Unfortunately, no solid scientific evidence exists to support the premise that a single detox session or several over the course of weeks can alleviate toxins that have continued to accumulate in our bodies since birth. Therefore, helping the patient to develop a respect for and a dedication to an ongoing detoxification program is essential. Over the past 20 years as my plastic surgery practice has grown I have become increasingly convinced of the positive link between wellness and treating the “whole” patient to achieve a harmonious state of well-being. Toxins disrupt this often-elusive state.
What are toxins? They are the harmful substances that the body absorbs through the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. They come from the chemicals and pesticides on our clothes, our food, and the medications we sometimes take to keep us alive. In other words, they are unavoidable. How far reaching their cumulative effect is on our health is not completely understood.
Toxins also originate from within the body’s regular metabolism and are produced by the mind through unhealthy emotions. The person who is under stress is more likely to catch cold and the individual involved in a prolonged period of anxiousness, worry or high anxiety, is leaving himself or herself open to a host of serious medical conditions including cancer, heart disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.
Normally, individuals can process some toxins in the liver, kidneys and other organs, such as the lungs, digestive system, colon, and skin. But dehydration, a sedentary lifestyle, volatile emotions, a lack of dietary fiber, insufficient consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, and constipation can impair the body’s normal toxin defenses. Harmful residues, therefore, can accumulate in our digestive and lymphatic systems, as well as, our skin, which is the largest organ of the body. The upshot manifests as a disruption to our well-being.
Years ago colonic irrigation and fasting were two popular remedies for sloughing off the body’s toxic wastes and continue to be the detox methods of choice for many. Today, though, we have more comfortable and highly effective alternatives: spa detoxification treatments and massage therapy supported by sound diet and exercise programs. In recent years, we have begun to encourage our plastic surgery patients to incorporate these elements into their detox programs.
Starting a daily detoxification program is of paramount importance for individuals considering surgery, as preparation for their approaching procedures. Our facial and body spa detoxification treatment program is supported by these core fundamentals:
Exercise: We tell patients to carve out time during their day for a brisk 20-minute walk or the equivalent on a treadmill. This helps speed lymph flow and assists the liver in toxin elimination. Perspiring is one of the body’s built-in detox mechanisms. Combining physical exercise with stress release for the mind through yoga, meditation, and/or tai chi instruction, helps to achieve a harmonious balance.
Diet: A licensed nutritionist counsels our patients on the role of proper diet, and how specific foods can work for their betterment. For example, to help alleviate water retention, she might recommend eating regular helpings of fresh asparagus and parsley, both diuretics.
Hydration: We believe that emphasizing the importance of drinking at least eight full glasses of water a day to aid in the detoxification process is of the utmost importance, more so pre and post spa therapies to further flush toxins from the body. Suggesting that patients always carry a small bottle of spring water will help meet this quota.
Vitamins and Supplements: Daily doses of vitamins and mineral supplements that cooking erodes and which our diets might not supply in high enough levels should also be part of your recommendations. Look for a broad spectrum antioxidant that contains vitamins A, C and E, selenium, green tea, and grapeseed extract, along with ginkgo biloba extract, lutein and zeaxanthin, cysteine, milk thistle and alpha lipoic acid (See sidebar).
At The Medical Spa: A Case History
Laura is a 42-year-old executive assistant who has had two plastic surgery procedures; the first was a rhinoplasty several years ago. Recently, she underwent liposuction of her tummy. “I want to renew my body and mind,” she says. “I have a highly stressful job where I’m continually faced with shorter deadlines. Lately I’ve been feeling more stressed, bloated, and lethargic. Since I don’t have a lot of free time, I wanted to find relief that takes only a few hours with no downtime afterward.”
After browsing through a brochure that described several spa therapies she scheduled an appointment. “Since I was a little apprehensive about this new experience I was pleased that my appointment was just a few days away,” she reports. “I arrived early, because although I assumed I would be getting `The Detox Body Escape,’ described as a $185 two hour treatment designed to transform me into a `glowing goddess’, I wanted to hear the professional’s recommendations.”
Our Detox Escape is two treatments: first the patient experiences a detoxifying seaweed wrap, designed to make the skin more receptive to the subsequent lymphatic drainage massage. According to the American Massage Therapy Association, approximately 47 million Americans received a massage in 2005, an increase of 2 million people over the previous year. Our combination of procedures helps with water retention problems, tightens the skin, and leaves the patient feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, so it seemed that Laura was on the right track.
