hormone insufficiency, etc. A knowledgeable integrative doctor will be able to test for these types of disorders and recommend simple solutions to underlying causes. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking the right form of a B vitamin.
Detox for Life
I’m not going to sugar coat this: if you are new to detoxing, it will likely be a year of intentional detoxing before you feel really clean, and then an ebb and flow of maintenance detoxing thereafter. But, the benefit of having more energy and joy, and feeling lighter (if not actually BEING lighter) will make it worth it. You may never know the health crises you’ve dodged by keeping your toxic bathtub empty.
I love deodorant, and wouldn’t want to be without it. However, it is the one body-care product that has been the most difficult for me to replace with a natural product. I have now landed on a GREAT product, and along the way I’ve learned quite a bit about sweat and stink:
Several things can make us stink:
foods we eat, especially onions, garlic, and fried food
toxins our bodies are trying to detox, especially medication
bacteria in the armpit area, grows well in the warm wet environment; a rash makes this even worse
hormones (I have not seen any studies to support this, but women I know of childbearing age -but not pregnant- seem to have the most difficult time getting deodorant to work, and it can vary through the month. I have also found that this kind of stink can stay in clothing, especially synthetic fabrics (petroleum based), leading me to believe that it is an odor expressed in oil, of which hormones are made.)
Ways to Reduce Body Odor
Shower and shave (women) daily, washing twice with a mild natural soap like the Tea Tree Mint soap at Trader Joes (2 bars for under $2).
Don’t wear a top twice between washes if there was any odor when you took it off.
Eat a healthful diet based on organic vegetables, organic grassfed meats, eggs, dairy, and wild fish/oil, and some organic fruits, beans, and whole grains. Avoid all foods fried in vegetable oils; eat only organic cold pressed vegetable oils without heating (salad dressing).
Onions and garlic provide important sulfur -a catalyst for heavy metal detoxification and joint health- in your diet, not to mention great flavor to foods. I would not avoid them for odor unless you know you will be stuck in the back seat on a hot day between two friends. 🙂
Your body detoxes all the time, and changing your diet to the above will greatly speed up this process. However, you may want to follow a specific cleansing/detox program to give yourself a greater jump start. I noticed when treating/cleansing/healing from candida that my sweat had a mildew-like smell (gross, I know). When I did chelation to remove systemic mercury, my sweat would change between smelling like sulfur and smelling like cigarette smoke. I can’t comment here on all the cleanses I’ve tried, but finding a good Naturopathic Doctor would be a great place to begin.
FAR Infrared Dry Heat Saunas are therapeutic for nearly any health condition except pregnancy, and the excessive sweating they induce is detoxifying and helps clear the sweat glands of odors.
Sweating through exercise is another way to detox through sweating.
Any kind of rash in the armpits can harbor bacteria growth. Treat your skin kindly, and avoid chafing.
Avoid all chemical exposures, specifically medications/pain killers.
I’ve also learned why deodorant is one of the most important body care products to change to non-toxic. Smeared onto freshly shaved (for women) armpits, where just below the skin lie the second largest grouping of lymph-nodes in the body, conventional deodorant is a toxic blend of glycols, petroleum products, parabens, aluminum (for antiperspirant), and synthetic fragrance. To pick on two of these bad boys: parabens have been found in 89% of breast tumors, and aluminum has been indicated in Alzheimer’s disease. Already in 2003 when I asked my traditional Ob-Gyn about antiperspirant, she said that the studies showed a strong link to breast cancer, and she did not recommend it’s use.
Armpits are designed to sweat. Sweat is a key process for eliminating toxins from the body. And if you notice, your skin that sweats easily also absorbs easily; think hands and feet. (I hear reports that people putting a slice of garlic between the toes can taste garlic in 5-10 minutes.) So skin that is an “outlet” for toxins can work the other way as an “inlet” for whatever is placed on it. Add to this the fact that the lymph nodes near breast tissue are an intrinsic part of the breast cleansing process (and often removed with mastectomies when cancer spreads to them), and we need to be very careful about what we are putting on our armpits. (Note: both men and women get breast cancer although men’s is less common, likely for more reasons than just deodorant. More men wear non-antiperspirant deodorant, and don’t shave, both factors that reduce their risk, but the other chemicals in deodorant are still a toxicity concern for them.)
I’ve tried a lot of “natural” products, and here are my ratings on them. Just to give you a picture of where I was starting from: I used Secret Antiperspirant for years, then became uneasy with the aluminum, and went to using my perfume as deodorant. I wasn’t aware that this was just as dangerous, as modern perfumes are synthetic chemical mixes. I felt that NEITHER the Secret nor the perfume lasted/worked well even on a normal (no stress/sweating) day (I’d rate them at a 6). Here’s what I’ve tried since then (scale of 1-10, 10 being works well):
Crystal/Salt Stick There are a couple brands for this type of deodorant.
