Do you know why cattle raised industrially, either for meat or for dairy, need to be on various drugs and antibiotics? Because they’re sick. Do you know why they’re all sick with viruses, bacteria, infections, tendonitis, chronic inflammation, arthritis, atherosclerosis, diabetes and cancer? (sounds familiar?) Because their intestines are chronically acidic. Do you know why their intestines are chronically acidic? Because they are fed a high-carbohydrate diet based on corn.
Do most people know this? No, they don’t. But is this a well-known problem in the industry? Of course. Is the cause of this problem also well-know? Of course it is. Industrial veterinarians say so themselves: “If these animals grazed on grass, we would be out of our jobs!” (from The Omnivore’s Dilemma).
And why is that: why is it that if cattle were to eat grass—as they always have, not just for the last ten thousand years since our ancestors domesticated them, but for millions of years along the slow evolutionary path—they would not get sick? Because they are meant to eat grass: they are herbivores. Yes. But that doesn’t explain why. The reason that they would not get sick is because their intestinal tract and their blood would be alkaline.
Now, the most important question is the following: why is a chronically acidic intestinal tract the root cause of so much sickness and disease in cattle? The answer is simple, relatively speaking: Cattle are herbivores. This means they have evolved eating grass. Dark green, chlorophyll-rich, fibrous grass loaded with minerals is not only excellently nutritious for them (and for us), but it yields in the intestines an alkaline residue after digestion, sometimes referred to as ash in analogy to something that has been consumed by fire.
The pH of the entire length of the intestines is meant to be and remain alkaline. (Recall: 7 is neutral, below that is acidic, and above is alkaline.) Unlike the stomach in which the environment must be acidic (from mildly to highly depending on its contents) in order to break down proteins into simple amino acids, and that for this reason has cells that secrete mucus to form a thick layer that protects the lining from the corrosive acid also secreted by cells in the stomach in response to the presence of proteins, the delicate lining of the intestines does not have such a protective coating of mucus. The mechanism intended to protect it is the secretion by the pancreas of a strongly alkaline sodium bicarbonate solution into the small intestine in order to neutralise the acid following the transfer of the contents of the stomach into the duodenum.
However, even though this process does take place more or less efficiently depending on many factors like pancreatic and kidney function but especially on hydration status (see Why you should drink water before meals), the final stages of digestion and breakdown of the foodstuff—the now pH-neutralised chyme that came from the stomach—leave either an alkaline or an acidic ash depending on what it is, and on how well this entire digestive process takes place.
Now, if you didn’t already know this, the digestion and breakdown process is not done by “us” or by the intestines themselves: it is done by the trillions of bacteria, yeasts and fungi that live in our gut. These microscopic inhabitants that make up our intestinal flora depend on us for their survival, but we also depend on them for ours. This is the definition of a symbiotic relationship.
As you may have guessed, some are beneficial and essential, while others are detrimental and pathogenic. What is it that regulates the proliferation and lifecycle of all these microscopic inhabitants of our intestines, different kinds throughout, depending on the section and specificity of the cells and nutrients that are absorbed in that particular stretch of the long tube that is our gut? It is the environment, the surroundings, the medium in which they live. And what determines the characteristics of that medium? The foods we eat, and when we eat them; the drinks we drink, and when we drink them. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?
When the intestines are chronically acidic, the pathogenic yeasts, fungi and bacteria thrive and proliferate: their metabolic by-products, their eliminations—that are highly acidic—make the environment increasingly more acidic, the lining of the intestinal wall is gradually corroded, and eaten away by the acid. Once it is thin enough the yeasts’ and the fungi’s tentacles and outgrowths pierce through the intestinal wall and spill out their toxins and themselves into the bloodstream and outside the gut, spreading throughout the body, multiplying and proliferating in every other place where the environment is suitable, and given that in the crushing majority of people, most tissues are already quite acidic, that’s not hard to find.
The result? inflammation, yeast infections, urinary tract infections, vaginal infections, fungal overgrowth, generalised candida all over the place, inside and out. This is what causes the cattle to be sick. This is what causes all of the diseases from which they suffer, from which they need to be treated with drugs and antibiotics, and from which they need to be treated by the vets. Why? Simply because they eat corn instead of grass. Once more: is this known by most people who gingerly go to the supermarket to get a their meat for dinner? Sadly, no, it isn’t. But is this known by the vets in the meat industry? Sadly, yes, it is.
What does any of this have to do with us? It has everything to do with us because exactly the same thing happens in our own gut (see Sick and Tired). You’ve certainly heard of the so-called leaky gut syndrome. Well, this is it: exactly it. But what you probably haven’t heard is that this is what is happening in your intestines, and in those of almost everyone you know, and, in fact, almost everyone everywhere, to a greater or lesser extent.
Why? Because we all eat lots of simple and starchy carbohydrates, because all simple and starchy carbohydrates make the intestines acidic, and because all the pathogenic inhabitants of our gut thrive on the sugar and starch it is fed, and in the increasingly acidic environment this promotes.
What does any of this have to do with detoxification? It has everything to do with detoxification because the metabolic by-products and eliminations of the pathogenic yeasts, fungi and bacteria thriving in our gut are by far the most important source of toxins from which the body is sickened, but also of which it is desperately trying to detoxify itself.
Furthermore, all toxins resulting from the natural and normal digestion and metabolism of proteins are also highly acidic. And what is generally the case for most of us—here again, almost everyone everywhere—is that every tissue in the body is overly acidic, every cell that needs an alkaline environment to function properly is desperately trying to survive in this acidic medium. And so, exactly like the cattle, we are all sick, we suffer from viruses, bacteria, infections, tendonitis, chronic inflammation, atherosclerosis, arthritis, diabetes and cancer, and everything else you care to add to this list.
