“Detox, or “cleanse” are two common wellness buzzwords that are frequently tossed about this time of year. Springtime is the perfect season to clean out the clutter in your house and simplify your life.
It also follows that this is the optimal time to detoxify your body, feel cleansed, energized, and ready to enjoy life to the fullest. But what exactly is a detox, and should you do one? Read on to find out.
The process of detoxification is natural to any living organism and involves the removal of waste material from the body. Our major organs of detoxification are the liver, kidneys, colon, and skin. A balanced and comprehensive approach to support and enhance the functions of each is critical for achieving optimal health and wellness. Detox programs vary widely and can last for a few days to as long as several months. However regardless of how much or little time you can spare for a detox, each successful cleansing program must incorporate these 5 aspects:
- Dietary modifications
- Supportive supplementation
- Lifestyle changes
- Mental/emotional cleansing
- Spiritual health
1. Dietary Modifications
During a detox regimen, a whole-foods, hypo-allergenic diet is recommended. It is best to avoid any common, suspected and known food allergens such as wheat and dairy. It is also prudent to avoid most refined foods such as sugar, white pasta, white rice, white bread, red meat, and most packaged foods. Eat when you feel hungry. It is better to eat 5 or 6 small meals throughout the day rather than a few large meals, thereby maintaining stable blood sugar levels
Elimination of toxins is mediated by continuously voiding and replenishing body fluids. Drinking 2-3 litres of water daily helps maintain the body’s basic physiological functions and aids the kidneys in removal of waste products. However water should not be consumed with meals as this may interfere with digestive enzyme functioning. You can also jumpstart the liver detoxification process in the morning by drinking a glass of warm water with fresh squeezed lemon juice. It is best to wait 30 minutes before eating breakfast in order to maintain those helpful enzymes.
Focusing your diet on liver supportive foods is highly recommended even when not on a detox. The foods that protect the liver and aid in detoxification include:
- The cruciferous family of vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, and brussel sprouts.
- Dark leafy greens such as dandelion and kale, are chock full of nutrients and fiber to help your colon eliminate effectively.
- Other helpful foods include garlic, beets, turmeric, green tea, and a variety of berries.
2. Supportive Supplementation
Although a detox without additional supplements can still be effective many choose to add these as “boosters” to augment the detoxification process. Specific supplements may be used to support the liver, aid kidney and bowel function as well as maintain a healthy digestive tract. With all supplements, an individualized approach is recommended and seeking advice from a trained healthcare professional is a must. A list of commonly used supplements in a detoxification protocol include: alpha lipoic acid, curcumin, and N-acetylcysteine to protect the liver. Digestive concerns may be addressed by using probiotics to repopulate gut-friendly bacteria, soluble and insoluble fibre to aid elimination, and digestive enzymes to help with the breakdown of foods. Often herbal medicines such as milk thistle, shisandra, artichoke and dandelion are used to support liver health.
If you’re not a fan of taking capsules or are looking to supercharge your detox effects, IV Vitamin Therapy can be a great option. Intravenous (IV) Drip therapy involves the administration of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to rapidly improve cellular healing. Normally, cells in the digestive tract facilitate the absorption of nutrients. However, in IV therapy the gut is bypassed with the direct infusion into the bloodstream. That’s why the benefits of IV therapy can often be felt within hours of the treatment, as opposed to days or weeks when taking regular vitamins. One specific ingredient to look for is Glutathione. This hardworking molecule acts as a major antioxidant, free radical scavenger, and an essential component of liver detoxification. As it is difficult to get high levels through food or supplements, adding this antioxidant to your IV Vitamin Drip may be specifically helpful. At my downtown Toronto IV therapy clinic, we’ve seen great improvements in health through these IV detoxes.
3. Lifestyle Suggestions
The way you live your life plays an enormous role in your body’s detoxification capacity and overall health. Incorporating some or all of these lifestyle changes will help you feel rejuvenated, relaxed and restored.
It is crucial in supporting the cleansing process. It helps to relax the body and clear wastes. Any non-stressful activity that you enjoy will help you rest, recuperate and encourage your body’s detoxification. Aim for a frequency of at least 3X/week. Examples include: yoga, pilates, dance classes, tai-chi…etc.
Dry Skin Brushing
This easy and inexpensive habit helps improve lymphatic drainage and has the added bonus of exfoliating your skin. Simply use a soft brush or loofah and prior to bathing, gently brush your body in long strokes. Start at the feet and hands, working your way up, and always stroking towards the heart. This can be done every day, year round. Skip this if you have any skin conditions such as eczema or unhealed wounds.
Alternating warm and cool water temperatures while in the shower increases circulation and is a simple, effective way to improve your metabolism. Start with three minutes of hot water (or as warm as you can tolerate) followed by less than one minute of cold water (or as cool as you can tolerate). Repeat this pattern at least twice, and always finish with cold. Do not attempt this exercise if you have very low blood pressure or have any serious heart conditions.
A critical component of allowing body to detoxify and heal is ensuring adequate rest. Although sleeping 8 hours is generally recommended, some people may need more or less to feel refreshed.Take naps if you can and remember to always listen to your body.
Many of us carry around emotional baggage which can be detrimental to our health and wellbeing. It is a good idea to take steps to cleanse your mind and emotions as well. Some easy tips for this include;
While detoxing, most people experience greater work energy, more creativity and, naturally find lots to do. This is a great time to try a new activity such as painting or singing to express your inner self.
Cleaning up Your Environment
Your room, desk, office, closet, and home. Getting rid of physical clutter can be emotionally liberating.
Avoiding Negative Influences
Some people may not understand or support you. You know who those people are and how they drain your energies. Remember to listen to your inner guidance and focus on your own wellbeing.
Allow yourself time at some point in the day to write down your feelings and thoughts, positive or negative, and reflect on the day and what you are learning about yourself.
Regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs, spiritual practice can affirm a positive attitude and support your health by providing the inner fuel to live with purpose and passion. Meditation and relaxation are other important aspects of cleansing which help clear stresses and bring us into contact with ourselves.
Although cleansing is not an easy process to stick with, most people feel better as their cleanse progresses—more vital, lighter, less blocked, more flexible, clearer, and more spiritually attuned. There are many benefits to cleansing your body and mind. However, certain individuals should not attempt it without supervision from a trained healthcare professional. These include:
- Diabetics, since a detox program may lower their blood sugar levels and their medication may need to be adjusted.
- People taking medications should also seek professional advice since the detox can increase the speed with which medications are metabolized and eliminated.
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid doing an intensive detox program due to the potential of releasing toxins through the placenta or in breast milk. However a detox is usually highly recommended as preparation for conception for both parents!
Please be aware that people experience different reactions to detoxification and cleansing depending on how much the body needs to eliminate. Some common symptoms include:
- constipation or diarrhea
- mood swings
- runny nose
- inability to concentrate.
These and others are normal reactions and can be lessened with increased water intake, exercise, adequate food intake and resting when needed. If, however, you continue to experience such symptoms, please seek the advice of a trained healthcare professional to help rule out other contributing factors. Try to start your cleansing process when you have a day or two off from work since the first day or two are the most difficult. However, these symptoms will subside and the benefits will be worth it!
By Dr. Yalena Deshko, ND