RETENTION AND EVACUATION OF WASTES
It's impossible to live without generating wastes. That's the nature of metabolism, or pepsis, through which the Innate Heat acts on the physical substance of the body and the nutrients it consumes.
The lighter, subtler wastes like exhalation and insensible transpiration are constantly escaping from our bodies, due to the action of the Innate Heat on the substance of the organism. Because these effluents are constantly escaping from the body and depleting its substance, we need to eat and drink to sustain ourselves.
The heavier, denser wastes like urine and feces tend to have the opposite problem: they can get too stuck or congested, and not be eliminated in a prompt, efficient manner. Their undue retention can be just as problematic as their excessive or premature evacuation, if not more so, and can clog the organism and impede its functioning.
And so, the right balance between waste retention and waste evacuation is essential for good hygiene and optimum health. The excessive or premature evacuation of wastes drains the organism of valuable fluids and nutrients that should have been reabsorbed. Excessive waste retention clogs or poisons the organism with toxins in a state called autointoxication.
Both extremes of excessive retention or excessive evacuation of wastes can pose serious threats to life and health. But on the whole, excessive waste retention is much more common and pervasive. Therefore, hygienic waste management is mainly focused on encouraging the prompt, efficient elimination of wastes on a daily basis, and the therapeutic evacuation of wastes to remedy chronic or excessive retention.
The Four Principal Wastes
There are four principal waste products of the body, each of which corresponds to a different element. The physician or hygienist, as well as the individual interested in health and longevity, must be skilled in the proper management of each.
Exhalation, or the Outbreath - AIR
Exhalation, or the outbreath, is the waste product of the Vital Faculty, the exhaust of cellular metabolism. It's expelled by the lungs, which both inhale fresh air and exhale old, stale air through the process of gas exchange.
For breathing to be healthy, inhalation and exhalation must be balanced. If exhalation exceeds inhalation, there will be gasping, dyspnea and shortness of breath. If inhalation exceeds exhalation, there will be a suffocating, stuffy feeling in the chest and much wheezing, yawning or sighing. Because gas exchange is reciprocal, an excess of either exhalation or inhalation will inhibit the other.
If inhalation is deficient and exhalation excessive, lung and breathing capacity must be increased through gentle aerobic exercise, proper nutrition to build the blood, and herbal tonics for the lungs.
If exhalation is deficient and inhalation excessive, it generally indicates insufficient exercise, which has allowed old, stale air and carbon dioxide to build up in the lungs, and in the blood; exercise more, and stay active. Also, a lot of people are very shallow breathers, and allow a lot of old, stale air to build up in the lungs; to remedy this, do yogic breathing exercises.
The outbreath contains not just old, stale air, but also residual or superfluous moisture, as well as the gaseous vapors of other humors. If these get offensive, a condition known as halitosis, or bad breath, develops. Most often, bad breath results from excessive putrid, acrid or sour humors in the stomach. To freshen the breath, chew on some Bay Laurel leaves or Cardamom pods. If this is insufficient, you must cleanse and normalize the functioning of the stomach and digestive tract. And if all this fails - lay off the onions and garlic!
Sweat - FIRE
Sweat is the next subtlest of the four principal wastes. It belongs to the Fire element, and is the body's main way of cooling itself and releasing excessive heat.
Sweat is both the gross, visible perspiration that usually happens only in hot weather, or with vigorous exercise and activity; and the subtle insensible transpiration that's always being released by the skin due to the action of the Innate Heat. Because we're always sweating, in one form or another, we must drink fluids to replenish this loss.
The sweat, especially insensible transpiration, has a close relationship with the exhalation; both eliminate excess moisture and subtle vaporous humors from the body. Together, the lungs and skin form the surface complex, which is the body's first line of defense against colds, flu and exogenous or environmental pathogenic factors.
When the skin is attacked by a chilly draft, the pores close up to protect against the invasion, and all sweating, both sensible and insensible, stops. The fluids that would have been sweated out through the skin back up into the lungs, producing congestion and coughing.
Sweat also has a close relationship with urine, the body's other form of liquid waste; in its chemical composition, sweat resembles a very dilute form of urine. Those with weak, hypofunctioning kidneys will often sweat easily or excessively; the organism is trying to release the wastes it would have eliminated in the urine via the sweat.
If the Vital Force and Thymos are deficient, there will often be a light, furtive sweat that's always present, even without hot weather or vigorous exercise. The body's immune shield isn't vigorous enough to prevent the sweat from escaping. Other deficiency types of sweating are caused by nervous exhaustion, or neuraesthenia; prostration, or marasmus; and various consumptive conditions. Excessive sweating can be stopped with anhydrotics.
The health conscious individual is always mindful of the condition of the skin and its pores. If the pores have been unduly opened by a hot bath, vigorous exercise, and the like, he/she guards against chills.
