August 27, 2008

An Inner Cleansing

By Emma D. Sapong

The medication Tammy Skomski's doctor prescribed wasn't doing much. She was still suffering from persistent headaches, dizziness, numbness and tingling in her extremities. After months of the mysterious symptoms, she realized she was misdiagnosed.

"They weren't trying to figure out why I was getting all those symptoms," Skomski said. "I was just really tired."

So she turned to alternative medicine and ended up on a rigorous, 28-day body detoxification diet.

"I feel great, a lot of my symptoms have gone away -- the headaches, the lightheadedness," said the 33-year-old from Lockport. "I had more energy, and throughout the whole thing, I lost 17 pounds."

Skomski's results have made her a believer in organ cleansing diets, and she plans to do another one soon.

She's not alone.

Body cleansing, or detoxification, is a health ritual for many. It is a special diet or supplement regimen, done for days or weeks, specifically to flush out toxins found in food and the environment from the digestive system and organs. There are many different approaches to body cleansing -- from fresh and whole food diets to caloric restrictions to liquid fasting or daily supplements.

"When you have a lot of toxins in your body it creates a situation where it's hard for your body to function the way it should," said Linda Ann Taylor, a nurse practitioner who runs Natural Harmony Holistic Health in Williamsville, where she treats Skomski and other patients.

Taylor said these strict diets help release toxins caused by environmental pollution, pesticides on food, secondhand smoke and contaminated water.

Brenda Watson, a national digestive health expert and owner of ReNew Life, makers of the top-selling body cleansing line of herbal products, said cleansing can improve overall health.

"People report having more energy and clarity in their thoughts," said Watson. "Their skin clears up and some lose weight." Watson, who is also a best-selling author, recommends a couple cleanses a year, and sometimes a third during the holiday season.

Conventional health experts, however, say these detoxification regimens are totally unnecessary and could cause serious damage to the colon and other organs by stripping them of much-needed water and good bacteria.

"The body does a pretty good job of detoxification or cleansing on its own," said Dr. James Corasanti, a gastroenterologist with the Buffalo Medical Group. He said the products sometimes associated with body cleansing are not approved by the FDA, so their contents could be suspect since "they are not tightly regulated." Also, some of the herbs in the supplements can cause severe diarrhea, leading to dehydration, Corasanti said.

"People try lots of things to make themselves feel better, but many of these diets and supplements are not based in scientific facts," he said.

>'What a difference'

But for many the increased vitality they feel is enough proof.

"I felt amazing," Buffalo resident Stuart Fuchs, 36, said of his first detoxification diet. "I got rid of a lot toxins in my body; I was happier and more relaxed."

Fuchs was doing yoga, eating organic foods and then he decided to try a colon cleanse to further improve his overall health. For five weeks his diet was strictly water, herbs, fruit and raw vegetables.

Gina Lachowski tried intestinal and liver cleansing supplements after a relative was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She wanted to rid her body of carcinogens.

"What a difference it made in my everything," the 47-year-old said. "I had a tremendous amount of energy. I was regular and no longer bloated."

Corasanti said an increased number of patients have asked him about detoxification methods. He believes these diets are becoming more popular because of the Internet and new products.

Detoxification diets are a big part of treatment at Taylor's alternative medicine practice.

She sees patients who suffer from hormone imbalances, weight management problems, thyroid issues, depression and other ailments. But no matter what troubles them, a body cleansing is the first step in treatment, after they take a health quiz, she said.

"It helps me decide how to treat them," said Taylor, who has run Natural Harmony Holistic Health for three years. "Mood swings, bloating, gas, muscle and joint pains could all indicate you need to detox."

Depending on the severity of the ailment or how high they score, Taylor's patients undergo the detoxification for 10 to 28 days. She prescribes a combination of herbal products and eliminating certain foods from the diet.

And after the detox, her patients, like Skomski, report their symptoms subside or disappear all together, Taylor said.

"If they had 10 symptoms, they have three after the detox," she said. "A lot of the things that were bothering them are not issues anymore."

>Natural release

Many of these diets can be concocted at home, such as the popular Master Cleanse, a lemon-juice-maple-syrup mixture, or a product line, such as ReNew Life, bought packaged primarily in health food stores.

Fuchs said he has found that drinking fresh lemon juice in the morning and water throughout the day will do the trick in releasing toxins.

"Our bodies are always trying to cleanse the organs," he said. "We just have to stop the import of more toxins -- the foods and substances -- to give the body time to catch up."

But to healthily aid the body in its natural cleansing, Corasanti said a diet high in fiber and low in fat is all that's needed, which will improve regularity and overall health.

Lachowski said she doesn't know the long-term benefits of detoxification but the results are worth the twice a year commitment.

"I don't know if it makes me live longer but I sure feel better," she said.

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Originally published by NEWS STAFF REPORTER.

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