What happens when we stop eating simple and starchy carbohydrates? It’s simple: the pathogenic micro-organisms in the intestines are starved because they cannot survive without a constant supply of sugar, and consequently begin to die off, massively. The beneficial ones do not. In addition, there is a quick metabolic adaptation and shift to using fat instead of sugar as the primary source of cellular fuel: nutritional ketosis is triggered within about 48 hours, takes about 4 weeks to be well established, and about 8 weeks to be completely established (from The Rosedale Diet and The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living).
This keto-adaptation causes a fast and sudden activation of fat-burning stimulated by the drop in blood sugar and insulin levels, thus releasing into the bloodstream the heavy metals and chemical contaminants stored in the fat cells. This causes the spilling out of toxins all at once and from all directions that can manifest in a variety of ways: headaches, stomach aches, diarrhea, vomiting, boils, rashes, anxiety, insomnia, as well as asthma-like or other allergy-like reactions, to mention the most common.
But all of these are signs of detoxification and are therefore good, very good, extremely good. The only thing is that depending on the initial state of the body, the process may be more or less extreme, more or less painful, more or less prolonged, and more or less stressful. In some cases, we may want to do it more gradually in order to avoid an extremely fast, and thus intense detox phase that can sometimes actually make us sick(er) for a while. But no matter what, everything that manifests is a positive and encouraging sign that we are moving towards a healthier state of body and of mind, for sure. There are several things that help in the process of detoxification.
The first, that you will have read or heard about anywhere you encounter mention of detoxification, is to drink a lot of water. What you will not have read or heard about, however, and that I will add to this recommendation, is that it is essential to take plenty of unrefined sea salt to accompany all the water. Without the salt, you will quickly dilute your blood sodium and chloride concentrations and consequently dehydrate instead of hydrating. The ratio is 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt per litre of water, depending on how much you eat, and how much salt you take with that food. The more you drink, the more salt you need, and it is particularly important if you don’t eat for an extended period of time. Drops to make the water alkaline is also very helpful; just make sure you don’t do this just before, during or after having complex proteins, as they require a highly acidic stomach.
The second is that since you can consider all the toxins being released as acidic waste, it is extremely helpful to alkalise as much as you can to neutralise as much of the acidity as possible. So, drink green juices and chlorophyll, either fresh or in powdered form, and eat cucumbers, celery, kohlrabi and huge dark green salads with avocados, and fresh parsley and basil as often as you can. All of this is also true every day and always.
Third and also crucial are psyllium husks, to help clear out the toxins from the intestines as efficiently as possible. A good way to take them is to dissolve in a 1 litre bottle of water, 1 heaping teaspoon of green juice powder, 1/2 teaspoon of unrefined Atlantic salt, and two teaspoons of psyllium husks (aloe vera juice to enhance cleansing and a tiny bit of stevia to sweeten and counter the salty taste are optional). Also good is with lemon water (1 litre, 2 lemons, stevia, salt and psyllium). Make sure you let it sit for some time so that the psyllium husks are well hydrated before you start drinking, and shake well every time before drinking.
You should have at least one litre per day (I do this every day, drink relatively slowly typically between 10:30 and 12:30, always on an empty stomach), and two litres during the acute detox phase would be excellent (mid-morning and afternoon). This will clean out the entire length of the intestines very effectively but also very gently.
Remember to always start the day with a 3/4-1 litre of plain, room temperature, alkaline water, drank over the course of at least 30 minutes. Or, alternatively or in combination, you can also start with a litre of tulsi herbal tea. Tulsi or Holy Basil is a powerful anti-stress and adrenal support that is soothing and relaxing without inducing sleepiness, and that over time helps the adrenal system recover from the very commonly encountered state of partial or nearly complete adrenal exhaustion. I usually to do both the water (between 1/2 and 1 litre) and tulsi tea (also from 1/2 to 1 litre) for a total that is always between 1 and 1.5 litres, typically taken over the period from 7 to 9, first thing in the morning.
Finally, it is very useful to soak in a hot bath with 2 to 4 cups of baking soda or epson salts (magnesium sulphate), or even better, 1 cup of nigari flakes (magnesium chloride). This will help relax the muscles, alkalise by pulling out acids from the tissues, and promote maximum detoxification through the skin. Magnesium chloride is also a powerful detoxifying and metal-chelating agent on its own. Make sure to supplement with it both orally and through the skin (see Why you should start taking magnesium today). Putting food-grade, virgin coconut oil, scented with a little essential oil of lavender or geranium on the skin is excellent. (Melt the coconut oil at low temperature, add the essential oils in the ratio of 10 ml per litre, seal, shake well and put in the fridge to cool quickly. Then take it out and keep it a room temperature.)
The acute phase can be hard to get through, but it is relatively short (a few to several days), and you will really start to feel a lot better after all these toxins have been cleared out of the body: all the pathogenic micro-organisms starved off and eliminated together with their acidic metabolic byproducts.
The process of healing the intestines, the blood and the tissues takes a long time, but on the way there, you will feel better with every passing day. Regular green juice fasts are an excellent way to accelerate the process of healing and then to maintain health.
It is essential to remember, however, that beyond the initial acute detox phase, optimal health depends entirely on a continual process and perpetual cycle of cleansing, detoxification and alkalisation followed by nourishing, repairing and rebuilding, carried out every day, and day after day. The profound systemic detoxification and healing process that results from the complete elimination of sugars and starches from the diet is without any doubt the most important and powerfully healthful change you could ever make.
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