From the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Living in Balance: Boost Energy With Detoxification,” by Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, in the July/August 2009 issue. Article summary: Natural medicine systems align around a central principle that maintains cleansing is critical to success in staying healthy and reversing disease. And what they’re all so concerned about is waste. In fact, they’re very concerned about making sure the body eliminates all its metabolic leftovers, and new, harmful substances do not enter the body and wreak havoc.  

by Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa 

Your body goes through cycles of food processing (usually during the day) and detoxification (usually during the night). When the body does not get food for a while, it goes into detoxifying mode. That’s the theory behind fasting. Temporarily reducing calorie intake, to whatever degree, will speed up detoxification.

Dietary adjustments can be very effective. Since food restriction is a less restrictive approach, it takes a more diligent approach to use food this way. Although this works well and is popular in many older systems, particularly Ayurveda, modern Americans often find it tiresome, and end up falling off the detox wagon before finishing the job.

Fasting is widely promoted for detoxification, and there are many kinds of fasting—from water-only regimes to limited intake strategies, such as juice diets. While it’s generally effective, in order to work properly, the eliminative mechanisms have to be working properly to empty the wastes released from the tissues.

Most Americans are not in that boat. If most people attempt even a single-day water fast, the discomfort by evening time will make them question whether they want to try it again. In addition, the blood sugar mood swings will make everyone else around them question it, too!

Most people do better to gradually work into fasting by starting with a single day of slightly more digestible food—say, steamed vegetables—only for the day. Next week, try it again. Over time, one can slowly increase the interval of the fast, and increase the intensity of the restriction, going from vegetable and fruits to juice, tea and water.

Many people with chronic diseases are very full of waste materials. They are often cold, sluggish and constipated. Traditional healing systems do not advocate fasting for these people, at least not until they have developed some robust stamina and succeeded in increasing the function of the eliminative organs.

In any case, many authorities advise those with chronic disease to drink six to eight glasses of water per day, followed by a five-minute walk, for mild detoxification.

Increasing water intake promotes fluid exchange and urination, so many experts recommend substantial water consumption while detoxifying.

Detoxifying vegetarian diets have been studied in fibromyalgia, to good effect in general. A Norwegian study tested the effects of a three week vegetarian diet for people with fibromyalgia. As a result, serum peroxide, plasma fibrinogen, total cholesterol and high density lipoprotein cholesterol all reduced.

Just getting rid of some potentially allergy-causing foods for a while might also have some pretty striking benefits. Obviously, this causes major changes in people’s eating patterns and tends to limit choices, further restricting nutrients if they are not careful. When people identify perhaps a dozen safe foods, they tend to concentrate on them. Since they tend to be generally sensitive, they may develop new reactions to previously safe foods. A simple detoxifying diet program takes off a lot of stress for those folks.

Food intolerances, or sensitivities, as opposed to food allergies do not necessarily involve the immune system. Food intolerances may be much less severe, but they can produce chronic health problems over time. The 10 most common food intolerances basically correspond with the 10 most commonly consumed foods. Wheat and cow’s milk top the list.

This elimination diet is popular among certain clinicians, but has little research behind it. A few studies have shown benefit in a variety of conditions that have been linked to food intolerances.

In a double-blind controlled trial of this type of diet, scientists reported the recovery of 93 percent of 88 children with severe, frequent migraine. The diet consisted of one meat (lamb or chicken), one carbohydrate (rice or potato), one fruit (banana or apple), one vegetable (brassica), water and vitamin supplements.

Seventy percent of patients experienced migraine challenges to the reintroduction of provocative foods. In most of the patients whose migraine was provoked by other triggers, such as flashing lights, the migraine phenomenon no longer occurred while they were on the diet. In addition, associated symptoms (abdominal pain, behavior disorder, asthma, eczema) improved in most patients.

One German study conducted in 1997 concluded a detoxifying diet had measurable benefit in some children with hyperactivity. Another showed benefit for the diet in children with atopic dermatitis.

One study attempted to treat a variety of chronic degenerative diseases with allergy elimination diet and a medical food supplement designed to provide nutritional support for gastrointestinal healing and hepatic detoxification. The treatment group had a statistically significant increase in urinary sulfate-to-creatinine ratio after treatment, indicating improved reserves of sulfur-conjugating nutrients and glutathione status.

Enhanced nutrient absorption after the treatment program was suggested by the increased absorption and urinary excretion of mannitol after the 10 weeks of therapy.