This is part 2 in Karen's in depth discussion on detox. A DETOX doesn't have to be an off the shelf product, or juice cleanse, or water fast, it can be as simple as cutting down your caffiene and booze, or walking a different way to work. Karen breaks down who needs a detox and how you can DIY at home! You can visit Karen's site at www.foodbodymind.com.au
I guess you could say that my relationship with detox programs has been a little strained.
When I first started working as a nutritionist I would often find myself apologising to clients as I examined their urine, tongue, skin, and nails – observing the years of abuse often kept hidden from the casual observer with the aid of makeup, expensive cremes, botox and the like -
“I’m sorry but I really think that we need to clean things up. I could give you something to clear up your symptoms (insert issue – allergies, psoriasis, eczema, migraines, weight gain, acne) but until we address what is happening inside, it will only be a temporary solution – a bandaid if you like”.
Client, quiet for a moment then looks at me puzzled: “so…clean things up? you mean, like, a detox?”
“Um…yes”. That is precisely what I meant and found difficult to articulate.
It was awkward especially when, despite my best efforts to call them back I would find those words rising up at the back of my throat ready to make their stunningly stupid appearance: “I don’t really like putting people on detox programs”.
I cannot give you a single intelligent reason why I said it. Perhaps I said it as a way to appeal to those people not yet ‘sold’ on the concept of ’detox’ – I don’t know (bear in mind this makes no sense as such people are not generally knocking down my door).
In any event, let me state very clearly for the record that I believe in detox programs the way your grandmother believed in three square meals a day. I believe in them because they work. Yes, that’s right - even without credible scientific evidence to support them – they work.
By ‘they’ I mean of course my version of ‘detox’ because (and this of course is part of the problem) the word ‘detox’ means different things to different people.
So lets clarify what we are discussing here.
The concept of ‘detox’ (at least in the way I intend for it to be carried out) has been around for thousands of years and is practiced amongst many cultures around the world. In fact, it is believed that one of the reasons why some the longest living people in the world are able to maintain their longevity, is by eating to the point of being 80% satiated as well as consuming a diet high in vegetables and fruits, whole grains and good fats. In my opinion, incorporating these dietary factors while at the same time eliminating particular foods and drinks that overly stress the liver’s ability to function effectively (as well as trigger inflammation and increase acidity) for a specific period of time is what a ‘detox’ program is all about. By undertaking such a detox, the function of the liver and digestive system resolve to operating at an optimal level eliminating toxins more efficiently and improving our overall health and wellbeing. I think intuitively we all know that this makes sense. When you remove processed foods, alcohol and drugs from your daily life and replace them with fruits and vegetables, low allergenic grains, organic and pasture fed meat, nuts and seeds, how could you not feel better? How could these things not improve your health? When you combine this with herbs and vitamins to assist clearance of toxins through the system and to support the detoxification pathways that are no longer dealing with the daily barrage and can now focus on the years of sludge that has built up how can you not sleep better, digest your food better, have improved mood?
Those who argue that we have a built in detox unit (the liver) are obviously not aware of the fact that the leading cause of fatty liver today is no longer alcohol but processed foods and sugar. In any event, even if it wasn’t possible to overburden the liver why are so many people giving it a good old Aussie try? (and incidentally, let me tell you this, by the time your liver enzymes become raised on a blood test your liver is already in serious trouble). (Clearly) I would like to argue the point of why I think it is necessary to ‘detox’ occasionally a little further, I have already canvassed this in my last article on Juices Only (feel free to skip back and read that one first). In any event, I think it is suffice to say that if you suffer from any of the following you need to consider undertaking a detox:
- You consume more than 6 units of alcohol per week
- You consume caffeine daily
- You often feel tired and lethargic
- You suffer allergies and or food intolerances
- You experience abdominal discomfort, bloating or flatulence
- You commonly experience pain from headaches or arthritis
- You commonly experience constipation or diarrhoea
- You suffer bad breath
- You carry excess weight or are finding it difficult to lose weight
- You commonly suffer from sinus congestion or hay fever
- Your complexion is dull or you have dark circles under your eyes or suffer acne, eczema or psoriasis
- You experience regular PMS – painful periods, mood changes, crave chocolate or sweets
- You regularly consume processed or fast foods, including artificial additives and preservatives
- You smoke cigarettes or take drugs
- You regularly use pharmaceutical medications, including the Pill, anti inflammatories or pain killers, blood pressure & cholesterol medication
- You are regularly exposed to environmental pollutants from car exhausts and smog.
I wonder if that actually ruled anyone out…now onto the crux of the article:
How to Complete a DIY Detox
Before we get started on the intricacies of undertaking a detox program, it is important to note to check with your doctor before attempting any form of detoxification as pregnancy, history of eating disorder and other chronic conditions are contraindications for a restrictive diet.
