Body Cleanse (Detox): Diets vs. Breathing Retraining (Review)
How many people can trigger a real cleansing reaction (when toxins are literally driven out through several organs of elimination) using diets? Maybe one person in a hundred may get it. I am talking here about a real reaction of detoxification (also known as the "sanogenesis reaction"). This reaction is manifested in urine that can have black, brown or red color, fresh and numerous boils with pus on the skin, diarrhea, and other temporary specific effects.
At the same time, the majority of breathing students, who have ordinary or regular diets, but who practice right breathing exercises (with measurable results) and experience a certain progress in their results (see more details below), will have a severe detox reaction. A body cleanse is a state of the human body characterized by intensive elimination of toxic and unwanted substances from the human organism. In most breathing students, when present, the cleansing reactions do not last more than 4-5 days (usually 1-2 days). Those people who have been taking many pills and other types of medication every day for many years may have cleansing reactions for 1-2 weeks, very rarely up to 3 weeks (never more).
1. Humans have the highest chances of severe health problems (heart attacks, strokes, asthma exacerbations, seizures, etc.), as well as the highest mortality rates, during early morning hours (from 4-7 am), not after they ate or drunk something wrong. This fact alone cleary proves that it is naive to assume that detox diets or cleansing drinks can improve health in modern people. This is in complete agreement with the following quote.
2. The chief causes of these health problems (deep breathing and low body O2) are mouth breathing and supine sleep. Therefore, breathing retraining is the major factor that naturally triggers body detoxification, not diets and drinks!
Review of main myths of body cleansing
The problem is that heavy breathing in the sick (see Homepage for numbers) causes tissue hypoxia, which is the main cause of free radicals and body pollution. Therefore, diets and foods are useless when then body oxygen level is less than 10 seconds.
You can eat tons of supplements and super-foods, drink canisters of herbal drinks, have hundreds of colonic irrigations, and practice yoga for many hours every day, but if your body oxygen level remains the same, you will suffer from the same symptoms and require the same dosage of medication.
The human organism detoxifies itself 24/7. However, when the body oxygen level is low, the abilities of the immune system are suppressed. One of the largest negative shifts takes place when the body oxygen level drops below 20 s even if only for 20-30 minutes. Cell hypoxia, caused by hyperventilation, leads to an anaerobic energy production mechanism in the mitochondria. This causes formation of increased levels of lactic acid and incompletely oxidized chemicals or free radicals causing cellular damage due to the heavy breathing. This hypoxic body state is typical for people with chronic diseases (heart disease, cancer, asthma, diabetes, etc.). The body becomes even more polluted when a person with low body-oxygen content uses medical drugs and becomes obese at the same time since many toxic chemicals are stored in fat cells.
Breathing normalization causes higher CP and when the students quickly improve their CPs, their immune system can eliminate toxins within a short period of time so that the process of their elimination disrupts many natural or normal physiological processes.
While Dr. Buteyko provided an excellent general theoretical explanation of the body's cleansing reactions in his writings (e.g., see Section Clearance Reaction from the Buteyko manual), many practitioners and their students often confuse a body cleanse with digestive flare-ups, migraines, allergic responses to various foods, and some other situations, which do not make the human body cleaner or purer.
Examples of body cleansing
Here are some practical examples in order to get a better understanding about what is a body cleanse and what is not.
A. When a students' urine is black or red in color for some 2-3 days, this is a typical body cleanse. This reaction is usually accompanied by many other reactions, like temporary diarrhea and skin abscesses or boils with pus and/or other substances being eliminated from the body.
B. If a student gets a migraine headache due to eating chocolate or inhaling tiny doses of ink in air (from newspapers, books, and other printed materials), then this migraine is not detoxification or a body cleanse. It is a normal reaction to allergic triggers.
C. If long breath holds, or maximum pauses, or strong air hunger due to very shallow breathing consistently and for weeks or months leads to unusual bowel movements indicating pathological gut flora, they are caused by the following physiological mechanism. When the CO2 and CP sharply rise due to breathing exercises (often up to 2 zones in the Buteyko Table or up to about 20 s CP), the sensitivity of the immune system is greatly improved and it is able to fight pathogens present in various parts of the body. Since most modern people suffer from GI dysbiosis or abnormal GI flora in the gut, the sudden CP increase leads to intensive peristalsis since the human organism tries to get rid of pathological content in the small and large intestines. This effect is beneficial. The gut is in a mechanically strong state (no damage to tissues or inflammation is present) and such positive reactions happen after, for example, food poisoning.
However, when the mucosal surface of the colon is inflamed, the inflamed villi are very weak mechanically. Hence, intensive peristaltic waves can easily cause the villi to be broken (or separated) and wiped down along the GI tract. All these processes take place beyond the stomach and, as a result, broken villi cannot be digested normally. Instead, they start to putrefy in the colon, which, in such cases, is full of pathogens who will "enjoy" these proteins in the warm moist conditions of the gut. This in turn will produce toxins in the blood and an offensive smell in the surrounding environment.
The problem is that naive and ignorant Buteyko practitioners declare to their students that this is a "body detoxification" due to higher CPs caused by breathing exercises. (If one is in a sober mind, how can he or she think or believe that there are mysterious toxins that cause this horrible odor and these (kilograms of?) toxins regularly coming out of the body for many weeks or months?) Hence, the main effect of such breathwork is destruction of the GI tract leading to a cascade of negative events involving worsened inflammation, cortisol deficiency, fatigue, poor sleep, and many others.
