Natural Health for African Americans : The Physicians' Guide (Physicians' Guide to Healing)
By Marcellus A. Walker, M.D., L.Ac.
When most people first learn about natural medicine, they get very excited about what they put into their bodies. Then, the more they understand about healing and wholeness, the more they realize that what comes out of their bodies is just as important as what goes in.
Detoxification involves cleansing the body of the harmful toxins that can cause many health problems, especially chronic degenerative diseases. Cleansing and the elimination of toxins are more important today than ever before, since we are exposed to many more chemicals and pollutants than we had been in the past. In addition, we voluntarily ingest many refined foods and sugars, as well as alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and other substances that have toxic effects on the body.
Detoxification is particularly important to African Americans because we are exposed to more toxins than people of other races. We encounter pollutants and harmful chemicals on the job, in our communities, and even in our homes. A 1992 report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded that African Americans and other people of color suffer disproportionately from exposure to dust, soot, carbon monoxide, ozone, sulfur, sulfur dioxide, lead, and emissions from hazardous-waste dumps.
We cannot poison our bodies and not expect to suffer a decline in overall health. The consequences of our toxic exposure include a higher incidence of cancer, cardiovascular disease, allergies, obesity, arthritis, and problems associated with a weakened immune system. African Americans tend to be exposed to more toxins than people of other races, which may help to account for our high rate of illness and premature death.
Fortunately, we can purify our bodies and begin a more healthful approach to life by engaging in a detoxification program. Detoxification gives our digestive organs a chance to rest, even if only for a day or two. The liver, kidneys, and gallbladder can better perform their vital functions when periodically given an opportunity for a little rest and relaxation.
Periodic cleansing can be used to improve health, treat disease, and prevent illness, in addition to stimulating creativity, spirituality, productivity', and mental clarity'. While it can be difficult to make life-sustaining changes in our diet and health habits, detoxification can be an important first step toward a healthier way of life.
The Truth about Toxins
We can't avoid them: We are exposed to toxins with every breath we take, with every bite we eat, with every drink we swallow. And, as if that weren't enough, our bodies produce additional toxins and wastes as byproducts of daily living. Our bodies chum out damaging free radicals as part of the normal metabolic process; naturally occurring bacteria and yeasts release toxins that can cause damage to the cells and cause health problems. Even mental stress and negative emotions can result in biochemical toxicity.
These toxic assaults can irritate or inflame the cells and tissues, making efficient elimination of toxins essential for good health. The potential damage of a toxic exposure depends on the amount, frequency, and potency of the toxin. Some toxins have immediate health-threatening effects, such as side effects caused by exposure to certain drugs or pesticides. Other toxins can build up in the body and cause a gradual decline in overall health in much the same way that exposure to saturated fats contributes to cardiovascular disease.
In large measure, our overall health depends on our body's ability to neutralize or eliminate these toxins. Our bodies do it all the time: The antioxidants in foods and supplements help to neutralize toxic free radicals; the liver filters out and alters substances that poison the body and releases them through the gastrointestinal tract; and the kidneys wash waste products out of the body via the urinary system. Even perspiration-whether caused by a jog around the block or a ten-minute session in a steamy sauna-helps release toxins from the body through the skin. Toxins can also be released through the sinuses and mucus membranes and for women through their menstrual cycle.
Of course, healthy bodies can handle exposures to many everyday toxins, but many people find that they can improve their health by periodically helping the body cleanse and detoxify itself. This is especially important for people exposed to daily emotional stress and those who challenge their systems by eating a diet that is high in saturated or animal fat, sugars, and refined flours. By following a program of detoxification, you can help your body eliminate the toxins that compromise your health.
Detoxify Your Mind
Before we discuss the importance of a nontoxic diet to purify the body, we must mention the importance of mental detoxification to purify the mind and spirit. We can improve our energy and outlook on life by cleansing the body of negative emotions and by focusing on forgiveness and healing rather than resentment and revenge. In many cases, the physical detoxification of the body can reinforce the mental detoxification of the spirit-just as purifying the mind can speed healing of the body and improve overall health.
This mind-body link was well known to our African ancestors. It was common practice for African medicine men or shamans to use drumming, fasting, and sweat baths as part of their healing process. Fasting not only detoxified the body, but it also helped to induce states of inspiration and to bring forth mystical experiences for the fasting tribal member.
While short-term periods of detoxification-several days to a week-can help improve your health and mood, longer-term or repeated detoxification sessions can help transform your life. Physically, detoxification can clear congestion and prevent disease, and emotionally, it can allow us to experience spiritual transformation and clarity of purpose in our lives. After detox, the body and spirit have been cleansed and made more open to the experience of love and hope and more prepared to replace negative lifestyle and eating habits with healthier ones.