Sunday, April 27, 2008

Chinese Medicinal Detox

In keeping with my current detoxification kick, I'm taking a 4-session class on detoxification taught from the perspective of Chinese Medicine. I'm quickly learning that the amount of knowledge out there on detoxification is staggering. There's ancient sources of knowledge like Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, more modern holistic approaches, and there's also, of course, Western Medicine/Science. They all have their own particular spins on detoxification, but they also have similarities that run through them.

In the second session of the Chinese Medicine class, the instructor looked at all of our tongues and categorized each of us as belonging to 1 of 4 constitutional types. (It was quite bizarre, but cool). He told me I was "definitely a 3," which is normal heat (or yang) but deficient yin. In order to increase my yin, I need to eat cooling, moistening food, and along with that I am supposed to eat "salty" foods like fish and seaweed (both of which are apparently cooling and moistening). Everyone in the class, regardless of their constitutional type, is supposed to reduce heat by eating bitter foods - many of the same foods that are known for their detoxification affect.

I also learned that the liver has two phases of detoxification. In the first phase the liver and its enzymes activities the toxins, in some case making the toxins - which had just been floating around the body or hanging out in the body's fat layers - toxic. In the second phase, the liver and its enzymes grab hold of the toxins and usher them out of the body. In order for the body to effectively eliminate toxins, both phases must operate efficiently.

When people go on dramatic fasts such as multi-day juice fasts or programs like the master cleanse, phase 1 is kicked in to high gear and masses of toxins are dumped into the body. This is why, for example, when fasting you often get a headache or suffer symptoms like exhaustion or weakness. There are simply too many toxins flooding the body for the body to grab and eliminate. I had often thought that using colonics or enemas to purge the bowel would effectively rid the body of the toxins released through fasting. However, according to the instructor of my Chinese Medicine class, purging the bowel just purges the bowel, it does not eliminate all of the bodies toxins.

What's the solution? It's quite interesting because it's based on providing the body with the nutrients it needs to support phase 2 activity. So, instead of forcing the body into a crisis state by depriving it of nourishment through dramatic fasts, a more effective way of ridding the body of toxins is apparently to nourish it so that it can operate the way it was designed to at the most optimum level. By the way, I believe that limited fasts of a day or so are beneficial for the body, mainly because it gives the digestive system a break, but that's different than a multi-day fast that, in addition to providing the digestive system with a rest, could cause a mass release of toxins.

It makes sense that gentler release of toxins into the body, one that the body could manage, would be better than suddenly releasing years or months of built up toxins. It's a like a stream with a few pieces of garbage floating on its surface. Standing on the edge of the river, you could easily fish out the individual pieces of garbage as the floated by. However, if someone upstream were to crack open a massive damn holding back a junkyard full of trash, your efforts to fish out the garbage as it floated by would be completely overwhelmed because of the sheer mass of garbage. The garbage would get by you and end up polluting the areas downstream.

It's the same with the body. We have to get the toxins out of the body, but we have to do it in a slow, steady, and sustainable way, rather than a sudden and dramatic manner. What I love about this approach (found in Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, and holistic healing theories, but lacking in Western Medicine) is that it emphasizes harnessing the body's own power to heal itself. It's not about prescribing a pill here or a shot there; rather, it's about providing the body with the proper nourishment it needs to thrive.

Does this new knowledge mean that I've cut out all stimulants and other inflammatory agents and switched over to a strict diet of moistening, cooling foods? No, not by a long shot. But, I am becoming more conscious of my body's needs, and the way my choices regarding what I put in my body affect it, and I'm starting to make small changes. Change starts with awareness, and that's where I'm at at the moment - becoming more aware.

1 comment:

Starshine said...

Yea, Buttercup! So many new posts! I've been on vacation, but I'll be reading regularly as soon as I'm back in CA!


P.S. Auntiedom is wonderful!