Each week, I will share three things on how to heal holistically. Drawing from my 28 years of experience as a practicing Naturopath, as well as what I am currently working on, exploring, and curious about. Make a pot of tea and give yourself the time and care you deserve.
HEALING: Considerations for when you are experiencing XYZ.
REVERENCE: A deep respect & attention to the things that truly impact healing.
EXPLORING: A journey into the deeper work, meeting the parts, wounds, and survival strategies that keep us small, stuck, and suffering with persistent symptoms & feelings.
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1. HEALING: Detox, A Dirty Word
Although "detox" has become associated with unhealthy practices in the health and wellness industry, its true definition involves:
- Identifying and removing harmful substances from the body
- Addressing the sources of toxins found in our food, self-care products, lifestyle choices, and environment
- Supporting the organs responsible for detoxification
A comprehensive or holistic approach to detoxification can involve understanding an individual's starting point - their current health status, health habits, self-care practices, diet, supplements, and medications. A holistic approach may simply start with minimising the sources of simple toxins such as alcohol, processed foods and food additives, sugar, and caffeine, or swapping out products with toxic chemicals for natural ones.
However, caution should be exercised when approaching detoxification because it is often associated with unhealthy practices such as laxative use or purges, as well as unsupported fasting practices that can create imbalances in the gut biome and lead to lazy bowels, nutrient deficiencies, and negative interactions with prescription medications or pre-existing medical conditions.
Many people turn to detoxes as a quick fix for weight loss or to rid the body of toxins. However, the use of laxatives or purges can cause more harm than good and lead to serious health issues. Laxatives are a common component of detoxes, working by stimulating bowel movements. However, prolonged use of laxatives can lead to lazy bowel syndrome, where the muscles in the bowel become weak and rely on the laxatives to function, resulting in chronic constipation, bloating, gas, abdominal pain and nutrient deficiencies. Purging is another unhealthy practice associated with detoxes, where people induce vomiting or use diuretics to rid the body of food or fluids. This can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and nutrient deficiencies, which can have serious health consequences. Chronic purging can also lead to digestive issues, such as acid reflux and stomach ulcers.
Detoxes often involve restrictive diets that can lead to nutrient deficiencies. Many detoxes eliminate entire food groups, such as carbohydrates or protein, which can result in inadequate intake of essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and fibre. This can lead to fatigue, weakness, and even malnutrition. Moreover, detoxes can disrupt the natural balance of the gut biome, which can lead to a host of digestive issues. The gut biome plays a crucial role in overall health, and imbalances can lead to issues like bloating, gas, and constipation. Many detoxes eliminate fibre-rich foods that feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut, which can further disrupt the balance.
It is important to note that certain prescription medications or pre-existing medical conditions may negatively interact with detoxes. For example, some medications may be affected by changes in diet or herbal supplements commonly used in detoxes. Additionally, individuals with certain medical conditions such as diabetes, liver or kidney disease, or eating disorders should approach detoxes with caution and consult with a qualified healthcare professional experienced in holistic detoxification or cleansing before starting any program.
Furthermore, the use of herbs or supplements in detoxes should also be approached with caution. While some herbs and supplements may have beneficial effects on the body's natural detoxification processes, they can also have negative interactions with prescription medications or exacerbate pre-existing medical conditions. It is important to consult with a qualified naturopath or herbalist before using any herbs or supplements in a detox program.
Unfortunately, there are many unqualified individuals and companies who offer detox programs and recommend supplements without proper training or knowledge of potential interactions or contraindications. It is crucial to seek guidance from a qualified naturopath or herbalist to ensure that detox programs are safe and effective but also to address your why - why do you need to detox or cleanse?
2. REVERENCE: Detox History
The origins of detox can be traced back to various ancient cultures, including Ancient Egypt, China, India, early America, and the Roman Empire. Each culture had its own approach to detoxification, based on the available resources and cultural beliefs at the time. For example, in ancient Egypt, detoxification was accomplished through the use of herbal remedies, while in China, detoxification was achieved through the practice of acupuncture and the consumption of specific foods and herbs. Similarly, in India, detoxification was practiced through the use of Ayurvedic medicine and yoga.
Looking at Ancient Egypt
The 'Ebers Papyrus' is an exceptional document and is considered the oldest surviving medical manual from antiquity, with a history of 3,500 years. It was written during the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep (1500 BC).
In 1862, it was discovered in Luxor by Edwin Smith and later purchased by the German Egyptologist Georg Ebers, who named it after himself as he deciphered the hieroglyphics.
The papyrus is currently preserved in the University Library in Leipzig and is also the longest written document found from ancient Egypt. It is an authentic medical treatise of 877 paragraphs that describes diseases in all branches of medicine (rheumatology, ophthalmology, gastroenterology, gynaecology, dermatology, etc.) with corresponding prescriptions. The Egyptian pharmacopoeia of that period listed over 500 substances from the plant kingdom, including myrrh, aloe, castor leaves, saffron, lotus flowers, lily extract, poppy juice, balsam oil, resin, frankincense tears, hemp, acacia juice, garlic, benzoin, chamomile flowers, coloquint, cypress, date, fig, gentian root, pomegranate, bay leaf, sweet clover, mint, mustard, myrrh, walnut, onion, pistachio, castor oil, and rose.
According to the Ebers papyrus, it is essential to begin by purifying the body by eliminating the miasmas. The "miasmas" refer to the waste products of digestive catabolism and toxic elements from our environment that we inhale or absorb, which are present in our food and food additives today.
3. EXPLORING: Cumulative Effect Of Toxic Chemicals
Toxic chemicals have a detrimental impact on both human health and the environment. They can be found in everyday products such as personal care items, cleaning supplies, and even in the clothes we wear. These chemicals can end up in our water supply, soil and air, where they can harm not just humans but also plants and animals. The long-term effects of exposure to these chemicals are challenging to study as the combinations of exposure and the potential effects are endless. Additionally, when multiple chemicals are present together, they can have an additive or synergistic effect, making their impact even more significant.
To reduce your toxic chemical load, it is important to be aware of these chemicals and make conscious choices to reduce exposure to them. It is also crucial for the government to regulate and monitor these chemicals to ensure the safety of the public and the environment.
Here is one example to be aware of: Parabens.
What are they & where are they found? Parabens are preservatives that can be found in a wide range of personal care products, cosmetics, and food products, such as shampoos, lotions, makeup, toothpaste, and some types of food and pharmaceuticals. They are used to prevent the growth of bacteria, mould, and yeast.
Why are they harmful? There are concerns that parabens may have negative effects on human health, particularly in relation to hormone function. Studies have suggested that parabens can mimic estrogen, a hormone that plays a key role in the development of breast cancer. Additionally, parabens have been found in breast tumours, although it is not yet clear if they are causing the tumours or if they are present as a result of exposure after the tumours have formed.
What are the alternatives? To reduce exposure to parabens, it is recommended to limit the use of personal care products, cosmetics, and food products that contain parabens. Additionally, people can also opt for using paraben-free products, and properly disposing of products that contain parabens. Go natural!
What is Australia's stance? In Australia, the use of parabens is regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) which sets standards for their use, including safety assessment of parabens used in consumer products. They also monitor their safety and if necessary, revoke or suspend their use in consumer products. Additionally, the Australian government also conducts regular monitoring of parabens in consumer products to ensure compliance with these standards and to protect human health.
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