Always consult a professional before trying any Detox program, done improperly can be extremely dangerous, the information below is for education purposes only.
What Is Detoxification?
Revising the popular sayings that you are what you eat or you are what you think, some nutritionists say, “You are what you don’t eliminate.” When your body holds onto unhealthy residues, it cannot operate at peak efficiency. You ca also say you are what you assimilate and eliminate.
Your liver is one of your body’s busiest organs, filtering the blood of bacterial contamination, secreting bile to break down cholesterol and removing residues of common prescription and over-the-counter drugs, caffeine, nicotine, carcinogens, insecticides and other chemicals. Your kidneys filter out toxins made water-soluble by the liver and excrete them in urine. Your intestines remove fat-soluble toxins excreted in bile as well as toxins from bowel bacteria; they complete digestion and collect solid waste for elimination. Your lungs remove gaseous wastes through exhalation. Your lymph system filters waste matter from inter- and intra-cellular fluid. Your skin eliminates fat-soluble toxins such as DDT and heavy metals such as lead through perspiration. Even your tongue is involved. Every hour of every day, your body works to remove what it doesn’t need.
The natural health literature documents thousands of cures resulting from methods designed to speed and increase natural detoxification, including water fasting, juice fasting, eating only one food for several weeks or months, special diets, herbal teas, colon-cleansing procedures, high-temperature treatments such as saunas or sweat baths, massage therapy and salt baths.
Popular Herbal Detox Therapies
Several herbal and nutritional detoxification therapies developed to treat cancer have proved effective for illnesses of every description. For example, the famous
Gerson therapy was designed as a cancer cure, but the Gerson Institute, which meticulously documents every case it accepts, has successfully treated heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and other illnesses with the same schedule of freshly pressed, raw organic juices and coffee enemas.
In the 1920s and 30s, Johanna Brandt, a native of South Africa, toured the world promoting her Grape Cure, the mono-diet that cured her of cancer. Brandt, who discovered her therapy by accident, influenced generations of natural healers by repeatedly proving, with her own case and hundreds of others, that a fruit or vegetable mono-diet can thoroughly cleanse the body, cure disease and nourish the patient, even during prolonged treatment. Brandt documented many cases like her own, in which a cancerous tumor grew on “normal” food but shrank and eventually disappeared if the person ate only grapes or other single fruits.
In Austria, Rudolf Breuss, a businessman and self-taught healer, theorized that cancer is fed by protein and that by going without protein for six weeks, one can starve the body’s cancer cells. His theory became the: Breuss Cancer Cure, a 42-day program of fresh, raw juices and herbal teas. Offered at clinics in Europe and North America, the Breuss fast has an impressive record of cures, not only of cancer but of many chronic and “incurable” illnesses.
Bernard Jensen, a leading figure in natural health circles, has treated thousands of patients with nutrition and high colonics, which are lengthy water rinses of the intestines. Jensen often relies on a mono-diet, such as raw apples, to begin the cleansing response. In one case, he had a patient drink only raw carrot juice for an entire year; this therapy cleared the man’s body of debris, cured his chronic bowel disease and left him healthy and well-nourished. Jensen has inspired three generations of natural healers who have validated his teachings.
Harry Hoxsey, a self-taught herbalist, cured thousands of cancer patients using an herbal blend reportedly handed down from his great-grandfather. By the early 1950s, Hoxsey’s Cancer Clinic in Dallas was the world’s largest private cancer center, with branches in 17 states. Because of his popularity and success, Hoxsey was condemned, harassed and prosecuted by the orthodox medical establishment. However, two federal courts upheld the ”therapeutic value” of his tonics and, in a landmark case against the American Medical Association, which Hoxsey won, that organization’s president testified that Hoxsey’s formulas cured some forms of cancer. Although Hoxsey was eventually forced to close his U.S. clinics, and although the American Medical Association, American Cancer Society and U.S. Food and Drug Administration condemn his name and therapy, Hoxsey’s formulas live on. Andrew Weil, M.D., whose bestselling book Spontaneous Healing introduced many Americans to alternative medicine, uses a bloodroot paste like Hoxsey’s for the topical treatment of skin cancers, and different versions of Hoxsey’s herbal tonics are sold by herbalists around the country. These tonics contain plants known for their detoxifying properties, such as red clover blossom, buckthorn bark and burdock root.
