We all know the feeling – for one reason or another, your usual eating habits have gone out the window and you are feeling sluggish, tired, heavy and just….blah. Maybe it’s because of a hectic few weeks (months?), or an indulgent holiday, or you have just not had the inspiration to shop and cook much.
Don’t worry, you are not alone!
The natural inclination after such a ‘failure’ (and I deliberately use quotation marks there) is to embark on a reset or detox of some sort. But, what’s the best way to detox?
“As of Monday, I am no longer eating cheese, chocolate or anything that has touched gluten.”
“As of tomorrow, I am cutting out all coffee and sugar from my diet and only eating whole food plant-based.”
“I am going to detox to lose weight fast – nothing but lemon water for me!”
“The apple cider detox cleanse will get me back on track!”
Does this sound familiar?
The real question is, do these resolves to ‘clean up’ really work? What is a ‘detox’, and is it worth the headaches, nausea and hangry outbursts? Which detox cleanse is the best?
What is a detox?
Despite the promises made on all of those brightly-coloured cleanses and detox products or cleverly marketed regimes, there is no clear definition of the word ‘detox’. What is ‘detoxifying’ for one body may or may not be for another, depending on various factors including lifestyle and environment.
Generally speaking, detoxes are designed as short-term interventions that aim to eliminate toxic compounds from your body – thus cleansing your body of all the ‘nasties’. These compounds include pollutants, synthetic chemicals, heavy metals and other undesirable mand-made substances.
Juice cleanses, fasts, restricted sets of food, herbal teas, enemas, laxatives, saunas and strange-smelling concoctions or supplements are options used in various detox regimes that are supposed to leave the detoxer feeling lighter, more energetic and clear of mind once the ordeal is over…should you make it that far.
What is a toxin?
The word ‘toxin’ itself is also tricky to define, as all of the abovementioned compounds are found in everyday life and can’t be avoided in some form or another and will re-enter the body just as soon as they are eliminated. In truth, in the right (or wrong) dose, there are many, many things that are toxic to humans. Alcohol, for example, is a toxin that is dealt with very well by our liver in well-managed doses, but overdo it and you will suffer (and potentially end up very sick). Here’s another example of ‘the dose makes the poison’; did you know bok choy also contains glucosinolates, which can contribute to thyroid disease? So, chow down on a mass amount of the green stuff and you could end up worse for wear, even though a serving or two is actually very good for you.
So, what does this mean?
I’m sure you would have gathered by the language I have used in this post that I am not particularly fond of fast-and-furious detox regimes. Some of you may swear by them – and by all means, if it works for you, go nuts – but for the majority of us, a rapid body detox is just not pleasant nor necessary.
Plus, I am sorry to say, most weight loss from a detox diet is probably water, carbohydrate stores, and intestinal bulk — all of which come back in a few hours after the detox ends.
There is a much easier and more sustainable way to keep our body thriving with a low toxic load – nourish and support it to do its job!
Our magical detoxifying bodies
We have an incredible, in-built and cheap detox regime working away RIGHT NOW. Within our clever bodies are our liver, kidneys, lungs, digestive system and skin that essentially rid our bodies of harmful chemicals every minute of every day. Our liver and kidneys filter the blood, our lungs filter the air we breathe, and our digestive system sorts our ingested nasties before they have a chance to wreak havoc on the rest of the body. Unneeded or harmful compounds are then excreted through our skin, expelled air or into the toilet. It is a purpose-built and very efficient system!
But; there is one caveat to this efficiency – the load we put on it.
Why detoxifying your body IS important
Over time, lifestyle choices can add a lot of pressure to our natural detoxification system, and with that comes that ick feeling or, worse, chronic health conditions. Impaired detoxification has been linked to illnesses such as some cancers, Parkinson’s disease, chronic fatigue and some autoimmune disorders, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
A happy, healthy and well-functioning body is that which can effectively deal with the constant supply of potentially harmful substances we ingest every day, and keeping your pride and joy (the skin you are in!) in top detox mode does not require any extra time, money or minutes spent on the toilet!
