Why do we need to detox? Because in our daily lives we are continually exposed to an array of toxins that interfere with the normal functioning of our cells, and therefore prevent us from reaching optimal health. The foods we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe is laden with chemicals that are foreign to our system. Approximately 4000 chemicals are used in food production so our food can be a major source of toxic material that invades our bodies. Some of the toxins we consume include: preservatives, artificial colourings and flavourings, pesticides, fertilisers, antibiotics, growth enhancers, caffeine and alcohol. As the majority of these are men-made, and in evolutionary terms relatively new, it is not surprising that our bodies are not designed to process them efficiently. Those toxic chemicals combined with chronic stress slow us down and can leave us feeling sluggish and with a lack-lustre appearance. Years of toxic build-up in our system can eventually lead to much more serious health problems, such as chronic fatigue, migraines, arthritis, diabetes, skin and digestive disorders, being overweight, compromised immune function or even cancer.
Our bodies detoxify naturally to maintain life and health. Unfortunately, the demands and strain we put on our organs nowadays mean that our tissues are completely overloaded with harmful, toxic material. Our bodies try to protect us from the damaging effects of this toxic waste by depositing it inside our tissues and surrounding it with mucous and fat. Some people carry up to staggering 10-15 extra pounds of mucous that harbours this waste! This is why effective removal of toxins from the body is crucial to successful weight loss.
Our main detoxification organ is the liver. The job of the liver is to reduce toxins into compounds that the body can safely handle and eliminate through the kidneys (as urine), skin (as sweat), lungs (as expelled air) and bowels (as faeces). Supporting these organs to ensure their optimum function is essential to promoting and maintaining good health. Some detoxification programmes work only with the bowels, others may cleanse the liver or the blood, and others may aid the kidney or skin function. Anything that supports the detoxification and elimination process contributes to improving health and well-being. The best approach is a programme that simultaneously supports all of the organs that play a vital role in the detoxification process. When the body can effectively detoxify and eliminate toxins, then health is restored and we look younger, and feel more energetic and revitalized. However, it is important to remember that “anything is better than nothing”. So if a complete detox plan is not realistic for you to commit to, you can always follow an abbreviated version that works for you. It will still benefit your health.
Spring and summer months are a particularly good time to rejuvenate the body and mind through a complete detox programme. However, the liver and the other vital elimination organs should really be cleansed on a regular basis so indeed any time is a good time to start. It is important not to shock the body with any drastic detox plans. After the first two weeks of gentle cleansing you can start maintaining the good work by making permanent adjustments to your dietary and exercise habits. Allowing the body to gradually adapt to the changes makes the results long-lasting. Detoxing your body and your mind boosts your energy levels and your mood, aids weight loss, clears the skin, improves your immune function and digestion. The benefits are endless. Once you have experienced the difference that you can make to your health with a good detox programme, you will never want to go back!
Since the food we eat is a major source of toxins, not surprisingly cleaning up our diets is a very important step to improving our health. There is no substitute for eating properly and ideally we should attempt to satisfy our nutritional requirements with whole, unadulterated foods. Preparing the food we eat gives us more control over what goes into our body and it does not have to be complicated, or take a long time. Adequate nutritional status is incredibly important as some vitamins and minerals play a vital role in the detoxification process. B vitamins, especially B3 and B6, vitamin C, E and A (beta-carotene), as well as zinc, magnesium, calcium and selenium are all essential to neutralize free radicals and aid detoxification. Of course, it is as much about what food and drink we eat as it is about what food and drink we avoid. Processed foods, caffeine and alcohol should be limited or best completely avoided, as they put most strain on the liver and the vital eliminative organs. Additionally, other factors, such as smoking and stress, contaminate the body and rob it of essential nutrients.
Here are some practical dietary tips you may want to follow if you wish to enjoy the benefits of improved health, energy and vitality:
What to eat / drink:
• Potatoes and any vegetables (fresh or canned in water, with no added salt or sugar)
• Fruit (fresh, frozen or canned, always in natural fruit juice)
• Pure and unsweetened fruit juices and smoothies (try adding fresh ginger and/or cinnamon to further aid the cleansing process)
• Pulses beans and lentils (dried or canned in water, with no added salt or sugar)
• Brown rice, quinoa, millet, rice/corn/buckwheat pasta
• Rye crackers, rice cakes, oat cakes
• Wheat-free muesli
• Unfarmed fish and moderate amounts of lean meat
• Nuts and seeds (avoid salted and roasted)
• Live natural yogurt, soya yoghurt/milk
• Honey (preferably Manuka)
• Almond/pumpkin seeds spread, tahini, humous
• Extra virgin olive oil, flax seed oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, herbs, cayenne pepper
• Herbal/fruit teas
• At least 2L water per day (start the day with a cleansing mug of hot water with squeezed lemon and fresh ginger).