Actor Jason Winters credits a tea made of red clover blossoms and chaparral leaf for his own cancer cure, and he became so enthused about this blend’s healing properties that he launched his own tea com- pany to share it with the world. Enthusiastic users spread the word that its daily use improved their skin, energy level, allergies, arthritis and other symptoms.
Essiac tea was developed in the 1920s by a Canadian nurse, Rene Caisse, who learned of an Ojibwa Indian tea from a patient it had cured of breast cancer years before. To the original blend of burdock root and slippery elm bark, Caisse added sheep sorrel and Turkey rhubarb root and named the result for herself: Essiac is Caisse spelled backward. For many years Caisse treated cancer patients in Canada with excellent results, and, like Harry Hoxsey, she repeatedly offered to participate in any clinical trial orthodox physicians might design. The offer was never accepted, although Canada’s legislature came within three votes of authorizing such tests over the objections of its medical establishment.
In recent years, Essiac blends have been marketed by corporations that argue over its trademark and licensing while small herb companies quietly sell the ingredients that allow anyone to brew it at home. Every manufacturer and seller of Essiac tea has received reports of significant detoxification and health improvements in humans, pets and farm animals.
More recently, biophysicist Hulda Clark, Ph.D., caused a stir in holistic and orthodox circles with her Cure for All Cancers. Clark believes that cancer and other illnesses develop because of internal parasites, especially Fasciollopis biuskii, which excrete waste material that stimulates abnormal human cell growth. The two ingredients in Clark’s theory of disease are internal parasites and an impaired immune system. She blames exposure to pollutants such as propyl alcohol, benzene, xylene, toluene, methylethyl ketones and other solvents for the body’s inability to identify and eliminate worms and microbes. Her therapy, which claims to cure not only every type of cancer but diabetes, high blood pressure, seizures, chronic fatigue syndrome, migraines, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS and other illnesses, depends on removing problem solvents from the patient’s environment. In addition, she uses black walnut hull tincture, freshly ground cloves and powdered wormwood to destroy internal parasites in every phase of their development. Clark’s claims remain controversial and her cures may be anecdotal, but the herbs she has selected have a long history of use for the elimination of parasites.
The approach taken by all of these therapies is that debilitating illnesses are systemic, not local; that they involve the entire body, not just a lung or a knee; and that by clearing the body of toxins that interfere with its ability to heal itself, a juice fast, mono-diet, herbal blend or series of high colonics boosts the immune system and removes the actual cause of disease.
Are You Ready for Cleansing?
The Importance of pH Testing
The body’s acid-alkaline balance, which reveals its ability to adjust to the stresses imposed by juice fasting and herbal cleansing, can be measured by testing the pH (level of acidity or alkalinity) of blood, urine or saliva. Saliva and urine are the easiest to test; all it takes is a minute and the appropriate pH paper (see Resources).
Most Americans have acidic bodies that are brought into balance by eating alkaline-forming foods such as raw fruits and vegetables. Common sense suggests that if you eat acidic foods such as lemons and pineapple, your body will become more acidic, but not necessarily. Foods that are themselves acidic can cause an alkaline reaction in the body, and vice versa. This sounds confusing, but as you monitor your diet and your body’s responses, the connection between food and pH will become more obvious.
According to author Herman Aihara in Acid & Alkaline, the most acid-forming foods are rice bran, brown rice, wholewheat bread, fish, shellfish, egg yolks, oat-meal, chicken, barley, beef, pork, peanuts and cheese. The most powerful alkaline-forming food by far is seaweed, especially wakame, Irish moss and kelp (kombu).; Ginger root, kidney beans, shiitake mushrooms, spinach, cabbage, mustard greens, parsley, endive, carrots, strawberries, oranges and other fruits and vegetables are alkaline-forming.
The safest and most sensible way to approach detoxification is to spend several weeks preparing for it by eating foods that nourish and support the organs that will be most affected. See page 12 for pre-cleanse or preparation-phase guidelines.
Richard Anderson, N.D., who developed the Clean-Me-Out program described in his book Cleanse and Purify Thyself, recommends the following tests to determine whether a person is ready for serious detoxification. If urine and saliva pH do not reflect ample
alkaline reserves, he suggests continuing the pre-cleanse phase until they do.
