In this modern world of fast foods and even faster lives, we need to pause long enough to help the body rid itself of the toxins that have built up over the year. Because of the high volume of environmental toxins that constantly surrounds us, it is crucial to cleanse our bodies periodically to help restore and improve our metabolisms. Detoxification is a natural way to rid the body of unwanted substances that get trapped internally.
All cultures have developed ways of cleansing the body: from Native American sweat lodges, to the steam saunas of Nordic countries, to the famous Roman baths. There are physical approaches that help to speed up toxin removal from tissues so they can be excreted while others are plant or food based and they provide the body with beneficial substances that deactivate toxins and enhance their elimination.
For this first post in our Spring Detox series we will first focus on those external things you can do to get the blood, bile and toxins flowing, freeing your body from the fatiguing effects of toxic overload and moving you into a greater sense of wellness for spring.
This modality has been around since the second century b.c. China and is considered one of the oldest forms of medicine. Massage facilitates drainage within lymphatic system and increases blood flow, helping to move cellular waste and stored toxins out of the muscle tissue.
Specific types of massage techniques can be tailored to fit a particular client’s constitution. Everything from the vigorous rubbing of Swedish massage to certain combinations of essential oils and even salts can aid in the elimination process.
To get the maximum efficacy of toxin removal (keeping your body in a space of continued wellness) regular weekly, biweekly or monthly massage is recommended to purge down to the deepest toxin layers and fuel their release, as well as aid the body in resisting the storage of more.
Steam has long been revered as an excellent form of detoxification. Steam baths, hot tubs and saunas all use heat to get your heart rate up, increasing your circulation and transferring toxins from your tissues to your body’s filtering systems (liver and kidneys) for final processing and disposal.
Steam can clear sinuses and relieve congestion, as well as cause productive sweating. Productive sweat is water released from the pores that contains some of your toxic load. By finishing your steam with a cool shower, you regulate your body temperature, keep circulation at optimum (facilitating more toxin expression) and rinse away those toxins that were sweated out. Not to mention it feels invigorating!
When steaming, or when participating in any type of detoxification program, be sure to drink plenty of water to replace fluids lost during the detox process.
This technique has been used in Europe for centuries. It, like many of these other treatments, increases circulation to help carry internal toxins away but you also get the added benefit of removing toxins that have accumulated in dead skin cells while sloughing those unwanted cells.
Look for a soft natural bristle brush, specifically designed for skin brushing. For the maximum benefit, dry brush your whole body, in light strokes, starting at your toes and working your way towards your heart. Once you have reached the upper body, do the same from the top of the head and the tips of the fingers, down towards the heart. The best times of day for this are just after rising or before bed and right before a shower (when it can be paired with hydrotherapy.) Be sure to wash your brush every few weeks in plain water and let it air dry.
Steam and hot baths could also be considered in this category but for the purposes of this section we are going to speak specifically about alternating hydrotherapies. For example after your dry skin brushing, you might take a warm or even hot shower raising the body temperature and further increasing circulation and sweating some toxins from your system, by ending your shower with a cold (or as cool as you can stand) rinse, you then seal the pores and give your circulation one more further boost before starting your day. These alternating temperatures not only increase circulation and improve toxin removal but they increase your metabolism for the day as well.
Popularized by the teachings of Edgar Casey and now prescribed regularly by Naturopathic physicians everywhere, castor oil packs help to increase liver drainage, stimulating bile flow and fat metabolism. To apply a castor oil pack, you will need abdominal sized (when folded) sheet of unbleached cotton or wool flannel, hexane free cold-pressed castor oil (store in a cool dark area), a large size ziploc storage bag, a heating pad or water bottle and an old t-shirt.
- Right before bed pour an 1/8 to a 1/4 cup of castor oil on your cloth, making sure that all layers of the cloth are covered but not dripping (try to evenly distribute the oil on your cloth.)
- Ready an old t-shirt to wear to bed that night (something to protect your sheets and blankets) that you do not mind getting stained.
- Place the oiled pack across your abdomen and then place your heating pad or hot water bottle on top of the pack, while lying in bed.
- Read a book or magazine or listen to soothing music (no TV) for 40 minutes to an hour, as the castor oil pack works its magic. (Note: you may even feel it working its way through your system — especially the first time.) This will also settle your mind for a great night’s rest.
- When complete, remove and unplug any heat sources, remove and fold your pack, sealing it airtight in the ziploc, storing it in a cool, dark place for future use.
- Slip on your t-shirt and go to sleep.
- In the morning all the oil should be absorbed by your body and any residue can be removed in your morning shower.
NOTE: Because this affects the liver and increases blood circulation, pregnant women, women during menstruation and those with liver ailments should not use castor oil packs without the advice of a physician. If you have questions or would like more information, please seek the advice of a qualified Naturopathic physician.