Since ancient times, people have tried various ways to cleanse their body of poisons, something we now call detoxification. If you're feeling congested, stressed or run down, it might be time for a little spring "cleansing."
These days, "detox" generally refers to breaking an alcohol or drug addiction. But you can also choose from popular, but controversial detox diets, including a maple syrup and lemonade combination, the raw food only diet, the fruit flush three-day detox, and the green smoothie fasting and detox diet.
A local researcher is looking at another way to detox that involves heat.
"What I'm proposing is a little more aggressive protocol, it's like spring cleaning," said Jason Allen, a faculty researcher and naturaopathic doctor at Bastyr University in Kenmore. "Would we do it once a year? I don't know."
Allen is recruiting participants for a study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, to understand how heat, in the form of sauna treatments, can help cleanse the body of poisons.
"Products are out there that slowly degrade in the environment and accumulate in humans, particularly in fat. So in this study, we picked one chemical that's detectable in 100 percent of the human population, in fact 100 percent of the mammalian population, and those are PCBs, polychlorinated biphenyls.
PCBs were largely banned in the 1970s, but can remain in the environment for decades.
Allen says we're living in a chemical soup and claims there are more than 80,000 registered chemicals in widespread use in manufacturing.
"We can't even test for them and so we have a system where we don't use the precautionary principle. We allow industry to put chemicals on the market and assume they're safe until we see the damage that's being done," said Allen. He uses the example of lead in gasoline.
Allen is interested in the link between environmental poisons and disease. "For every major, chronic, degenerative disease that Americans are suffering from at epidemic levels, be it pain, cardio-vascular disease, cancer, infertility, diabetes, autism, there are strong associations with environmental chemicals," said Allen. "And don't misquote me here, I'm not saying they're causative, (that) if you take this out, you'll cure all these conditions."
Allen concedes detoxification is not for everybody. He says the impact of chemicals on your body is part hereditary, part environmental.
"The former director of the E.P.A. said that the genes load the gun, but the environment pulls the trigger and the environment is the blueberries you do or don't put on your oatmeal in the morning, as opposed to bacon, or the once-a-year sauna-based detox."
You can use exercise, diet, nutrients, statins, and fiber to rid the body of fat that stores chemicals. But Allen says there's a lack of scientific data on his main question: "Is there an effective way we can assist the body in removing toxins in a safe manner?"