In this article, Alison Cullen, Nutritional Advisor to Crystal Spring and Bioforce, discusses the benefits of detox to health and wellbeing, and offers practical, pragmatic advice on how to help your body expel toxins effectively.
Our bodies are equipped with many organs and processes that enable us to expel toxins, but sometimes either the amount of toxins we’re exposed to swamps the system, or the system doesn’t work just as well as we might like.
You may be exposing your body to too many toxins if you:
- Smoke or come into contact with other people’s smoke regularly
- Drink more alcohol than the advised limits
- Eat junk food regularly
- Drink a great deal of coffee or tea or fizzy drinks such as coke
- Spend a lot of time driving
- Come into contact with chemicals through your work
- Come into contact with large numbers of ill people through your work
Your body may struggle to expel toxins efficiently if you:
- Have days when your bowel doesn’t move at all
- Have days when you don’t drink at least 1.5 litres of still, plain water
- Have days when you don’t eat any fresh fruit or vegetables
- Have days when you don’t get out into the fresh air for a little brisk exercise
The body has a couple of ‘emergency exits’ to use if the main exits are blocked or sluggish; it can push toxins out through the skin, the mucous membranes and, in women, the menstrual blood. Thus, people whose exits have got bottlenecked are more likely to have poor skin, persistent catarrh, bad periods, or a general selection of bloating, fatigue, cystitis, frequent colds, headaches, bad breath, and a thickly coated tongue.
Improving the efficiency of your main elimination routes can therefore free you from quite a long list of unpleasant symptoms.
How long and how extreme would you recommend people go on a detox?
When attempting to clean up, it is vital to open the exit routes first. This is so that toxins lifted from the tissues and the organs will actually leave the body rather than circulate in the bloodstream (making you feel terrible) before settling back in again. Fasting on organic seaweed for a weekend may seem like a suitable punishment for your excesses, but it won’t help your body to cleanse unless you’ve got those exit routes open and are encouraging a plentiful emptying of toxins into the outside world. So the first thing to do is to ensure your bowel is working well – at least once, preferably twice daily. Once this is achieved and you’re drinking plenty of still, plain water every day, the effects of cleaning up your diet for a week or two will not be nearly as painful.
The less extreme the detox, the longer you will maintain it. A week or two is ideal, so keep it moderate.
Is January the best time to detox?
New Year is psychologically a great time to make changes to your usual regime. You may also be prompted by just how awful you feel after a season of excess. The trick is not to make changes too sweeping and dramatic, or you will fall back into your normal ways from sheer exhaustion before the week is up. If you have a record of failing with your Resolutions then it might be best to consider another strategy, avoiding the usual pitfall that makes you feel increasingly bad about yourself and your weak will!
How should people go about deciding what to cut from their lives?
The advice is the same as it is for general healthy eating.
Are there are natural detox products? What do they do and how do they work?
- Get your bowel moving with plenty of water, avoidance of caffeine and white flour (white bread, pasta, and pastries), and a little help from finely ground psyllium husks.
- Get your urinary tract online with plenty of water (notice a theme here?), avoidance of caffeine and refined sugar, and herbal teas such as nettle and/or golden rod, which are cleansing and supportive.
- Help your lungs and your skin with extra doses of vitamin C.
- Ensure you’re not blocking up your sweat glands with antiperspirants – choose deodorants made from natural ingredients instead.
- Try a little gentle skin brushing too, to encourage painless waste removal.