Please Note: Juice fasting and herbal detoxification programs put a serious strain on the liver, heart and other organs. The following pH tests, which should be taken before you make dietary changes and again after two to four weeks of pre-cleanse preparation, will indicate your body’s state of preparedness. If they show that you are not yet ready for serious cleansing, do not go on a fast or an ambitious herbal cleanse. Instead, continue the pre-cleanse diet for another week and test again. If you consistently test in the “too acid” or “too alkaline” range, consult a holistic health care professional who has experience with detoxification and cleansing programs.
For best results, use pH paper that indicates two-tenths increments on the pH scale between 5.5 (acidic) and 8.0 (alkaline). A pH of 7.0 is neutral. Wet the paper following label directions, and read it within 10 to 30 seconds. When the body has adequate alkaline reserves, a morning saliva test reads between 6.5 and 7.0; lower numbers indicate too much acidity in the system to proceed with cleansing. A pH reading of 6.0 or below may indicate a seriously depleted condition and any fast or herbal cleanse may be dangerous. A reading of 7.1 or higher may indicate stress or a mineral depletion that makes fasting unwise at this time. In case something has interfered with the reading, wait an hour and repeat the test. Saliva tests should be conducted after at least two hours without food, making early morning an ideal time.
Next, do the lemon test. Again, early morning is best, but you can do this whenever you have gone for at least two hours without eating, or just after the saliva test. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into a small amount of water, hold it in your mouth for as long as possible and swallow. Wait 60 seconds, then check your saliva’s pH. Test again every 60 seconds for five minutes, for a total of six tests. If the pH consistently tests 8.0 or higher (very alkaline), it indicates good alkaline reserves, a reflection of overall good health. Readings between 7 and 8 show positive results, but Anderson suggests a third test (see below) before embarking on anything but the lightest of herbal cleanses. If your results are outside this range, fasting or serious cleansing programs should be postponed.
The third pH test examines urine. Because urine pH levels change daily, eating acid-forming foods for one day should acidify the next day’s urine. However, in those who have mineral deficiencies, acid-forming foods create ammonia, making the urine alkaline. Take this test first thing in the morning after a day of eating “forbidden” foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, bread, pastry, fried food, canned food, etc.
A urine pH of 6.8 or above after a day on this acidifying diet suggests that the body has few or no alkaline minerals to draw upon. If this is your result, avoid strenuous exercise and focus on building the body’s alkaline reserves by slowly increasing alkaline-forming foods (fresh, raw fruits and vegetables) and decreasing acid-forming foods. Anderson recommends doing this gradually unless you have a life-threatening illness, in which case time is of the essence and you should be under the care of an experi- enced healthcare professional. For all who test in this range, he prescribes ample quantities of carrot or carrot/celery/apple juice, mineral broths and an easily assimilated trace mineral supplement.
A urine pH between 6.1 and 6.7 suggests a mineral depletion that, while not dangerous, should be corrected before undertaking a fast or serious cleansing program. A urine pH between 5.7 and 6.0 is a passing mark, though by following the dietary guidelines below, you will continue to build alkaline reserves. A urine pH of 5.6 or below, which is very acidic, shows excellent reserves.
Who Should Not Undertake Herbal Detoxification
While many women who were unable to conceive or carry a child to term have borne healthy children after detoxification therapy, it is not recommended during pregnancy. However, many of the guidelines suggested for the pre-cleanse phase can be adopted during pregnancy with excellent results, especially the use of tonic root teas, raw fruit and vegetable juices, probiotic supplements such as acidophilus, the prebiotic foods that support beneficial bacteria, mineral-rich vegetable broths and dietary fiber. Consult an experienced healthcare professional for assistance in modifying the pre-cleanse diet for pregnancy and breast-feeding.
Children of all ages have benefited from herbal detoxification therapy, but young children should be supervised by an experienced healthcare professional. The same is true for the elderly, the chronically ill and anyone who suffers from a serious disease, is addicted to drugs or alcohol or who has been exposed to dangerous chemicals, heavy metals or radioactive material.
The Pre-cleanse or Preparation Phase
For at least two to four weeks before beginning a detoxification program, follow these guidelines.
Do eat alkaline-forming foods, such as fresh fruits, raw and lightly steamed vegetables, salads made of four or more vegetables of different colors, raw fruit and vegetable juices, steamed potatoes, vegetable soups and sea vegetables or seaweeds. If you have been taking vitamins, minerals and other supplements, consider setting them aside during the pre-cleanse phase as well as during detoxification. The foods and supplements recommended here are the most appropriate for this activity, and ample quantities of raw fruit and vegetable juices supply more essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other nutrients in a more easily assimilated form than most commercial supplements.
