by Dr. Molly McMullen-Laird
Studies show that our bodies contain somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 toxic chemicals (those being the ones that we can identify). Some of these toxins are naturally occurring through the breakdown of foods and medicines we knowingly put in our bodies. Others are contaminants from packaging, water supply, food preservatives and additives, cookware, and air pollution, including microorganisms and particulates, not to mention the “electrosmog” and forms of radiation exposure, natural and manmade. We are all exposed; even in utero there is transmission to the newborn of many toxic substances.
Detox in the context of substance abuse is another process which is handled medically in order to wean a patient off of a drug to which they have become habituated. It is interesting to consider in general terms how many people need to detox off of “everyday” toxins as demonstrated in the documentary “Super Size Me”, where a clear addiction had been established within 3 days of eating nothing but food from McDonald’s. No one would do that, of course, but the chemical food industry is able to use flavor enhancing additives to create cravings. And for many of us, our cravings get the upper hand all too often. On a soul level, many of us carry burdens for years that have been placed in a far corner in order not to be addressed.
First Things First
Deciding to make a change in your health like a detox program is a big first step. Maybe there is an illness that triggers the decision, but for many it is a feeling of “unwellness”: not enough energy, brain fog, mood swings, lack of motivation, eating too much and the wrong foods, or various digestive complaints. Many times the need for a “reset” is the stated reason. Committing to this kind of an intervention is proactive and empowering. Something that is simple and yet has clear and immediate benefits.
In preparation it is important to begin to taper off of certain foods that are typical daily fare, perhaps coffee, sugar, chocolate, meat or dairy for a week beforehand. And at the same time to assure that there are regular bowel movements using teas or bulking agents as needed. Juicing, light raw foods or a combination for 3 days will allow the system to eliminate a toxic load and reset the digestion going forward. There are many delicious raw food recipes and detox aids that can be included in the diet.
Another important element about detox is identifying your own weaknesses and behaviors that are working against your optimal health. While going through the preparation and the detox be sure to take time to observe yourself and to journal about it for later review. Be ruthlessly honest about yourself.
Deciding to undergo a detox is validation that our systems can repair themselves; that the digestive system as well as all of our physiologic processes are capable of healing, given the right conditions. This is a cornerstone of anthroposophical medicine; that there is a self-healing capacity and it can be supported and guided to heal chronic conditions. Many other ancient and modern medical systems also have similar guidelines for healthy digestion. When applied with mindfulness and diligence the results can be astounding.
Eat in a calm, seated position, with conversation that is sharing and meaningful. Show gratitude for the food and those who prepared it; chew each bite 30 times; eat slowly; drink little with the meal; stop eating when you feel full. For many patients, chewing carefully and slowing down the meal has helped with bloating, indigestion, irritable bowel symptoms and colitis. We are not supposed to have food in the intestines in whole form. Our teeth are there to masticate the food stuff into a bolus mixed with digestive enzymes before it gets to the intestinal tract. The mechanical aspect of chewing our food properly also triggers digestive hormones controlling secretions and motility in the gut. It is quite rare to find someone who actually eats slowly and chews well. Our restaurant and food industries are concerned primarily with the visual appeal of the food and sometimes the food is served in pieces that are much too large and hard to cut properly for polite dining and chewing. A very important aspect is the timing of eating. The old adage “breakfast like a Ceasar, lunch like a king, dinner like a pauper” is so valuable for proper digestion. American modern lifestyle is more than the opposite, with 50-80% of calories consumed at dinner time which is often later than 6 pm. Intermittent fasting has supplanted the notion of eating 5 or 6 small meals per day; however, most people are eating too late and still too much at dinner time. We recommend a small evening meal, not later than 6 pm. This allows the digestive system to rest at night, which is its design. If we work with the system, it is amazing how well it works. And, as an aside, the sleep is better and the gastric reflux problem doesn’t happen!
Feast Days vs Fast Days or First World Problems
Fasting has been an approach to religious observance across traditions. Less expenditure on digestion allows for more focused thinking and a more even mood/energy. A Spring Cleanse is also understood in many cultures as a way to get things going after the Winter of less activity, less green in the diet, less social engagement. The welcoming of Spring and a new cycle of the year has been greeted with a desire to air out and move things in our metabolism and also our soul activity in sync with what is happening in nature. Just because now we can buy anything, any day of the year and consume it, doesn’t mean that it is the right thing to do or that it is sustainable for our health or the rest of the world. The feast day foods are also those foods that tend to cause acidification of our systems, inflammation and chronic illnesses. Tables describing these categories of foods can be found on the internet. As a general rule of thumb, choose one day that is a feast day weekly and organize the other days as fast days (days where the diet is lighter, simpler and lower in calories). After you have had a detox experience, you will be able to feel the benefit of a lighter, cleaner and simpler diet. It will be self-evident, and you will not feel weak but energized. Your thinking will be more clear and you will realize that your diet has been dragging you down and that the detoxification process has been overburdened, even while eating organic, well-prepared foods. Too much of anything will create a higher demand on the system. When you lower that demand you easily see the improvement. Food waste is estimated at 30-40% of the food supply in this country. This is another example of our affluent lifestyle which could, with mindfulness, be significantly reduced. Our Program
At the Rudolf Steiner Health Center, in addition to 2-week inpatient treatment sessions for cancer and chronic illness, we also have weekend programs for those interested in learning to fast or detox. Our program includes raw foods, liver support, meditation, movement, artistic activity, singing, nature observation, biography, sauna, compresses, footbaths and nutrition education. All in one weekend! It is a truly holistic approach to detox with a lot of education and learning by doing. More information and registration are available online at steinerhealth.org. Detox Challenges In addition to taking on a 3-day detox program (on your own or with our program) and learning invaluable lessons about your own system and your relationship with food; let’s get creative about many aspects of food and toxin reduction in our lives. Here are some ideas I will throw out there hoping to inspire you to think some up yourself and share with me at steinerhealth.org/blog
- Repeat your detox menu plan one day each month or week.
- Before checking out at the grocery store, examine your cart and put back 2-5 items that shouldn’t be there! Make it a habit before check-out. Leave it in the store.
- For sustainability, add a Future 50 Food to your menu everyday. (see the The Future 50 Foods report, published in February 2019 by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Knorr. It identifies 50 plant-based foods that can boost the nutritional value of our meals and promote a more sustainable global food system)
- Take a 1 day or 1 week pledge on LiveZeroWaste.org to live garbage free even if only for a day. It will change your habits drastically and make it more obvious what you can do without.
- Buy only vegetables that are not wrapped in plastic and challenge yourself to build menus with them.
- Make your own ____________, fill in the blank to reduce plastic containers, packaging, etc. (I made mustard.)
- Carry your own take-out containers everywhere.
- Soak whole grains one night per week to use for the next day.
- Use Lent each year to pick something you would like to change about your habits.
- Watch youtube TED talk on “Choosing a Life Without Trash.” And lastly, do the little things for yourself and for the planet; it all adds up!
- Super Size Me (free on youtube)
Rudolf Steiner Health Center 1422 W. Liberty Ann Arbor, MI 48103 734-663-4365