I was recently watching a video where detox was promoted for wellbeing and the steps seemed very complicated to me.
In this blog I am sharing things which I have found effective over the years of being a health professional. I have collected more tools as I am completing the nutritional diploma.
My understanding of ‘detox’ is to simply to cleanse the body and mind. It would include steps to reduce the impurities going into the body, choosing healthy options from the six pillars of lifestyle medicine as well as supporting the body to eliminate what might still not be so good for it.
- Reduce the impurities going into the body: this step would mean reducing the exposure to toxins. An unprocessed diet would be a key part of this. I have taken a deep dive into this topic in my blog on toxin exposure (1). Alcohol intake, smoking and vaping are common toxins which we all know about. Eliminating them has instant health benefits. My top tip would be to try and aim for homemade meals, which have been cooked from scratch at least 80% of the time. Reducing the use of cling films, aluminium foils and plastics while storing or reheating food sounds difficult but having done it myself …. even I am surprised how ceramic or glass utensils can easily be a good substitute. I use brown paper for most of my baking and for wrapping food I have switched to beeswax food wraps. Using environmentally safe cleaning products are also much safer than inhaling the fumes released from bleaches.
This might sound very difficult but having supported several patients and friends to make these switches slowly over three months, it is really not that hard.
It is a matter of eliminating what you want to remove from the next weekly shop and adding what you want to replace it with. Trust me …it does work, and by week four you will be surrounded by most of the healthier choices.
- Choosing healthy options from the pillars of lifestyle medicine:
This step is mostly about supporting the liver as much as possible, as it is the major organ in our body which is constantly trying to remove what is not needed.
- Physical movement specifically aerobic exercise (where the heart rate is raised) has been seen to eliminate toxins from the body through sweat and our breathing. Adding strength training with weight lifting, using body weight in yoga and Pilates can be helpful too. Ideally one should exercise 150 minutes per week but if that is not possible, every little is helpful (2). I have found exercise snacking to be a very good way of including this pillar.
- Social connections are important for mental wellbeing as well. When it comes to partnering with someone to make the health changes, they become more enjoyable and sustainable. The art of learning to have boundaries in relationships, to be able to say ‘no’ when things are becoming too much are very important too. I have found being connected to positive like-minded people makes a huge difference.
- Sleep is a pillar of lifestyle medicine which can support detox in a major way. Sadly, in this busy and stressful world I often see sleep being seen as least important. Sleep is the time when the body actually repairs and is able to reduce and remove the toxins the body has accumulated during the day.
- Stress can lead to increased inflammation at cellular level. Many times I find myself discussing stress management as part of my consultations. Simple ways to switch off, being mindful, relaxing in nature, just being, journaling are some of the methods which I recommend. I have included the link to my blog on stress management which people have found useful (3).
- Diet and nutrition would be a major pillar to discuss for this topic. Again this would mean including foods which support the liver to maximise the use of nutrients which are helpful. So my top tips would be:
-have a few portions of cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, kale etc. as part of daily meals. These support the liver detox pathways in many ways.
–include protein in every meal. Most of the enzymes that support the liver are made of proteins and if this is deficient, the processes would not work effectively. I have good plant-based sources of protein in the form of lentils, beans, quinoa, soya, tempeh, nuts and seeds in each meal.
–glutathione is one of the potent antioxidants in the body. Poor diet, chronic diseases, infection and stress can deplete the glutathione. Food naturally rich in glutathione include spinach, avocadoes, okra, asparagus. The cruciferous vegetables provide sulphur which is important in the production of glutathione.
–reduce caffeine intake as sadly it does disrupt the detox process in the liver if consumed in high amounts.
-include more herbs when cooking as they are super loaded with anti-oxidants which support detox. Over the years I have started using many though still struggle to add tarragon (my boys hate it)!
-having regular vitamin D would be essential for the detox process as it is involved in over 600 functions, down to the cellular level!
-finally detox would not be complete without mentioning the need to avoid refined carbohydrates like sugar, white flour and pasta.
- Supporting the body to eliminate toxins:
-drink at least 2 litres of water every day. Adding some lemon helps the
cleansing process as it is rich in vitamin c. This step is important for the
elimination of toxins via urine, stool as well as sweat.
-add fibre to daily routine in the form of wholegrain, legumes, pulses, beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits. This adds more than fibre as these food items are rich in mineral, phytonutrients, polyphenols, flavonoids and essential vitamins too. Animal products do not have any fibre at all and hence limiting them would be helpful. This way toxins can be removed through regular bowel motions and avoiding constipation.
– I have already mentioned aerobic exercise as a tool for eliminating toxins.
Personally I recommend that both mental and physical aspects are taken into consideration, as both are so deeply intertwined- one cannot be in sink without the other.
I hope you have found this blog helpful. The list may sound exhaustive, however I am sure you would agree that they are very simple steps, that work wonders when combined.
Have a good week.
References and resources