A diet based on raw foods and juices is so different from what most Americans are used to that you may need some culinary inspiration. If so, see the recommended “uncook” books in the Appendix. Learning
how to prepare and enjoy foods that bring your pH into balance will make a significant difference to the success of your detoxification efforts and to your long-term good health.
If you are not familiar with ume plums, also called umeboshi plums, this Japanese delicacy deserves your attention. Made by layering ripe ume plums in sea salt and shiso leaves, the aged fruit is known as an effective blood cleanser, disinfectant and detoxification therapy. During epidemics, ume plums were used to prevent dysentery and typhoid, and Japanese physicians used them to treat victims of radiation poisoning after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Although ume plums and ume plum paste are widely sold in health food stores, the Japanese products are made with refined sea salt, a substance best avoided just before and during detoxification therapy. See the Appendix for an ume plum made in California with unrefined salt.
Because detoxification places a substantial burden on the body’s mineral reserves, an easily assimilated mineral supplement (see Appendix) is recommended.
In most people, the diet described here is itself detoxifying. That is, it will probably produce at least some cleansing reactions. To help speed the removal of toxins from the body while reducing unpleasant symptoms, increase your fiber intake. Twice a day, add 1 teaspoon powdered psyllium husks (or a blend of powdered psyllium husk, apple pectin and/or other recommended fibers) to a glass of juice or water, stir or blend and drink quickly before it gels. Gradually increase your fiber consumption until you are taking 1 tablespoon. twice a day in juice, each serving fol-lowed by a glass of water. It is important to drink more water than usual, preferably two or more quarts of plain drinking water per day. In addition, drink herbal teas, especially those that are soothing and relaxing, such as chamomile or peppermint, if you feel stressed or anxious. For nutritional support, brew tonic teas such as those on page 16. At night, just after dinner or just before bed, take an acidophilus supplement. For best results, do not take acidophilus and supplemental fiber at the same time.
Eat in small quantities (a maximum of one serving twice per day, gradually reducing to one serving every other day) cooked grains such as rice or corn, and dishes made of dried beans or legumes. In place of sugar, use small quantities of maple syrup or honey and try to reduce the amount each day. Most blackstrap molasses contains high concentrations of pesticide residue, so look for organically grown molasses, which is a rich source of iron, an excellent sweetener and an alkalizing food. In place of refined table salt, use small quantities of unrefined, unprocessed sea salt (see Appendix).
Do not eat acid-forming foods, which include any and all breads or baked goods, canned or frozen foods, pasteurized or bottled juice, dairy products, eggs, meat, fish, poultry, nuts, raw or roasted seeds, sugar, soy or tofu products, wheat flour products, distilled white vinegar, margarine, fried foods, foods cooked in oil or packaged breakfast cereals, including granola. Do not drink coffee, regular tea, soft drinks or colas. Avoid tobacco products, second-hand smoke, over-the-counter medications, recreational drugs, beer, wine and distilled spirits. Avoid table salt or any refined white sea salt.
If you are taking medicinal herbs, consider substituting teas or powders for alcohol tinctures, take the tinctures well-diluted in fresh juice or pour boiling water over the tincture in a teacup, which will cause most of the alcohol to evaporate. If you are taking prescription drugs, or if you have been treated in the past with drugs that have serious side effects, consult an experienced holistic physician or healthcare professional before planning a detoxification program.
Herbal Detox Teas
It’s easy to combine tonic herbs in flavorful tea blends suitable for drinking throughout the day not only during the pre-cleanse phase but during more ambitious detoxification. Unlike some commercial ”detox” or dieter’s teas, the following do not contain laxative herbs or caffeine. Some of the ingredients, such as dandelion leaf or root, are mild diuretics that help rid the body of excess fluids without disrupting the body’s balance of potassium and other minerals. These recipes are flexible and versatile. If you don’t have an ingredient, simply leave it out or substitute something with a similar action.
These recipes are measured in parts, which can be teaspoons, tablespoons, cups or any unit of volume. Label and store each blend in a tightly sealed container away from heat and light.
