Your body, by its very nature takes in oxygen, food, and minerals, uses them in chemical reactions and then expels the waste products. This is the metabolic process that fuels all living beings. In performing this literally life-giving process your body takes in things it doesn’t use, doesn’t need, and in some cases things that are actually harmful to it. The sooner these toxic substances are expelled the better off you will be. A metabolic cleanse or a cellular detox can help to speed the removal of these toxins from your system.

In this excerpt from the book, Real Cause, Real Cure by Jacob Teitelbaum MD and Bill Gottlieb CHC the doctors talk about your body’s need to expel metabolic byproducts and toxins, how to conduct a metabolic cleanse, and some methods that may speed up the detoxification process.

Cellular Toxicity

It’s a basic and natural part of the process of being alive: You take in what you need, and you get rid of what you don’t.

You take in oxygen and get rid of carbon monoxide. You take in food and get rid of feces. You take in water and get rid of urine. And for the most part, what you get rid of are toxins, stuff that your body can’t use and that can cause disease if it hangs around and damages cells.

Toxins include formerly good stuff (such as hormones) that has done its job and been broken down for disposal, and bad stuff (such as pollutants and pesticides) that in an ideal world wouldn’t have ended up in your body in the first place.

Detoxification 101

The body detoxifies in a couple of different ways.

The liver. This football-size organ sits under your ribs on the right side of your abdomen. If it suddenly stopped working, you’d be dead in a day. Among its many metabolic chores, the liver detoxifies, using what are called phase I and phase II detoxification pathways. In phase I, liver enzymes (proteins that spark biochemical activity) dismantle toxins. In phase II, the liver shunts the tidied toxins into various channels of chemical action for disposal through the kidneys (in the form of urine) or the bile (via the feces). Speaking of which…

Bile. From Hippocrates in ancient Greece to the physicians of the 19th century, Western doctors thought health was determined by a balance of four “humors.” Two of the four were bile—yellow and black—and one idea was that too much bile could make you ill-tempered or depressed. Well, it’s hard not to regard bile as a bit vile. The liver produces the brown fluid and then deposits toxins in it, like a chemical company dumping waste into a stream. The bile is stored in the gallbladder and then squirted into the intestinal tract, where it performs double duty: disposing of those toxins via the feces and breaking down fats for absorption.

Urine. Among their many tasks, the kidneys filter blood, removing toxins to the urine for disposal. The kidneys also rid the body of excess urea and other toxins produced by normal metabolism.

Sweat. Your skin has millions of sweat glands, which squeeze out sweat to not only cool the body but also to send toxins on their way.

Breathing. This moment-to-moment process is the epitome of natural detoxification. You inhale life-giving oxygen and exhale a poisonous gas. And breathing demonstrates another basic fact about detoxification: The body does it automatically. No worries!

But modern life has added some plot twists to that simple story.

The Toxic 21st

Creative chemists have cooked up more than 80,000 synthetic compounds that industry enthusiastically employs—and that end up polluting our environment.

A good example is the polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. This nearly indestructible class of chemicals are perfect conductors, and are widely used as coolants and insulators in the generation and flow of electricity. Unfortunately, PCBs are as toxic as they are handy: They can damage the skin, liver, immune system, and reproductive system. And at this point in human history, there’s nowhere on Earth that PCBs are not. You can find them in the soil in New York’s Central Park, in the ice cap at the North Pole, and in your body fat.

But in spite of the presence of PCBs and those 80,000-or-so other chemicals that are dumped into our environment, I’m in favor of the attitude expressed in the slogan made famous by the bestselling (and very humorous) book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

Don’t Panic!

There has never been a time on Earth when we humans didn’t have to deal with a set of pressing problems. But in my experience, problems come packaged with their solutions. The healthiest approach does not include fearfully focusing on the problem. (That fearful state is itself a toxin for the body and mind.) Instead, ask yourself this problem-solving question: How can I support my body in its natural process of eliminating the toxins that are an inevitable part of 21st-century life?

Good news, fellow Earthlings: There are many easy ways to do just that.

If You Can’t Read It, Don’t Eat It

I used to give a yearly lecture on nutrition to third-graders in a local school. And at least one of my recommendations to those kids is relevant for everybody, from kindergarteners to postdocs to AARP members…If you can’t read it, don’t eat it.

