Cleansing Basics

By: Carrie Johanningmeier, Wellness Assistant

Our bodies are amazingly well designed to keep us healthy. They have their own natural cleansing system. When in balance, naturally occurring metabolic wastes from air, food and water are successfully removed from the body through organs such as our lungs, colon, liver, kidneys and skin. This could be carbon dioxide from the lungs, bile from the liver or uric acid from the kidneys.

These organs can get out of balance because of environmental toxins, inappropriate intake of nutrients, stress, lack of exercise and poor digestion. When out of balance you may experience symptoms such as: chronic pain and inflammation, fatigue, poor mental clarity and concentration, anxiety, headaches, water retention, digestive problems, skin blemishes or frequent illness. Cleansing can ease your body’s toxic burden by flushing built-up toxins and waste out of your body and minimize the absorption of new toxins. Many people cleanse for health, vitality and rejuvenation to reduce symptoms, prevent disease, to rest or heal our internal organs and allow them to catch up so we can feel more vital, creative and open to emotional and spiritual energies.

A diet of whole, organic natural foods gives the body the nutrients it needs to nourish cells and tissues and cleanse stored toxins from the colon and other organs. Avoiding chemicals from food, including refined sugar and flour products, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs helps minimize the toxic load. Drinking extra water (purified) and increasing fiber by eating more fruits and vegetables are essential steps. There are many different levels of cleansing diets out there. General cleansing, juice or smoothie cleanses and fasting are just a few and each one of us is different. Take into consideration your health, physiological balance, energy level and current lifestyle to figure out the right diet for you. Along with food, a person may benefit from the intake of probiotics and digestive aids (such as spices or bitters) before meals.

The Produce department here at the Oneota Co-op has a great selection of organic foods with natural cleansing abilities. Artichokes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cabbage, grapefruit, kale, and lemons are just a few. There are also many herbs that may help encourage the body to do what it does naturally and stimulate toxin removal. Our Wellness department also offers an excellent selection of cleansing herbs available in many different forms. Here is a list of just a few:

Burdock Root – Excellent blood, lymph and skin purifier that promotes elimination of metabolic waste (especially to skin, mucous membranes and kidneys). Soothing and cleansing diuretic. Promotes and enhances immune system.

Cascara Sagrada – A colon cleanser and bowel tonic.

Cayenne Pepper – Warming stimulant to heart, blood circulation, nervous system and mucous membranes. Increases fluid elimination and sweat.

Dandelion Root – Mild acting cleanser and decongestant to liver and gallbladder, enhances bile flow, promotes regularity. Diuretic and kidney cleanser.

Echinacea – Excellent blood and lymph cleanser, immune supporter, and anti-inflammatory.

Garlic – Blood cleanser, natural antibiotic/antimicrobial for bacteria, yeasts, parasites and viral infections.

Ginger Root – Relieves indigestion, stimulates circulation and sweating, relieves congestion, helps with nausea, and is a cleansing agent to bowel, kidney and skin.

Goldenseal Root – Stimulating astringent, stomach tonic and digestive bitter. Blood, liver, kidney and skin cleanser. Antibacterial and antifungal.

Milk Thistle – Protects liver from toxins and encourages liver cell renewal.

Parsley Leaf – Diuretic, flushes kidneys.

Sarsaparilla Root – A general blood cleanser and detoxifier of the kidneys and skin.

In a healthy person, the routes for excreting toxins can be stimulated with no ill effects. However, if the kidneys or other organs are not working properly to begin with, they should not be stimulated. If a person has any chronic disease that affects the organs of excretion, or on medication, speak to a doctor before adding herbs into your regimen.

If a person does not have the vital force to cleanse, then their energy will dwindle and may leave the person with weakened digestion, fuzzy thinking and possibly a compromised immune system. The exhausted person should focus more of their choices in food and lifestyle in order to rebuild their system. These basic choices are what create the basis from which herbal therapy can function. Many times when you begin to rebuild you will find that the bowels, sweat and urinary functions perk up and a natural cleansing begins. American Ginseng, Astragalus, Ashwagandha and Marshmallow Root are herbs that can help with rebuilding.

Remember water is crucial to any type of cleanse for diluting and eliminating toxin accumulations. Eight to ten glasses a day of clean, filtered water are suggested. Regular exercise is also very important as it stimulates sweating and encourages elimination through the skin. During a cleanse most commonly we have more energy and function better on less sleep than before but it is still important to make time for rest, relaxation and recharging.

Cheers to a healthy you.