We reveal our top tips on how to detox and cleanse the body naturally…
If you’re feeling sluggish after the Christmas season, you may be thinking about doing a detox. When we think of a cleanse or detox, we immediately think of an extreme short-term diet, like a one-week juice plan, but detoxification is an ongoing natural process in the body.
Nutritional therapist Hannah Braye, technical advisor at Probiotics International Ltd (Protexin), explains: “Detoxification is a naturally occurring process taking place in the body 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The main detoxification organs are the liver, kidneys, lungs, skin, lymph and bowels. If our bodies weren’t continuously detoxifying each time we go to the toilet, with every pint of blood that passes through the liver, and with each breathe we take, we would soon be in serious trouble. Detoxification is therefore not a quick fix, but something which we need to support through diet and lifestyle on a continuous basis, all year round.
“However, if you haven’t been looking after yourself sometimes the body’s detoxification systems may become overburdened. To give detoxification organs a helping hand, some may therefore find it useful to reduce the toxic load being placed on the body for a period of time, thereby allowing additional resources to repair and renew. This is commonly referred to as a ‘detox’ or ‘cleanse’. Such protocols may also help with motivation and breaking bad habits when it comes to diet and lifestyle.”
Many people report that when they start moving more and fuelling their bodies with the nutrients it needs to properly support detoxification processes they experience increased energy, better mood, improved digestion, a clearer mind, clearer skin, decreased sensitivities to foods, chemicals and environmental pollutants, improved immunity and have fewer aches and pains.
“Studies have revealed that exposure to and accumulation of toxins play a significant role in cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and other chronic diseases,” comments Braye, “So by taking meaningful steps to support your detoxification systems all year round, long term health benefits are also likely.”
To support our body’s natural detox processes, she recommends a two-prong approach: “First, the removal or reduction of toxic substances in one’s environment and secondly, a dietary pattern favouring whole, unprocessed, plant-based foods to provide the nutrients required to help detoxification organs function optimally.”
Research shows that numerous nutrients from food can modulate detoxification processes. Following a mixed, varied diet, full of different plant-based whole foods is thought to be more beneficial for detoxification than taking high-dose supplementation of single nutrients or the repeat, daily ingestion of large quantities of the same food.
To help support detoxification, Braye suggests the following foods: “Cruciferous vegetables (especially watercress, garden cress and broccoli), allium vegetables (such as leeks, garlic and onions), apiaceous vegetables (celery, carrot and parsley), resveratrol (from red grapes), fish oil (from omega-3 rich fish such as mackerel, wild salmon, anchovies and sardines), quercetin (found in apples, apricots, blueberries, onion, kale, alfalfa sprouts, green beans, broccoli, black tea and chilli powder), daidzein (found in traditionally fermented soy products such as tofu), and lycopene (found in cooked tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon).
“Eating a variety of these foods will also provide plenty of fibre, which is important for maintaining regular bowel movements to further aid detoxification. As foods are one of the major sources of human exposure to toxic pollutants, eating organic produce is recommended wherever possible.”
There are specific nutrients that can help too. BioCare’s clinical nutritionist, Beth Morris recommends looking for food sources of the following:
Alpha Lipoic Acid– This is a great antioxidant that plays a key part in liver metabolism and metabolic processes. It’s found in foods such as spinach, broccoli, carrots and red meat including organ meats.
Indole-3-carbinol– This nutrient increases liver activity and actively promotes the breakdown of oestrogen which can further drive inflammation. You can find these in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale and other greens.
Molybdenum– It’s essential for detoxifying sulphurs in the body. Many people have issues processing sulphites; think wines and dried fruits, which may indicate issues with liver detoxification via sulphation. Interestingly, molybdenum is an important nutrient to aid normal blood sugar management. You can find it in foods such as beans, lentils, peas and nuts.
N-acetyl cysteine– Usually found in high-protein foods such animal products, supports production of the potent antioxidant glutathione; another nutrient essential for optimal detoxification. It is known to protect against oxidative damage associated with iron overload and has vital function to protect the liver from chemical exposure and paracetamol toxicity.
One of the largest detoxification components of the body is the trillions of bacteria found in the digestive tract. Therefore, supporting a healthy microbial balance through the use of fermented foods and live bacteria supplements is recommended.
“Many waste products are removed from the body in our stools. Maintaining regular healthy bowel movements is therefore essential for detoxification,” comments Braye. “Having a balanced gut flora is important to ensure healthy regular bowel movements, as well as improve overall digestion. Certain strains of gut bacteria have also been shown to bind to toxins and heavy metals from food and water.”