You know what I’m talking about: ingredients on food labels that are virtually unreadable, such as…

  • Butylated hydroxytoluene (the preservative BHT)
  • Sodium stearoyl lactylate (a “whipping agent” that whips white bread into fluffier shapes)
  • 2-methoxyacetophenone (a flavoring favorite, in everything from frostings to fried chicken)
  • Acetaldehyde phenethyl propyl acetal (a “fruit” flavoring found in ice cream, candy, cookies, and sodas)
  • 2-hexyl-S-keto-1,4-dioxane (tastes like cream)

These are just a few examples of the literally thousands of lab-concocted chemical additives used to process, preserve, and flavor our food. I don’t think I need to do much more convincing on this point, because not eating a lot of food with ingredients you can’t even read is common sense. Why barrage your body with toxic chemicals if you don’t have to?

So, if it’s not exactly a food—if it’s a food like substance of some kind—put it back on the shelf. Even if you can read the ingredients, you should still ask yourself these kinds of questions: Does it contain blueberries, or is it just blue? Is it naturally tasty, or has some clever food chemist conned me? If it wasn’t propped up by preservatives, would it be rotting on the shelf right now?

Sum it up in this way: Choose whole foods whenever you can! At breakfast, sprinkle some strawberries, blueberries, or banana slices on whole grain, low-sugar oatmeal or cereal (such as Life or Cheerios). At lunch, have a tuna salad sandwich on whole grain bread, with a green salad and tomatoes. At dinner, enjoy a side dish of steamed vegetables with butter. After all, it’s easy to pronounce banana and tuna and lettuce and peas…

Supplementing Detoxification

Various aspects of phase II liver detoxification require specific nutritional compounds to do their work. For example, glutathione—a protein-like antioxidant—is a must for detoxifying various pharmaceutical drugs, a wide range of pollutants, alcohol, and fungus found in food. To make glutathione, your body needs three key amino acids (components of protein): glycine, cysteine, and glutamine, along with vitamin C.

How can you make sure you’re getting those nutrients? The multivitamin/mineral supplement I formulated—the Energy Revitalization System powder—supplies all those amino acids, vitamin C, and many other nutrients that support detoxification. It’s one of the easiest ways to purify! Another good multivitamin mineral is Clinical Essentials, from Terry Naturally.

Drink Up!

Water plays a key role in daily detoxification. In fact, drinking enough water is probably the best action you can take to support your kidneys as they clean up your blood.

Water is also a key part of daily nutrition—a beverage that is as essential for your body as essential fatty acids, essential amino acids, and other basics that your body doesn’t make on its own and that you must regularly consume. For example (and what follows is a very short list of functions), water is critical for energy production, protects your DNA, transports compounds around the body, and is the solvent that helps the body break food into nutrients.

Is Acid Raining on Your Health’s Parade?

To stay alive, the body monitors and maintains a delicate balance between two basic types of compounds: alkalies and acids. Your cells prefer a slightly alkaline environment, but metabolic activities (from breathing to digesting) generate acids. To keep the pH value on the alkaline side, just above 7, the body detoxifies itself of the acids it’s constantly producing, via the kidneys, skin, and lungs. But many Americans suffer from an internal environment that is too acidic, a condition called chronic low-grade metabolic acidosis. That’s because so many factors of modern life raise the body’s acidity, such as…

  • Too few alkalinizing vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds in the diet
  • Too much acidifying meat, sugar, white flour, and other refined grains in the diet
  • Too much acidifying alcohol and coffee in the diet

Maybe you noticed a trend here, as in diet, diet, and diet? That diet-generated excess acid can play a role in causing and complicating a lot of health problems, including…

Osteoporosis (as alkaline minerals are pulled out of bones to counter the acidity)

High blood pressure (as pressure-lowering alkaline minerals such as potassium and magnesium are depleted)

Urinary and bladder problems (the bladder and urinary tract are irritated by the excess acid)

Kidney stones (which form more easily in an acidic environment)

Dysbiosis (the imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the colon, with bad bacteria thriving in an acidic setting)

Gum disease and dental decay (acids eat away at teeth and gums)

Rapid aging (because cells don’t thrive in an acidic environment)

You might also have weaker immunity, fatigue, and chronic inflammation. In other words, excess acid burns your health! But as with most toxins, acid is surprisingly easy to neutralize.

