As we head into a New Year, Elouise Bauskis, Naturopath and Nutritional Therapist for Nutri Advanced, explains the healthiest way to detox your system for mind and body.
Considering the toxic environment many of us live in – cities, pollution, chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, xenoestrogens, medications, etc – we can all do with a detox/cleanse at least one to two times a year.
Naturopathically, the change in the seasons is a good time to cleanse, especially coming out of winter into spring, and then again in autumn, before going into winter. Another popular time to undertake a cleanse is after the New Year as we often see the beginning of a year as the birth of a ‘new you’, with resolutions for better and healthier living, so what better way to launch into the New Year than with a cleanse?
Ultimately though, you may undertake a detox/cleanse any time. Sometimes a health scare or diagnosis, or an epiphany of sorts, may spur a person on to take stock of their health and their life, and this may begin with a detox. This is a very positive step forward towards better health and wellbeing.
Do you need a cleanse?
As the body gets more congested, multiple symptoms may occur, across different organ systems, depending on the area of weakness for that person. It may manifest as an increase in allergies or sensitivities, to foods or environmental toxins, such as chemical, dust or pollen. The person may have an increase in headaches or migraines. Maybe their bowel movements change, often an increasing level of constipation, or diarrhoea, as well as digestive symptoms. The skin may be dull; spots and acne may increase, because if certain organs of elimination are congested, toxins will often come out via the skin. The person may have put on weight. In women, periods may become more crampy and painful.
The idea of a detox/cleanse is that you firstly take the pressure of the bowel. If the bowel is congested, true detoxification cannot be achieved. Clearing and moving the bowel can generally be achieved by dietary changes – often with some supplemental help along the way – in order to ensure at least two good bowel movements per day. This will then allow the liver to let go as the path is clear for potential toxins to be cleared by the liver and then hopefully removed via the bowel. Done properly, a detox/cleanse can be a fantastic way to reset the body, especially the liver and digestive system. The body’s toxic load can be cleared out, or significantly reduced.
The benefits of a detox/cleanse are many, and can include more abundant and consistent energy levels, a reduction in food cravings, as blood sugar balance has been stabilised. Digestive symptoms may recede and better bowel movement experienced. Allergies and reactiveness may decrease too. There may be some release of excess weight and fluid congestion. Skin condition may improve, and the person may be literally glowing as their detoxified body and their spirit exudes happiness, because they’ve honoured themselves and done a wonderful thing for their body and health – and it shows inside and out!
I truly believe that for a detox/cleanse to be successful, it takes planning! You need to shop ahead to ensure you have good quality food readily available so that you don’t make bad food choices out of hunger or desperation.
Batch cooking beforehand can be a saviour, especially as we’re all so busy, working, being mums and dads, and life in general! Know ahead when you’ll be starting the detox and work towards that, clearing out the junk and bad foods from your kitchen and pantry. Explore new recipes – especially soups and casseroles, juices and smoothies, salads and stir fries.
In the lead-up to your detox/cleanse, you want to wind down your social activity, ideally ensuring you have more quiet time without the temptation of parties, drinking and socialising. Start decreasing your caffeine intake steadily and ideally eliminating it before you start your detox/cleanse, so that you’re not left with a massive caffeine headache!
During a detox/cleanse, we want to make the diet as clean as possible. We want to remove the most common allergenic foods, as well as those that are potentially clogging to the system, especially the gut. As such, I would always recommend that the person eliminates all gluten, dairy, processed foods, sugar, alcohol and caffeine. I would most often also recommend eliminating meat, and instead include fish and plenty of plant-based forms of protein, such as legumes and pulses, nuts and seeds. Sometimes, we may also suggest eliminating eggs throughout a detox/cleanse as well. Deciding how much to eliminate differs for each individual and depends on their specific health circumstances.
Ensure an abundance of vegetables and fruit, organic wherever possible. For some, being able to buy everything organic could be financially challenging. I always recommend that people familiarise themselves with The Dirty Dozen and The Clean 15 lists – print them out and learn them off by heart! The Dirty Dozen are the 12 most toxic pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables. These are the ones that you want to prioritise buying organic wherever possible (generally, but especially when undertaking a detox/cleanse). The Clean 15 are the 15 cleanest fruits and vegetables, with the least amount of pesticide residues. There is not the same need/urgency to buy these as organic.
What to expect
Every person is different, and potential side effects depend on how toxic your system is. Uncomfortable symptoms that may occur include nausea, a fuzzy head, there may be changes in bowel movement, and the skin may break out. A headache is probably the most common symptom, especially if the person has gone cold turkey off caffeine – which is not recommended!
If the person has never undertaken a detoxification programme, I would highly suggest they seek out and work with an experienced Nutritional Therapist or Naturopath, who can supervise and guide them throughout the process, taking all of their case history into account, their health issues, and especially any medications they’re taking.
It is always very wise to ensure support. There are some circumstances where detoxification is not recommended. That could include those with serious health conditions, people who take a multitude of medications, or those who are very sensitive or frail. I would never recommend a detox/cleanse whilst pregnant or breastfeeding either – this is the absolute wrong time to be liberating toxins!
If the person is suspected of having a very high toxic load, it is very wise to introduce changes quite slowly, as their body could easily become overwhelmed.
Supplements to support
For the majority of people, I would recommend some targeted supplements to support them throughout the programme. For the bowel to support clearance and increase movement, they may need some extra help, such as a fermented papaya extract, and/or a prokinetic formula to help stimulate peristaltic movement. A good fibre supplement to bulk up the stool and bind toxins for their removal from the body is also wise – psyllium, activated charcoal, apple pectin, flaxseed and chia seeds.
A liver support formula would be key to really help the process along. Ensuring that phase one and two liver detoxification pathways are supported is crucial, so that toxins can be cleared via the liver into the bowel for excretion.
Detoxification-specific botanicals include milk thistle, artichoke and green tea. These herbs, as well as NAC (N-acetyl-cysteine) and alpha lipoic acid, all help to support and increase glutathione levels. Glutathione is the master antioxidant of the body which supports the detoxification of toxins and carcinogens. It also recycles other antioxidants and is potently antioxidant itself. Therefore, boosting glutathione levels, especially throughout a detox/cleanse, is of paramount importance!