ROOT TONIC TEA (decoction)
2 parts dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale)
2 parts burdock root (Arctium lappa)
1 part sarsaparilla root (Smilax officinalis)
Blend ingredients. To brew 1 quart of tea, combine 2 Tbsp. tea with 4 cups water in covered pan. Optional: for a sweeter tea, add a pinch of dried stevia; for flavor, add 1 tsp. dried orange peel. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before straining. Use between 1 and 2 tsp. tea blend per cup of water to brew larger or smaller quantities. Drink as desired.
GENTLE DETOX TEA (infusion)
2 parts red clover blossom (Trifolium pratense)
2 parts dandelion leaf (Taraxacum officinale)
2 parts stinging nettle leaf (Urtica dioica)
2 parts cleavers or bedstraw (Galium aparine)
1 part chaparral leaf (Larrea tridentata)
Blend ingredients. To brew 1 quart of tea, pour 4 cups boiling water over 2 Tbs. tea. Optional: for a sweeter taste (the chaparral gives this tea a bitter, astringent flavor), add a pinch of stevia or 1 tsp. fresh-grated ginger. Cover and let stand 10 to 15 minutes before straining. Use between 1 and 2 tsp. tea blend per cup of water to brew larger or smaller quantities. Drink as desired. For notes on chaparral’s safety, see page 66. If desired, substitute sage for chaparral leaf.
Herbal Combinations to Avoid
Some products sold as detoxifying teas and diet aids have potentially serious side effects. For example, some popular diet teas and capsules contain stimulant herbs such as Ma huang or ephedra, caffeine-rich herbs such as kola nut or guarana, diuretic herbs such as juniper berry or buchu, disinfecting herbs such as uva ursi and laxative herbs such as cascara sagrada or senna leaf. All of these are useful and effective when used appropriately, but they don’t belong in herbal tea blends sold to the public for weight loss or detoxification, especially with vague labels that encourage their frequent or daily consumption. Some of these herbs are ingredients in well-designed herbal cleansing products, in which case they are combined with other plants that help balance their action, but to rely on ephedra, caffeine and laxative or diuretic herbs to speed the metabolism, suppress the appetite and cause rapid weight loss is potentially dangerous. Just as ephedra created adverse publicity for herbal medicine when it was implicated in the deaths of young people who took overdoses seeking a legal “high,” so have some dieter’s teas been implicated in the deaths of young women. Constant overstimulation of the organs of elimination can create life-threatening imbalances of essential minerals, electrolytes and other nutrients, as well as dehydration.
Some herbal teas with “detox” in their names are more gentle and appropriate for daily use. But whether they come from the Ayurvedic practices of ancient India, European herbology, Chinese medicine or other traditions, these teas work best in combination with a diet based on fresh fruits and vegetables, gentle sources of dietary fiber and “green” foods.
Other combinations to avoid, although the consequences of violating these rules are less serious, are blends of fiber, herbs, clay, acidophilus and enzymes. After experimenting with several herbal detoxification therapies, I agree with Richard Anderson, who wrote that herbs which release mucoid matter from the intestines or which nourish and feed the intestines have the opposite effect of fiber and clay, which attract toxins, bacteria and debris. Fiber and clay work well together, holding released toxins in a single mass for evacuation, but any enzymes, herbs or friendly bacteria ingested with them will be trapped and never released to do their job. As Anderson explained, “These substances are excellent by themselves but ineffective when mixed together and taken all at once.”
For best results, take clay and fiber together at least 90 minutes before or after taking herbs. Save acidophilus supplements for the end of the day. Digestive enzymes can be taken with meals, which should be scheduled at least one hour before and after these other supplements. Feed Your Friendly Bacteria
Before, during and after the herbal detox therapy, take acidophilus and other “friendly” or beneficial bacteria. Why? If you’re like most Americans, you’ve taken antibiotics, and that alone destroyed the beneficial bacteria you were born with. In addition, most of us eat a diet that starves our bacterial friends while rewarding their enemies. Add a little stress and anxiety, and no wonder we need help. Probiotics, the term used to describe beneficial bacteria, are now sold everywhere, even in supermarkets.
When shopping for probiotic supplements, check labels for not only Lactobacillus acidophilus, the most familiar name in beneficial bacteria, but such strains as L. salivarius, L. rhamnosus, Bifidobacteria longum, B. bifidum, B. infantis and B. breve. Bifidobacteria are native to humans and colonize in the digestive tract if properly fed. Both lactobacillus and bifidobacteria help control the potentially harmful bacteria Candida albicans, which, when it proliferates, causes systemic yeast infections or candidiasis. Some broad-spectrum bacterial supplements include the transient microorganisms Bacillus laterosporus, B. subtilis, L. sporogenes or Streptococcus thermophilis, all of which aid digestion, improve immune function and fight infection.
