When I first heard about cleansing I was under the impression that it was just a fad. A trend that would soon disappear. Something that Gwyneth Paltrow or the latest Hollywood starlet was promoting. When I began my journey and dove deep into the science and learning of what natural medicine truly is, I fell in love with the ways that natural-focused care givers activate the healing powers of the body, known as the “vis” in naturopathic medicine. I soon realized that cleansing and detoxification practices are not a new-age Hollywood hippie thing. In fact, their roots date back to before biblical times. Basically to the beginning of the conscious human!
There is evidence in historical texts, in the literature of practices since the time of Hippocrates, the father of medicine. It is no wonder that this specialization in functional medicine is taking on a whole new science-based appreciation. More and more practitioners are realizing the benefit of incorporating these treatments and therapies into their practice. They help with rebalancing the system, whether you are suffering from a hormonal problem, a digestive issue, or any of the other hundreds of labels given to problems in the body.
The Difference Between Cleansing and Detoxification
To begin, I think it is really important to understand and define the terminology. I am often confused, as I know you are too, by the manner in which people use the terms cleansing and detoxification. Are they interchangeable? Do they mean the same thing? Which one should I be doing? Let’s start by clarifying these Uber important terms and then delving into the 5 most important keys to re-engaging these vital life-promoting, disease-destroying functions of our glorious bodies. Then I’ll share my most important tool that I use in my clinical practice to jumpstart these functions in our bodies.
Cleansing is the ability for our bodies to eliminate waste created in our systems by the foods we eat, our natural metabolic processes and what we accumulate just by living on planet earth.
Cleansing Pathways of the Body
Our most important cleansing pathways include:
- Stools – Your poo is the primary vehicle for the elimination of leftovers/roughage from your food. The majority of stools consists of bacteria, as well as fat soluble substances such as cholesterol, toxins of all types including heavy metals like mercury and lead, and excess hormones like estrogen.
- Urine – A primary vehicle that eliminates what the stools cannot, often excesses of heavy metals and other substances such as uric acid.
- Sweat – A secondary elimination pathway. This pathway should be encouraged if stools and urine are functioning optimally. People will often note worsening body odour if they are having problems with constipation. This is because the genius of our bodies will always search for a way to get the things out that are no good for us.
- Breath – Breath is well known for the elimination of carbon dioxide.
- Periods – For women, our periods are a vehicle for elimination of toxicity. It is researched that women in menopause, after loosing their periods, are more toxic and will experience hot flashes as an adaptation to continue elimination, since they are so toxic.
Detoxification Sites of the Body
Detoxification on the other hand, is the metabolic transformation of a substance, usually from one thing into another. It occurs mainly in the following places in the body:
- Liver – Phase 1 and phase 2 detoxification help to package and transform substances that are not easy to eliminate via the cleansing pathways.
- Kidneys – Part of phase 3 of detoxification, where further filtration occurs.
- Mucous Membranes – Part of phase 3 of detoxification, this is most predominate in the gut. Phase 3 is the final stage of detoxification before cleansing.
- Various cells in the body – All aid in the detoxification process.
Both cleansing and detoxification are deeply connected. They are both extremely inhibited by 5 occurrences that can happen in our bodies.
Reduced Ability to Cleanse and Detoxify
The causes of reduced ability to cleanse and detoxify properly are:
This is the #1 problem for the body, and unfortunately, because we live in today’s industrialization era we are bombarded. The body doesn’t differentiate stressors as chemical, emotional or physical. It puts all stress into the same mixing pot. So you could be having an altercation with your mother-in-law, be exposed to high levels of pollutants, or injure your leg. All of these instances would cause stress and significantly inhibit your ability to transform (detox) and eliminate (cleanse).
Stress is now being touted as the #1 cause of disease in the modern world. Something very interesting to note for women with hormonal problems, specifically those with estrogen dominance; is that with increasing stress, our adrenals produce increased cortisol. Increased cortisol depletes your progesterone levels, which can leave you with a relative progesterone deficiency. This can severely aggravate estrogen dominance related issues such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
Has also been pointed out as a villain, A.K.A. the ‘silent killer’ in modern medicine and it’s no surprise. When we have high inflammation we also experience elevated levels of acidity in our bodies. Ironically, inflammation is a purposeful mechanism that helps us heal.
Hippocrates stated, “Give me the power to create inflammation and I will heal every disease.” However, too much of a good thing can damage us. Inflammation is purposefully destructive, to actually help rebuild our tissues. But when the fire of inflammation gets out of control because there is too much junk to burn, that’s when we start having problems. The body often responds with trying to control the fire by adding water.
The result is we get bloated, we may also experience weight gain, often in the central core of our bodies. For others this may translate to excessive aches and pains in the joints. And for others, mood can be greatly affected because the inflammation impacts their neurological system. It all depends on your unique biology and weak areas.
