Spring Clean your Body - Herbal Health

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Saturday, 12 March 2016

Spring Clean your Body

We spring clean our house, but how often do we spring clean our body? Fasting, or abstaining from solid foods for a time, assists the body to cleanse. By eliminating food, the enormous energy required to digest food is released and put to the task of spring-cleaning the body. The liver and entire digestive system is given a well-earned rest.

Fasting begins as soon as you stop eating. There are many types of fasts, and the duration will depend on your work commitments and physical and mental state. Each person is different and will respond differently to fasting, so listen to your own body. However, there are some basic rules:

  • Consult your physician or naturopathic doctor before undertaking a fast if you are on medication or have any medical condition.
  • No smoking or drinking alcohol, coffee, or tea. You may want to cut down consumption of these items gradually in the weeks before the fast.
  • Discontinue vitamin supplements.
  • Two days before a fast, eat light foods: mainly vegetables and fruits.
  • You may want to try a fresh-foods diet as an alternative to fasting to begin with.
  • Allow yourself to rest when you feel like it during the fast. You may experience discomfort, headaches, dizziness, and nausea as toxins are eliminated.
  • Avoid stress and concentrate on positive thoughts.
  • Fast on vegetable and fruit juice (freshly extracted), pure water, or herb teas. It is important to drink at least eight large glasses of water a day.
  • It is important to have a bowel movement once a day while fasting. Use senna leaf tea, linseed tea, yellow dock root and burdock root decoctions or capsules, or enemas if necessary.
  • Exercise regularly: walking is ideal.
  • Resume eating gradually after fasting. Start with a piece of fruit or lightly steamed vegetables. Take two to three days, depending on the duration of the fast, to resume normal food intake. Never overeat.

The benefits of fasting can be enormous. It allows the body to throw off toxins and regenerate tissue, and it can result in heightened self-awareness. If you decide to fast for longer than three days, seek guidance from your physician, naturopathic doctor, holistic nutritionist, or other experienced practitioner.

Toxins are poisons which manifest in the body at varying levels of potency. They are constantly introduced into the body through the food that is consumed, through the air and through water.

Additionally, our bodies also produce a variety of toxins as waste products or as by-products of the various metabolic processes. Gradual build up of these unwanted, and quite simply, poisonous substances can lead to ill-health (infection) or even disease. Despite this onslaught of toxicity, the body has a remarkable capacity to detoxify such toxins, that is, to break them down in such a manner that they become either less toxic to the body, or are converted into innocuous substances that are eventually excreted. The role of the liver is fundamental in keeping the toxins in the blood at a minimum level such that we remain illness-free. The immune system is also a key player in this detoxification process, as are the circulatory systems that assist in the removal of the toxins to the excretory organs. In this respect, the blood and lymphatic system are vital systems in supporting the crucial role of the liver and associated detoxifying organs in maintaining optimum health. Herbal tonics that revitalise these organs help a great deal, especially if they have been neglected (through poor diet, or damage). This particularly applies to the liver since it is the first port of call for detoxifying any toxic substances that have entered the body (through the gut or via the bloodstream).

Toxic build up is an inevitable part of all metabolic processes that occur in the body, although the liver’s ability to make them less harmful is very impressive. In this respect, it is worth noting, not the actual number of times we fall ill but in fact, the periods of time in which we remain symptom-free.  Without this vital function we will continually suffer illness and disease. Poor dietary habits over a long time can impair the vital detoxifying function of the liver and some of the more harmful substances that we consume (like alcohol and prescription drugs) can even damage the liver cells, making them less able to cope over time. This explains why so many with poor diets and lifestyles are perpetually run down, lacking in energy, have lost their vitality and are prone to infections. Herbs which are notable in assisting the functions of the liver are dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), milk thistle (Silybum marianum) and fringetree (Chionanthes virginicus) amongst others. Some of these herbs are commonly included in herbal tonics for this particular purpose. Equally, they are also prescribed by herbalists for conditions that have a metabolic basis.

The eastern philosophy of fasting is now also commonly practised by some in the West as an active choice in adopting a healthier lifestyle. Some of the world’s major religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam have well established traditions in fasting and with scientific knowledge, it now appears that regular fasting is an effective way of cleansing the system of toxins and optimising health & well-being. Provided that it is done sensibly, vital body systems, particularly the digestive system, the liver and the kidneys have an opportunity to rest, preventing not only their exhaustion (when illness can set in) but eliminating any potentially infective agents that are lying dormant within the systems.