Now that you’ve got them, feed them. “Prebiotics” are foods that support the growth of probiotics without nourishing harmful bacteria. One of the latest buzz words in prebiotic supplements is FOS, an abbreviation for carbohydrates called fructo-oligosaccharides. Natural sources of FOS carbohydrates include onions, asparagus, bananas, Jerusalem artichokes (the flour of this root vegetable is sold as a food supplement) and naturally fermented foods such as unheated, unpasteurized sauerkraut, kosher dill pickles, pressed vegetables and the Swiss whey concentrate Molkosan (see Appendix). Whey is a favorite food of beneficial bacteria, and Molkosan is unique for containing none of the milk solids that make whey products difficult for those with a lactose intolerance.
How to Press Vegetables
The easiest way to press vegetables is to use a Japanese pickle press (see Appendix), a plastic container with a screw plate that compresses the contents, but you can prepare pressed vegetables in a glass or ceramic bowl. Thinly slice, mince or grate green vegetables such as cabbage, endive or beet greens; grate or cut into paper-thin rounds or matchsticks vegetables such as onions, scallions, carrots, cucumber, red radish, celery or bell peppers. Knead and mix the vegetables with a sprinkling of unrefined sea salt (1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon salt per cup of vegetables) until they begin to soften and shrink, or simply cut
thin slices of any vegetable and sprinkle the layers with sea salt.
If using a pickle press, screw the pressing plate down to hold the vegetables firmly in place; if using a bowl, cover them with a plate weighted down with a clean, heavy brick or jar of water on top. During pressing, the vegetables combine with the sea salt, release their juice and form lactic acid, a vital nutrient for healthy intestinal flora. Note that this lactic acid is different from the waste product of the same name produced by muscles during vigorous exercise. Pressed salads have a complex, tangy taste and are easier to digest than the same vegetables served raw. They are nutritionally “dense,” so that a small serving replaces larger servings of the same unpressed vegetables.
If brine does not cover the vegetables within a few hours, they need more crushing, a heavier weight or more salt. Press at room temperature. Cucumbers are ready within two hours, sliced carrots and other root vegetables within one to two days. Traditional sauerkraut and kosher dill pickles take more than a week to prepare in a ceramic crock. Any fermented vegetable or pickle made without direct heat or vinegar is an excellent prebiotic food.
Because the enemies of beneficial bacteria thrive on sugar, refined carbohydrates and other staples of the American diet, improved nutrition is as important as supplementation and the continued ingestion of prebiotic foods. Common responses to the dietary changes and supplements recommended here include the elimination of allergies, bloating, intestinal gas, irritable bowel syndrome, spastic colon, leaky gut syndrome, diverticulitis, yeast infections, chronic constipation, urinary tract infections and chronic fatigue syndrome. Because friendly intestinal bacteria strengthen the entire system, they are an important support factor in herbal detoxification.
The Importance of Dietary Fiber
Dietary fiber, what remains of indigestible plant cell walls after food moves through the small intestine, makes stools soft and bulky, speeding their transit time through the large intestine. This dilutes the effects of any toxic or carcinogenic compounds in the intestine, causing them to be excreted quickly, and it helps remove or inhibit toxic bacteria in the colon. In addition, some forms of fiber attract toxins, absorbing and expelling them. Good colon health depends on fiber, and the lack of it has been linked to constipation, diverticulitis, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, heart disease, colon cancer and obesity.
Soluble fibers dissolve in water; insoluble or crude fibers do not. Both are necessary for optimum digestion. In fact, there are five types of fibercellulose, hemicellulose, pectin, gums and ligninall of which enhance digestion and elimination.
The most popular source of supplemental fiber is powdered psyllium husk, sold by itself and as an
ingredient in products such as Metamucil. For detoxification purposes, use plain psyllium husk powder, not products that contain sugar or flavoring agents. Also, for best results, use powdered psyllium husk, not seed.
