An article by Beth Twedell, editor of The Newsletter of LifeSource Natural Foods, from the April 1998 issue.
The ritual of Spring cleaning is a familiar one to us all. Airing out the house, beating the rugs, cleaning the cobwebs from their hidden spaces, washing the walls, floors, blankets and the like, … generally getting the gunk out of the house. And bringing into the house the fresh air and sunshine, and the first flowers of Spring! Aaahhh… Spring!!
Just as our homes go through the ritual, so can our bodies. It’s a wonderfully natural idea, to give our bodies Spring Cleaning. Cleansing rituals are ancient, global practices. In the old days, when our ancestors were closer to nature and its rhythms, the great majority of people farmed the land from spring to fall, and lived lives filled with demanding physical labor. Winter was a time of physical inactivity, contemplation, and rest. As soon as spring was in the air, people became busy and active again. The body had to be prepared for this dramatic change. After a winter of root vegetables and the “put-up” foodstuffs, the first tender shoots of herbs and wild growing vegetables were gathered and eaten with delight and joy. Their metabolism-stimulating effect was amplified by the perspiration of hard work, combined with the traditions of sauna, steam bath and sweat lodge.
The lifestyle of modern people, by contrast, is hardly sensitive to nature’s rhythms. Many people work indoors all day, in offices where the temperature remains the same regardless of the season, suffering the effects of too little exercise. Add to this the environmental pollutants, everyday stresses, processed foods and poor diet choices, and you’ve got a situation where people may be taking in toxins at a faster pace and In much larger quantities than their bodies can eliminate them. The toxins are often reabsorbed back into the system, and an inhibit the body’s ability to utilize nutrients. This is precisely why internal cleansing is helpful, at times even necessary, for good health.
Under ideal circumstances, your body cleanses itself automatically without any conscious effort on your part. It is an ingeniously designed self-cleansing, self-protecting and self-healing mechanism. Self-cleansing work is performed by a large group of specially designed organs, glands and transportation systems: alimentary canal, kidneys, liver, lungs, skin, lymphatic system, and the mucous membranes of various cavities. But your largest eliminative organ is the skin. It is estimated that one-third of all body impurities are excreted through the skin. Hundreds of tiny sweat glands act as small kidneys, cleansing the blood and freeing the system of health-threatening poisons. The chemical analysis of sweat shows that it has almost the same constituents as urine, containing large amounts of uric acid. The eliminative capacity of the skin is demonstrated by the fact that more than one pound of waste products are discharged through the skin every day. This may be why people discovered the healing effect of sweating early in history. The Finnish sauna, and the Turkish and Roman baths have been used for healing purposes for thousands of years. Sylvius, famous 17th century Dutch physician, said “One third of all disease can be cured by sweating.” It is generally considered that the skin should eliminate 30% of the body wastes by way of perspiration. The skin of many people today has degenerated as an eliminative organ, since it is hardly ever subjected to sweating, due to a lack of physical activity and a more sedentary way of life. Taking sauna or steam baths regularly, once or twice a week, will help to restore and revitalize the cleansing activity of the skin.
There are many other approaches to cleansing, ranging from a few changes in diet, including supplements and /or herbs, a regular exercise program, to a radical fasting regimen and colonic therapy. Everyone has different needs and so will find value in different methods of cleansing. Whichever method you choose, keep in mind a very important point: the body has its own wisdom, and its systems are designed to work together in perfect harmony. Internal cleansing allows your body to focus on what is inherently a natural, ongoing process. Ina perfect world the body does a commendable job of neutralizing and eliminating harmful substances, working in tune with the natural systems, both internal and external. At times, in our modern world, the body just gets overwhelmed, and benefits from some help. The basic aim of a cleansing program is to purify the body, in general; to cleanse the liver, intestines, and other eliminative organs; and to aid in the elimination of dead or decaying cells. The oldest and perhaps most straightforward way to cleanse internally is through fasting. According to Dr. Otto Buchinger, the German naturopathic pioneer, fasting is “the royal way to healing.” Anyone who has gone through a radical fasting cure knows the astounding extent to which our emotions and our thought ‘ processes are determined by what we eat and drink, and by the impurities circulating in our blood. That person also knows the feeling of relief and lightness, clarity, serenity and brightness one can have on completing such a cleansing. There is no better way of experiencing just how deeply interrelated is the well-being of body, mind, and soul.
There are a wide variety of fasting programs, ranging from casual one-day regimens to healing fasts lasting as long as three to four weeks. In each case, no solid food is eaten, and only fruit or vegetable juices, herbal teas, and sometimes only water, are consumed. While fasting, evacuative and blood-purifying herbal mixtures are especially advisable, as are those that more specifically stimulate the liver, the kidneys and the circulatory system. In this way, minor crises that occur during fasting can be overcome and the efficiency of the fast greatly improved. Some of these herbs are stinging nettle, dandelion, horsetail, milk thistle, red clover, Oregon grape, and burdock root.
Also of great benefit to include in a cleansing fast are spirulina or blue-green algae, added to juice or water, used to replace vitamins and minerals, and give a bit of substance and fortified nourishment. The probiotics (such as lactobacillus acidophilus) can help rid the body of bad bacteria that may live in the gastrointestinal tract, and assist in returning it to its natural balance.
Why is fasting such an effective way to restore health and rejuvenate the body? During a juice fast, the process of elimination of the dead and dying cells in your body is speeded up. A process called autolysis, or self-digestion, bums or decomposes those cells and tissues which are diseased, damaged, aged or dead. Dr. Buchinger calls it the “burning of rubbish.” At the same time, the building of new, healthy cells is accelerated and stimulated. The cleansing capacity of the eliminative organs – lungs, liver, kidneys, the skin, and the bowels – (as well as the circulatory system and the lymph system, ) is greatly increased, and masses of accumulated metabolic wastes and toxins are quickly expelled. For example, the concentration of toxins in the urine can be ten times higher than normal during fasting.
Although fasting is a time-honored, traditional cleansing method, it may seem implausible for some people. Simple changes in diet for a period of time, such as eating raw fruits and veggies, can be a good first step. Some people need more fiber to help things along a bit. Cascara sagrada and psyllium seeds or husks are perhaps the two most widely used plants for colon cleansing. The former acts as a stimulant laxative which is helpful in treating occasional constipation. The latter, according to James Duke, Ph.D., author of The Green Pharmacy, “contain a fiber called mucilage, which absorbs a great deal of fluid in the intestines. This causes the seeds to swell, thus adding bulk to the stool. It also pulls toxins out of the walls of the whole intestinal tract. Psyllium forms the basis of many cleansing products, coming in capsules, powder form and sometimes blended with beneficial herbs. It is very important to drink lots of water when cleansing with psyllium. As with any natural healing method, it is always advisable to seek the counsel of a health care professional. Any first steps you may take toward a healthier you are bound to make Spring feel that much better. So, here’s to you and a happy, healthy Spring!