What to limit / avoid:
• Food containing wheat, such as bread, pies, pastries, croissants, cereals, cakes biscuits, quiche, battered or breadcrumbed foods, etc.
• Fatty meat, processed lunch meat, pate, burgers, sausages.
• Processed cheese, full-fat milk, cream
• Chocolate, sweets, jam, sugar
• Crisps and savoury snacks
• Fried foods, ready meals, and take-ways
• Coffee, black tea
• Squash and carbonated drinks, including diet versions
• Sauces, pickles, shop-bought salad dressings, mayonnaise
• Anything containing preservatives, artificial colourings and flavourings, and sweeteners
• Liver cleansing herbs (burdock, nettle, dandelion, milk thistle) as tea or capsules
• Aloe Vera juice, blue-green algae/spirulina/kelp
• A broad-spectrum probiotic supplement
Additionally, in order to support the detoxification process it is essential to exercise regularly, brush your skin before showering, get at least 7 hours sleep every night, and ideally use natural skin products. It is also a good idea to treat yourself to a massage or sauna, and try colonic hydrotherapy. These are all very useful ways of supporting the body in eliminating toxins. Once released into the bloodstream, the toxic waste must be disposed of properly, otherwise it gets reabsorbed and continues putting the strain on body’s systems and organs.
Although a good, cleansing diet is a very important element of any detox programme, managing stress and “decontaminating” the mind cannot be overlooked. Stress and anxiety, as well as any negative thoughts and emotions, make us sluggish and are a source of many serious health problems. In fact every emotion has a physical effect. While positive thoughts and emotions make us feel healthier and more motivated to perform our everyday tasks, negative emotions and stress cause the glands to secrete chemicals which make us sick and depressed.
When we are under stress, the body produces more of the ‘fight or flight’ chemicals. Heart rate and blood pressure increase as a result of hormone release. Blood is redirected to the vital organs and muscles causing a reduction in the blood flow to the skin and digestive system, and fat and sugar are released into the bloodstream for energy. This mechanism is designed to prepare the body for a fight or to run away, which is helpful in certain situations. Unfortunately, nowadays we are less likely to fight or run away, so in most circumstances the chemicals our own body produces to protect us become detrimental. When our bodies are in the ‘fight or flight’ mode, they are not focused on important functions such as cell renewal and repair, or digestion. Being in this state long term damages our physical, mental and emotional health. In short, chronic stress and harmful emotions make us unhappy and sick. Being positive keeps us happy and well. I’m afraid it really is as simple as that. Luckily, negative energy can be very easily transformed into positive energy if the commitment for change is there.
Some of the symptoms of stress include: decreased mental and physical energy, difficulty sleeping and/or getting up in the morning, low mood, anger or irritability, food cravings, being overweight, digestive problems, rapid heartbeat, headaches, poor memory/concentration, frequent colds/infections, and skin problems. Transforming stress and harmful emotions into positive energy can be achieved with the use of hypnotherapy. Apart from managing stress, hypnotherapy is also very effective for improving sleep quality, building motivation for healthy eating and exercise, getting rid of bad habits (e.g. smoking), improving your immune function, and encouraging toxin removal and cell renewal.
Please note that the above guidelines and ideas are general suggestions only. For maximum effectiveness a detox programme should really address specific needs of an individual. Any nutritional imbalances, food allergies/intolerances and other health issues must be taken into account before a detox plan is structured. Additionally, even though these guidelines seem reasonably straightforward and we tend to instinctively know what is good for our bodies and what is likely to have a harmful effect, sometimes with everything that goes on in our lives we struggle to find motivation to do the right thing. If you need help building up and maintaining motivation for healthy eating and/or exercise, or need a personalized detox plan designed specifically for you, or simply for more information or recipe ideas please contact me.