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Redefining Detox

By Ivette Figueroa
Posted On Mar 22, 2011

More than just a diet, ‘detox’ is a multilevel approach to living longer

The average person is exposed to hundreds of chemical substances every day. On top of that, poor choices in diet, lack of exercise, insufficient nutrition and lack of water overloads the liver and affects its ability to detoxify our bodies. The result? Fatigue, depression, sluggishness, a dull complexion and a weak immune system that make us vulnerable to disease—even cancer.

While some of us may detox diet once or twice a year, chances are we also slowly slip back into the good old American standard greasy, high-sugar diet. This kind of detox diet can be satisfying in the short-term, but making it a lifestyle choice can yield far better results.

A Lifestyle Choice

“We have to accept the fact that we live in a chemical world and these toxins will get into our bodies and we have to deal with them,” says Randall Merchant, MD, a professor of Anatomy and Neurosurgery at Virginia Commonwealth University and frequent speaker at the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine seminars.

And because you can’t live in a bubble, says Dr. Merchant, your best course of action is to limit the amount of toxins you do have control over—by not smoking, eating locally grown organic food, drinking purified water, and looking into nutritional supplements that are good at pulling toxins out of the body. This kind of “prevention” is the first step to any successful detox program. By reducing your exposure to toxins, both environmental and dietary, you are also reducing the amount of strain on your body.

“Even though our daily exposure is very small, the problem is that over 20, 30, 40 years, they build up to a level in which these chemicals have lowered your immune system, caused premature aging of the brain and liver problems. Fifty percent of all cancers are chemically related and 30 percent of all illnesses can be traced to these toxins and chemicals,” says Dr. Merchant.

Detox (Not) ‘Diet’

Contrary to popular misconceptions, detoxification is not about starving yourself. While fasting is the quickest method of cleansing your body of toxins, a major part of the detox “lifestyle” is to nourish your body.

“A lot of people think that being healthy and having a detox diet is complicated,” says Debbie Hughes, a board-certified family nurse practitioner in Omaha, Neb. “It’s actually simple. If you can’t read the ingredients on the label, then it’s probably not good for you.”

Eating organic foods, a variety of fruits and veggies, and whole-grain carbohydrates—as well as drinking plenty of water—are just a few of the healthy dietary choices that Hughes recommends.

Hughes also specializes in nutritional counseling and believes a proactive and personalized approach is necessary in building a life of healthy habits. “I do toxicity testing on patients of chemicals and heavy metals…and [then] customize the nutrition and supplements to suit each one.”

Dr. Merchant advocates Sun Chlorella (tablets made from the pulverized, single-cell algae) as one of the best supplements on the market. “Chlorella is a nice natural detoxifying agent that helps pull out those [toxins] that are in your body and helps prevent some toxins from getting into your body.” Unlike medicine that only has one active ingredient and one predictable action, chlorella has hundreds of active ingredients that help lower cholesterol and blood pressure as well as many other beneficial effects.

Dr. Merchant defines chlorella as a “whole food,” which means that you eat the entire organism and take in everything that the organism required for survival. “You almost never eat a whole food—when you eat meat, it’s just a part of the cow, same with fruits and veggies…chlorella is a way to get the whole-food nutrition that is missing in the western diet.”

Toxin Therapy

“Toxins accumulate in our bodies,” says Theresa Pantanella, OTD, MPA, a therapist and founder of the Florida Aquatic Therapy & Exercise rehabilitation clinic. “These toxins bombard the system, they change the cellular structure or function, and [ultimately] cause diseases, dementia and cancer. Buying a cleanse from a store isn’t enough and doesn’t have sufficient nutrients that the body needs to repair itself.”

Dr. Pantanella explains that our bodies are not designed to remove the toxins. As a result, toxins are wrapped in fat and stored in the body where they continue to wreak havoc. In her clinic, Dr. Pantanella specializes in water therapy to “remove, repair and rejuvenate” the body. Her water is purified using a seven-level filtration system to produce pharmaceutical-grade water free of sediments, minerals, heavy metals, chlorine and other microscopic impurities. This water is then pumped into oxygenated steam baths, mineral baths, and even into a salt water therapy pool.

“My patients sleep better at night and they’ve noticed incredible improvements in range of motion, balance and energy,” says Dr. Pantanella.

Healthy Living

While your quality of life is determined by how you live day to day, longevity and happiness are associated with a lifetime of healthy habits.

“Hippocrates said ‘let your food be your medicine and medicine be your food,’” says Hughes. “We need to focus on nutrition and what we put into our bodies, on what control you have over your environment and on preventative habits by watching what you eat and drink, as the best methods of living a detox lifestyle.”