When the gut becomes even more inflamed due to intensive breathing exercises, a flare up can also be triggered by other mechanical or chemical causes, including fiber roughage (e.g., raw vegetables, most greens, skin of fruits, and nuts), essential oils, acids (e.g., vitamin C and citric acid from citrus fruits), garlic, gluten from grains (wheat, rye, barley, etc.), bending yourself (gastroenterologists use a similar "pressure test" to evoke intensive peristaltic waves that provoke and confirm presence of GI inflammation) and other situations. Thus, the situation becomes even more complex due to the appearance of new triggers of this "body cleanse".
What to do? When the gut is already inflamed, it is necessary to use a soft diet with elimination of all chemical and mechanical triggers. Villi grow with amazing speed (in matter of 8-12 hours), but they require some days in order to become mechanically strong and resilient in relation to ordinary food or roughage. Too strong air hunger, too long breath holds, and too sudden CP increase (up to 15-20 s in less than a few hours), all these factors greatly enhance sensitivity of the immune system and can lead to intensive peristaltic waves that can destroy inflamed villi. (It is beyond the scope of this web page to describe all details of breathing normalization in cases of GI inflammation.)
Such severe GI reactions are normal for students with existing GI damage due to Crohn's disease, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), etc. Since most modern people suffer from mild forms of gastritis, practicing breathwork with solid food in the stomach can easily inflame and damage lower parts of the stomach, pyloric valve and then duodenum creating all conditions for the flare-up effect described above.
What is the main reason for claiming that this is not a classical Buteyko body cleanse reaction? Indeed, superficially the above described mechanism looks like the process of removal of bad bacteria and their waste products from the gut due to higher CPs. But a real Buteyko body cleanse involves the removal of previously accumulated toxic or waste products. When a student consistently creates new damage to her or his body, she or he does not move forward and these activities are, at best, a waste of time.
D. If a student consumes milk and cheese every day and gets a lot of mucus, then it is sensible to face the reality and stop using dairy products - since this mucus is most likely a reaction to dairy products and not a cleansing reaction. (Butter, due to the absence of casein, the main protein in dairy products, and lactose, will not lead to this allergic reaction.)
E. If a student gets yellow and green semi-solid mucus-type discharges from the lungs for 2-3 consecutive days (in a shape of noodles, plugs, etc.), that would be a body cleansing. This is how the lungs of asthmatics detoxify.
F. If a student with severe kidney disease (on dialysis or in a pre-dialysis state) gets about 30 s for his morning CP and his production of urine drastically drops down to about 500-700 ml of urine per day for the next 2 weeks regardless of his water intake during these 2 weeks, then this is how the kidneys detoxify themselves naturally due to breathing training and higher CP.
H. If a pregnant female quickly improves her low CP by practicing strong air hunger and/or doing a large amount of breathwork, her immune system can reject an embryo when it is not yet attached to the womb of the mother (or during the first trimester of the pregnancy). Hence, spontaneous abortion can also be an example of a body cleanse.
I. If a student increases his CP up to 35-40 s and vomits old bile (not for weeks or months, but for 1-2 days only), then this is a cleansing of his liver.
The classical Buteyko body cleanse reactions are exceptionally rare in modern Western students due to the following reasons:
1. In the 1960s-80s, Soviet Buteyko breathing students practiced up to 2-3 hours of breathing exercises per day and applied hours of daily physical exercise with only nose breathing to quickly improve their body oxygen content. As a result, many of them progressed with the speed of 5-10 s CP per day so that after some days of breathwork they could increase their morning CPs up to 3 or more times. Modern Western Buteyko students often practice for about 40-60 min per day and their rate of progress is usually about 2-5 s morning CP per week. This slow CP increase rate makes the process of detoxification more gradual and the body cleanse unnoticeable.
2. Many Western people regularly use mineral supplements, especially Ca and Mg. An abundance of essential minerals and salts reduces the severity and duration of body cleanse reactions as it is described in the Section Nutritional deficiencies and body cleansing reactions (part 3.2 of the Major Nutrients Guide).
3. Modern western students are exposed to much larger doses and varieties of chemicals in comparison with Soviet Buteyko students (the environment became more polluted). As a result, various allergic reactions are much more common in modern Western students.
4. The greatly increased prevalence of mild and light GI problems makes modern students more susceptible to developing serious GI problems according to the mechanism described above.
Who and why reacts with cleansing to breathing retraining?
Practically, when students learn breathing retraining, only some students experience cleansing reactions. For example, my students nearly never experience cleansing reactions unless they practice for a certain amount of time per day. Then cleansing reactions are common. Find out these general observations right below here as your bonus content.
- Dr. Buteyko on the body cleansing reactions (Part of his small manual “Method of volitional elimination of deep breathing”, with details about duration, severity and physiological mechanisms of common body cleanses).
- Signs of perfect digestion and how to improve digestion with a right diet.
- This page in Spanish: Reacción de limpieza del cuerpo | Causas de desintoxicación.
Back to: Learning Buteyko Breathing Exercises
You can leave your grammatically correct feedback and/or comments below. Thanks.