As our world sheds the chill of winter, your pets shed their fur all over your clothes and furniture, and you shed your coat and long johns, you might feel moved to facilitate the shedding of some of the gunk you acquired through the past season’s colds and flus, holiday treats, and reduced exercise.
If you’re up for shedding whatever’s been keeping you stuck in your old ways and building more sweetness, balance, and meaningful achievement into your life, I think you’d really get a lot out of the course Briana and I are starting next week. Please check it out!
Maybe the form of shedding you’re up for is a cleanse. Cleansing has been widely praised and disparaged. Is it the layperson’s panacea or a worthless (or harmful) fad? I think the best answer I could give would be an explanation of my thought process on the issue.
If we were to look at health imbalances in very broad terms, we could divide them into three general categories:
(1) Conditions of depletion – reduced vitality due to over-activity, chronic stress, poor nourishment, insufficient sleep, childbirth and nursing, aging, etc.
(2) Conditions of accumulation – impaired vitality due to the presence of infection, inflammation, phlegm, excess body fat, arterial plaque, toxins, etc.
(3) Mixed conditions of both depletion and accumulation. This third category is, by far, the most common, because (A) depletion impairs our ability to effectively clear accumulation; and (B) accumulation can impair the restoration of energy and nutrients, plus it’s often a stressor, the management of which consumes energy.
Cleansing – encouraging the elimination of accumulation – therefore only makes sense for people in categories 2 and 3. And for those in category 3, caution needs to be exercised in order to avoid worsening the depletion because the cleansing process tends to consume some energy. Generally, clearing away accumulation should take place before restoring what is depleted, but it’s useful to gauge the severity of depletion. If someone is really exhausted, even if they also have some form of accumulation, it might be necessary to do a little rebuilding before cleansing can be performed safely.
If you’ve been feeling suboptimal, I wish I could give you some sort of self-diagnosis tool that would allow you to discern whether the cause is predominantly one of depletion or accumulation, but diagnosis can be surprisingly tricky. For instance, short-term fatigue is often due to minor depletion – say, a night of poor sleep or a long work day. But, if it occurs after eating, it could be due to overeating or exposure to a food sensitivity (accumulation). However, the development of a food sensitivity in the first place was likely the result of digestive depletion. Long term fatigue could very well be the result of chronic depletion from living too hard and not replenishing enough. But, the root cause might also be a sneaky infection (accumulation) that’s been hiding “below the radar” for years.
For this reason, we’re all best served by getting an outside perspective. The overlapping presentations of accumulation and depletion are one of the reasons I love traditional tongue and pulse diagnosis – they reveal more objective answers. It’s also the reason many practitioners love lab testing.
Now, let’s get back to the value of cleansing. You can see now that there’s no way of assessing its impact without considering the person in the equation. But, there’s also the manner of cleansing to consider. Natural cleansing (let’s take pharmaceuticals like antibiotics out of the equation for now) may involve inducing vomiting, inducing bowel movement, and inducing sweating. It may involve washing or treating the colon with enemas or deeper “colonics.” It may entail stimulating the function of the main organs involved in detoxification – the liver, kidneys, lungs, bowels, skin, and lymphatics. It may involve binding up or neutralizing toxins. It may be accomplished through fasting or specialized restriction of the diet. It may occur through enhancing circulation, altering body temperature, or speeding up metabolism. Because these methods are so varied, the question becomes much more complicated!
Therefore, the only accurate answer I can give is depends on the person, depends on the cleanse.
Sorry my assessment isn’t more black-and-white, but that’s usually how the truth goes. For those who are eager to facilitate some internal spring cleaning, I’ll offer some more specific recommendations over the next couple weeks. In the meantime, why not try a cup of dandelion tea? (You can read my article on it here.) This is the time of year for it. Dandelion is one of the safest cleansers, it has lots of potassium and vitamins A and C, and as a cleanser, it acts mainly on the liver, digestive tract, breasts, and skin. It’s best if you can dig up the whole plant, chop it, and brew it all (simmer for 30 minutes). If the roots are too difficult to pull, you can use just the above-ground parts. As you sip it, enjoy that bitter flavor that’s rare in our diets, and imagine that you’re aligning yourself with spring.
Dr. Peter Borten