Explaining Detoxification
By Betty Kamen Ph.D.

The word detoxify is a general term that has yet to be clearly defined in biochemical terms. (The origin of the word itself dates back to the Greek word toxikon, meaning “toxic arrow.”) The concept and importance of detoxification as it relates to health and disease has been difficult for traditional medicine to accept. One reason is that medical science is founded on the premise that disease is the result of extraneous influences and that drugs can cure or relieve discomfort. However, when we understand that for most diseases it is a slow development initiated by an accumulation of toxic waste products of your metabolism, the significance of detoxification is more easily accepted. Even so-called acute systemic diseases require an atmosphere of toxicity to “take hold.” Louis Pasteur is quoted as saying, “The germ is nothing, the terrain is everything.”

To add to the confusion, we have problems discussing the concept of detoxification simply because we are Americans. A major part of detoxification has to do with fecal elimination, but Americans don’t like to talk about stools. Europeans, on the other hand, freely talk about elimination.

A decade ago, I was chastised by my broadcast program director for interviewing Dr. Denis Burkitt of Glos, England on a major New York City radio station. (Dr. Burkitt is the physician who first told the world about the importance of fiber.) Dr. Burkitt gave my audience two bits of important information. One was a self-test for checking our own health status: Does your stool sink or swim? If it floats, it’s aerated, and you are probably in better health than if it sinks. The later condition is suggestive of firm, small-volume content in the rectum (the last portion of your intestine), and this has significance in reabsorption of toxins among other problems.

The second of Dr. Burkitt’s comments was an aphorism of wisdom: “Small stools, large hospitals: large stools, small hospitals.” We’ve come a long way in 10 years and now both of these facts are widely printed and discussed.

Another complication, according to Dr. Michael Rosenbaum, president of the Orthomolecular Society, is that the term detoxify is widely misused because we equate symptoms of a fast with those of detoxification. “What we really may be experiencing;’ says Dr. Rosenbaum, “is food allergy withdrawal. We could have chills, diarrhea or hypoglycemia. After three or four days when we begin to lose fat. We know that toxins are coming out.” Dr. Rosenbaum points out that people are detoxifying all the time but the extent depends or body burden.

“Detox clinics” have sprung up in several states. They use exercise, six-hour sauna (temperature controlled; not as hot as usual saunas), plus the administration of niacin to promote sweating and vasodilatation. Some people continue to emit toxins even six weeks after this treatment.

According to Serafina Corsello, M.D., who practices nutritional medicine in Huntington, Long Island, and New York City, most people suffer from ongoing subclinical toxicity- toxicity that doesn’t show up in a serious disease state until much later.

Dr. Corsello says, “Medicine is familiar with obvious toxicity, as in renal failure. But I am referring to low-level chronic toxicity, the causes of which include (non-nutritious foods), lack of fiber, constipation, lack of ‘good guy’ intestinal flora and poor profiles of fatty acids (which come form salad dressings and cooking oils because they are almost always rancid). These problems are rampant in our country.

Proper elimination of toxins may also be impeded by an imbalance of your sympathetic and parasympathetic systems- on of the first by products of stress. This demonstrates the inter-relationship of stress, nutrition and disease.

Another factor is poor elimination habits. Because we don’t allow enough time for peristalsis in the morning, the urge to eliminate is often suppressed because it happens on our way to work or while we’re at our morning meetings. Reabsorption of toxins, rather than elimination, is the consequence. Repeated suppression of the stimulus creates a vicious cycle of imbalances or normal peristalsis.”

Ancient yoga manuscripts describe two sets of mechanisms in the human body- one for cleansing and the other for nourishing. They work in harmony and balance with each other. Your lungs, pores, kidneys, and bowels are involved in cleansing. If these cleansing systems are not functioning properly, the nourishing systems cannot do their work. Dr Corsello explains it this way:
“Your portal system involves the circulation of your blood through the loop of vessels that bring blood from your intestines and stomach to your liver. This transportation network carries nutrients and toxins. The longer the stool stays in your intestine, the longer the unwanted waste will be absorbed through this portal system. Your liver is the large factory of nutrient processing and also the factory of detoxification. When your liver is overwhelmed with toxins, it has less capacity to deal with them properly. Large amounts of food also impede its work. The liver has to make a choice. Should it deal with the absorption of nutrients of the elimination of toxins? Any toxic substances that escape the liver ultimately go to the brain. Blood circulates though all your organs, but your brain is most sensitive when it comes to toxicity. That’s why you have a blood-brain barrier- an effort to prevent any old toxin coming down your bloodstream from entering that vital organ. Many toxins however can penetrate the blood-brain barrier. So bowel function is the first intervention of any disease process. If your stool is properly aerated, you are protected from toxicity particularly from the absorption of toxic oxidized cholesterol such absorption is directly related to the (length of) time the stool stays in the large intestine. Fiber helps to create a large surface of oxygenation—there will be less putrefaction and more cleansing.”
Here are some signs of chronic subclinical toxicity: skin rashes, acne, sores, ulcers in our mouth, yellow or brown coatings on your tongue, constant headaches, mental confusion, noisy breathing, skin discoloration, excessive mucus, offensive breath, or odoriferous sweat. It is even theorized that nausea in early pregnancy is caused by toxicity that builds up naturally during the night.

The disease state becomes clinical when toxins accumulate about the tolerance point. Disease is often your body’s attempt to eliminate these unwanted poisons. The solution is simple to state, but not always to carry out: To reduce your toxic load, don’t indulge in those habits that you know will increase it.

Dr. Corsello outlines a plan for detoxification. The general rules are: eat lots of fiber, do not consume fats in excess, use only “good” oils, consume lots of healthful, friendly bacteria, and promote good bowel habits. Specifically, Dr. Corsello suggests the following: For those patients who are extremely toxic, Dr. Corsello adds choline and inositol. One of the first reactions to toxicity is malabsorption of nutrients causing a depletion syndrome. Loss of memory occurs because the circulation of choline is impeded. Other byproducts of bowel toxicity are fungal infections (candidiasis) and parasite infection.

About a century ago, J.H. Tilden M.D., of Denver, Colorado, was one of the first to explain toxemia. He said, “If we live well today- live for health of mind and body today- we need not worry about the germs that come tomorrow.”

Betty Kamen is an award winning photo-journalist with degrees in psychology and nutrition education. She is host of NBC’s Nutrition Watch on KNBR, San Francisco. Betty has written eight books, the latest of which is Germanium: A New Approach to Immunity.

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Visit www.bettykamen.com