Springtime is a great time to talk about detoxification. While the main focus of this article will be on the physical body, pay attention to the detoxification of other areas of your life – home, cupboards, emotions, and even your thoughts.
All of us stray from living in a way that supports our health from time to time: not enough sleep, too little exercise, too much bad food, too much stress and not enough time for ourselves. A detoxification program can help reset your body – it may last anything from 3 days and up, depending on your purpose for doing it.
Why would a person detox?
Long-term exposure to toxins, over and above our body’s capabilities to deal with these toxins, has an effect on our immune system and our metabolism, which can ultimately lead to disease.
As if that weren’t reason enough, a body full of toxins has a hard time burning fat. This is primarily due to the fact that our bodies store toxins in fat cells, therefore detoxification could help you lose weight and burn fat. It also helps clear the body of free radicals responsible for ageing.
The accumulation of toxins leads to acidity in the body, which, if persistent, can result in the body neutralising the acid by releasing calcium and other minerals from your bones. This can eventually cause the bones to slowly dissolve, which could lead to osteoporosis down the line. Modern life comes with a lot more toxins than our bodies are designed to deal with.
- Foods are often loaded with chemicals, hormones, flavourants and preservatives
- The air we breathe is polluted
- The water we wash with and drink may be chlorinated
- Our cosmetics and household cleaning products may not all be organic
- Paint on our walls is often toxic
- Lower nutrient soil is now used to grow our vegetables
A good detox can lead to many improvements in your general well -being, including:
- Better nutrient absorption
- More energy
- Improved quality of sleep
- Enhanced digestion
- Improved skin
- Mental and emotional clarity
- More balanced hormonal health
So how do I know if I should consider a detox?
If you have 4 or more of the following signs, chances are you may benefit from a detoxification programme. (Please note, there may be other more serious reasons for some of the below symptoms, so if you are concerned, visit a healthcare professional):
- Bad breath
- White or yellow coated tongue
- Increased belly fat
- Blood sugar imbalances/cravings
- Abdominal bloating
- Body odour
- Trouble losing weight
- Itchy skin
- Fatigue, especially in the morning
- Mood swings
- Chemical sensitivity (eg. a perfume could make you nauseous)
- Insomnia (especially between 1am and 4am)
- Achy joints
- Brain fog
- Autoimmune issues
How does the detoxification process work? (the science bit)
The process of detoxification is amazing. When toxins appear in your bloodstream, antioxidants latch onto them and neutralise their capacity to oxidise, before escorting them to the liver.
A liver cell grabs onto a toxin, releases the antioxidant and gets to work on the toxin. This detoxification process has two steps.
In phase 1, chemical reactions neutralise and eliminate the toxins by one of three ways: via the bile and faeces; urine and sweat; or by converting it to an intermediate compound that could actually be more toxic than the original toxin.
This is when phase 2 (conjugation) needs to kick in, in order to neutralise the compound and make it water soluble, so that it can be eliminated through urine or sweat.
Top tips for a lifestyle detox:
The symptoms of detoxing can be uncomfortable, and therefore it is important to support the body in any way possible.
- Ensure you are getting all the essential nutrients and antioxidants – to ensure detoxification occurs completely (phase 2), without causing harm
- Eat natural, unprocessed, local and organic foods
- Grow and eat broccoli sprouts (the sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts strongly supports phase II detoxification)
- Consume fermented foods and probiotics
- Eat at least one-third of your food raw, and eat lots of greens and cruciferous vegetables
- Make sure you eat enough healthy fats from avocados, flax seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds etc.
- Use ‘green’ cleaning products in your home
- Consider a colonic (also known as a colon cleanse or colon hydrotherapy)
- Get plenty of rest
- Choose glass over plastic (especially your water bottle)
- Sweat – infrared saunas are particularly effective. (your skin is a major organ of elimination)
- Take regular Epsom salt baths
- Get a lymph drainage massage/practise dry brushing of your body
- Breathe deeply (helps to alkalise your body)
- Minimise use of electronics as much as possible (TV, computer, cell phone, tablets, etc).
- Consume clean, filtered water, or spring water if possible
- Exercise moderately
- Find a healthy way to deal with emotions
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine
- Avoid smoking
- Add cardamom (3–5 seeds) to your coffee. Cardamon increases the Phase I enzyme that metabolises caffeine.
Cautionary notes on detoxing
It’s important to note that you need to establish a healthy lifestyle and dietary habits first so that you have a reserve which your body can draw on to allow your liver to do its job properly.
If you fail to do this you can easily overwhelm your liver’s ability to process the toxic substances being eliminated and you will become sick or experience exaggerated detox symptoms. I have seen this happen often, therefore I advise that your current state of health is evaluated before embarking on any kind of detoxification program. It is also advised that a periodic detox is not used as an excuse to eat badly and drink excessively.
Most importantly, be kind and loving to yourself in the process, and enjoy taking care of your body.