Spring has arrived and with it everything fresh and clean. It’s the perfect time to invigorate our bodies and minds, clean the slate and start anew. Detoxification is the way we do this. It happens naturally and all of the time without our even thinking about it, so why is doing a cleanse all the rage at this time of year? Does it require a special kit or process? Are all detox kits safe and effective?
Detoxification is a complex orchestration of numerous organ systems with the liver, digestive tract, kidneys and skin playing leading roles. In order for detoxification to be safe and effective, the elimination pathways (digestive tract and kidneys) need to be clear and functioning, otherwise the toxins released from the liver have no exit strategy and end up being reabsorbed and deposited in other body systems or pushing their way out through the skin. Neither of which is desirable! To ensure that detox is conducted safely and effectively, it is best to do so under the supervision of a licensed health care practitioner.
In today’s world, we are constantly bombarded with toxic substances ~ in the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Metals in our mouths from dental care, chemicals in the beauty products we use, additives in the supplements we take, and the list goes on and on. While we have an innate system of detoxification to deal with toxic insults, we are being inundated at a rate far greater than what our bodies can handle. Over time, these toxins accumulate within the body contributing to various dis-ease processes resulting in a decreased quality of life.
Common symptoms of an overburdened detoxification system include but are not limited to digestive disturbances including diarrhea, constipation and irritable bowel, nausea, allergies, chemical sensitivities, recurrent infections and skin rashes, infertility, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue and insomnia. A variety of chronic and degenerative diseases including arthritis, chronic migraines, cardiovascular disease and cancer are becoming increasingly linked to toxic overload. Does this sound exceedingly dismal? It is, but thankfully there is a lot we can do about it! By building a strong foundation of healthy diet and lifestyle choices, coupled with medically supervised detoxification programs two to three times per year, we can drastically reduce the toxic burden to ourselves, thereby relieving symptoms and regaining an active and energetic life.
Detoxification through Diet
Things to Include More Of…
- Fruit and Vegetables: include a minimum of 7-10 servings of fresh, organic fruit and vegetables daily as they are a great source of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and fiber. A fruit smoothie in the morning with greens and vegetables added is a great way to ‘hide’ veggies and increase your vegetable intake!
- Fiber: the standard American diet is woefully low in fiber, and this deficiency has been linked to various health conditions including digestive ailments, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Fiber ensures regular elimination of waste through the bowels, as well as being integral to the binding of toxins in our bodies. Incorporate legumes, fruits, vegetables, ground flax, oatmeal and psyllium into your diet to increase your fiber.
- Vegetarian Protein: Protein is essential for detoxification and vegetable protein is excellent as it creates less stress on the body than animal protein. Include a variety of nuts, seeds and legumes into your diet on a regular basis to improve your protein quotient.
- Water: With an abundance of pure water, the system can flush clean! Squeeze some lemon or add a capful of apple cider vinegar to your water each morning as this stimulates the detoxification pathways of the liver, thereby helping to cleanse your system. This also helps to alkaline your system which aids in detoxification.
- Organic Foods: As much as possible, choose organic foods. Conventional produce is laden with petroleum based fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, all of which increase the toxic burden on the body.
Some plants are more highly sprayed than others, as they are more susceptible to bugs that affect crop yield. These are called the ‘dirty dozen’. Buy these organic! The ‘clean 15’ is a list of produce that is less sprayed and so safer. Ensure you wash your produce well, both the organic and conventional varieties. Of greatest importance to purchase organic are your animal products, including dairy. These foods are a hidden source of antibiotics, steroids and hormones which are highly detrimental to our health when consumed. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
The Dirty Dozen
Peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes.
The Clean Fifteen
Onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocado, cabbage, sweet peas, asparagus, mangos, eggplant, kiwi, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, grapefruit and mushrooms.
Things to Include Less of…
- Refined and processed foods: These foods are high in sugar and chemical additives, both of which add a toxic burden to the liver and negatively impact your health. Removing these from your diet alone will propel you along the way to wellness!
- Alcohol and caffeine: Both substances are toxic to the liver and deplete it of essential nutrients. Replace these substances with pure water and herbal teas as much as possible.
- Red Meat and Dairy: not only do these foods increase the protein load on the kidneys affecting their ability to eliminate toxins, they are inflammatory in nature thereby increasing the toxic burden in the gut, liver and kidney systems. When opting for meat, choose white meats and cold water fish.
Exercise Spurs Detoxification
Daily exercise increases cellular metabolism which results in more toxins being moved out of the cells and into the blood. This means more toxins filtered through the blood via the liver. These are then sent to the bowels for elimination. Since exercise increases bowel transit time, it ensures that toxins are moved out of the body via elimination of feces rather than being reabsorbed due to stagnant bowel function. Tie on those sneakers and set all systems to ‘go’!
Detox Kits & Supplements: are they safe?
There is an abundance of products available on the health food store shelves for detoxification. Micro flora for the gut, colonic herbs, vitamins and minerals, to name just a few. But which ones are right for you? As each person is unique, their detoxification needs are unique as well. As discussed above, detox is a complex process involving various organ systems that all need to be working in concert with one another. Done inappropriately, detox can be dangerous and thus should always be conducted under the supervision of a qualified medical professional.