3. Lack of Antioxidants
Antioxidants protect our cells against damage from toxic substances, and they help to clear them out of the body. Glutathione is known as the master detoxification agent. We are constantly exposed to thousands of toxins – in the food we eat, the air we breathe, the products we put onto our bodies. Glutathione helps to move most (if not all) of these harmful substances OUT.
4. Inability to Eliminate
When you can’t eliminate properly, recirculation of toxins happens. Constipation is a huge issue in our society. We should be going each and every day, the length of our elbow to our wrist bone. If we aren’t eliminating this much, our stools are sitting in the body holding waste materials that are reabsorbed and a source of repollution to our system.
How To Improve Cleansing and Detox – Castor Oil Packs
Castor oil packs are my number one recommendation for every single one of my patients. Why? Because the 4 problems listed above – stress, inflammation, lack of antioxidants and problems with elimination – are issues that occur in every single condition. If you have a hormonal, immune or nervous system problem, I can guarantee you’ve got these issues somewhere in your body, dependant on your individual physiology and your weak zones.
Main Modes of Action of Castor Oil Packs
So what are the main actions of the infamous castor oil packs?
1.Practice the Pause
Stress, as mentioned above, is touted as being the #1 cause of dis-ease in the body. The ‘pause’, A.K.A. parasympathetic state, is difficult in this day and age because we are bombarded with daily to-do’s that can feel out of our control.
Like an Olympian athlete, to perform well we must practice. As a whole, we are out of practice on the relaxed state. It can be difficult to find things that are quick and easy to help us reset, or that don’t involve another person. A hug, massage, acupuncture treatment, reiki, all require the presence of another person. It’s difficult to schedule all these appointments. Castor oil packs are an easy, at-home health treatment that feel like a warm hug1 on the body. If done daily, they retrain the body into the pause state2.
The pause is the only place that we heal. It is the panacea, the Eden on earth. All of the body’s cleansing functions are NATURALLY turned ON in the relaxed, pause state. All you need to do is make sure that you have sufficient vitamins and minerals to drive these metabolic processes and you’re good to go! Castor oil packs, if done daily, additionally help you to better absorb all the nutrients from your food and the supplements you take because they improve digestion and absorption3,4,5.
So instead of absorbing 10% of your supplements in a stressed state, you would get 70-80% in the pause state (this is an estimation). Practising the pause is extremely important and required for a healthy, happy life. Gratitude is another easy way to engage the pause.
(Tip: Grateful Dung Daily Dining Practice before meals to improve the parasympathetic state, allowing us to digest better. Simply recite 3 things you are grateful for while staring into the tiger’s eye stones of the bracelet. Tigers eye stone helps balance the 3rd, Solar Plexus chakra, while the black obsidian Dung Beetle stone balances the 1st, Root chakra. The dung beetle is also a symbol of transformation and rebirth – it has the dirty job of rolling dung day in and day out. But planted in the dung is the seed of the lotus flower. The daily grind of rolling dung creates the most beautiful symbols of eternity, and flourishing life. The bracelet is a simple reminder to stay on your grind and your life will flourish!)
2. Reduce Inflammation
When we are inflamed, our bodies are acidic. The enzymes in our bodies, which are the keys to the lock that turn on metabolism, don’t function properly in an acidic environment. They require an alkaline environment. Castor oil has been demonstrated to be an effective anti-inflammatory, reducing water retention and swelling as much as capsaicin6, but without the rubefacient effect.
Castor oil is almost identical in chemical structure to the body’s natural anti-inflammatory prostaglandin Ep3. Coincidence? Unlikely. Like I mentioned earlier, inflammation is like fire, and what does a firefighter do to put out a fire? They put water on it. Central abdominal bloating and weight gain are often caused because our body sends water to the site of inflammation to ‘put out the fire’.
3. Improve Glutathione Status
Glutathione is the master detoxification agent of the body. Unfortunately, it is quickly depleted and its depletion is in part the cause of many chronic diseases including autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Glutathione is difficult to replete because there are not many food sources. One source is whey protein, but I do not typically recommend it because it’s dairy. Rooibos tea is another source, which I recommend adding to your tea cabinet. Glutathione can be supplemented via IV, and NAC and magnesium supplementation can help (although the effectiveness is debatable). Bottom line is it is not easy to get.
Castor oil was compared to a solution of glutathione in ocular lenses in rats, and was found to be more effective at preserving the glutathione levels than the actual glutathione solution7. The researchers hypothesized the opposite. Huge win for castor oil. Glutathione is an antioxidant that packages toxins and pulls them out of the body, and that’s why we get depleted so easily. It is vital to keep us healthy and young, our gut mucous membrane strong, our thyroid functioning optimally and many other essential functions. Castor oil packs help with this very basic protection of your body, and the elimination of toxic substances.