Note that this effective bulking agent is a potential allergen. Some nurses who prepare daily doses in hospitals or nursing homes have inhaled enough of the powder to develop serious respiratory problems. Psyllium comes from Plantago ovata, a member of the plantain family (the garden weed, not the tropical green banana) and, as with any plant, too much of it can cause an adverse reaction. When measuring psyllium husk powder, keep your face averted or wear a pollen mask. Add a teaspoon or tablespoon of powder to a full glass of juice or water, stir briskly with a spoon, wire whisk or hand blender and swallow the liquid before it gels. Follow with another glass of water.
Sources of soluble fiber include whole fresh and dried fruit, dried peas, lentils, beans, barley, oats and seeds. Wheat bran is an insoluble fiber, and so is the roughage found in many vegetables and other whole grains. Vegetable gums, or hydrocolloids, are widely used in the food and beverage industry, where they help keep foods moist and act as a natural preservative. Among the 15 gums approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in food are guar gum, derived from the seeds of the Indian cluster bean or guar plant and used as a thickening agent; carrageenan, a product of Asian seaweeds used as a jelling and thickening agent; cellulose gum or CMC, a chemically modified natural gum from wood pulp or cotton fiber; locust
bean or carob bean gum, derived from the seeds and pods of carob and used as a thickening agent; and xanthan gum, produced by microbial fermentation for use as a thickening agent.
Fiber supplements that can be taken in capsules or used like powdered psyllium husk include glucomannan, a powdered root that absorbs up to 40 times its weight in liquids, giving a feeling of fullness that aids dieters and improves bowel function, guar gum (described above), which has similar properties, and pectin, the familiar jelling agent used in jams and jellies. Apple pectin is a mucilaginous fiber that absorbs cholesterol, prevents gallstones, reduces blood sugar imbalances and gently excretes lead, mercury and other toxins from the body. Pectin from apples, citrus and other fruits is sold as a food supplement in health food stores. Be sure to use this type rather than the sugared pectin sold for jam and jelly making.
Agar agar, a seaweed, is another source of soluble fiber, but it requires cooking for best results. Agar agar is popular as a mineral-rich vegetarian substitute for Jello.
Look for these ingredients in herbal blends or in their own containers at your health food store, and gradually add different types of fiber to your diet for improved elimination. Increase your consumption of water at the same time. For many Americans, the feeling of fullness that fiber produces is unfamiliar and uncomfortable, but it should become less so within a week or two. Adding too much fiber too quickly, especially wheat bran and other insoluble fibers, can produce gas and flatulence. If this unpleasant side effect occurs, take smaller quantities of supplemental fiber until your body adjusts and use carminative herbs such as chamomile as digestive teas. If you overwhelm a weak digestive system with too much fiber, or if your body is dehydrated, the result can be intestinal blockage.
Those who suffer from diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowl syndrome, spastic colon and similar ailments must approach fiber with caution. In advanced cases, even the gentlest soluble fibers can cause problems. Although fiber is an important part of the cure for these illnesses, a depleted and damaged digestive tract must be healed before it can cope with whole foods. Fresh, raw juice diluted with an equal amount of water is probably the best initial therapy for these patients. See my book Herbs for Improved Digestion and consult a qualified health care professional for additional information.
Detoxifying ”Green” Foods
Cereal grasses (such as barley, wheat, kamut, rye and oat grass), alfalfa, aquatic algae (spirulina and chlorella), sea vegetables (kelp and other seaweeds), green herbs (alfalfa, parsley and chickweed) and other foods rich in chlorophyll are important in herbal detoxification programs. Much has been made of chlorophyll’s similarity to hemoglobin, for both are blood: chlorophyll is the green lifeblood of plants, hemoglobin the red lifeblood of animals, and their molecular structure is almost identical. The hemoglobin molecule has iron at its center, while the chlorophyll molecule is built around magnesium, but in every other way, these two complex molecules match exactly. No doubt because of this affinity, chlorophyll is easily absorbed by the human body, where its healing properties can be dramatic.
Because chlorophyll helps to neutralize and remove toxins, green foods are important ingredients in herbal cleansing programs. The freshly pressed juice of wheat grass, barley grass and other cereal grains is available in many health food stores and can be prepared at home for daily consumption. Dehydrated cereal grass juices, chlorella, spirulina and other green foods are widely sold as food supplements. In addition to their detoxification properties, green foods help heal digestive disorders, combat fatigue and low energy levels, boost immunity and prevent deficiency diseases such as anemia.
Part 2 to follow