Spring Cleaning isn't just for houses - it can apply to our bodies, too.
by Elson M. Haas, M.D.
(Excerpted from the author's book, "The Detox Diet.")
s a physician, I am fascinated by the complexity, subtlety, and diversity of individual health habits - the combinations of the various substances we imbibe and ingest. The spectrum of these substances includes the components of our diet (foods, drinks, chemicals), supplements (nutrients, herbs, homeopathics), drugs (prescription, over-the-counter and recreational), and pollutants (herbicides, pesticides, hydrocarbons, and petrochemicals).
How do we develop our preferences? When do our preferences become needs? Why do our needs become addictions? Why do some of us become addicted while others can stop on their own? Our personality, upbringing, and our environment influence our personal choice of substances. In exploring these concerns about abuse and the way it affects our health, I have developed a specific orientation and program for initial healing and detoxification. This process has evolved over my twenty-five years as a naturally-based general health practitioner.
My overall understanding of symptoms and disease integrates both Western linear thinking and naturopathic approaches to health and illness. Problems with the body and mind often arise from either deficiency (when we are not acquiring sufficient nutrients to meet our bodily needs) and/or congestion (when our intake is excessive). Congestion involves both reduced eliminative function and an over consumption of food or substances, such as caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, refined sugar, and chemicals.
People who are deficient may experience problems such as fatigue, coldness, hair loss, or dry skin. They need to be nourished with wholesome foods that aid healing. However, congestive problems are more common in Western, industrialized countries. Many of our acute and chronic diseases result from clogged tissues, suffocated cells, and subsequent loss of vital energy. Frequent colds and flus, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, and allergies are all consequences of congestive disorders. These medical problems may be prevented or treated through a process of cleansing, fasting, and detoxification. These represent different degrees of a process which reduces toxin intake and enhances toxin elimination.
So many problems in Western society come from the excessive use of food and drugs. Abuses and addictions touch almost every person's life. I realize that the development of these habits is multi-faceted and as much a part of our social and cultural upbringing as they are our responses to dealing with a stressful family, school, work, and society at large.
Don't feel bad, weak, or inferior if any of these potentially destructive habits applies to you. I know the struggle between light and dark - between picking up that cup of coffee or glass of wine or that pack of cigarettes and the desire to stop or to never have started. I also know that it is an incredible challenge to change anything - particularly to clear any habit/abuse/addiction that we have had years to get used to and rely upon.
But I have seen that it can be done with greater attentiveness to ourselves; with a gathering of our willpower, and with the support of our loved ones. And I have also seen that it is very difficult without a willingness to deal openly with emotions and other adversaries that may block our way toward healing.
The first principle for improving your health is to eliminate destructive habits. Even if you cannot fathom at this time doing without your substances completely, at least consider an "abuse break." Try a day or week without caffeine, alcohol, or sugar, replacing them with a new habit drinking water, walking, or swimming, for example.
All addictions are ultimately self-destructive (some can hurt others as well, such as alcohol and smoking). When you change that dynamic to self care through both your internal healing process as well as with the lifestyle and nutritional guidelines you will begin to serve your body and life toward its highest potential. As you develop more nurturing and supportive habits, good food, exercising regularly, learning to cope with stress, and developing motivating attitudes I can promise you will experience greater vitality, more positive relationships, and overall improved health.
In my book, "The Detox Diet," I have written specific programs for dealing with sugar, nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine, and chemicals (drugs) - what I call SNACCs. In each program, I discuss the physiologic actions and reactions involved, the hazards and ill effects of each substance, and methods for handling and clearing these adverse habits.
The beginning of the process for healing our abuses requires motivation from within to change unwanted habits. This often requires us to address the underlying emotions that may perpetuate the problem. Then we must create a workable plan and gather our will power to begin. The Detox Diet alkalinizes the body, helps us feel better quickly, and lessens feelings of withdrawal. Water, exercise, and vitamin and mineral supplements also support the detoxification process.
I work with three primary tenets of naturopathy, adapted from Jim Sharp's book, Basic Principles of Total Health-Harmonious Integration of Body, Mind and Spirit:
I believe that patients and physicians alike should be oriented to live and practice with a common-sense approach that first looks at lifestyle as a place to promote rejuvenation, then to natural therapies, and finally to pharmaceutical drugs and surgery. Lifestyle factors include diet, exercise, stress management, and attitudes. Natural therapies include supplements, herbs, homeopathics, and hands-on healing such as massage, osteopathy, and chiropractic. Pharmaceutical drugs or surgery are appropriate when a situation is acute or severe, or if natural therapies are not working.
Put simply, the key to maintaining metabolic balance is to maximize nutrition and to eliminate toxins. There are also entire programs for detoxification available, such as Dr. Robert Gray's Colon Cleansing program (which includes a book and special supplements) found mainly in health food stores. For a complete body and colon cleansing program, I really like Nature's Pure Body Program available through their toll-free number (800)952-7873.
My goal is to place your health and that of your family back into your own hands. In fact, so much of your health is up to you. Take the initiative to do what you can to be vital and healthy. It is really worth it!
Be clean and clear, healthy and free.
This column was excerpted from, and Dr. Haas is author of, "The Detox Diet" the How-to & When-to guide for cleansing the body of: sugar, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, chemicals and more. Published by Celestial Arts, P.O. Box 7123 Berkeley California, 94707 (800) 841-2665.