How to detox your body naturally
By keeping in mind some simple daily practices to help your body detox naturally, you will never have to feel like you are desperate for a detox, cleanse or reset again. If you have a weekend (or week, or month) of overindulging, know that you have NOT done irreversible damage. This moment of weakness is but a blip on the radar of life, and all you need to do is get back to your daily detoxifying habits and move forward without the self-imposed guilt and shame. As you will read a little further down, detoxing is not only about what we physically do to our bodies, but our mental state has a vast impact as well.
- Limit alcohol
Give your liver the best chance possible to filter out pollutants by not adding to its workload too much. This does not mean abstaining, but limiting alcoholic drinks to 1-2 in a day plus a few AFDs (alcohol-free days) per week.
- Drink plenty of water
Water transports waste products in your body to be removed via urination, breathing, or sweating. Waste includes outside synthetic compound such as pollutants, as well as bodily waste such as carbon dioxide and fibre. Staying well-hydrated plays a major role in natural daily detoxification and is one of the most important healthy habits I encourage with my clients.
The ideal amount of water needed per day does vary per person depending on body size, activity level and food preferences, for example, so the easiest way to tell if you have had enough water is to look at your wee. You want to see a light yellow to clear colour – if not, go fill up your water bottle!
- Limit processed foods
Many processed foods (ie things that come in packets) contain compounds that have been shown as harmful to health when consumed in large quantities (but again, remember, the dose makes the poison). It makes sense to limit your toxic load by choosing whole foods that have not been subjected to preservatives, colours, highly refined oils and plastic packaging.
These anti-nutrients need to be dealt with somehow by your body, so give it a fighting chance by reducing your consumption and keeping the dose as low as possible.
- Look after your guts
Gut health is a very valuable piece of your natural detoxification puzzle. Inside your intestinal cells is a marvellous detoxification and excretion system that helps protect your body from ingested chemicals and non-nutrient compounds. Maintain good bacteria by consuming fermented foods such as yoghurt, kimchi and sauerkraut, and keep up with ample doses of prebiotics.
Prebiotics are types of dietary fibre that feeds good bacteria to encourage proliferation and growth, which in turn helps keep your digestive system strong. Prebiotic foods include bananas, asparagus, onions, oats, tomatoes and artichokes.
‘Sweating it out’ is an effective way to encourage natural detoxification by amping up activity of your heart, lungs and muscles. Sweat itself is not the primary detoxification method here, but by encouraging increased breathing and circulation, your body is more able to move unhelpful substances that are hiding in your body (such as in your lymph glands) and push them towards an exit.
So, you don’t need to get all hot and bothered about fitting in a big sweaty session to aid detoxification; just find a way to move a little more and kick up the heart rate a notch or two.
- Stress less
While the other five points above have all been about reducing the physical load on your body to aid natural detoxification, mental load is also very worthy of mention.
Stress can create all sorts of problems for your overloaded body, including making that alcohol and processed food harder to resist and finding the energy to exercise becomes almost non-existent! Lifestyle choices such as these often suffer when we are under chronic stress, which only serves to compound the situation.
In addition, stress has a significant physiological impact on our bodies. Hormones are disrupted, digestive processes go out of whack, sleep disturbances are common, and our body has to work harder through rapid fight or flight cycles.
Do your natural detoxification system a favour and invest some time in managing stress levels. Try meditation, journaling, scheduling a walk, booking in some fun over the weekend or taking a moment each day to sit in the sun with a cup of tea – whatever way takes your fancy, prioritise YOU.
If you would like a little extra assistance in improving your health through achievable, sustainable habit change without stress, let’s chat. All introductory calls are FREE and give us a chance to get to know each other and find the perfect way to get you started towards your goals.
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I look forward to meeting you!