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Why Cleansing?

Toxin Removal with Maharishi Panchakarma Therapy

by Nancy Lonsdorf, MD

The concept of “toxins” in the body used to sound like science fiction to my medically-trained ears. However, my clinical experience of nearly twenty years has convinced me that toxic exposure and the accumulation of toxins in the body lie at the root of many of today’s health problems, especially seemingly unexplained symptoms. After all, our bodies are in constant exchange with the physical world around us. If that world is polluted, our bodies also will become polluted.

With the tremendous growth of industry over the past 100 years, tens of thousands of toxic chemicals have been introduced into our food, our air, our drinking water, our hygiene products, our homes, cars, and just about everything that’s manufactured. As a result, our bodies today are exposed to a potentially huge toxic load over a lifetime.

Maybe you have never stopped to consider it, but everything we eat, breathe, drink and touch actually becomes part of our bodies, either briefly as it passes through, or longer if it gets incorporated into our tissues. If these substances are not pure and wholesome, they can create damage to our cells and our DNA. In addition, bad digestion and high levels of stress also create toxins in the body. If not flushed out on a regular basis, this toxic buildup can cause serious disease down the line.

Toxins have been associated with hormone disruption, immune system suppression, reproductive disorders, several types of cancer, and other diseases such as allergies.

Why Isn’t the Government Warning Us About Toxins?

It may be surprising to learn that while a large body of animal studies documents the health risks of thousands of different toxins, experts admit that very little is known about their accumulation and health effects in humans. “Most people will be surprised to find out how little the government knows about chemicals in people’s bodies,” said John Balbus, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Risk Science and Public Health at George Washington University, as quoted in the Journal Of the American Medical Association.

In a step of progress, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in 2001 its first study on the levels of toxic chemicals measured in 3800 Americans. This study found much higher levels of mercury and phthalates (toxic plastic derivatives) in people than expected based on previous exposure estimates. This finding challenged chemical industry advocates who downplay the risks of chemicals by citing the extremely small levels most are believed to be exposed to. The CDC study proved that these chemicals are accumulating in higher amounts than previously estimated. The CDC now tests people yearly for an expanding list of toxins, to develop a solid knowledge base on their health risks.

Purify Now, Prove Later

One thing is for sure. It would be hazardous to our health to wait for the scientific community to prove the health hazards of chemicals before we take measures to reduce our toxic load! Rather than wait, we should use a common sense approach to reducing our exposure to as many toxins as possible. Eating organic foods, drinking pure water, using a shower filter and an air purifier in polluted areas, wearing natural fabrics and using natural products as much as possible are key. To protect our environment and our own health from the effects of toxins, “reduce, recycle, reuse” should be our guiding principle as consumers.

As for the toxins already accumulated in our bodies, the good news is that there is a natural, scientifically-tested way to reduce our toxic load and accompanying health risks. Unlike chemical chelators, does not run the risk of further toxic damage, and it is enjoyable!

Getting the Lead Out: A Memory Lost and Found

When I first saw Jeremy Martin (not his real name) in consultation, he was concerned that he was losing his mind. His memory and mental clarity were steadily deteriorating and he had trouble concentrating on his work. An accountant for over 25 years, he worried he would soon have to give up his profession, even though at 56 years old, he had not yet saved enough to retire.

After ruling out depression, low thyroid and several other possible causes of Jeremy’s symptoms, I suggested to Jeremy that we do a 24 hour test on his urine, and a blood test to evaluate for levels of heavy metal in his body. I explained that heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury have a tendency to accumulate in the brain and nervous system and can interfere with our mental clarity and memory, as well as causing other symptoms.

Jeremy’s test returned in the 95th percentile for lead level on both his urine and blood tests, a strong indicator of elevated body lead accumulation. Lead, the heavy metal responsible for lowered intelligence in children, can also cause mind and memory problems in adults. Here was a possible reversible cause of Jeremy’s problem that if resolved, might restore his mental capacity.

Since Jeremy’s lead level, though elevated, was not in the range where medical intravenous treatment would be necessary, I recommended a gentler and more holistic approach. Jeremy opted to undergo a series of traditional Ayurvedic detoxification procedures called Maharishi Rejuvenation Therapy™ followed by a six month course of Ayurvedic herbs and nutritional support to eliminate the accumulated lead from his body.

