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.
Have you ever read a book that sort of pulls together a lot of loose questions for you? I mean, you have been told a basic theory about a topic, and yet you know of personal situations that don’t fit into the basic theory. And then you are presented with a new paradigm that makes so much sense on a diverse clinical level.
Such was my experience with the book Cure Tooth Decay: Heal & Prevent Cavities with Nutrition by Ramiel Nagel. Although I knew, like most moms, that a proper diet which included calcium was essential to making healthy teeth, I didn’t know that an excellent diet can actually prevent tooth decay. Even without brushing. Whaaat?
I’m not advocating not brushing one’s teeth (neither is the book’s author), however, there is extensive documentation of hundreds of people in cultures across the globe with excellent, carie-free, dental health. And they were armed with excellent diets (which varied across the globe, naturally) rather than with toothbrushes. (This documentation was the work of Dr. Weston A. Price, a dentist who traveled the globe to find people with traditional diets and to observe their dental health. He became so impressed with their overall health, and longevity, that his life work became titled Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.)
How can people have excellent dental health without brushing (and flossing, and swishing, and getting dental cleanings every 6 months)? This is what I wondered, as my paradigm for dental health was that the things that we put on our teeth (food, especially sugar) and then failing to brush it off soon enough, will cause acids and/or feed bacteria that eat away at our tooth enamel. This book debunks the “sugar on teeth” theory, in that white sugar does not feed bacteria, it actually kills it. But we all know some kid that’s addicted to sugar, and has a mouth full of fillings to prove it, right? This is where the nutrition factor comes in: it’s not the sugar on the teeth that wear away at the enamel, it’s the sugar inside the body. White sugar (and white flour, and a bunch of other nutrition negatives) cause the body to swing towards an acid pH, and the body must compensate by pulling an alkaline substance (like calcium) from storage to keep the pH balanced, or to send to a more important part of the body, like the brain or heart. The body may decide in this crisis situation that losing a tooth is better than losing an organ, and so a living tooth slowly loses it’s health from the inside out.
This explains why one tooth may be in decay, while the one next to it is fine (one would think that all teeth in the mouth would decay at the same rate if it were the foods present in the mouth affecting them, as sugar would be distributed everywhere). The body may prioritize one tooth as a source for pulling calcium over another tooth. This also explains why breast-fed babies tend to have more excellent dental health than their bottle-fed counterparts. Dental caries in infants have long been blamed on formula pooling in the cheek from bottle feeding, yet breastfed babies can also sleep with pooled milk and yet have better teeth. It is the better nutrition in the breastmilk that is the basis for better dentition, rather than the absence of milk on the teeth themselves.
Of course, breast-milk is not always excellent nutrition; the health-giving properties of breastmilk are tied to the excellence of the mother’s diet. Ramiel Nagel’s own daughter was being exclusively breastfed when she began to develop tooth decay. The whole family was vegetarian, so they thought they were very health conscious in their diet, yet the lack of essential animal fats and proteins had actually thrown them into a state of malnutrition. As Mr. Nagel research Dr. Price’s writings, he became convinced that they must change their diet dramatically, or all suffer physical and dental degeneration.
Dr. Price found that the people groups he studied with the most excellent dental health, some with nearly 100 percent immunity to dental caries across the entire population, ate liberally and daily from the following 3 food sources:
Dairy products from grassfed animals
Organs and muscle meat from fish and shellfish
Organs of land animals
Mr. Nagel’s book goes into fascinating detail on the whole diets of several groups of people (some peoples ate hardly any dairy, etc. but had larger doses of the other special foods, etc.). He also explores the minerals and fat-soluble vitamins (namely calcium, phosphorus, Vitamins A and D from natural sources) which are the reason (or part of the reason) that these foods build healthy teeth (and bodies).
At the end of this article are some lists of Eat Daily/Weekly/Rarely/Never which are Ramiel Nagel’s suggestions. This list is overwhelming to me, as it would seem like a full time job to make sure each of my children ate all the recommended foods daily and weekly. However, I have to remember that we are doing a decent job on the 3 important foods categories: particularly eating lots of raw milk, yellow butter, and cod liver oil. And considering that the rest of our diet is very whole-foods centered, and that I have had this good nutrition while pregnant and breastfeeding, it isn’t surprising that my children all have beautiful strong teeth (so far!). For those that are already realizing poor dental health as a result of poor nutrition, it may be wise to go drastic and follow Mr. Nagel’s diet to reverse tooth decay, as he was able to accomplish for his daughter.