Two smart tips: Eat more alkalinizing fresh vegetables and fruits; and when you drink water (an important detoxification method that we’ll discuss in a second), add a slice of lemon—that extra acid paradoxically works to make bodily fluids more alkaline!

To see whether your system is alkaline or acid, measure the pH of your saliva or urine first thing in the morning using a strip of pH paper. Simple instructions come with the test strips, which you can purchase at and in many other online and retail stores.

The Importance of Pure Water

All tap water is not created equal. It can come from surface water (a river, lake, or reservoir), groundwater (an underground aquifer), or a well. It might be filtered by your municipality, or it might not. (Cities with so-called protected watersheds, such as New York and San Francisco, don’t filter their water.) And as the New York Times reported in a series of articles called “Toxic Waters,” it’s very likely your tap water is filled with toxins. Consider these facts uncovered by the reporters and confirmed for us by Robert Morris, MD, PhD, an expert on drinking water and health, a visiting scholar at the University of Washington School of Public Health, and author of The Blue Death: The Intriguing Past and Present Danger of the Water You Drink.

  • During the past decade, an estimated 63 million Americans have been exposed to drinking water that didn’t meet governmental health guidelines.
  • Contaminated drinking water sickens more than about 7.2 million Americans annually (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)—illnesses range from digestive upset to cancer.
  • The Safe Drinking Water Act regulates 91 chemicals, but there are more than 60,000 chemicals in our drinking water.

You probably figure your local water treatment plant is protecting you from those chemicals and other contaminants. Don’t count on it. Like the federal and state governments, local governments are hard-pressed to find funds to maintain and repair aging infrastructure. Treatment plants—and the pipes that bring tap water to your house—are getting on in years, putting you at risk. What are some of the toxins that might be sneaking into your drinking water?

  • Disease-causing germs, such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, and viruses
  • Metals and minerals, such as lead and arsenic (Flint, Michigan, and Newark, New Jersey, are two glaring examples of cities where drinking water was and is polluted by lead)
  • Agricultural chemicals, such as fertilizers and pesticides
  • Industrial chemicals linked to cancer, such as the gasoline additive MTBE (methyl tert- butyl ether)
  • Chlorine by-products—probably the most toxic of all—generated in the process of purifying water
  • Pharmaceutical drugs. Yes, our drinking water is dosed with prescription drugs. A study by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Associated Press national investigation team showed that the drinking water of at least 46 million Americans contains traces of drugs for pain, infection, heart disease, high cholesterol, asthma, depression, and hormonal problems—a pharmacopoeia of pollutants from drug residue in urine and old drugs flushed down the toilet.

Knowing about the pollutants in tap water, perhaps you’ve decided to drink bottled water instead. Surveys show that more than half of us Americans think bottled water is safer and healthier than tap water, and we back up our opinion by drinking more than 14 billion gallons a year, or more than 40 gallons per person. But research shows that some of those bottles are contaminated with one of the chemicals used to produce them: bisphenol A (BPA), which studies link to poorer brain development and behavior problems in children, and reproductive problems in adults. (Although a lot of bottled water companies now offer BPA-free bottles, these bottles often contain a similar chemical—BPS, or bisphenol S—that may be just as harmful.)

A study published in the journal Human Reproduction linked male occupational exposure to BPA to a four-times-greater risk of erectile dysfunction, a seven-times-greater risk of ejaculation difficulty, a three-times-greater risk of reduced sexual desire, and a four-times-greater risk of “reduced satisfaction with sex life.” The study also found the higher the exposure to BPA, the greater the risk of sexual difficulties—and the risk started to climb after only one year of BPA exposure.

Have you been exposed to BPA or BPS? Probably. A study by the government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 93 percent of those tested had detectable amounts of BPA in their bodies. Another study showed that 80 percent of participants had detectable BPS.

It’s not only the bottle that puts you at risk. Bottled water is sometimes less safe than tap water, according to tests conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). “The bottled water industry is not required to disclose the results of any contaminant testing that it conducts,” they said in a report. “Our tests strongly indicate the purity of bottled water cannot be trusted.” (By the way, the EWG says the cities with the cleanest tap water include Boston, Honolulu, St. Louis, Minneapolis, and Austin. Cities at the bottom of the list include San Diego, Houston, Reno, Las Vegas, and Omaha.) I favor filtered tap water. Problem is, a lot of home filters don’t work all that well. The most reliable types have either solid carbon block filters and/or reverse osmosis filters. A solid carbon block filter works by doing what its name says: The carbon blocks the contaminants. Reverse osmosis works in a different way, by applying pressure to the water and literally squeezing out the toxins.

