So today was one of those days on which I get to feel grateful that I am a cancer survivor, while also being reminded that I will always be someone who has had cancer. It is emotionally and physically uncomfortable for me and brings me back to the time of my cancer diagnosis and treatment. I remember what it felt like to go through and I try to process the whole experience a little more with each reminder.
This morning I had my routine CT scan of my chest, abdomen, and pelvis to check for possible metastatic disease and an MRI of the upper half of my leg, where I had my original tumor. Again this is just routine aftercare for me, hopefully no cause for concern. I am generally not terribly disturbed by the procedures themselves, although I will say that today’s MRI was the most uncomfortable one that I have had to date. Overall, it is the prep for the tests that I most wish that I could avoid (Berry Smoothie barium sulfate suspension is gross), coupled with how horribly I feel afterward when I am all jacked up on barium and iodine.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the more that I can do to support my body’s ability to eliminate toxins following these procedures, the less awful I will feel. If I’m not aggressive with the efforts to eliminate toxins, I can count on feeling nauseated, achy, and unsettled for a couple of days following these procedures, and sometimes a week or so later I’ll end up sick with a cold or other ailment.
Now I will take a moment here to remind you all that I am not a medical doctor and you should consult your own before engaging in any interventions or new practices. Additionally, some of the things that I will mention will help your body to mobilize toxins by getting your blood moving; others will help to eliminate toxins by supporting your liver, stimulating your lymphatic fluids, or giving the toxins an exit route. In my experience, it is important not to be too aggressive with mobilizing toxins if you are not being equally supportive of your body’s ability to eliminate them.
Okay, here are some of the things that I have been doing today or have done in the past to help me move the toxins out. Of course, you don’t have to have had cancer or any major medical procedures to benefit from supporting removal of toxins from your body. These tips are great to draw upon during times of illness, or as part of a healthy life practice.
(P.S. I try to link to items to help illustrate the products that I use in case you are not sure where to begin or you just want a suggestion for something to use. I am not compensated in any way by anyone associated with these products, and I am quite certain that they neither know nor particularly care that I am mentioning their products. If that should ever change, I’ll be sure to let you know.):
1. Drink lots of water: They will tell you this anytime that you have procedures such as the ones that I had today, especially since I received both oral and IV contrast. Actually, I was told to drink lots of fluids, with water, tea, soda, and juice all listed as options, but I would assert that water is your best bet. This will help you eliminate toxins by giving them a route out.
2. Dry skin brushing: I’m adding this here because I would have done this today, but my brush is in storage at the moment (we’re currently between houses and 95% of our possessions are living in storage). For those who can though, dry skin brushing is an easy way to help your body eliminate toxins by stimulating circulation and your lymphatic drainage system, as well as by sloughing off dead skin cells. You will want a brush with fairly sturdy natural bristles and a handle long enough to help get those hard-to-reach spots, but not so long as to become unwieldly. (When not in storage) I use this brush by Earth Therapeutics that is made with palm fiber.
Brush your skin with light to moderate pressure (this should be stimulating, not painful) brushing toward your heart. You can brush for several minutes, and this is great to do prior to taking a shower. You can brush your whole body, but you will want to avoid brushing delicate areas such as genitals, breasts, face, any broken skin, and in my case, I avoid the site of my surgical incision because that would hurt a whole lot.
3. Hot and cold alternating shower: This is admittedly uncomfortable for me, but it is effective in stimulating both the circulatory and lymphatic systems to help move toxins out. I do this at the end of my normal shower by first taking the temperature up a bit hotter than I would typically find comfortable and then leaving it there for a minute or two. Next, I turn the shower down to cold water and try desperately to tolerate it for a minute, but if I make it up to 30 seconds for the first go around, I give myself an E for effort. Continue this cycle several times aiming for a minute or two on hot contrasting with a minute on cold. End with cold water. As with dry skin brushing, you get the double benefit of mobilizing toxins by increasing circulation and eliminating them by stimulating lymph flow as well.
4. Lymphatic massage: I try to do this both in the shower and out. While I’m in the shower (before the hot cold alternating part) I use a body scrub, paying attention to the areas where the lymph nodes tend to cluster (helpful diagram here). I don’t focus on my neck with the scrub, because it would be too harsh in my opinion, but I get to that post-shower (more in a second). There are a lot of great scrubs that contain herbs, essential oils, and materials like salt, clay, charcoal, or other agents that can help encourage elimination of toxins. Today I used this Cellular Detox Scrub by Abra Therapeutics.
Post-shower I try to encourage my husband to help me out by massaging the same areas where lymph nodes are most present using a nourishing massage oil. If he isn’t available, I go over those areas myself because I am self-sufficient like that. I am absolutely in love with this Lymphatic Massage Oil that I received in the February subscription box from King’s Road Apothecary (for more information about their subscription box program and other crunchy-friendly subscription services look here). It smells beyond fantastic and has a wonderful feel on the skin that allows for easy gliding without being heavy or sticky. Overall, lymphatic massage will help with elimination of toxins by assisting your lymphatic drainage system in moving fluid and toxins out.
5. Foot soak: This is another one that I did not do today but have found helpful in the past. Our feet have a high concentration of pores, and large pores relative to the rest of our bodies, so they’re a good place to focus detox efforts through our skin. They also dangle off the end of our legs, making them easier to soak in some water when we don’t have time to get our whole body into a tub. A detoxifying foot soak is easy to do: just put some tolerably hot water into a foot bath or large bowl. Add a couple tablespoons of baking soda and a handful or so of epsom salts, which can be found at most drug stores or grocery stores. If you have some bentonite clay on hand, a couple tablespoons of that is a nice addition as is a few drops of essential oil. Ginger essential oil is a particularly good one for promoting circulation. The combination of ingredients will help to get the blood flowing, draw out toxins, and decrease inflammation.
6. Castor oil compress: I hope to do a video soon to illustrate how I was taught to do a castor oil compress because they are so helpful for liver support when your goal is to eliminate toxins, especially when battling a cold or virus, but they are less familiar to most people and a bit complex to explain. In essence, you want to saturate a cloth made from natural material with castor oil (I use about a large scrap piece of an old t-shirt along with Home Health castor oil, although I have also used NOW brand in the past). Place the saturated cloth over abdomen, making sure to cover the right portion at the bottom of the rib cage where the liver is located). Cover the cloth with a wool cloth larger in size (I use a piece that I cut from an old wool sweater that I had felted so that it wouldn’t unravel once cut). You then want to apply a gentle heat source over the compress to help the oil penetrate the skin, and then relax that way for at least 30-60 minutes. I was taught that the heat source should not be something electrical or microwaved, so I use a hot water bottle like this one, that I fill with hot water. In between uses, I store my castor oil cloth and wool cloth together in a plastic bag.
If you prefer one-stop shopping, some companies make castor oil compress kits with your oil and a cloth included. They instruct you to cover the saturated cloth with plastic wrap to avoid staining and to use your own heat source. Here is one example, and another.
7. Movement: A great way to boost the lymphatic system is through movement. I must admit that when I first came home today, I was feeling pretty junky and just wanted to rest, but after engaging in some of the above suggestions I am feeling much perkier and ready to get moving. Taking a walk, bouncing on a trampoline or rebounder, even swinging your arms around will all help to get those lymph fluids flowing faster to move those toxins out and get you feeling better.
I hope that some of these suggestions serve you well. I tried to include a mix of ideas that can be done with little-to-no special equipment along with others that may require a bit more planning, but can be used time and again once you become familiar with their use and benefits. If you have additional suggestions for supporting the elimination of toxins that you have found helpful, please add them to the comments.