Of course, many factors are likely present in decay situations, and tooth surfaces that allow for compacted food to be left on them, like molar chewing surfaces, and the baby’s teeth which are in the pool of milk, do tend to be the first to decay. Brushing seems to be a reasonable and helpful habit for minimizing these factors, especially if the toothpaste does not have toxic fluoride but instead a healthy dose of Xylitol, a natural bacteria-fighting sugar with re-enamalizing properties. (Ramiel Nagel has a negative opinion of Xylitol based on one study on its safety; my research leads me to believe it is safe and effective. Read Xylitol: Alternative to Fluoride.)
However, brushing should be seen as the secondary dental habit, with excellent nutrition being the first and most important.
Ramiel Nagel outlines a diet that has allowed 90% of those who follow it to stop tooth decay. If you already have teeth decaying in the mouth, consider a strict adherence to this diet.
Foods to Eat Daily:
1/8-1/2 tsp. fermented Cod Liver Oil 3x daily with meals, or 1/2-4 T. organic/wild liver
1/8-1/4 tsp. of high vitamin butter oil 3x daily with meals, or 1-2 T. yellow butter per meal
2-6 cups raw grassfed whole milk
2 cups bone broth
1-4 T. grassfed bone marrow
2 fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt
Substantial quantities of vegetables, such as carrots, beet greens, kale, chard, zucchini, broccoli, celery, sting beans, including soups and juices
Seaweed or kelp
Eat Several Times Weekly:
Raw, rare cooked, or marinated/fermented wild caught fish
Raw, rare cooked, or marinated/fermented grassfed beef or lamb
Raw fresh oysters or clams
Raw, rare cooked, or marinated/fermented liver of grassfed beef, lamb, chicken, fish, turkey, etc.
Raw or soft cooked eggs from grass-fed poultry
Eat Only Rarely/Avoid If Dental Health is Poor:
Dried Fruit, and any very sweet fruits, such as orange, grapes, peaches, banana and pineapple
Natural Sweeteners, such as unheated honey, organic maple syrup, agave nectar, fruit juice, and rapadura
Foods to Completely Avoid:
Sugar, in all processed forms
Flour and grain products, unless soaked or sprouted
Hydrogenated Oils, and low quality oils, such as soybean, canola, safflower. Replace with organic coconut, olive, or palm oils, butter, suet, or tallow.
Any junk food
Coffee, soft drinks, nutrasweet, and anything artificial
Soymilk, protein powder, and excess Tofu (my note: protein powder which is unheated raw whey is OK as it is still raw milk)
Pasteurized milk, even organic
Non-grassfed meat and eggs, and farmed fish
Alcohol and cigarettes
Drugs, whether recreational or prescription, and vaccines
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.
One of my goals in 2010 is to make healthy living a habit, one step at a time. Join me as I post Healthy Habit Challenges each month this year in the following categories: Household Chemical Avoidance, Diet, Body Care, and Environment.
Included in italics are ways to take it to the next level, if you’ve already made a clean green start.
Household Chemical Avoidance: Remove the most dangerous plasticware from your kitchen; water bottles should be either glass or stainless inside. Learn which plastics are less of a concern, and how to treat them properly in my article Plastics: the Numbers Game. Next level: begin to collect better containers for food storage, such as glass. Canning jars are easily obtained, and fit well on pantry shelves and in the fridge.
Diet: Boost your immune system, heal your gut, and build your blood and bones with homemade bone broth. Read about my easy crock pot method for poultry and beef stocks in Bone Broth: Body Builder and related articles. Then treat your family with steaming bowls of French Onion Soup. Next level: research a local source for grass-fed beef; you will probably need to get in touch directly with the farmer, and coordinate the splitting of a half or quarter beef with several friends. The webite localharvest.org is a great place to search for a local farm, or contact your local chapter of the Weston A Price Foundation.
Body Care: Replace your deodorant with a non-toxic version. Read all my product reviews, and why this is one of the most important products for you to replace in Deodorant: Love-Hate Relationship. Next level: replace shower soap with a natural bar, check to see if your razor has a “lotion strip” with questionable ingredients, and suggest a better deodorant for your spouse. You can check ingredient lists against chemicals to avoid listed in my Consumer Wallet Guides (print, clip, and keep in your wallet for easy reference).
Environment: Rethink “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” in the article Thinking Like Grandma. Then make kitchen recycling a habit by Creating a Recycle Center like I did this month. Next level: in addition to recycling rather than throwing away, think of ways to Reduce and Reuse in your home. Leave a comment on the Thinking Like Grandma article with your ideas!
