Polly: This following article can be found at Dr. Lynda Wells’ website on natural healing. It is repeated with permission. Dr. Well’s practice is in Rode Island, where she offers clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, Hatha Yoga, Reiki, craniosacral therapy, Japanese magnetic healing, and colon cleansing. http://oak.cc.conncoll.edu/~rjcha/wells/wells.htm
Mr. Generic: What do think of fasting for detoxification? Do you recommend a water or juice fast and for how long?
Lynda Wells, PhD: Toxins are excreted through our skin, in the urine, from the lungs, and via the liver and gallbladder into the feces. The excesses are stored in the body especially in fatty tissue. As we age, unless we take care of ourselves, we are storing toxins produced by our own metabolism, and those produced in our unhealthy intestines by bacteria and yeast. In addition we are accumulating food additives like artificial coloring, preservatives, flavorings, conditioners as well as herbicides and pesticides, exhaust fumes, industrial wastes and so on. There are 1000 newly synthesized compounds introduced each year, according to the 1989 Kellogg Report; that is 3 new chemicals per day.
When the body experiences an overload of toxic substances, the consequences can be headache, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, irritability, depression, mental confusion, gastrointestinal tract irregularities, cardiovascular irregularities, flu-like symptoms, or allergic reactions including hives, stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, and coughing. Toxic overload may also contribute to more serious conditions such as autoimmune disease including inflammatory and rheumatoid arthritis, and neurological disease such as Alzheimer and Parkinsons diseases.
Unfortunately when we try to rid ourselves of these toxins by fasting (or even when we diet for weight loss), these toxins get released from fat and cause free radical damage to our DNA and proteins, ie cause accelerated aging. Besides toxin release, there is evidence of muscle wasting when fasting for an extended period.
If someone is relatively young and healthy and has been on a good diet, I will recommend a one day “fast” every week, indefinitely. On that day, I recommend that they eat as much as they want of the same kind of fruit all day long, such as apples or grapes or oranges (if not allergic to citrus). I prefer whole fruits rather than juices both for their natural fiber content and because the sugars from whole fruits trickle into the bloodstream more slowly than sugars from juice. That means no steep rise in blood sugar and little hypoglycemic rebound. Drinking 8 glasses of water, and having a sauna on the fast day will promote excretion of toxins directly through the skin, which will help to make fasting less taxing on the body. (Here in Wakefield, we have a $1 sauna that a great group of woman go to. We bare our souls to each other as well as our bodies, therapists for each other—social life as well as health benefits!) On the following day, a two quart cleansing enema is helpful.
But if people are unhealthy and/or overweight, the current nutritional thinking (such as by Dr. Jeffrey Bland in his 1995 seminar “New Essentials in Nutritional Medicine”) is, rather than fasting, go on a two to four week diet that:
1) Removes foods and beverages that are likely to contain toxins and/or food allergens. Some substances that everyone should avoid but especially sick people are tobacco, alcohol, excessive salt, caffeine, irritating spices, refined carbohydrates, processed, canned, refined, man-made or otherwise adulterated “phoods”, rancid foods, and hydrogenated fats and oils.
2) meets the basic daily nutritional needs of an individual, including adequate, high biological value protein content. What the person does eat depends on their unique genetic makeup, predisposition, illnesses, and diet intake history and on their total toxin load. Usually an adequate diet would include some fruit, vegetables, millet, rice, clean flesh foods or legumes, and yogurt if not allergic to any of the above. There is a high rice protein concentrate that I’ve been finding extremely helpful for highly allergic or otherwise compromised people.
3) provides adequate flushing with “clean” water to promote the elimination of biotransformed toxins.
4) provides increased amounts of the nutrients that are required in the enzymatic steps that occur in the transformation of toxins in the liver.
Let me explain what the liver does. It has a complex system of biochemical pathways, called Phase I and Phase II detoxification reactions. These pathways serve to restructure undesirable chemicals so that they can be eliminated from the body. In most cases this involves modifying these chemicals in such a way that they go from being fat-soluble substances to water-soluble ones which can then be excreted, either to the gallbladder and thence to the stools, or to blood and thence to the urine.
Those who are deficient in nutrients that support the liver’s Phase I reactions (as determined by liver function tests), need more B vitamins, glutathione, branched-chain amino acids, flavonoids, phospholipids. Those that are deficient in the nutrients that support Phase II enzymes need added antioxidants and the amino acids, glycine, taurine and sulfur donors such as glutathione, N-acetyl cysteine, methionine, cystine and cysteine.
To summarize, a water fast, being totally devoid of energy sources or supportive nutrients, may in fact cause much damage due to toxin release from fat tissue to blood and consequent free radical damage. A juice fast is better since it provides nutrients, but is still deficient in some of the rate-limiting vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that the liver needs to convert the toxins to excretory products. The latest nutritional thinking is to provide top notch clean nutrition for detoxification, so there is no muscle wasting and so the liver detoxifying enzymes work optimally, thereby preventing free radical damage.
Polly: I would like to add that anyone with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) needs to be careful in how quickly they detoxify. Detoxifying too quickly could make their sensitivities worse. Dr. Cheney emphasizes that CFIDS and MCS patients bring up their glutathione levels before beginning any detoxification program.