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Good, Clean Living

No matter how healthily we may live our lives, exposure to toxins is unavoidable, making natural, gentle cleansing programs a necessity.

Throughout history, nearly every recorded culture has, in some form or another, relied upon the natural cleansing power of herbs and other botanicals to remove toxins from the body and restore vibrant health and energy. It is a tradition with roots extending as far back as the ancient Sumerians, and one that has been practiced by the Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Chinese, Europeans, American and Asian Indians.Volume upon volume of ancient and modern text describes the use of laxative herbs, diuretic herbs—even herbs with diaphoretic (sweat-inducing) and bloodpurifying properties to help expel toxins and waste, and promote health, noted Brenda Watson, president and founder of ReNew Life (Palm Harbor, FL).

Peaked?

“I feel that we have somewhat reached a peak on the cleansing products that are offered in the health food industry,” said Ed Jones, CN, the owner of retail store Nutrition World in Chattanooga, TN. “It may stay flat or could drop slightly because the TV commercials for colon cleansing are what really brought this to the attention of the general public, and those commercials are now not having quite the impact as before.

“I do believe that other cleansing areas are poised for potential increase—heavy metals, and cleansing involving removing chemicals from the body—if marketed properly and professionally,” Jones added.

Watson agreed: “The market for cleansing and detox products has declined substantially in the past year in both the natural and mass channels according to SPINS,” she pointed out.“We believe there are many factors that have collectively contributed to this.Besides a struggling economy, there has been a significant decline in advertising dollars fueling the category. The only real growth in the category has been the crossover with products that promote both weight loss and cleansing.”

In addition, bad press about herbal cleansing and detoxification has not helped, Watson added. “Misinformation triggered by a small but nonetheless concerning number of companies that feel the need to go to extremes, making outrageous and misleading claims about colon cleansing—everything from rapid weight loss to curing cancer—have left a lot of consumers feeling apprehensive or even fearful about it, when herbal cleansing is and has been one of the safest and most widely used healing practices for centuries.”

Gaetano Morello, ND, author of Whole Body Cleansing, said the category is being questioned, which is a good thing. “People are probably finding that [some products] aren’t doing what their claims promise. This has been my issue with the whole category, so I am hoping that this pushes manufacturer’s to begin properly addressing this important category.”

Category Trends

Jay Levy, director of sales with Wakunaga of America Co., Ltd. (Mission Viejo, CA), explained that products in this category fall into one of three groups: “detox diet” type products, which are weight-loss products trying to take advantage of the detox growth; detox/internal cleansing supplements containing herbs, fiber or probiotics; and finally products containing antioxidants intended to combat free radicals in the body.

That is true for Good ‘N Natural (Ronkonkoma, NY).Angelica Vrablic, PhD and manager of nutrition research, said that the company’s Açai Daily Cleanse contains 1,000mg of açai and one billion active Lactobacillus acidophilus (at time of manufacture), in addition to psyllium seed husk (1,000mg) and cascara sagrada (25mg).

“Unfortunately, not all detox/cleansing products are equal,” Levy added. “Some may contain harsh ingredients and chemicals intended to jump start a detox program, but may be dangerous to the body. Others are labeled as detox but are liquid- type diets intended for rapid weight loss by reducing or controlling calories— but none of these really provide any detox for the body.”

Levy also noted that there is a growing trend to supply the body with specific nutrients designed to enhance the body’s own detoxification capabilities. These include antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E, selenium, proanthocyanidins, superfruits, green tea and L-glutathione, as well as milk thistle to enhance healthy liver function.“Milk thistle contains silymarin which helps increase the liver’s ability to detoxify a wide range of hormones, drugs and chemicals,” Levy said. “This is an effective way to help the body remove toxins and it is much gentler than either liquid detoxification diets or detox supplements designed to accelerate waste removal or reduce weight.”

In addition, fiber and probiotic supplements are a growing trend to cleanse the GI tract, notably the colon, and also replenish the intestines with friendly bacteria. Probiotics are one defense against foreign invaders (pathogens, toxins, etc.), providing different mechanisms for protection such as helping to break down or prevent absorption of a toxin.

Sunil Kohli, COO with the Chino, Cabased Health Plus Inc., explained cleansing another way. “There is a difference between ‘internal cleansing’ and ‘detox,’” he said. “The former focuses on helping the colon get rid of fecal matter, while the latter has to do with cleansing of organs, such as the kidneys or liver, and fluids, such as blood and lymph. This gives rise to the issue that most consumers don’t know the difference and still operate under the assumption that these are synonymous terms.Retailers can do a great service by clearly defining the two.”

