In 35 years in the field of health I had never heard of any system coming from the Chinese Culture related to detox.
Of course as a QiGong Practitioner and TCM doctor I had heard of “BiGu” which is the equivalent of water or even dry fasting, but that was mainly applied by the daoist monks. It seemed completely counter-culture when I was addressing the Chinese people. Talking about not eating for a while always felt like I was inviting them to a suicide or for the least something that could be very harmful to their health. I was very surprised that such a deep culture, which gathered such a treasure of knowledge around health maintenance, wasn’t considering fasting since it had served my personal health so well. I was also wondering how people living under such polluted conditions could survive and even keep such a good level of health if we compare to the average worldwide statistics. It is only recently that their secret has been revealed to me and that I am happy to share with you here in this story.
Culturally Chinese are not so into raw foods. They eat mostly everything cooked as they adhere to the concept that this way they preserve what they call “the Spleen Fire”. The concept is based on the fact that the body has to maintain a very strict temperature and that by eating cold foods or drinks the spleen needs to heat it up which would be weakening the body’s energy level. With the knowledge that I have accumulated over the years I became very aware of how crucial enzymes were playing in health maintenance and longevity.
I understood that they were the spark plugs of life and that behind every metabolic, digestive and cleansing processes enzymes were the elements of the body chemistry making it possible. I also learned that the body had a certain amount of what we call “source enzymes” given at birth and that when exhausted it meant death. No matter how much nutrients, no matter the quality foods we were giving to the body if there was no enzyme left, life could not be maintained.
There are 3 main kinds of enzymes that exist: Metabolic, digestive and food enzymes. The metabolic enzymes are the ones behind every metabolic functions like chemical reactions, heart beating, lungs breathing, thinking, and muscles moving to name a few, and these cannot be supplemented. Then there are the digestive enzymes like proteases, lipases, amylases, cellulases, lactases etc. which are responsible for the breaking down of the food we eat so the nutrients can be absorbed. Every living things are enzyme-rich and that’s why they have the ability to self-consume themselves. A piece of cooked steak next to a raw one will remain on the counter for ever if it is preserved from animals and insects compared to the raw piece that will self-digest itself in no time because of the enzymes it contains. As soon as we cook a food we destroy it’s enzyme content and the body needs to produce digestive ones to do the job. And this picks in our source enzyme bank account. This explains why with aging the metabolic and digestive functions are often slowed down. The whole raw food theory lies on this understanding and even if the application is too hard for most people, the results are quite eloquent for those who managed to stick with it. A striking vibrant health is the result. But in fact it is not for everyone.
Let’s not forget that we need to consider that our modern lifestyle added some burden on our system. The human body in normal and natural conditions is a self-healing, self-renewing, self-cleansing organism, a stunning machine that has evolved and fine tuned over thousands of years. When the right conditions are created, a vibrant health and well-being is its natural state. But we have separated ourselves from the ways of nature and living under much less natural conditions nowadays. The toxicity of our planet and environment is undeniable.
The air we breathe, the water we drink and shower with, the foods we eat, the cosmetics we use and the buildings we live and work in, are loaded with toxic chemicals that alone or in combination cause diseases, much suffering and even death. When we remove these burdens and add what supports health, our bodies bounce back into radiant health as if by magic. This is natural, common-sense medicine, enabling the body to heal, regenerate and even rejuvenate itself, like it is designed and programmed to do. Under normal conditions, approximately eight hours after eating our last meal the processes of digestion, absorption, and assimilation are completed and the body enters into its detoxification mode, a function we often forget. With an enzyme intake these four processes are immensely speeded up. And that’s the whole point behind the Chinese detoxification system.
A healthy body fed with natural foods and living under clean conditions needs around four hours to cleanse and detoxify itself from all the waste products of our normal metabolic functions. Nowadays we need to consider the extra demands from toxic overloads linked to our modern life. It’s surely a good practice to fast every day for 12 hours after our last meal (intermittent fasting) to allow the body its recovery time but surely not enough under the conditions we live in presently. An intermittent fasting would be enough in a toxin-free world but that is not the case anymore, so it is wise to periodically get into a formal cleanse to go deeper and catch up with the accumulation of toxins and even wiser to boost this process on a daily basis. This is where detox programs, specific cleansing diets and daily supplementation come into play. There are many programs available today based on different systems and philosophies. Some are good, some dangerous and most of them are physically and emotionally challenging since they implement strict restrictions over more or less long periods of time.
This is where Chinese have caught me by surprise! All along my years living in China I was ravished to see how fermented food was made available everywhere where food were served and thought that was pretty much how they were balancing with enzyme-rich foods their mostly cooked diet. But I was wrong! I discovered that they had the most sophisticated and refined way to detox I have ever encountered and that it wasn’t a new thing but that it was deeply ingrained in the culture, they just weren’t loud about it as me as a Canadian I wouldn’t be praising to the world the virtues of potatoes.