Laura presented her symptoms (winter dry skin, bloating, stress, and puffy eyes accompanied by dark circles, and lethargy) to Mary Ellen, a certified massage therapist and licensed aesthetician. Together, they decided that Laura would indeed reap the most benefit from the Detoxification Body Package, supplemented by a lymphatic drainage facial massage. Among its other functions the lymphatic system is responsible for cleansing soft tissue just under the skin. It is a network of tiny vessels throughout the body, which transports toxins, bacteria and dead cells to lymph nodes that break down and purify waste products, so they can be easily handled by the liver and the kidneys. By stimulating the lymphatic system with massage, the congested lymphatic pathways are cleared of fluids and toxins are flushed from the body. If we practiced lymphatic cleansing religiously, most people would not only look younger longer, but also feel younger.
Lymphatic congestion may occur for a number of reasons, including lack of exercise, immobility due to accident or illness, a damaged or sluggish lymph system, abnormally high blood pressure, stress and trauma, or as a result of an allergic reaction. Diet and emotions can play a role as well.
We’ve discovered that a full body seaweed wrap is effective in not only exfoliating dead skin. It improves cellulite problems and skin tone, stimulates skin circulation, and draws out tissue waste. The wrap uses a blend of seaweed extracts that are rich in free radical fighting, slimming and purifying properties, which help to speed toxin elimination and lymphatic drainage. It is an excellent prelude to a full body manual lymphatic drainage massage (MLD). “In preparation for applying the seaweed I mix it with aromatherapy salts that include lavender, chamomile, and ylang-ylang to promote an overall relaxation and purification,” explains Mary Ellen. “I warm the mixture because it helps the seaweed to absorb better.”
Lying on the treatment table, Laura felt ready to begin the first stage of her detoxification. Mary Ellen began by applying her customized seaweed formula to Laura’s entire body, then enveloped her in a mylar wrap, and finally covered her with a blanket. “We decided not to include a full facial but to concentrate on my eyes instead.” While Laura was experiencing the seaweed wrap, Mary Ellen applied a collagen mask to her eyes. “Mary Ellen explained that this would reduce puffiness and dark circles. I loved every minute of the entire process, especially the mini-lymphatic drainage facial massage that culminated in a scalp massage.”
It was now time to shed her cocoon, and shower off, with a caution from Mary Ellen not to use soap, which would negate the effects of her treatments. Once showered and wearing a fresh robe, Laura was ushered back into the treatment room, which had also been refreshed. Valentina, another certified massage therapist, would perform Laura’s MLD massage.
MLD uses slow, rhythmic movements, and steady, light pressure strokes to stimulate the lymphatic system. It is a highly effective way of detoxing the body by activating vital immune defenses, and is a superb addition to other detoxification methods. Dr. Emil Vodder, a Danish physiotherapist, pioneered it in the 1930s. Since offering a series of MLD massages over the past six years to our post operative cosmetic surgery patients, we have noticed a more rapid resolution of their swelling and bruising.
“Valentina explained it all as she went along,” Laura reports. “It was the coolest experience ever!” Once completed, Valentina instructed Laura not to shower, and to avoid bodily contact so as not to disrupt the massage’s therapeutic effects. “She also warned me that I might feel dizzy or experience flu-like symptoms: a sign that MLD is working. I went home feeling totally refreshed and detoxified
What Taking A Daily Dose Of The Right Vitamins And Minerals Can Do For You
We tell our patients that retaining their youthful looks and good health requires protection from the outside. That includes taking a broad-spectrum antioxidant that contains at the very least:
Vitamin A: Helps to prevent some skin disorders including acne.
Vitamin C: Protects against the harmful effects of pollution.
Vitamin E: Improves circulation and promotes healthy skin and hair.
Alpha-lipoic Acid: This antioxidant helps to enhance the function of others including vitamin C and E.
Selenium: Helps to maintain a healthy liver and protects the immune system.
Cysteine: An amino acid that helps to detoxify toxins in the body, and works to maintain healthier skin.
Milk Thistle: Helps to produce production of liver cells and protects the liver and kidneys.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin: These often linked cartonoids offer antioxidant protection to skin cells and the eyes.
Grape Seed Extract: Helps to encourage collagen growth and prevention its destruction.
Green Tea Extract: Contains polyphenols purported to offer anti-cancer protection.
Ginkgo Biloba Extract: An herb with anti-aging properties that improves circulation.
Paul M. Parker, MD, FACS, a board-certified plastic surgeon, is the founder and Medical Director of the Parker Center for Plastic Surgery (www.parkercenter.net) in Paramus, NJ. In addition to his medical offices, his 15,000 square foot center includes Beaura Spa, a luxurious medical spa, Physique Noveau, a total fitness center, and Surgiplex, a state-of-the-art, Medicare-certified ambulatory surgery suite. “All of these components are in keeping with the recent trend of providing patients with a full service center for aesthetic surgical and non-surgical solutions. My approach to face and body rejuvenation and wellness embodies the holistic methodology of treating the `whole’ patient.”