Diaphoresis, or sweating, is one of the Six Hygienic Purification Methods of Greek Medicine. It cleanses the blood by releasing toxins via the sweat. Sweating can be enhanced or provoked to treat various conditions, like colds and flu or skin conditions, by drinking hot diaphoretic herb teas like Peppermint or Elder flower, or by massaging the body with medicated oils and sweating in a sauna. Sweating is a good preparatory therapy for deeper forms of cleansing.
When there's an excess of morbid humors and toxins, body odor can become overpowering or offensive. Toxic sweat can also burn and sting. Greek Medicine recommends the use of various natural essences and aromatics to impart a pleasant odor to the body, but disapproves of deodorants which inhibit perspiration, which is a natural, cleansing bodily function.
Urine - WATER
Urine is the body's main liquid waste. Water soluble wastes and superfluities in the blood plasma are eliminated from the body via the urine. Urine production involves not just the Water element, but also the Fire element as the Metabolic Heat working through the kidneys to ripen and eliminate wastes via the urine.
The main waste product in the urine is urea, a protein byproduct that colors the urine yellow. The urine also eliminates excesses or superfluities of fluids and electrolytes. Through selective elimination and reabsorption via metabolism and filtration, the kidneys balance and purify the fluids in the bloodstream.
The kidneys, being a metabolic organ of the Natural Faculty, are greatly impacted by what we eat and drink. For optimum urinary function and health, the diet must be watched closely in the following areas:
Water and Fluids: Water and fluid consumption should be ample but not excessive, and adjusted according to endogenous constitutional factors as well as exogenous factors of weather, climate and activity level. Eight glasses per day is the standard, with cold weather or climate, a moist constitution and sedentariness decreasing the need, and a hot weather or climate, a dry constitution and vigorous activity increasing it.
The water drunk should also be pure. It should not be ice cold, since ice cold drinks injure the kidneys, depleting them of the Metabolic Heat they need to properly process and ripen the urine. Drinking ice cold drinks can also aggravate cramps and spasms, as well as urinary imbalances of either excessive or deficient urination.
The excessive consumption of fruit juices, as well as coffee and caffeinated tea, overstimulates the kidneys and is excessively diuretic. Certain herb teas, like Corn Silk, can be drunken liberally throughout the day like water, to heal and balance the urinary tract.
Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption overstimulates the kidneys by overdilating their blood vessels, which has an overly diuretic effect. Over time, this gradually weakens the kidneys.
Sugar and Salt: Excessive salt consumption weakens the kidneys, favors edema and water retention, and the retention of wastes that can aggravate uremia, gout, hypertension, and arthritic conditions. Excessive consumption of sugar and sweets also weakens the kidneys, especially in those with diabetic tendencies.
Fruit and Vegetables: Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables is necessary to cleanse and alkalinize the blood, which aids kidney function. Excessive fruit consumption, especially to the detriment of vegetables, has an overly diuretic effect that weakens the kidneys. Certain fruits, like watermelons, are very diuretic.
Meat and Protein: Excessive meat consumption overburdens the liver and kidneys with too much uric acid, and can aggravate conditions like uremia and gout. Other types of protein, if consumed in great excess, can also injure the kidneys and urinary tract function.
Fat: Excessive fat consumption is bad for the circulatory system, as we all know. Since the circulatory system and Vital Faculty are closely connected with the kidneys and urinary function, what injures the former will also injure the latter.
Exercise, activity and lifestyle factors are also important in maintaining urinary health. Basically, whatever causes undue fatigue, stress or prostration is bad, since the kidneys and urinary tract are energetically linked to the Vital Faculty through the adrenal glands, which sit on top of them. Excessive sexual activity can also drain the kidneys and urinary tract, especially in men.
Diuresis, which is stimulating or provoking urination, is one of the Six Hygienic Purification Methods of Greek Medicine. Since uric acid is yellow, hot and caustic, Greek Medicine considers it to be Choleric in nature. And so, diuresis is the main hygienic therapy for removing toxins from the blood, especially hot, caustic Choleric toxins that irritate and inflame.
Diuretics are herbs or medicines that stimulate or provoke urination. They are indicated in all conditions involving deficient or defective urinary function, which include urinary tract infections, edema and water retention, arthritis and rheumatism, uremia and gout, diabetes and metabolic disorders, and certain rashes and skin conditions. Many herbs and medicines have either stronger or weaker diuretic actions, each with its own particular nature and indications in treating the above conditions.
The whole secret to urinary health lies in keeping a balance: between retention and elimination, between inherent functional vitality of the kidneys versus exogenous purification and stimulation.
The Stool: EARTH
The stool or feces, also called the Alvine Discharge, being the body's main solid waste, is also the one most prone to stagnation and excessive retention. Although excessive or premature evacuation of the stool can be dangerous, even life-threatening, excessive retention is much more common.
