Monday, February 9, 2009

More notes on SPA: Detoxification

This week I want to extend the discussion of SPA since it is a passion of mine. There are so many healing benefits to “taking the waters” but one of the most profound health benefits of a true spa are treatments that assist the body in detoxification. Detoxification is the process in which organs eliminate toxins and dangerous metabolites that arise from living in a not-so-perfect environment and eating a not-so-perfect diet. Over a lifetime we accumulate toxins, mostly in our fat cells. According to environmental medicine expert, Dr. Waltor Crinnion, only 250 of the 70,000 chemicals in daily use can be tested for. Dr. Crinnion has documented that every person in the U.S. is carrying deposits of xylene, dichlorobenzene, ethylphenol, styrene (VOC’s) in their fatty tissues. A study done by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1985 established that breath samples consistently contained VOCs and other chemicals. Perhaps the most disturbing yet is the Environmental Working Group’s findings of an average of 200 toxic chemicals in umbilical chord blood of newborns!

Although all of us are toxic, many do not experience symptoms until the burden overwhelms the body’s ability to detoxify on its own. This is why participating in a therapeutic cleanse or detox program at least once per year is a crucial part of staying healthy and improving the quality of your life. The specific organs of toxin elimination, also known as the “emunctories”, are the liver, skin, lymph, lungs, bowel, and kidneys. Besides going to a health spa here are some ways you can improve the detoxification process at home:

• Liver = Liver cleansing herbs such as Milk Thistle can be taken as a tea, liquid extract, or a pill. High nutrition helps the metabolic detoxification pathways of the liver function properly so always use a good quality multi vitamin/mineral. Castor oil packs over the liver (bottom right ribcage in the front) are important for any detoxification protocol.
• Skin = Sloughing off dead skin cells with exfoliation is critical to allow the skin to release toxins through the pores. Exercise also enhances detoxification through sweating. Try to rinse off directly after exercise so you don’t reabsorb any toxins released.
• Lymph = Unlike blood vessels, the vessels of the lymphatic system do not have a pump and therefore what moves lymph fluid through the body is the contraction of our muscles via strengthening exercise or with manual massage. Feather-light dry skin brushing is another way we can encourage the lymph to flow through its vast network of tiny vessels just under the skin. Always start with the arms and legs and move towards the heart where the lymph fluid drains.
• Lungs = Toxins are released through gas exchange in the lungs. Deep breathing exercises, aerobic exercise, Qi gong, meditation, and yoga all improve this exchange.
• Bowel = Eating a high fiber diet consisting of mostly fruits, vegetables, and whole grains helps to keep bowel movements regular. If we do not have at least 1 bowel movement per day we reabsorb many toxins through the lining of the bowel.
• Kidneys = Drinking half of your body weight in ounces of clean (ie; filtered) water per day is the best way to decrease the toxic load on the kidneys. Similarly to liver processing, many prescription medications are processed by the kidneys.

Other ways to improve detoxification include decreasing the toxic burden by eating organic foods and avoiding processed and packaged foods. Check out Dr. Crinnion’s article about eating organic. Perform daily home hydrotherapy treatments; alternate hot and cold/cool water spray or just end hot showers on cold/cool. This acts as a pump by dilating and constricting the blood vessels bringing nutrients in and toxins out. Getting regular massage is a wonderful detoxification tool as well as taking hot sea or Epsom salt baths, but drink plenty of water especially with these treatments. Movement is imperative for detoxification as well as all aspects of health so find the thing you enjoy and go out and play!

Don’t know where to start? Make an appointment with a Naturopathic Physician near you and get your health back on track! Extraordinary health requires fervent action!


  1. A good article that touches the finer points of detoxification. It should be noted that it is important for those intending to lose weight to go for detoxification. Toxins that are trap in the fats are release to the blood stream as the fat dissolves durign the slimming and weight loss process

  2. Absolutely! Although the benefits of achieving a healthy weight outweigh the detrimental effects of increased circulating toxins released from fat cells, it is vital to incorporate a detox in the plan. Anyone who wants to lose 20 or more pounds is at risk of creating an increase of toxicity (obese individuals by up to almost 400%)! In fact, mitochondrial toxins may be what is impairing the metabolism to work properly in order to lose weight. The best way to combat high toxic levels is to increase fecal fat and fecal bile excretion. This is done best by increasing fiber (especially chitosan--3g/day), taking omega fatty acid supplements, calcium and vitamin D.
    Thanks for your comment!