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Detoxify: Spring is a good time to cleanse the body, too

Asheville Citizen-Times article discussing various ways to detoxify the body. Dr. Eric Lewis from Lewis Family Natural Health was interviewed for this article.

By Nanci Bompey, Asheville Citizen-Times
April 15, 2008

[NOTE:  I have inserted within parentheses some additional comments to reflect my original intent or to further clarify points brought up in this article—Eric Lewis, ND]

For Derek Rinaldo, there is more to spring cleaning than getting out the lawn mower and dust rag. The blooming flowers and warm weather also signal the perfect time to clean out his body.

Rinaldo, one of many people turning to different springtime cleanses, embarked last week on a tea cleanse, drinking a detoxifying tea to help his body rid itself of toxins accumulated during the winter.

“It’s the appropriate time to cleanse,” said Rinaldo, who owns Namaste Yoga. “It’s a transformation time; it’s a resurrection. You are cleaning your heart and mind out from the stillness of winter.”

Naturopath Eric Lewis compares a body’s health to a bucket that fills up with pesticides, chemicals, stress and other harmful things. Once the bucket fills up, people feel the effects of the toxins.

A detoxifying cleanse helps to rid the body of those toxins and relieve stress on the body. After a cleanse, people tend to have more energy, sleep better and feel emotionally more clear, he said.

“The body has natural detoxification pathways and systems,” Lewis said. “Detoxification programs are there to aid our body in the natural process.”

The master cleanse

There are many types of cleanses — from drinking nothing but water for a week to eating a rice and bean mixture for a couple of days to eating raw fruits and vegetables for 10 days.

Lewis said proper detoxification cleanses have two things in common: They work to get toxins in the body out from where they are stored in the fat cells, and they increase the functioning of the liver to help get the toxins out of the body.

“Spending a day or two giving your body a rest from the mechanics and energy of digestion is OK for everybody,” Rinaldo said, adding that people considering a cleanse should check with their doctor first.

One of the most extreme and increasingly popular cleanses is the master cleanse, where a person drinks nothing but a mixture of water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper for 10 days.

“It’s kind of like Mexican lemonade,” said Liz Ference, 35, a massage therapist who lives in Arden and just did her first cleanse. “This is described as being able to push the reset button.”

Ference lost 10 pounds during the nine days of the cleanse. She said she didn’t suffer from intense hunger and didn’t feel extremely different after consuming nothing but liquids.

“I’m glad that I did it,” she said. “It’s not easy, however it’s not as hard as I thought it would be.”

Matthew Peterson took a different approach, trying a cleansing formula sold at Earth Fare, where he works. The powder mixture contains nutrients and herbs that he mixes into a shake.

Peterson also snacked on raw vegetables, fruit and almonds throughout his cleanse.

“You get mentally much more quiet, but as you eliminate more toxins, you become energized and feel a lot cleaner, your thinking becomes cleaner,” he said.

Another popular cleanse involves kitchari, a rice and mung bean mixture with spices. Melanie Leenhouts said the Indian-spiced dish is gentle and easy to digest.

Don’t try this alone

Lewis does not recommend either the master cleanse or prepackaged cleanses ones sold at health food stores. He said to check with a doctor or health care professional before starting any cleanse.

[I don’t recommend the Master Cleanse or many prepackaged detoxification programs.-EL]

He said water fasts and master cleanses are good at getting toxins out of places where they’re stored, but they do not help the liver to excrete the toxins. He said the body goes into starvation mode and starts breaking down fat for energy, which often makes people feel sick.

[With a detox, you are trying to get toxins out of fat cells and then enhance the body’s detoxification pathways, primarily through the liver.  During this fat breakdown, many toxins are released, which can make you feel sick.  This is why liver support is so vital—EL]

The boxed detoxification cleanses often contain laxatives, which have the opposite effect of the master cleanses — they help the liver to excrete toxins but don’t get the toxins out of the fat cells.

[To clarify--laxatives are not involved in liver detoxification; laxatives stimulate the bowel.  Liver support is a different piece to a detoxification program.  Some programs only focus on liver or colon support, but miss the first piece—that of releasing toxins from the fat cells.  It’s only by combining these 2 pieces for a comprehensive detoxification program that you can see the best results.  This is why working with a trained professional is a good idea.-EL]

“Detoxification sounds like a great thing, but if you do it too extreme, that can be very dangerous,” said Lewis, who has developed his own detoxification program that encourages healthy food choices to minimize the harshness and help people feel more clearheaded and have more energy.

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