It`s that time of year again, where our social media screens are overrun with posts urging us all to detox and get fit.
I`m here to tell you that whilst taking up some gentle exercise is a good thing, detoxing is something that you need to consider carefully before jumping on board with a dubious product that is being heavily advertised. What I mean by that is that at this time of year, we are bombarded with everything from aloe vera juice to activated charcoal products, shakes instead of meals and everything else in-between.
This post is all about why you should avoid these gimmicks and think about your body as a highly functioning machine that you can gently finely tune in a much more intuitive and less harmful way.
What is a detox?
Our bodies have the same immune systems and function as our prehistoric ancestors had. Back then, they only had to to deal with bacteria, viruses, parasites and not much else.
Whilst the world has evolved, our immune systems and livers haven`t. We have the same basic model being bombarded with much more harmful and sophisticated toxins. Everywhere in our environment we are bombarded with chemical residue, it`s in our food, the air, products in our homes... it`s inescapable. Did you know that a study examined babies umbilical cords for toxins and found over 200 different chemicals.
Our bodies work so hard to get rid of all these harmful substances every moment of our lives. Our liver is like a gentle bomb disposal squad, deactivating and changing chemicals into less harmful variations that can then be sent to our eliminatory organs for disposal. The problem is, not all toxins can make it out of the body and they can begin to store in our cells. This leads to inflammation - the route cause of all serious disease, energy depletion and mental/ mood challenges.
A detox is something that naturopathic practitioners encourage, but in the right way and at the right time. A true detox is where the individual looks at their lifestyle and identifies where they are consuming or encountering challenging substances to the body. They work carefully with a practitioner to draw out the stored toxins out of their cells so that they can be eliminated safely.
Why are detox products dubious?
You have to remember first and foremost that the people behind the products are wanting to make money. With naturopathic health, we want to teach you how to make long term changes so that you don`t need us anymore. It is part of our ethos to educate you so that you can change your lifestyle approach for you to be sustainably healthier, not requiring a product from us.
Besides this, many products have a laxative nature. This is not advisable and can be dangerous.
Laxatives dehydrate the body at a cellular level. That effects everything, from your energy and mood to your digestion.
On top of this, your electrolyte balance will be negatively impacted. Your body is basically a huge battery where the polarity of each cell is kept in balance by key electrolytes - sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. When these get out of balance, we get problems.
Some of the detox products will actually impair your bowel function. The combination of the imbalance of the beneficial bacteria of the colon and the loss of electrolytes can cause huge upset to your bowel. Your bowel is essential for eliminating toxins, it simply MUST keep moving to eliminate what you are trying to get rid of.
Lastly, some of these products can cause metabolic acidosis, a condition that causes the body`s acid base balance to be altered. This condition can get extremely serious.
When should you detox?
Contrary to popular belief, January is not the ideal time to start a detox program.
Our bodies naturally go through cleansing processes around the equinoxes. There are two equinoxes in the year, the spring equinox and the Autumn equinox.
Very often, people will start to come down with coughs and colds around the Autumn equinox, when the body is trying to cleanse itself. If the individual`s vitality is low, this is when problems arise.
When we detox, even at the best time of the year, our bodies have to cope with the release of all the challenging chemicals that are about to be released into the blood. Our liver and kidneys have to work overtime, along with our other eliminatory organs - the skin, the lungs, the bowel and in women - our wombs.
It is common to encounter something called a herxheimer reaction. This can feel pretty bad, but it is actually a good sign that things are being released and dealt with by the liver. We can feel exhausted, suffer with insomnia, get headaches, feel a little nauseous and our skin can breakout. Whilst it is uncomfortable for a few days, it clears. Like an Autumn foggy morning that turns into a sunny afternoon, you`ll feel all the better for it afterwards.
January, is in the depths of winter.
We are not getting vitamin D from the sun and our vitality is at its lowest. The body doesn`t have as much strength to cope with the release of toxins from its cells. We have been eating and drinking in excess over Christmas , our sleeping patterns are altered and our bodies are tired.
If you push your body during these circumstances to detox, then it will find it very challenging. You may encounter more nasty side effects than you would do in the spring when your vitality is rising, like the sap in the budding trees.
What can I do instead?
Whilst it isn`t advisable to do a full blown detox in January, it is a great idea to work slowly towards your bodies own natural detox in the spring by making a few gently changes.
Are you pooping?
The most important thing that you can do is make sure your bowels are functioning properly.
The reason being, whatever is circulating in your system, needs to be able to be removed. If you are constipated then your body will reabsorb the released toxins which will become more potent and the process will go round and round. Think of a plug in the bottom of your shower filled up with hair, the water starts to back-up. if you don`t open that outlet then you are going to flood your bathroom one day. It`s the same principle... you need to get your bowels working effectively.
The NHS view constipation as not having a poo at least 3 times in a week. Naturopathic medicine has a totally different opinion. You should be pooping every day, at least once.
Your poop should come out easily, without straining and should be well formed and sausage shaped. If you are passing rabbit droppings or very lumpy, hard poos then you are constipated. If you are passing poop that is in pieces with raggedy edges or watery poop regularly, you have an issue with your GI tract that needs addressing.
If you need to rectify constipation, don`t reach for the laxatives, they will cause you long term issues. Instead, put the work in and increase your soluble fibre, by that I mean veggies and fruit. The darker the green, the better. Reduce the heavy carbohydrate content foods - breads, pastas, pastries, and cut back on all dehydrating contents - sugar, alcohol, caffeine, fizzy pop, cheeses, dairy, cigarettes, vapes, anti inflammatory painkillers, paracetamol and sodium rich food.
Most importantly, you need to drink pure water. Adults should aim to drink 1.5 - 2 litres of pure water per day, whether you are detoxing or not. Children should be calculated by body weight , you can do this here
The water is essential for cellular health, keeping your poop soft and your colon moving nicely. It also will give those hard working kidneys an extra boost.
Instead of doing some crazy detox, make a pledge to eat better.
Try only eating earth made foods for a month instead... by that I mean, if the earth didn`t grow it in the form that you buy it in, don`t buy it. An easy way of thinking about this is to think about the layout of a supermarket, only walk around the edge of the supermarket, visit the fruit and veg, the fish counter, the butchers and the dairy section. You can stroll up the aisle to buy rice, but keep away from the pastas and breads or limit them. Don`t buy anything in a packet.
If this is a challenge to you, then how about subscribing to a recipe food box that gets delivered to you with fresh ingredients. We just subscribed a family member as a Christmas present. They are really enjoying cooking delicious and nutritious meals that only take around 20 minutes and require no forward thinking. The other thing you can do is look up paleo recipes. Paleo is a delicious way of eating with only the purest and freshest ingredients.
If you can implement these changes then after two or three weeks, you will really start to notice the difference. The sugar cravings will disappear (providing you don`t cheat) and you will feel more energised as your vitality rises. Your skin may even start to glow. If your aim is to lose weight then you most likely will as a biproduct without having to think about lowering your food intake. inflammatory conditions you have may well start to ease up. Eating better is not about restriction, it`s about eating differently.
Other Lifestyle tips
If you are planning on doing any of the things I mentioned above, it`s a really good idea to implement some of the following tips to help your body eliminate any toxins:
What ever changes you are thinking about, start small and don`t put pressure on yourself. Make sure they are achievable and fit in with your routines and lifestyle or you will be doomed to give up.
The most important take home from all of this is to hydrate and get that bowel moving. If you can do that, you are already making a huge impact on your body.
Happy New Year,
Love and Heath,
Here`s a little corner of the world where I discuss life, our bodies, natural remedies and nature.