Indeed, after his six-month treatment program, Jeremy returned for a follow-up visit. He was ecstatic and relieved. He reported that he had regained his memory completely and was acing his accounting work again. He did not have to retire and, in fact, went on to take on new responsibilities and expanded his career. He continues to do Maharishi Rejuvenation Therapy™ treatments yearly to maintain his high level of energy and mental clarity”

Ayurveda, the natural medical system from ancient India, describe the intimate connection between our bodies and our environment over 5000 years ago, and cited accumulation of toxins as a major cause of disease. Fortunately, it also described a systematic set of Ayurvedic procedures called panchakarma, to detoxify the body in a safe, nurturing and effective manner. These treatments, administered in a standardized manner, under the supervision of a specially-trained Ayurvedic expert, are referred to as Maharishi Rejuvenation Therapy™ (MRT).

Modern Science Validates Ancient Ayurvedic Medicine

Long ago, Ayurvedic medicine predicted that accumulated toxins could be removed through its detoxification procedures. Over 5000 years later, modern scientists decided to put this prediction to a test. Using high tech laboratory studies, Robert Herron, Ph.D. and John Fagan, Ph.D. conducted a two-month longitudinal study in 15 subjects using Ayurvedic detoxification procedures, including five days of MRT treatment, along with a special purification diet program before and after the treatment.

The results were highly significant. Compared to before treatment, blood levels of the highly toxic substances PCBs and Beta-HCH were reduced by 46 percent and 58 percent respectively. Without this detoxification program, the expected drop in PCB and Beta-HCH over a two month period is only a fraction of one percent.

No previous method has been scientifically verified to reduce levels of these fat-soluble toxins in the human body without causing negative side effects. Normally these fat-soluble substances remain in the body for many years. It is quite striking that 50% or more can be removed from the blood in just 5 days of treatment.

How It Works: Soothing Ayuvedic Oils Detoxify Body Fat

There are two categories of toxins found in the human body: water-soluble and fat-soluble, stored in water vs. fatty tissues respectively. Most of the chemicals that have been linked with cancer and other serious disorders, are fat soluble toxins, such as PCBs, PBDEs and numerous pesticides. Non-Ayurvedic detoxification approaches such as steam baths, saunas, aerobic exercise, and other activities can reduce water-soluble toxins substantially through perspiration and drinking large amounts of water.

Unfortunately, these strategies do little to remove the fat-soluble toxins that are sequestered in adipose tissues throughout the body and have been associated with a wide range of health problems from reproductive disorders to several types of cancer, including breast cancer.

The Maharishi Rejuvenation Therapy™ program on the other hand, can remove both types of toxins and appears to be especially effective in removing fat-soluble ones that are otherwise very difficult to eliminate.

The MRT program uses a variety of non-toxic, lipophilic (fat-dissolving) materials, such as clarified butter in the purification diet, and herbalized sesame oil applied extrernally through massage and oil bath treatments. The Ayurvedic texts describe that these traditional methods sequentially loosen and remove lipid-soluble toxicants from their deposited sites and stimulate their excretion.

Isn’t it tricky to rid the body of these toxins and at the same time not cause any side effects?

Great care must be taken with all types of detoxification. Any procedure that is able to loosen toxins from the fat tissues must also be able to safely eliminate these chemicals from the bloodstream and body. It is possible to cause harm to yourself if the detoxification is not done properly. For instance, some people fast for extended periods to reduce toxins in their body. However, as they reduce their adipose tissue through fasting, they also push the fat-soluble toxins into the blood stream, which can cause damage to various organs. That is why the Maharishi Rejuvenation Therapy™ program has distinctive steps for removing the toxicants from the blood stream.

Is the Maharishi Detox treatment program safe from a medical standpoint?

No harmful side effects have been reported in over two decades of use of the Maharishi Rejuvenation Therapy™ detoxification procedure in the U.S., while beneficial health outcomes are commonly reported. The materials used in the detoxification procedure, such as sesame oil and herbs, are recognized as food and are considered safe, bio-compatible substances.

Because the body is naturally in the mode of eliminating toxins in the spring, this is the optimal time to detoxify, supporting the body’s own cycle of cleansing and renewal.


Nancy Lonsdorf, MD is a prominent Ayurvedic physician, speaker and author of The Ageless Woman: Natural Health and Beauty After Forty with Maharishi Ayurveda (MCD Century, 2004).

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