Excessive or premature evacuation of the stool is called diarrhea, and can have many causes. Acute diarrhea is usually caused by infection or inflammation, and can be seen as the protective response of the organism to get rid of noxious, irritating or offensive matter. If acute diarrhea is excessive or severe, the greatest threat to life and health is from dehydration, or the loss of valuable fluids and electrolytes. Most chronic forms of diarrhea are due to digestive atony and a deficient Metabolic Heat of digestion that fails to reabsorb sufficient fluids and electrolytes, making the stool loose and watery.
Constipation is the root cause of more chronic and degenerative conditions than just about any other hygienic problem. These conditions include: arthritis, rheumatism, acid reflux, intestinal obstruction, insomnia, bad breath, headaches, dizziness, sore throat, sciatica, lumbago and hemorrhoids, to mention only a few.
The colon can be compared to the roots of a large tree. Old retained wastes and fecal matter putrefy in the colon, which then reabsorbs these toxins back into the organism, causing a condition known as autointoxication or alimentary toxemia.
Those warning of the dangers of constipation and its involvement in chronic disease say, "Death begins in the colon." Those preferring to focus on the positive say, "Life begins with a clean colon."
The first line of treatment for constipation is dietary. Unless the right dietary changes are made, relief of constipation will only be partial, temporary and unsatisfactory.
Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Drink more fluids. Get more fiber and whole grains in your diet; the importance of dietary fiber was recognized by Hippocrates over two thousand years ago. Cut down on refined sugars and starches, meat, fats and cholesterol.
Feces are the waste product of the Earth element, and the colon is like a garden filled with Earth, or feces. In this garden, we need to grow or cultivate healthy intestinal flora. Today, we take acidophilus supplements. Traditionally, the diet was supplemented with yogurt, kefir, borscht, or other foods cultured with beneficial bacteria which aid expulsion.
Certain foods are also natural laxatives. These include oats, flax seeds, sesame seeds, walnuts, okra, raisins, figs, plums, prunes and rhubarb. Garlic and Asafoetida kill harmful intestinal bacteria and encourage beneficial bacteria.
When diet alone is insufficient, we must use laxatives. We must first identify the cause of the constipation and use a laxative that addresses the cause; also, the gentlest laxative necessary to do the job is used. If these precautions aren't taken, one runs the risk of laxative abuse and dependency.
Sometimes, the constipation is just due to a little stress and tension in the intestinal peristaltic muscles. For this, we use aperients, or bowel relaxers, which include Pomegranate juice, Carob syrup, Tamarind paste, Dandelion root, Angelica root and Fo-ti (Polygonum multiflorum). Some of these are also aperitifs, which stimulate the flow of bile, the body's own laxative; these include Goldenseal root, Yellow Dock root, Chicory root and Gentian root. Fumitory is a purgative for black bile.
If the problem is a critical lack of dietary fiber, bulk laxatives are indicated. Some are foods, like prunes, plums and figs. Another commonly used bulk laxative is Psyllium.
If the constipation is due to hard, dry compact stools, stool softeners or lubricant laxatives are indicated. The best known of these is Castor oil, but Mineral oil and various oil-rich nuts and seeds, like walnuts, sesame seeds and peach kernels are also used. For best results, support them with a more moistening, lubricating diet, including more fluids, fresh fruits and vegetables, and soft, soluble fiber. Because old age brings a generalized drying out and withering of the organism as a whole, old people are the most prone to constipation due to excessive dryness of the stool and bowels.
If none of these other laxatives work, the last resort is to use stimulant laxatives, which are also called purgatives. But their action is very harsh, and the risk of abuse and dependency is high. Stimulant laxatives include Rhubarb root, Buckthorn bark, Cascara Sagrada and Senna. Demulcents and carminatives, like Fennel, Licorice root and Ginger are often used to soften or moderate the harsh effects of stimulant laxatives.
Excessive or repeated strong, harsh stimulation of the bowels can drain their inherent vitality and function. This can create a dependency on harsh stimulant laxatives.
Besides laxatives and purgatives, Greek Medicine also uses other therapies to cleanse the colon, where appropriate and indicated. These chiefly consist of various types of enemas; colonic irrigation could also be included as its modern version. Both laxatives and purgatives as well as enemas and colonics are all included under Purgation therapy as one of the Six Hygienic Purification Methods of Greek Medicine. Enemas and colonics are called procured evacuations, because a physician or therapist usually performs them.
Toxins tend to build up more quickly in the organism, and bowel function tends to become more sluggish as we age. And so, it's a good idea to undertake a cleansing regime with enemas and colonics about once or twice a year, especially in middle age and beyond.
The Minor Wastes
The organism eliminates other wastes besides the four principal ones. These include smegma, ear wax, tooth tartar, tongue coatings, sebacious secretions, pus, and vaginal secretions. These are studied carefully by the Greek Physician, because they yield valuable clues as to what's going on in the body. Basically, the organism will try to eliminate accumulations of toxins and morbid, superfluous humors, wherever they may be, through the most convenient route, or orifice available to it. What the organism is eliminating spontaneously through these exudations and secretions will tell the physician a lot about which toxins and morbid humors need to be reduced, cleansed, or brought back into balance.