4. Move the Bowels
Our #1 process of the body, (not the #2!) are our bowel movements. If you can’t eliminate your waste products, you die. Bottom line. You self-intoxicate, a very unhappy death. Remember those anti-inflammatory prostaglandins that castor oil mimicks? Well these are the same ones that attach onto the receptors of smooth muscle in the body, namely the gut and uterus. This physical smooth muscle function moves things out of the body and castor oil packs are the ultimate way to stimulate it8,9. They also help via reduction of the stress response.
5. Microbiome Balance
The microbiome is now being referred to as its own organ. This bacterial, extracorporeal organ helps to keep a tight balance on our wellbeing. When it’s off we are.
Biofilm is a big bad barrier that bad bacteria can produce in the microbiome. It keeps the conbiotics™ (bad bugs) in, and the probiotics (good bugs) out. This causes serious stress on the body, therefore inhibiting cleansing and detoxification.
The microbiome is discussed frequently as being the center of what creates our health. But what really creates our health is the ability to keep a balanced body ecology (environment) that prevents buildups like biofilm from existing. This is possible over time with good food, good practices like your pack, and more.
Probiotic supplementation is also a must to balance out conbiotics™. Biofilm prevents this, thus the breaking down of biofilm via castor oil packs10, 11 improves the microbiome in a very simple way, requiring less probiotics. In combination with a good diet, adequate fluid intake (water/tea), flow (urine, poop) mindset and movement, castor oil packs are one of the cornerstones to living a legendary life.
What Goes In, Must Come Out
In summary, what goes in must come out. Otherwise, game over! We are healthy if we can digest, absorb and eliminate. The key is to move into the parasympathetic state, the pause, as often as possible and to practice until it is toned. It is then that the microbiome can be maintained, the response to food is adequate and our body temples are nourished. Poop is perfect.
It is possible to achieve a state of no brain fog, feeling good in your skin, happy in your head and empowered in your lifestyle. It’s your time to know your poo and own your throne. Join the movement, so we all have improvement.
If you would like to learn more:
1 Löken LS, Wessberg J, Morrison I, McGlone F, Olausson H. Coding of pleasant touch by unmyelinated afferents in humans. Nat Neurosci. 2009 May;12(5):547-8. Epub 2009 Apr 12.
2 Rolls ET, O’Doherty J, Kringelbach ML, Francis S, Bowtell R, McGlone F. Representations of pleasant and painful touch in the human orbitofrontal and cingulate cortices. Cereb Cortex. 2003 Mar;13(3):308-17.
3 Snoek SA, Verstege MI, Boeckxstaens GE, van den Wijngaard RM, de Jonge WJ The enteric nervous system as a regulator of intestinal epithelial barrier function in health and disease. Expert RevGastroenterol Hepatol. 2010 Oct;4(5):637-51.
4 Keita AV, Söderholm JD. The intestinal barrier and its regulation by neuroimmune factors.Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2010 Jul;22(7):718-33. Epub 2010 Apr 9.
5 Kraneveld AD, Rijnierse A, Nijkamp FP, Garssen J.Neuro-immune interactions in inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome: future therapeutic targets. Eur J Pharmacol. 2008 May 13;585(2-3):361-74. Epub 2008 Mar 18.
6 Vieira C et al. .Effect of ricinoleic acid in acute and subchronic experimental models of inflammation. Mediators Inflamm. 2000;9(5):223-8
7 Holm T1, Brøgger-Jensen MR, Johnson L, Kessel L. Glutathione preservation during storage of rat lenses in optisol-GS and castor oil. PLoS One. 2013 Nov 19;8(11):e79620. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0079620. eCollection 2013.
8 Tunaru S1, Althoff TF, Nüsing RM, Diener M, Offermanns S. Castor oil induces laxation and uterus contraction via ricinoleic acid activating prostaglandin EP3 receptors. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Jun 5;109(23):9179-84. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1201627109. Epub 2012 May 21.
9 Arslan GG, Eşer I. An examination of the effect of castor oil packs on constipation in the elderly. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2011 Feb;17(1):58-62. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2010.04.004. Epub 2010 May 18.
10 Badaró MM1, Salles MM1, Leite VMF1, Arruda CNF1, Oliveira VC1, Nascimento CD1, Souza RF1, Paranhos HFO1, Silva-Lovato CH1. Clinical trial for evaluation of Ricinus communis and sodium hypochlorite as denture cleanser. J Appl Oral Sci. 2017 May-Jun;25(3):324-334. doi: 10.1590/1678-7757-2016-0222.
11 Andrade IM1, Andrade KM2, Pisani MX1, Silva-Lovato CH1, de Souza RF1, Paranhos Hde F1. Trial of an experimental castor oil solution for cleaning dentures. Braz Dent J. 2014 Jan-Feb;25(1):43-7.
The information delivered are suggestions and practices from the author. It does not replace the advice of your health care professional. These suggestions are not a recommendation for treatment. Before proceeding with any practice suggested please consult with your health care professional of choice. This content is for educational purposes only.