I’ve found that the company Multipure makes excellent home water filters, which you can easily install at the faucet or below the sink. For more information, see

Having said all this, it’s also important to say that drinking tap water or bottled water is far better than being dehydrated.

But remember: Expensive is not superior. Over time, we will be much better off for having been weaned off disposable plastic bottles.

Sweat It Out in a Sauna

Sweating for health is a worldwide tradition. In Ayurveda, the ancient natural healing system of India, sweating therapy is one of the methods of detoxification. The ancient Slavic (Russian) tribes used a sauna-like structure called a banya. For millennia, Native Americans have used sweat lodges for physical purification and ceremonies to contact and receive direction from spirit ancestors. The Turkish hammam—a steam bath—was often attached to mosques as a place of purification. And the Finns, of course, have made the sauna famous worldwide.

All these traditions have one thing in common: They cause you to sweat, detoxifying through the skin. I think regular “sweat therapy” is a great way to aid detoxification, and a lot of scientists agree with me. Here are some studies on sweating therapy and health…

•Type 2 diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes who took 20-minute saunas three times a week, for three months, had an improvement in their health and well-being, reported Canadian researchers in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

•Heart failure and peripheral artery disease. Japanese researchers reviewed the benefits of Waon therapy, or “soothing warm therapy” (a type of Japanese sauna in which temperatures are kept at about 140°F, compared to a typical sauna, with temperatures ranging from 160° to 190°F). They noted that it helps patients with congestive heart failure and with peripheral artery disease, or PAD (clogged arteries in the legs, with painful walking). In patients with heart failure, it can increase circulation, normalize heart rhythm, and improve symptoms. In patients with PAD, it improves circulation, decreases pain, and speeds the healing of leg ulcers (a common symptom).

•High blood pressure. In a review of the health benefits of far infrared saunas, Canadian researchers note that these saunas have been shown to lower high blood pressure and improve congestive heart failure, as well as possibly easing chronic pain and aiding weight loss.

•Rheumatoid arthritis. Seven people with rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disease that attacks and inflames the joints) took two far infrared saunas a week for four weeks. At the end of the study, they had less pain, stiffness, and fatigue, reported Dutch researchers in the medical journal Clinical Rheumatology.

•Emotional well-being. In a study of 45 people, mood was measured before and after a sauna. Afterward, the participants had less anxiety, depression, and anger, reported Japanese researchers in the journal Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice.

•Healthy skin. People who regularly use saunas have stronger and moister skin than people who don’t, found German researchers.

•Fibromyalgia. In a study published in the journal Internal Medicine, Japanese researchers found that 10 treatments with Waon therapy improved the painful symptoms of fibromyalgia (near-constant muscle pain, usually all over the body) by as much as 78 percent.

•Chronic fatigue syndrome. Japanese researchers treated 11 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome—severe, unrelenting fatigue—with far infrared sauna therapy. Symptoms improved in all 11 patients, including two for whom fatigue levels “dramatically improved.” The patients also felt more relaxed and had better appetites and less depression.

Speed Up Transit Time

To make a particular point, we’d like to start this section with a rather unappetizing description (repeated from our Digestive Difficulties chapter). Imagine chewing up a hamburger and then putting it out in the sun on a 98.6°F sidewalk. After about three days, that hamburger would be toxic—so gnarly that most animals wouldn’t even eat it, except for vultures. And you certainly wouldn’t want it in your body.

Sauna Suggestions

A couple of tips will help make your sauna experience optimally effective and pleasant.

  • Don’t overdo. As with exercise, many people try to do too much too fast. Start with a lower temperature (about 115° F) and gradually work your way up (a max of 135° F), from sauna to sauna. Start out with a sauna of only a few minutes, lengthening the time as you feel comfortable.
  • Listen to your body. Your body tells you whether something is good for you or not. If your body feels good, the experience is probably good for you. If you’re feeling lightheaded or otherwise strained in a sauna, it’s time to come out.
  • To prevent dehydration, take drinking water into the sauna with you and sip throughout.
  • Rinse off after the sauna so that the toxins won’t be reabsorbed.