Herbs for Detox
Much has been written about and publicised on the subject of detox and detox diets. Commercial interest must be viewed with some caution and much of what passes for ‘detox’ is simply good nutrition, sensible eating combined with a healthy lifestyle.

Considering the amount of ‘invisible’ toxins in the environment, common medications, lifestyle habits and toxins consumed in food, it is perhaps easy to see how almost everyone in a Western society can expect to suffer from some degree of toxicity. In the worse case scenario, the toxic burden on these vital organs has been known to be a major contributory factor for some forms of cancer, particularly cancer of the bowel.

The body has its own natural detoxifying organs: the liver, the kidneys, the digestive system and associated organs and structures. The elimination of toxins from our cellular environment, including those from foods must consider the efficient functioning of all these organs systems in addition to a good circulatory system. Proper nutrition, a well balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle are all factors that will assist this process and prevent toxic overload on these vital structures.

Our diet has a very important part to play in detoxification. Consequently, what we consume can assist our organs and there is some excellent literature on the foods that are recommended for this purpose (see recommended reading at the end).

I focus on the liver here as it is central to ‘detox’. It is essential to appreciate that the health of the liver is directly dependent on the type and quality of the food that is consumed. Though it carries out essential detoxification, like any other vital organ, it has its own nutritional requirements in order to perform its function of repair, regeneration and rebuilding.

In a nutshell, foods to cut out are those that are rich in refined sugars (such as cakes, biscuits, chocolates, sweets etc…), pre-prepared or ready-made meals, foods containing hydrogenated (or trans) fats, alcohol and drugs (including tobacco). Examples of the kinds of foods that are beneficial to the liver in its health and hence, its proper function are listed below. These include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Herbs and spices are also beneficial to the liver. Some of the more common ones which are great in any detox programme include the following:

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Fennel
  • Radish
  • Dandelion


Contains an important chemical which assists in the breakdown of gallstones. Also contains pectin, a soluble form of fibre which is good for bowel health (prevents constipation) and lowers blood cholesterol. A good source of vitamin C too

Helps reduce cholesterol and other fats in the blood. Improves the detoxification, repair and regeneration capacity of the liver. Also protects against liver damage

Apples & Oranges
Both contain pectin which prevents constipation. Also helps reduce cholesterol in the blood. Apple contains a host of important nutrients incl. antioxidants which can help protect against cancer. Oranges are a good source of vitamin C

Brussels sprouts
Part of the brassica family (other examples are cabbages, turnips, broccoli, cauliflower and swedes so helps in the detoxification processes of the liver. Increases oestrogen metabolism and excretion so thought to confer protection against some of the oestrogen-dependent cancers, particularly breast and uterine cancer

Excellent for preventing heart disease (contains important chemicals called proanthocyanidins) which are also antioxidants so will help prevent cancer as well

Cabbage & turnip
Cabbage, one of the oldest of the brassicas, and the ancestor of broccoli and cauliflower. Cabbage, like other brassicas, is high in sulphur, so excellent for liver health. Helps in the detoxification processes and confers protection against cancer through its antioxidant activity. Similar benefits from consuming turnips but both the leaves and root need to be eaten.

Pineapple & Papaya
Both contain naturally-occurring enzymes that help breakdown protein from food so will help digestion. Also contains cancer preventing antioxidants

Broccoli, another popular member of the brassica clan has similar benefits to the liver

Contains important nutrients, antioxidants and pectin. A key player in liver detox reactions

Highly nutritious and contains key antioxidants such as the bioflavonoids. Also contains sulphur compounds which assist in the detoxification role of the liver

Berries esp dark red, blue or black
Contain high levels of proanthocyanidins and bioflavonoids that help protect against major diseases like heart disease and cancer also contains other important nutrients such as vitamin C and carotenes (both have antioxidant properties)

Rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene. Also contains sulphur. Both are excellent for the liver

Excerpts from the book:
Title: Modern Living, Holistic Health & Herbal Medicine – improving health & well-being with herbs and lifestyle changes Author: Yaso Shan Contributions from: Dr. Catherine Whitlock; PhD Foreword: Miss Jenny Seagrove
Date of Publication: 2011 Publishers: Booklocker Inc.

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