What I’m Working on Consistency In:
all of last month’s habits! (still need to locate a houseplant; I guess it’s best I didn’t get one before leaving town for 2.5 weeks!)
need to look through all my plastics again, and then organize my over-abundance of glass jars
Plastics are really convenient, especially in the kitchen. However, there has recently been a lot of question about how safe it is for them to be in contact with so much of our food. The nation of Canada recently banned the use of PVC in baby bottles/cups, making it the first nation to officially acknowledge the growing body of evidence that shows plastics are making their way into our bodies.
Human hormones are nearly all manufactured (in our bodies) using fats, so it should come as no surprise that the addition of synthetic oils, such as plastic residues, can interfere with normal hormone processes. We would be wise to avoid these toxins much as possible.
Plastics of all types seem to leach into foods more when they are heated, subjected to harsh cleaning agents, and left in contact with wet or oily foods for extended periods. Some safer ways to use plastics:
Never microwave. Ever.
Don’t place in the dishwasher, rather hand wash with warm water and mild dish soap.
Limit exposure to wet and greasy foods. Remember, plastic is made from oil (petroleum), so food grease becomes like a solvent for it, with the residue entering the food. Refrigerate/freeze wet or greasy foods in glass containers, rather than plastic bags.
When using plastic wrap over a dish, don’t allow the wrap to touch the food inside.
If you can “smell” plastic, you are actually smelling it off-gas. Avoid using actively off-gassing plastic with food, even dry foods.
Don’t store drinking water in a plastic bottle. Choose stainless steel or glass for your sports bottle.
Best Choices for Food Storage
The safest material for food storage is glass. Virtually non-leaching, it has stood the test of time. Fortunately, it is readily available, and inexpensive. Canning jars are an easy, flexible solution for pantry, fridge, or freezer. There are also several lines of glass products made specifically for food storage, some with snapping plastic lids (choose from the “safer” list on the lids, and avoid letting the food touch the lid).
Purchasing food canned in glass jars, rather than tin cans, is the best choice when available. Although tin is not considered toxic to humans (it’s a trace mineral we actually need in small amounts), most people in developed countries have elevated levels of this mineral, likely from tin cans. Of even greater concerns is the plastics used to line/seal tin cans; whether they are on the “safer” or “to avoid” lists below, it is likely that there was heat involved in the processing and the food has absorbed some amount of plastic.
Safer Plastic Choices:
Select safe plastics that use polyethylene (#1, #2, and #4) and polypropylene (#5), which require the use of less toxic additives. They also are non-chlorinated. Where do you find these numbers? Turn the item over and look for the symbol.
Plastics to Avoid:
Avoid choosing products that use polyvinyl chloride (#3), polystyrene (#6), and polycarbonate (#7) which often are found in baby bottles or sippy cups.
What to do with these unsafe plastics? If the containers are useful for storage elsewhere (garden shed, etc.) consider reuse, otherwise recycle before they can be accidentally returned to use in the kitchen (baby cups).
A fresh start is always so motivating. That must be why so many people make New Years Resolutions. One of my resolutions is to make healthy living a habit, one step at a time. Join me as I post Healthy Habit Challenges each month this year in the following categories: Household Chemical Avoidance, Diet, Body Care, and Environment.
Included in italics are ways to take it to the next level, if you’ve already made a clean green start.
Diet: Get off to a good start each morning by making breakfast nutritionally sound. Read my post Breakfast: Off to a Great Start. Next level: focus on the quality of the foods you buy and prepare. Is your oatmeal organic, your eggs free range (organic if available), your protein powder low temp whey or hemp, your bread sprouted, your honey raw? Do you soak your oatmeal, can you make your own kefir from raw milk, do you put butter on your oat meal?
Body Care: Choose hand and body lotion wisely. Read my post Body Lotion: Quench without Consequenses. Next level: go through your entire lotion cabinet and pull the ones with risky ingredients. Include all sunscreens and face lotions in your detective work. (Face skin care will be discussed in a future article.)
Environment: Improve your personal environment by letting some fresh air into your home. Read my post Indoor Air Quality: Home Smog. Next level: in addition to the open-window habit, tackle the other suggestions in the article: clean up your chemicals, install a CO2 detector, clean up problematic mold spots, leave your shoes at the door and wet-mop the floors weekly, and grow house plants.
What I’m Working on Consistency In:
presoaking, and putting butter on, my children’s oatmeal, and having sausage for them
making my own kefir from raw milk (only pasteurized milk kefir is commercially available . . . this is what we’ve been using until now. Great start, but I know I can do better.)
opening all three bedroom windows briefly each morning
adding some live plants to my home (I gave up 7 years ago after killing two for lack of sun . . . now I’m ready to attempt it again, and this time I’m armed with a kitchen windowsill. To all my local friends: does anyone have a prolific indoor plant they are wanting to divide and give to me?) 🙂