Detoxification, as its name implies, is the process of eliminating toxins from the body. A toxin is any substance that creates irritating and/or harmful effects in the body, undermining our physical and emotional health or stressing the biochemical functions of our organs. Toxins are everywhere—in the food we eat and the air we breathe, in the chemicals in our soaps, the drugs we take, and the fibers of our clothing. Negative emotions and stress also act like toxins, because these negative feelings can alter our bodies’ normal physiology or provoke specific symptoms.
When toxins build up in the body they can sap a person’s energy and leave them vulnerable to disease and infection. Toxins are also believed to speed up the aging process — the more toxins to which a person is exposed, the faster the person will age. You see examples of this all around you. People who have smoked for years look like they have smoked for years. Heavy drinkers or laborers, who have been exposed to chemicals or heavy metals, day in and day out, tend to die younger than people who have lived a more healthier lifestyle.
Although some people have had a greater exposure to toxins than did others people, no one is immune to the effects of toxins. Even the most health-conscious among us need to give his or her body an occasional rest in order to flush out the toxins that have accumulated. This alternative medicine approach is called detoxification. Through detoxification, we clear and filter toxins and wastes and allow our body to work on enhancing its basic functions.
Your body is detoxifying every minute of the day — in fact, your body uses 80% of the energy that it produces in order to detoxify. The constant detoxification is why we need to keep the body's detoxification channels (liver, kidneys, skin) consistently open and working optimally. Many factors influence detoxification activity, but probably the most important are diet and lifestyle. Anything that supports the elimination of toxins, whether through our skin, lungs, liver, GI tracts or lymph nodes, represents detoxification.
Detoxification (also called detox) is an important part of achieving and maintaining wellness. Therefore, detoxification should be embraced by all women hoping to reduce their breast cancer risk.
Also, detoxification is helpful in certain phases of cancer therapy. During radiation and chemotherapy, the organs of detoxification are being extremely overloaded and overworked. The liver, kidney, and skin can become so fatigued from dealing with the toxins introduced by the treatment therapies that they can stop performing all of their normal functions. Particularly vulnerable are the liver and kidney. Therefore, it is extremely important to detoxify while undergoing certain phases of particular treatments for cancer.
Remember that it essential not to begin a detox until you have discussed the idea thoroughly with your team of mainstream and oncology doctors and gotten their approval. There are certain times during particular types of cancer treatments (such as chemotherapy), when a detoxification may not be appropriate and could even be counter-productive. For example, as chemotherapy relies on the toxic effects of drugs on cancer cells, too rapid removal of the drugs from your body might interfere with the power of the drugs to destroy the cancer cells. As with any adjunct treatments or dietary changes, work with a nutritional physician and coordinate with your oncologist.
Dr. Elson Haas, author of the books, Staying Healthy with Nutrition, and The Detox Diet: The How-to and When-to Guide For Clearing Your Body of Toxic
Substances, and one of the foremost authorities on detoxification, has devised the following basic detox diet:
Dr. Haas’ Detox Diet Menu Plan
Morning (upon rising): 2 glasses of water (filtered, spring, or reverse osmosis). One of these glasses of water should contain the juice of half a lemon squeezed into it.
Breakfast: One piece of fresh fruit (at room temp), such as apple, pear, banana, grapes, or citrus. Chew well, mixing each bite with saliva before swallowing.
Fifteen to thirty minutes later: One bowl of cooked whole grains -- specifically millet, brown rice, amaranth, quinoa, or buckwheat. If more flavoring is desired, add 2 tablespoons of fruit juice for a sweeter breakfast taste, or use the "better butter" mixture mentioned below with a little salt or tamari for a deeper flavor.
11:00 am: One or two cups of veggie water, saved from steamed vegetables. Add a little sea salt or kelp and drink slowly, mixing each mouthful with saliva before swallowing.
Lunch (Noon-1:00 pm): One or 2 medium bowls of steamed vegetables. Use a variety, including roots, stems, and greens (e.g., potatoes, yams, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, asparagus, kale, chard, and cabbage. Save the water from the steamed veggies. Chew the vegetables well.
3:00 pm: One or 2 cups of veggie water, saved from steamed vegetables. Add a little sea salt or kelp and drink slowly, mixing each mouthful with saliva before swallowing.
"Better Butter” Seasoning: Make this butter/canola oil mixture by mixing a half cup of cold-pressed canola oil (or olive or flaxseed oils) into a soft (room temperature) half-pound of butter; then place in dish, and refrigerate. Use about one teaspoon per meal or a maximum of 3 teaspoons daily.
Evening beverages: Herbal teas (e.g. peppermint, chamomile, pau d'arco, or blends) only.
Note: You may feel a few symptoms of detoxification the first few days. These symptoms of detoxification may include feeling a little weak (fatigue), irritable, achy, feeling flue-y, and mildly congested in the sinuses. Clarity and feeling good should appear by the third or fourth day, if not before. If during this diet, you start to feel too weak or hungry, assess your water intake and elimination. If needed, you can eat a small portion (3 to 4 ounces) of protein food in the mid-afternoon. The protein snack can be fish; free-range, organic chicken; or lentils, garbanzos, mung beans, or black beans.