‘Detox’ is always the in word for January. You may be seeking a way to shed some of that extra ‘heaviness’ and ‘grit’ you accumulated over the Christmas and New Year binge?
You’ve browsed 100 different ways to ‘detox’ from juice fasts, water fasts, ‘magic pill’ detoxes, laxatives…but how do you know which one’s right for you or if any of them actually work?
The truth is: none of them will work if your own body elimination processes aren’t working.
In fact, you may be making yourself worse.
Here’s the snitch: we are always detoxing.
- Your liver is constantly activating both phases of detoxification to eliminate toxins.
- Your lymphatic system is always circulating to remove build up of toxic waste in bodily tissues.
- Your kidneys are always filtering and excreting water soluble toxins.
- Your gut is always housing those brilliant bacterial workers who assist in detoxifying incoming toxins and help to excrete them all out.
But your liver, lymph, kidneys and gut aren’t always working at their absolute best.
So if you try to detox your body while one of these systems is out of whack or exhausted, then you have lost one of the key methods your body has to get rid of toxic & damaging metabolites.
So now you have liberated toxins or damaging metabolites from your bodily tissues as part of your detox….but they can’t be eliminated…so where else do they have to go but continually recirculate throughout your body, all the while continuing to inflict damage?!
Definitely not the result you were after.
As a naturopath, I don’t encourage ‘detoxing’ as such.
I encourage supporting your eliminatory organs (aka. your emunctories: your liver, lymph, kidneys and gut), because if they are all working at their best, then they can (mostly) handle whatever toxins or grit you are throwing at them and get them out of your body automatically.
If you want to ‘detox’ the smart way, then gently nourishing your emunctories is the way to go. It will support your overall health, as well as be a sustainable and longer-term solution with long-lasting results (without those nasty side effects). Because it isn’t a detox, but a new way of living.
Your liver is the big powerhouse, the head macho, the one who can have the biggest effect…and cause the most damage too.
Your liver has 2 phases of detoxification.
Phase one takes metabolites in your blood and starts to break them down into their new metabolites (usually more toxic than they were before). Phase two then grabs these metabolites and makes them inactive through various different detoxification channels to then be eliminated either via your stool or by your urine.
Where the liver goes wrong is phase one works brilliantly getting all these new toxic metabolites ready for phase two. Unfortunately, phase two can be very sluggish meaning these new toxic metabolites start to build up and inflict damage.
Phase two can be sluggish due to various reasons such as genetic variations, lack of nutritional cofactors, etc. So the best thing you can do is provide your liver with all the delicious and nourishing foods it needs to help these pathways along – the main ones being cruciferous (liver loving) vegetables such as brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, dark leafy greens (caution in thyroid issues); and herbs that chelate to toxins such as parsley and coriander.
In my opinion the lymphatic system is one of the most underrated systems. It follows alongside your blood vessels and is the king at mopping up waste products to bring them to your main detoxification organs to be properly eliminated.
But if your lymph doesn’t have it’s own system moving it around – it relies on you. So if your lymph becomes stagnant, then those mopped up toxins have no other way to get to your eliminatory organs to be detoxed and removed.
The easiest way to move your lymph is to move your body. The contraction of your muscles are the main way your lymph is pushed throughout your body. If you need an extra push, try dry skin brushing before your shower by brushing your skin in the direction of your heart to encourage full elimination.
Water soluble toxins have one main way out and that is through your urine. So if you aren’t drinking enough fluid to be urinating regularly enough (and so that your urine is closer to transparent rather than dark yellow), then you will be retaining a lot of those toxic metabolites.
The solution is easy: up the fluid intake to 2-3L per day, and include wet sloppy foods, watermelon etc to boost incidental intake.
Your gut has two influential factors: the fact it pushes out your stools and it houses your powerful community of microbes.
For one, if you aren’t passing a stool at least everyday (if not more), then your stool (filled with all toxins and wastes) is moving too slowly through your bowels, giving your digestive tract the chance to reabsorb some of those toxins back into your body for recirculating.
Two, you need a good diversity of the beneficial microbes to help with detoxifying, neutralising and eliminating your wastes and toxins, as they can reactivate toxins & metabolites for reabsorption and slow down transit time.
So this is a two prong approach: increase your fluid intake to promote regular bowel habits, and consume enough dietary fibre and a variety of it to feed all the beneficial microbes so they can effectively do their job.
In terms of fibre, aim for all colours of the rainbow in vegetables and wholegrains, and a variety of 40 whole foods. This is easier than it seems with red, white and black quinoa counting as one each (so 3 all up), red, purple and orange carrots are individually counted (so 3 all up), etc. Each new variety is a new wholefood.
5. extra love: skin
When you sweat you are effectively eliminating wastes through your skin, so having a good sweat can help to detox your body.
Go sit in an infrared sauna a couple of times per week to give your body all the support it needs.
Detoxing doesn’t have to be this intense 3-10 day hit, because if your eliminatory pathways aren’t prepared for it then you won’t be getting the results you’re after. Try to support each of these pathways, and watch as your health blossoms.
Your perfect detox plan is as individual as you are, so if you need help to kickstart your health for the new year, seek out a Naturopath to tailor the perfect treatment protocol for you and get you feeling fabulous for this new year.