Detoxing 101: A roadmap to whole body detox and natural self-care - PART I

A step-by-step, general guide to kick starting your holistic wellness journey

DETOX

Manasa S Rao

5/26/20237 min read

brown sticks, cinnamon and slices of lemons
brown sticks, cinnamon and slices of lemons

Here's a trend I'd be on board with: holistic wellness as the new self care. I'll be honest, in the past I have often found myself anticipating the newest skincare line from a favorite celebrity, trying out different diets to see which one works best for me or using cleaners or detergents because they are cheaper and won't last long anyway. Over time, I have learned how to sift through a world of confusing information, ideas and product for the gems. More importantly, I have been taking my mom's words and habits to heart and have made natural, long term self care a priority. I want everyone to be armed with the same knowledge and discernment when it comes to taking control of their health. In this article, I hope to give you a bird's eye view of how to start your holistic journey. There is so much information I couldn't possibly fit them into one post! I will be diving deeper into them in my next few articles.

PART I: Two brainy for your own good

Did you know that you have multiple brains that require specific, intentional care? Ok, let me rephrase that in a way that makes sense. The organ we know of as our brain is the ultimate control center of our bodies, in charge of our thinking, moving, all bodily processes, memory, emotions, logic and more. There isn't a single system of our body that can function without the brain. That is why someone is legally said to have passed away once they are brain dead. So while we are aware of the significance of our brain and mental acuity, as well as associated illnesses such as Alzheimer's, dementia, autism, MS, we rarely see any emphasis or information on how to care for it. We simply accept that the brain is "hard to reach", being so well protected by the blood-brain barrier or the inability of crucial neurons to regenerate in adulthood. But is this true?

Recently, we have become more aware of another so called "brain", and their connection and dependence on one another. This brain is the GUT or Gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It includes your whole digestive system, with a focus on the stomach, intestines and liver. I always add the liver to this list as I teach my students of its physiology. The gut not only digests the fuel that we take in, it is the center of the body's microbiome, detox, absorption, insulin production, elimination. But study after study now report on its role in stress, anxiety, mood, weight loss or gain, biofeedback, immunity and even a strong influence on our brain and nervous system through neurotransmitters. The health of our gut is now known to effect the health of our whole body. Disorders or imbalances such as allergies, gluten and lactose intolerance, hormonal changes, mood swings, stress, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, autoimmunity, inflammation, PTSD, infertility, chronic pain, acne, hair loss and more can be traced back to our digestive systems. This list also includes the above list of neurological illnesses! It is thought that the gut even "remembers" any trauma we may have been through in the past.

If we gain more insight into our anatomy and physiology, it is easy to understand that our body is one unit and works as such. Each and every cell, tissue, organ and system in our body is involved in "cross-talk" - they actively communicate and share with each other. The health of one part of our body lends to the health of another, but none more so than the gut and brain. Working in tandem, they have the power to influence overall wellbeing. However, it is important to again go back to my above point: the two systems require specific and intentional care. Your long term investment in both of these "brains" can lead to lasting healing, energy, youthfulness, longevity and a freedom from illness.

Part II: The "How"

So now we move on from the 'why' and onto the 'how'. How do we nourish, strengthen and support these brains? Yes, we are bombarded with talk of diet and medicine, exercise and all the macros. Our minds flit to avoiding processed food and sugars, using probiotics and supplements. We wonder about vegetarian vs meat, cardio vs weight training, and which shampoo is cleaner than the other. However, before your body can respond to any changes you make, there are some steps to be taken. Holistic wellness is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a lifestyle and not a fad. It is a destination and therein requires GPS to take you there.