Works: 6 for me, 8 for my husband (better than his old one) Feels: different to wet it and put that in an armpit, but I got used to it. However, after it dried, there was a fine salt layer on my skin, similar to after swimming in salt water. I have EXTREMELY sensitive skin, so this caused some chafing through the day. Toxicity: I thought it wasn’t toxic when we tried it, but then found out that the “natural salt” used is Ammonium Alum, other names for which are ALUMINUM AMMONIUM DISULFATE; ALUMINUM AMMONIUM DISULFATE DODECAHYDRATE; and ALUMINUM AMMONIUM SULFATE; this shows as an extremely low hazard level on cosmeticsdatabase.com BUT with a 94% data gap: I think this means they don’t have evidence yet for this ingredient. But to me, aluminum of any form shouldn’t be on or in my body. So we don’t use this anymore.
Herbal Solid Stick Deodorants I’m grouping these together, as I can’t say that I found them to be much different than each other. Look for one without Propylene Glycol (antifreeze) and parabens, the other ingredients are usually herbs or essential oils that are mildly antibacterial or fragrant. The best of these that I’ve found is by Alba Botanica in lavender, it also comes in aloe unscented. Works: 3-5 The Alba one shown here works about as a 5 for me, however, I’ve heard that others are very happy with this type of deodorant. Feels: Somewhat sticky to me for the first hour or so, then no feeling, unless I sweat a good deal, then it feels slippery. Toxicity: As long as these are made without Propylene Glycol, aluminum, and parabens, they are a very low toxicity concern.
Herbal Roll-On Deodorants I’ve tried several of these, as shown here. Avalon used to make one in lavender, which they have discontinued in favor of spray on deodorants (shown), and I thought that worked best of the roll-ons I’ve tried. I have not tried the spray, but it seems promising.
Works: 5-7 The lavender roll on worked about as a 7.
Feels: Wet/slimy at first, dries to no feeling. Not as sticky as the solids if I sweat later in the day.
Toxicity: Read the ingredients, but these are usually a very low toxicity concern, if made with essential oils, glycerin, and no parabens.
Baking Soda Some people have found this old fashioned remedy to work well for them. It is drying, anti-bacterial, and odor absorbing. Powder onto freshly showered/dried skin. If this seems to work well for you, but you would like an easier way to apply it, check out the recipe adding coconut oil on PassionateHomemaking. Works: 7, however, a downside can be white rubbing onto dark clothing. Feels: I have found, with my ultra sensitive skin, that soda causes chafing, initiating a rash. However, others do well with this. Toxicity: Very low toxicity.
Essential Oil of Lavender Yes, just a few drops of the straight oil, rubbed with fingertips into the armpit. I came upon this solution when I needed something to use while I healed a chafing rash. It is mildly anti-bacterial, and I had noticed that many of the deodorants which worked better for me had this in them. Also, lavender is very soothing and healing to skin, so it helped with the rash healing. Of course, the fragrance is quite potent in the pure oil, so not everyone would desire to use this, and I don’t on a daily basis. Whether the oil is covering/blending with oil based odor, or just preventing it, I can not tell.
Feels: Warm when applied, dries to no feeling.
Toxicity: I am not aware of any health condition which is contraindicated in lavender oil use. In general, essential oils are quite strong, and should be used with caution. Toxicity concerns would be quite low for this product if you choose an organic pure essential oil which is not extracted or extended with chemicals.
Dentarome Plus, from Young Living This is what I use on a daily basis, and feel that it works better than any natural or conventional deodorant I’ve tried. It is actually toothpaste, but the blend of essential oils, glycerin, and baking soda is a strong natural anti-bacterial and odor fighter. Young Living evidently sells deodorant, however the reports I’ve heard is that they don’t work so well (likely along the lines of the other reviews I have here). To apply: squeeze a small pea sized amount onto finger, distribute between fingertips of both hands, apply thin layer to freshly washed/dried armpit area. Works: 9-10 Feels: minty, even hot when applied, dries to no feeling, and no residue rubbing onto clothing. At times when I have developed a chafing rash, I must discontinue using this as the soda gives enough friction to inhibit my rash from healing. One tube has lasted me almost 2 years, but next time I order, I plan to get the original Dentarome as well as this Plus version. The original doesn’t have the thymol and eugenol oils, which I think is what make it hot when applied; if it doesn’t work as well, I’ll just use it as toothpaste! Toxicity: Young Living is a reputable company, so there is very low chemical/contamination concern for this product, however some of the essential oils are contraindicated during pregnancy. I have used this successfully during my last and current pregnancies, as I don’t feel that I am taking this in therapeutic amounts. However, you must make this decision for yourself under the advice of your doctor.