My name is Lisa Tsakos, Registered Holistic Nutritional Consultant, corporate speaker and author. This blog provides professional advice from a nutrition and weight loss expert (me!) about corporate and family health. Here you'll find recipes and articles that address work-related challenges like eating on-the-go and maximizing your productivity with the right foods. You'll also find out about how you can help your children develop strong immune systems and healthy bodies. As a nutrition instructor, I often found myself thinking, "When I have kids, this is how I will feed them." With two toddlers, I have the opportunity to practice what I have been preaching and to try out my theories. So far, they seem to be working! Follow me on my journey and also on Twitter @NuVitalityHW.

12 May 2012

Cleaning Up From the Inside Out

Long before Dr. Ho's Digestive Detox kits appeared on late night infomercials, various methods of internal cleansing, from fasting to purgative herbs, had been practiced.

It's no secret that toxins are all around us. The Environmental Working Group's Cosmetic Safety Database states that more than 10,500 ingredients, many of them chemical, are used in cosmetics alone.

The idea behind a "detox" is to rid the body's major organs and tissues of toxins that have accumulated over the years. Environmental pollutants, pesticides, and drugs are normally removed by the body's natural processes of neutralization and elimination via the liver, lungs, colon, kidneys, blood, skin, and lymphatic system. If the toxins are not purged, it is believed that they can lead to the development of chronic disease.

The reported effects of detoxification range from weight loss and amplified energy, to a reduction of persistent symptoms like constipation, headaches, skin problems, and even depression. Undergoing a detox can also reduce one's dependency on sugar and stimulants; in fact, it's the typical first step in a drug or alcohol rehab program.

Sweating has been the most effective form of detoxification since ancient times. European spas became world famous more than 2,000 years ago. The natural springs of these legendary spas-you may have heard of Evian, Vichy, and Epsom--were believed to cure everything from infertility to arthritis. In ancient Hungary and Turkey, elaborate buildings with massage and steam rooms were built over natural hot springs. During the Victorian era, the British were famous for 'taking the waters' of spa towns throughout Europe.

The latest detox trends evoke the past, once again employing hydrotherapy techniques.

The skin is the largest organ of elimination, removing 30 percent of the body's waste products through perspiration. Sweating in a sweat lodge, sauna, steam room, and even during exercise allows for detoxification through the skin's open pores.

Far-infrared saunas are just what the doctor ordered for those who hate to sweat. While a steam sauna heats the air and the body with moist, high temperatures, the far-infrared sauna produces dry heat from ceramic coils, keeping the air inside cooler and easier to bear. This is much safer and more tolerable than a conventional sauna for those with heart or circulatory problems. Far-infrared heat also penetrates the skin deeper than conventional saunas, prompting chemicals from fat cells to the skin's surface where they can be 'sweat out' of the body.

The health benefits of saunas for some chronic conditions are supported by clinical research. Weekly sessions are recommended to achieve the full benefits.

With more than 250,000 sweat glands in each foot, detoxification through the feet with Detox Foot Pads and the Ion Foot Cleanse have become worldwide fads. To use the Detox Foot Pads, an adhesive pad is placed on the bottom of the foot before going to bed. The pad covers various reflexology points and purportedly detoxifies the body during sleep. When it's removed six to eight hours later, it will be a different color, typically changing from white to black. Despite numerous testimonials, the Mayo Clinic maintains that no published studies have demonstrated that these products actually remove toxins from the body.

Colon hydrotherapy, or colonic irrigation, uses purified water to gently flush out fecal matter, gas, and other forms of waste from the colon. Documented history indicates that the technique has been used since before 1,500 B.C. to treat disease and fever and to remove bile. Home enema kits like the Colema Board are designed for self-administration and can be used for relief of occasional constipation and bowel cleansing. The board is used while lying on your back with your knees bent. You control the flow of water through the colon, and waste products pour right into the toilet.

Whether or not you elect to try any of these techniques, you can help your body detoxify naturally by regularly eating foods that support the body's elimination organs; these include beets, broccoli, brown rice, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, dandelion greens, garlic, oat bran, onions, and spinach. And drink at least six to 12 cups of filtered water daily to help the kidneys flush out toxins.

Previously published in The Courant