Our starting point is detoxing. Detoxing, or the process of eliminating toxins and harmful, unnecessary materials from our body, is a natural process that occurs in our liver and cells. Each cell in our body has an organelle known as the lysosome which swallows, breaks down and then eliminates bacteria, toxins and waste so it doesn't effect the cell function. The liver does this similarly on a larger scale, processing what we eat or drink or what medicines we take. It processes them through various pathways and even adds important vitamins and minerals, as the final products pass onto the rest of the body. A healthy, functioning liver detoxes you to prevent diseases and damage. 

two bowls of soup on a marble table
two bowls of soup on a marble table
white book page beside green potted plant
white book page beside green potted plant

With the extent of toxins in our food, environment and drinking water as well as lack of support for natural detox pathways, we are burdened by high toxic load and a underperforming liver. The toxic load has lead to fatty liver and liver damage, and are no longer being eliminated from our bodies. Thus, we are prime candidates for bacteria, viruses, cancers, parasites and other diseases. Detoxing other parts of the body (remember, the body is one unit and even one change can cascade) has also come to a standstill. Detox is the first step to a holistic lifestyle because you can start with a clean slate. You are removing what hinders, blocks or resists any natural remedies, exercises and diets from working. Healing your body without detoxing often is like adding water to mud - it will never become pure water.

Your body may not be detoxing and functioning as it naturally should if you observe:

  • Any illnesses, disorders, imbalances including food intolerances

  • Mood swings, brain fog or anything affecting mental performance and balance

  • Sluggishness, lack of energy, weakness, joint and body pain, reproductive issues

  • Chronic pain, inflammation, acne, hair loss, dull skin, cavities and tooth issues

  • Constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, inability to gain or lose weight, ulcers and more.

Perhaps you have heard of detoxing and the benefits of it, but do not know how to begin. Maybe you mistook a detox to be a cleanse (a "flushing" of unnecessary materials from the body without necessarily resolving the issue of why they are building up in the first place), tried it and it did not work. You may have even researched for yourself, found no evidence that detoxing can help and shut the thought down. There can be fear, mistrust and misunderstanding in any naturopathic endeavor. I encourage you to learn more and try any of the steps that sound do-able and do not interfere with any medication or illness you may have. As a reminder, always consult your doctor before trying anything new, but get a few opinions before dismissing this entirely.

A. Getting started: First brain detox

I am patient in most things, but not a disciplined woman so it motivates and uplifts me to see instant results. After years of starting and then quitting everything I have tried to do, including exercise (*yawn*…. just kidding! :)) I have realized the power of small, consistent steps in the right direction. After all, it was never the hare that won the race despite his speed, but the unhurried tortoise.

Humans are walking contradictions, being creatures that thrive off of habit but also itching to get our first win so we can justify the dedication to our craft. But whether it is due to age, the need to please, social media, peer pressure or something else we have begun to prioritize the immediate over the delayed but steady work. However, studies such as one published in 2021 through NIH have shown that delayed gratification can actually increase the activity of the dopaminergic neuron. The degeneration of this neuron is one of the leading causes of Parkinson's disease, but it also decreases during metabolic diseases such as diabetes type 2, obesity, cardiovascular diseases and with age. What we can gather from the NIH study is that disciplining ourselves to wait for certain rewards trigger the activity and even growth of neural pathways, reducing the risks of certain disorders. In fact, any kind of discipline, patience and self control can sharpen the brain and improve functioning of the nervous system.

Therein lies the key to your 'first brain' wellbeing: change your mindset and get disciplined. Detox from the mindset of instant results, overnight changes. Work hard and long to bring your health back in control and you will reap the benefits of your dedication. This mindset can only be truly changed by leaning on God's word. We do not take to good habits as easily as bad ones, so we need more strength than our own. The Lord has promised to strengthen and uplift us with His righteous right hand. He has given us a spirit of power, love and self-control. If a small voice constantly whispers to you that you cannot be healed, your disease has no cure or you can't lose the weight, immediately declare God's promises over your life. If you do not believe God is your healer and gives you wisdom in all things, you will not put in the work to change your circumstance.

In Hebrews 12: 11-13 we are reminded: No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

I hope this encourages you, dear reader, to discipline your body through a primary disciplining of the mind.

a person sitting on a bed
a person sitting on a bed