You most likely know someone who has gone to a detox retreat, juice fasted, or done some kind of herbal cleanse (perhaps it's even you). Or maybe you've just stood in awe at the herbal detox section of your local natural food store wondering who in the world buys this stuff and is it really necessary?
The human body is a complicated machine. It is highly sensitive, erratic, demanding, and unpredictable. Finding the right foods and eating them takes a lot of our time, and digestion uses more energy than any other function in the body! And when you're sick—be it a cold or cancer—when your body is busy breaking down that bucket of KFC you guzzled at lunch, it simply cannot give all that attention to healing. The same goes for preventing disease. When food is constantly demanding our energy resources to breakdown, the body sacrifices boosting cellular strength, decreasing inflammation, and other methods of preventing the onset of chronic or acute illnesses.
Surely we have all eaten our share of processed foods loaded with ingredients that are unnatural and therefore harder for the body to recognize and breakdown. Whether we eat a mostly organic diet or not, we've all been exposed to chemicals in the air and water, and other risks found in the environment that can lead to serious health concerns. Another serious risk is the heavy metals that can build up in the body from a number of sources (lead paint, mercury fillings, tainted seafood, foods like soy or whey protein treated with solvents, etc).
For most of us, giving the digestive system a vacation of sorts has the ability to really let the system clean itself out. (Yes, that means food that has failed to be eliminated by daily elimination.) Since every meal passes through 20 feet of our coiled small intestine, it's not hard to imagine that some things don't actually make it out on the first try. So resting the system can allow it to refocus energy on moving out anything that's lingering. Digestive health not only helps prevent disease, but it also can make us healthier by allowing our bodies to properly absorb key nutrients. When our systems are clogged with stubborn food remnants that won't leave, it can become a challenge for the nutrients to be absorbed through the intestinal walls and into our bloodstream, delivering potent vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients to our cells.
Dr. Gabriel Cousens, an expert on fasting says, "When we fast, we stimulate a process of energizing the cells." This may seem counterintuitive, especially if you've ever fasted or detoxed and felt sluggish, fatigued, or simply miserable. But what's really happening in those first few days of a cleanse is that you're giving the entire body—not just the digestive system—the opportunity to purge out toxins and re-energize, and as those toxins exit, you can certainly feel them lamenting their eviction.
Working with cleansing herbs (under the direction of your primary care physician or a qualified professional, of course!) can be an incredibly effective tool in pulling out heavy metals and other environmental toxins, as well as helping stimulate the body to heal itself from certain diseases. This can be done in conjunction with a fast, or on a special diet where you're still eating, just very specific healing foods.
And not to be overlooked are the spiritual benefits of cleansing. The clarity and humility that comes with fasting can make spiritual experiences happen "faster." Religions around the world all observe some sort of fasting for spiritual purposes, which can help individuals feel a deeper connection with their beliefs and more clarity about their lives. Just as the body flushes out toxins that no longer serve the greater good, the mind-spirit can also feel a purging of old habits and behaviors that have been hindering personal growth.
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