Kohli added that there seems to be a shift from harsh periodic cleanses to the idea that internal cleansing should be a daily habit, thereby preventing buildup of toxins and fecal matter in the lower GI in the first place. “We agree with this premise,” he said.

Why Cleanse?

Today’s environment is extraordinarily toxic, agreed the manufacturers. Just a few of the significant toxins include pesticides, herbicides, toxic metals, xenoestrogens in plastics, hormones in the food supply, preservatives and artificial colors, flavorings and sweeteners, noted Jack Grogan, CN, CSO with Uckele Health & Nutrition (Blissfield, MI). “Over time, the organ systems of the body that are naturally responsible for healthy toxic processing and elimination become overworked and inefficient, causing toxins to accumulate and increase in the tissues. This can eventually interfere with the optimal functioning of our organ systems, hormone balance and detoxification rate, and lead to a lowered immune system and resistance to disease.”

Quality of life is affected as these chemicals overburden our bodies— that we are no longer able to process or eliminate without help, Grogan added. “The need for detoxification becomes even more pronounced with the stress of fast-paced, modern life; eating on the run, skipping meals, commutes to and from work, the overuse of stimulants and alcohol, too little sleep or rest and the constant activity in this age of instant, high-tech communications.”

Detoxification is a natural, everyday process of the body that includes breathing, sweating, elimination and filtration by the liver, kidneys and lymphatic.“In this toxic world, however, this natural process can easily become overwhelmed, forcing the body to store toxins it can no longer process in the cells, mucus and fat,” added Mike Uckele, CN, Uckele president and CEO.“Unless we periodically help our bodies by internally cleansing, this accumulation can lead to a toxic overload, resulting in fatigue, headaches, digestive disorders, weight gain, irritability, aches and pains, and diminished immune function.”

While some may argue that the body’s systems can cleanse themselves on their own, “Our ancestors didn’t live with over exposure to radiation, mercury, hydrocarbons, pesticides and more,” noted Julie Dennis, national science educator with the Scotts Valley, Cabased Threshold Enterprises, Ltd., distributor of Source Naturals and Planetary Herbals products. “In fact, emissions reported to the federal government account for only an estimated five percent of all chemical releases in the country—basically, as much as 24 billion pounds of chemicals are being released annually in the United States alone. One thing we can do to help give our bodies a fighting chance against this toxic load is to periodically detox with targeted, gentle cleanses.”

Best Methods

Manufacturers also agree that most everyone can benefit from a regular cleansing and detox regimen two to four times a year. They also recommend consulting a health care practitioner before beginning any cleanse or detox program, especially if there is an existing medical condition or if the person is taking medication.Cleansing and detox are not recommended for infants, women who are pregnant or women who are breastfeeding.

However, schools of thought on how to go about the cleansing process vary by company. ReNew Life said it is best to start a cleansing/detox program at half strength to allow the body to adjust to the individual formula as well as the overall cleansing process. As a result of this strategy, the company’s products are formulated to make this as simple as possible. ReNew Life formulates its Cleansing and detox products so that a person can eat normally while cleansing.“We recommend this over fasting or juice-only diets, as this allows an individual to effectively cleanse the body without stopping his or her normal daily activities or feeling the need to rush to the bathroom all day,” said Watson. “We also offer milder total-body cleansing formulas for those who have never cleansed before, such as our First Cleanse whole-herb formula.”

Another way to get daily detoxification is by consuming at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, or by taking superfruit supplements, said Wakunaga’s Levy. “Kyo-Red for, example, is an antioxidant-rich, superfruit mix powder with a refreshing blend of nutritious berries and exotic fruits including açai, pomegranate, cranberry and other tropical fruits.Kyo-Red is rich in vitamin C and provides a superior 5,000 ORAC blast of antioxidants in one daily serving,” he added.

In addition, supplementing with a shelf-stable probiotic is another way to fortify the balance of good bacteria in the body, as internal flora helps boost the immune system and defend against pathogens and toxins, Levy added.

Maintaining a sense of humor while selling these products doesn’t hurt, according to Health Plus, which provides promotional products for retailers such as its famously funny “Shit Happens” T-shirts and “Poo Meters.” “We also offer beautiful, jewel-toned water bottles that are perfect for our flavored Colon Cleanse powders,” Kohli said.

“We believe that proper internal cleansing is the fundamental key to good health and well-being, and this should be a prominent category,” he added. “Make up quick-and-easy signage detailing the differences between internal cleansing and detox products.Customers will choose what they feel they need most.”

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