The January detox is a cliche of modern life. The need to purify our bodies (and minds!) after the excesses of Christmas. There is an argument however that our bodies are constantly detoxing and that we just need to sit back and let that happen…
This is true to a certain extent – our bodies are constantly detoxifying all that we eat, drink, breathe in and put onto our skin. We also consistently detoxify the by-products of every metabolic process that occurs within our body – ie. digestion and hormone synthesis. The liver is our major organ of detoxification and it works around the clock to process and package up toxins to be moved out of the body via the bowel, skin, lungs and kidneys.
The problem is however that the 21st century is a highly polluted place in which to live. We are exposed to 100’s of chemicals on a daily basis that simply did not exist a few decades ago. The standard Western diet includes a high proportion of processed foods lacking in the basic nutrients needed to support the detoxification process. Many people are at a further disadvantage as they are genetically poor detoxifiers. All this means that our bodies may gradually accumulate more stored toxins as we become less efficient at eliminating them and too overloaded to keep on top of the job of daily detoxification.
If you are suffering from symptoms such as headaches, low energy, insomnia, weight loss resistance, alcohol intolerance and digestive issues then these could be indications that your liver could do with a helping hand to get back on track and it may well be a good idea to plan a period of dietary and lifestyle detoxification!
This should however be done sensibly without any of those gimmicky starvation, ultra low calorie plans that simply deprive you of the valuable nutrients that you need to support detoxification. So follow these simple steps to get your diet and health back on track in 2017…
Step One: Eliminate all those unhealthy foods which may be eaten though the year but that tend to reach a peak at Christmas time. These all put extra strain on your liver:
- Sugar – cut out any foods with added sugar – sweets, chocolate, cake, biscuits, fizzy drinks. Watch out for sugar that can be hidden in processed foods, or seemingly healthy foods such as soup, cereal or flavoured yoghurt.
- Alcohol and caffeine both put huge pressure on your liver, so eliminate or cut right down….perhaps take a few days to do this though if you drink a lot of caffeine as you may get withdrawal symptoms if you do it too fast.
- Processed foods, GM foods, hydrogenated or trans fats serve absolutely no healthy purpose and put a strain on your liver.
- Artificial sweeteners should not be used instead of sugar as these also need detoxifying.
- Non organic meat and produce will contain traces of the pesticides, fungicides, drugs and hormones utilised in the industry to maximise production, so choose organic wherever choice and budget allow.
- If you know of any foods which make you feel lethargic or bloated or just “not quite right” after consumption then cut them out. Gluten and dairy are two common offenders, though it would be best to have a proper nutritional consultation before elimination of any major food groups. Kinesiology muscle testing is very useful for identifying problem foods.
Step Two: Clean up your immediate environment to further relieve the burden on your liver:
- Cut down on the use of plastics with food. Never put hot food in a Tupperware container and do not reheat food in a plastic container. Do not drink through the plastic lids on takeaway hot drinks. Avoid foods tightly packaged in plastics. BPA is just one of the health disrupting compounds that are leached from heated plastic.
- Have a beauty detox – either use less products or opt for organic ranges such as Green People. Whatever you put on your skin will find its way into every cell in your body within a few minutes. Some common ingredients in beauty products that you definitely do not want distributed in your body include parabens, phalates, SLS, triclosan and petroleum products – so check the ingredients in your favourite products – it may be time for a change!
- Detox your house – cut down on chemicals from cleaning products, household fragrances, scented candles, air fresheners etc. Opt for organic products such as Ecover and use essential oils or open windows to freshen things up.
Step Three: Support and revitalise the liver
- Eat foods that help to flush toxins from tissue and fat stores – sulphur containing foods are essential for this process – eggs, lentils, garlic, asparagus and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale and cabbage.
- Eat good quality protein (organic meat and fish, tofu, pulses, eggs, organic cheese and yoghurt, nuts and seeds). Protein breaks down into individual amino acids which are vital for efficient detoxification pathways.
- Draw toxins out of the body with astringent foods and pectins found in parsley, coriander, dark green leafy vegetables, green apples, pomegranate and green tea.
- Bind and eliminate toxins with soluble and insoluble fibre – chicory root, lentils, chia seeds, oats, ground flaxseeds, unpeeled fruit and veg.
- Increase the antioxidants in your diet to support the detoxification process – eat a rainbow of colours of fruit and vegetables, include avocados, nuts and seeds for the fat soluble antioxidants.
- B vitamins are essential for healthy detoxification – they can be found in dark green veg, eggs, wholegrains, fish and meat (especially organ meats).
- Certain liver supportive supplements can be helpful if dietary intake of the above is not sufficient – speak to a qualified nutritional therapist for specific recommendations.
- Drink plenty of water – preferably filtered water rather than tap or bottled. Tap water is treated with a variety of chemicals to kill bacteria and other microorganisms, and all these chemicals require detoxification. Bottled water may contain contaminants which have leached from the plastic into the water. Drinking plenty of water will also help to keep your bowels moving which is vital to keep toxins moving out the body.
- You should also aim to get sufficient exercise, fresh air, quality sleep and rest and relaxation to support the detoxification process. This final point is often the most difficult to implement – we all lead such busy lives that it can be hard to allow yourself time out. Do not however underestimate the damaging effects of too much stress and too little rest – detoxification is an energy intensive process and will under function if all your energy resources are being directed elsewhere.
Address these basics and that may be all that is needed to give your detoxification pathways and therefore health and energy a boost. If you go one step further and implement these basic steps long term rather than just for a few weeks and you will be doing your health an even bigger favour!
If you feel that you need extra support then please get in touch with me for a personal nutrition consultation.