Spring is stirring and with this comes the desire to transform our spaces, our routines and our lives. Just as the frozen river has sat quiet and still for the winter season, our bodies may be less supple and out of shape from the past several months. The spring run-off flushes the rivers clean to remove the accumulated waste and flow abundantly again. Follow the seasons lead to make the most of our ability to transform ourselves with the help of detoxification tools to get ourselves moving again.
When we think of detoxification it may bring to mind alcohol and drug withdrawal, the intense emergency from extreme levels of substance use. The nausea, pain and discomfort of acute detox is incredibly intense and can be a medical emergency, yet the essence of detoxifying reaches far beyond this picture. In fact, it's happening in your belly right now. You're detoxifying substances from everything you have eaten, drank, absorbed and inhaled from the recent past and some residue from long ago.
To detoxify is simply the process that occurs in the liver constantly, when substances are broken down and built-up in order to be eliminated from the body. It is an essential part of our health in every moment.
Toxins in Our World
Bis-phenol A, dioxin, phthalates, atrazine, perchlorate, fire retardants are just a few of the most common hormone disruptive toxins in our environment. These and many more are all routinely consumed toxins in American's today. It is essential that we learn about these compounds to understand how they effect our health and how to avoid them. The Environmental Working Group continues to provide incredible resources to help us learn more. Empower yourself with further understanding about 12 Hormone-Altering Chemicals and How to Avoid Them at https://www.ewg.org/research/dirty-dozen-list-endocrine-disruptors.
In our neighboring communities, the impact of industry can have a lasting effect. Colorado native Kristin Iverson shares her story of growing up in the shadow of Rocky Flats and investigative journalism in her novel Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats, uncovering the toxic legacy that the industry has left for the Colorado front range.
Then we have the everyday toxins that people choose knowingly; smoking, processed food from drive-thru's, high fructose corn syrup in sweets and much more. Self-harm through substance use compounds the impact of environmental toxicity on the body. Toxic exposure is happening to all of us, everyday whether consciously, or unconsciously.
A toxin is also a normal product of cellular metabolism. As cells replicate they create waste. As food and hormones are processed in the body, we can create an intermediary step in a pathway of something that’s not originally harmful but has a part of the process that can be harmful. Whatever the method of origin, a toxin in the body can disrupt normal organ function and cause cellular damage. Fortunately, our bodies are well equipped for this process, when we are in an optimal state of health and when our exposure is reasonable.
Detoxification and Healthy Elimination
Holistic medicine traditions from around the world focus care for health on the foundational practice of “opening the emunctories.” This is a term used to describe all of the elimination or exit routes through the body. We know that when the emunctories are optimally functioning, the body’s vulnerability to accumulation of toxins is less. Just as a freely flowing waterway is less prone to accumulate sludge and become a toxic environment, a healthy body is better able to let harmful substances pass through.
The emunctories include: the bowels, kidneys and bladder, the lungs, the skin, the liver and gallbladder. These exit routes of the body are all that we need to activate the healing capacity of our bodys wellspring of energy. Stagnation in any of these organs results in a buildup of waste and dysregulation of our energy.
Our modern world is filled with substances that require nearly constant work to address. Many are difficult for the body to process and are known as bio-accumulative, staying with us our entire lives. Driving down the road, drinking tap water, cleaning house, cooking a meal: all of these simple daily activities can overwhelm our system with toxic substances over time, depending on our choices.
Toxicity and Our Health
The outcome of toxic exposures in the body are many. Cellular damage leads to poor organ function which can lead to poor metabolism, fatigue, body aches, mind-fog, obesity. As the body metabolism slows to a level less than what the body needs to regenerate, disease can progress to auto-immunity, cancer, cardiovascular disease and the myriad of unexplained symptomatic patterns. Toxic accumulation can play a role in every type of disease. Generally, the symptoms develop slowly and are often confused to be normal aging.
Enhancing normal detoxification in the body is something that can be achieved through numerous simple, daily life activities. Based on the personal experience and individual imbalance, a formulation of specific tools can make a world of difference. In general, detoxification practices should involve taking fewer substances into the body and encouraging normal elimination through the bowels, breath, skin and urine.
Adapting a lifestyle of consideration for toxicity in what we use as our household products and nourishment is an important step. It isn’t possible to avoid toxins completely but we can reduce our exposures while we enhance our elimination and work toward a healthy balance. In today’s world with our chemical exposures, it is important to fit tools into your routine that support detoxification.
Traditional Detox Tools Include:
- Herbal Detox aids: Herbal medicine traditions identify the precise organ enhancement that plants are capable of supporting. You can learn to make use of plants to heal your body and enhance the organ function from many avenues of exploration. You can benefit all of the emunctories with herbal medicine.
- Dietary Cleanses: Shifting to a simplified diet aligns with our ancestral ways as the late winter stores grew slim and the Earths bounty was ye to come. Reducing the complexity of a dietary routine or adapting a modified diet is the cornerstone for effective detoxification. A foundational practice from Naturopathic medicine is the Anti-inflammatory diet. A healthy dietary cleanse should activate the intestines and the liver gently.
- Dry Skin Brushing: from Ayurvedic medicine, brushing the skin with a course bristle brush from the tips of the extremities toward the heart daily supports longevity. Aiding lymphatic circulation, toxins are circulated in order to be better eliminated. This is a very simple way to enhance the elimination through the skin.
- Castor Oil Packs: popularized by Edgar Cayce, this routine abdominal self-massage is a fantastic way to aid digestion and liver health. Castor oil applied topically to the body can provoke intestinal movement and relieve inflammation in the digestive organs to allow greater ease throughout. The castor oil pack is a routine self-care practice to enhance elimination through the intestines and the liver. It is also very beneficial for the nervous system.
- Contrast Hydrotherapy: many of the early European Eclectic Physicians devoted their careers to exploring the benefits of hot & cold therapies on the skin. As an everyday tonic, alternating the heat of the shower with cold can invigorate the bodies vitality. Full body contrast hydrotherapy benefits the lungs and heart especially.
- Sauna Therapy: inducing a high-temperature fever like state in the body through sauna use is a tradition from cultures around the globe. Ideal use includes the contrasting cold of a shower, cold-plunge or roll in the snow to draw the vital heat back into the body. This intense contrast advtivates the body’s metabolism and helps regulate immune and circulatory function, eliminating waste through the skin.
- Fasting: Reducing dietary intake to the simplest formulas of water, broth, juice and/or herbal teas is a common thread through many traditions of medicine and spiritual cultivation. It provides a deep rest to the bodies normal daily tasks and commonly makes room for spiritual pursuit. Fasting can be a powerful way to transform health of mind, body and spirit while opening all of the emunctories of the body.
At Stillwater, we offer tools for supporting longevity with natural medicine. Detoxification is central to maintain and restore health in all of us. Whether you’re facing addiction, chronic illness or supporting healthy longevity, we are here for you.