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:
- Eat fiber upon awakening. (Psyllium seed is good.) Then drink 15 to 20 ounces of warm liquid with lemon or herbal tea
- with lemon. The fiber will swell up. The rationale for the warm water is to promote peristalsis and also to lubricate the
- mucus, which then becomes a propellant. Warmth liquefies mucoserous substances. This way, mucus is working for you. In
- about 20-30 minutes the fiber will act as a scrub brush as it is eliminated from your body.
- About a week later, continue only with the warm water and lemon. You should no longer require the psyllium seed if
- you are eating complex carbohydrates.
- When you stop ingesting the morning fiber, introduce cultures on an empty stomach.
- Olive oil and garlic may be added as additional disinfectants and lubricators.
- Allow enough time in the morning for the complete cycle of peristalsis to occur before you leave for work.
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.
For information on Dr. Kaman’s educational tapes and books