January is the ideal time to cleanse and detox the body. Here are our top tips on how to do it the healthy way…
If you’re feeling sluggish from the Christmas season, a detox can help to revitalise and cleanse your body, enabling it to run smoothly and efficiently once again.
Detoxification is an ongoing naturally process in the body. The liver is especially important for processing toxins as are the body’s other main elimination organs of the kidneys, lungs, skin, lymph and bowels. However, these detoxification systems can become overburdened, allowing toxins to accumulate. “This can lead to symptoms such as acne, low energy, achy muscles and low mood,” explains nutritional therapist Hannah Braye, a technical advisor at Probiotics International Ltd (Protexin), manufacturers of Bio-Kult and Lepicol.
When this happens, a detox or cleanse can be particularly helpful; to reduce the toxic load being place on the liver and other organs for a period of time, allowing the body additional resources to repair and renew itself.
Braye comments: “The aim of a detox or cleanse is to reduce the toxic load being placed on the body, so that it may rejuvenate and repair. This can be done by removing substances such as alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes and processed foods. Whilst at the same time, giving the body the right nutritional support, exercising regularly, getting plenty of rest and drinking plenty of water. Practices such as fasting, magnesium salt baths, body-brushing and breathing exercises may also be utilised.”
Simple Diet Steps
If you have never undergone a detox or cleanse before, there are some simple dietary changes you can take that are a good starting point.
Katie Pande, Pukka Herbs’ medical herbalist, suggests eating a simple, organic diet: “In terms of diet, the more simple and natural, the better. Stick to unrefined, organic ‘real’ foods. Try to steer clear of processed, refined foods and also foods that are more complex for the body to breakdown such as fatty meats and dairy products. Reducing the intake of caffeine and alcohol will also reduce any excess strain on the liver, the primary organ involved in detoxing.”
Braye agrees: “The liver utilises a number of pathways in the detoxification process, each of which require different nutrients to function. Therefore eating a wide variety of foods (preferably organic), including plenty of colourful fruit and vegetables is important and will provide fibre to aid regular bowel movements.
“The brassica family of vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts, cabbage, kale and collard greens are particularly beneficial, as are other sulphur containing foods such as leeks, garlic and onions. Folate, found in dark green leafy vegetables is required for an important process called methylation. As is B12, found in highest amounts in animal products such as organic meat, fish and eggs. These foods, along with lentils, beans and pulses provide good quality protein, which is also required for detoxification.”
Bitter foods are particularly helpful too, Braye explains: “Bitter foods such as rocket, endives, chicory, dandelion leaves and watercress are known to help stimulate bile production and secretion, aiding in the safe removal of toxins.”
Plants with a strong green colour indicate the presence of chlorophyll, a natural antioxidant that protects our body from damaging free radicals. “Nutrient-rich foods with high chlorophyll content such as chlorella, spirulina, wheat grass and barley grass, may aid detoxification and should be included daily,” comments nutritional therapist Rose Holmes, education and training manager for Rio Health.
“Barley grass is very mild tasting and makes an excellent green drink when mixed with water—thus also helping to ensure adequate hydration—another very important aspect in detoxification protocols. Herbs such as parsley and coriander are also sources of chlorophyll and useful to aid detoxification.”
She also recommends curcumin, one of the active constituents of the spice turmeric: “Curcumin stimulates liver secretions and bile flow and may help to maintain the normal action of elimination pathways in the liver. Anise, Pimpinella anisum is another detoxifying spice which may help improve mental clarity and reduce ‘brain fog’.”
Good Gut Bacteria
Maintaining regular healthy bowel movements is essential to remove waste substances and toxins from the body. Therefore, having a balance gut flora is vital.
Probiotic supplements can help to increase levels of ‘good’ bacteria, helping to support a healthy gut microbiota. You can increase your levels through the diet too; opt for fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, live organic yoghurt, miso and keffir. These naturally contain beneficial bacteria and digestive enzymes.
“Beneficial bacteria in the gut have also been shown to interact directly with viruses, pathogens and toxin producing microbes and a strong protective gut flora is believed to provide us with some protection against the absorption of toxins and heavy metals,” comments Braye.
You should also consider a prebiotic, which is a natural source of dietary fibre – acting as a source of food for probiotics to grow, multiply and survive in the gut. They also help to stimulate the growth and activity of the beneficial bacteria, so a combination of the two can be effective.
Pukka Herbs – Clean Greens
Rio Health – Green Magma
Pukka Herbs – Cleanse Tea
Rio Health – Epigenar Curcumin Forte