For home use, I favor far infrared saunas from High Tech Health. Far infrared rays warm up the sauna without the need for moisture, so the air is warm and dry, as compared with the humid air found in traditional saunas. You can find more information about these saunas at the website

If you don’t have space for a home sauna, or it’s too expensive, you can use a sauna at a local health club, gym, or Y. For the same purification benefits without a sauna, look to any activity that makes you sweat, such as a brisk walk or any other type of body-heating workout. However you build up a sweat, it helps to rinse off soon after, to wash toxins in the sweat off your skin and down the drain.

For relaxation (but not purification), a hot shower or bath can have the same benefits as a sauna. Throw a cup of Epsom salts in the bath to relax your muscles even more.

But that rotting hamburger might be in your body right now if you have slow transit time. Transit time is the term for the hours and days it takes for a meal to move from mouth to rec tum—the transit from one end of your digestive tract to the other. A healthy transit time is about one day, although conventional docs assert that three days is fine. (They can join the vultures eating that hamburger on the sidewalk.)

Faster than 12 hours, and your body doesn’t have enough time to pull all the nutrients out of the food. Slower than 24 hours, and the digesting food starts to turn toxic—and those loitering toxins are reabsorbed into your system, causing and contributing to disease.

In a landmark study a couple of decades ago, the late Denis Burkitt, MD—the first scientific champion of high-fiber diets—compared the transit times of Africans who lived in cities and ate a typical low-fiber Western diet with the transit times of Africans who lived in rural areas and ate a high-fiber diet. He found that the Africans in the cities had transit times that were four times slower. They also had more heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, obesity, gallstones, hem orrhoids, and varicose veins.

To discover your personal transit time, eat some corn-on-the-cob or a can of corn. The yellow outer hulls are indigestible and will show up in your stool. The time from eating the corn to a hull-containing bowel movement is your transit time.

Advanced Detoxification

Some diseases, such as cancer, may require intense detoxification. Holistic-minded practitioners have devised techniques to help with this process, such as a gallbladder flush (a treatment in which you drink a combination of apple juice, Epsom salts, olive oil, and lemon juice to cleanse the gallbladder) and coffee enemas (yes, an enema with coffee, which quickly delivers compounds directly into the digestive tract that stimulate the liver to release toxins).

Another intensive type of detoxification—used anciently for physical, mental, and emotional purification—is fasting, in which you only drink fluids rather than eat. Fasting can vary in intensity (from water-only to liberal use of vegetable and fruit juices) and in length (from one day to several weeks). If you decide to undergo any form of intensive detoxification, I recommend doing so only under the guidance and supervision of a qualified health practitioner experienced in the method, such as a naturopathic physician.

If it’s slower than a day, here are a few tips to help you speed it up.

•Eat more fiber. Eating more whole grains—rich in the fiber that bulks up stool—is probably the easiest way to speed up transit time. Have whole grain cereal every morning for breakfast—oatmeal, Cheerios and Life cereal are tasty, low-sugar choices. Add a slice or two of whole grain toast, and you’ll have the transit time of your life! Five or so servings of vegetables and fruits help contribute fiber, too.

•Take magnesium. Magnesium is a must for healthy muscles and nerves, including those responsible for peristalsis, the rhythmic muscle contractions that move food through the digestive tract. But more than half of Americans don’t get the RDA for the mineral. The suggested daily amount for adults is 400 to 420 milligrams daily for men and 310 to 320 milligrams for women. The upper limit for supplements is 350 milligrams. Magnesium-rich foods include black beans, pumpkin seeds, cooked spinach, and halibut.

•Drink more water. Without enough water, your stools tend to be small and hard, slowing transit time. Follow earlier recommendations in this chapter to know if you need to drink more.

•Take vitamin C. Vitamin C attracts water into the colon, softening stool and helping speed transit time. Between 500 milligrams and 1,000 milligrams a day is a good level for most people.

•Optimize thyroid function. An underactive thyroid slows down everything in the body, including transit time.

•Exercise regularly. It provides a kind of internal massage to the intestinal tract that can speed transit time. Move your feet and you’ll move your bowels.

For more ways to fix root causes of common health problems, purchase Real Cause, Real Cure from

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