Start with a Warm Up
It is important to spend a couple of weeks reducing the current burden on your detoxification systems (as a ‘warm up’ so to speak). For some people who are not necessarily interested in completing or undergoing a detoxification program per se, the following principles could serve as the event itself.
- If you drink alcohol, do so moderately – no more than one or two drinks per day. If you can’t drink moderately, don’t drink at all.
- Start to reduce your caffeine intake by one cup every three days. For example, if you currently drink three coffees or teas a day start by drinking two and then after three days reduce this to one.
- Be conscious about breathing engine exhaust, wood smoke, or tobacco smoke, all of which contain carcinogenic compounds. Choose a different route to work, school etc to minimize exposure if you are able.
- Avoid inhaling fumes from gasoline and other volatile liquids. Wear a respirator mask when working with paint, varnish, and paint thinners and make sure to ventilate your workspace.
- Ensure that you air out any dry cleaning before bringing it into the house or, better yet, switch to an environmentally-friendly dry cleaner.
- Take prescription only medication only as directed and avoid over the counter mediations altogether.
- Avoid exposure to pesticides on fruits and vegetables by buying organic whenever possible and washing non-organic produce with water and vinegar before eating.
- In your home and garden, use non-toxic pest control but remember that you can’t control what other people apply to their lawns and grounds. To reduce your exposure to lawn and garden chemicals, avoid going barefoot out of doors and get in the habit of leaving your shoes at the door when you come inside.
- Drink more water.
- Add a Green Juice. Buy or make a ‘green juice’ daily. Think spinach, kale, apple, pear, celery, lemon, parsley. Green juices are an amazing way to add detoxifying plant chlorophyll to your diet.
- Reduce your intake of packaged and processed foods. If it makes it easier, commit to having at least one meal a day that has no added processed foods. Think baked chicken with salad and basmati rice for dinner, or steak with stir-fry vegetables (stir-fried in herbs and spices not packaged sauce) and homemade potato chips. Be creative and use your imagination or keep it simple. Just don’t open a jar or packet at least once during the day.
- Start looking at labels. Look for anything labelled as ‘flavor enhancer’ – if not specifically listed – they are normally numbered anywhere between 620-640. If the item you have picked up uncovers such a listing pop it back on the shelf. Have some respect for your body and give the MSG a miss. My husband takes great delight in informing shoppers at the supermarket that their bag of Honey Chicken Chips contains copious amounts of MSG…the stuff is lethal. There are alternatives, you just need to educate yourself take the time to find them.
Stick to the Detox Diet
What we eat can make and keep us healthy, but it can also help us detoxify. The body cannot detoxify xenobiotics (foreign chemicals) if we are constantly adding to our toxic burden with the foods we consume. The body also cannot detoxify if it does not have the proper ‘fuel’ and energy. The detoxification processes in the body require large amounts of energy, and this energy comes from the nutrients in the food we eat. If we eliminate foods that contribute to our toxicity and eat those that help cleanse the body, our health will improve.
It is important to note the following dietary principles when setting up a detoxification diet.
- Protein is important. A high protein intake enhances the removal of xenobiotics, while a protein deficiency lowers glutathione levels and reduces Phase II conjugation by the glutathione pathway.
- Carbohydrate is important. A diet low in carbohydrates decreases the rate of cytochrome P-450 activity in the liver. The best form of carbohydrate for a detoxification program is a complex carbohydrate that is not readily absorbed and does not ferment in the intestines.
- Fat is important. Fatty acids work with carbohydrates to support the energy requirements for detoxification. Fatty acids that do not increase blood fat levels increase liver energy production. The liver can digest, assimilate, and oxidize triglycerides (a compound composed of glycerine and fatty acids) as a source of metabolic energy. Increasing liver energy levels increases detoxification.
- If you have food allergies or intolerances it is fundamental that these are addressed as these foods are inflammatory to your system which means they slow down detoxification processes.
Foods to Avoid
- Caffeine (except what is found in green tea)
- All sugar including glucose, sucrose, dextrose, corn syrup, brown sugar, turbinado, nutritive corn sweetener, honey, agave syrup, maple syrup.
- Artificial sweeteners including sugar alcohols, xyitol, colours, and flavors.
- Soft drinks and fruit-flavoured drinks.
- Chemical additives and preservatives, including MSG, BHA, BHT, nitrates, nitrites.
- Processed and packaged foods and mixes.
- Refined carbohydrates, such as white flour, white pasta and white rice.
- Fruits and vegetables that have been waxed, sprayed, fumigated, or dyed.
- Fried foods and trans fats.
- Processed meats, sandwich meats, reconstituted meats.
Foods to Include
- Drink at least eight glasses of filtered or bottled water daily. Green tea, herbal tea and fresh vegetable juice are also healthy choices.
- Eat fresh fruits and fresh or steamed vegetables liberally. Foods that specifically detoxify our bodies are artichokes, beets, pears, carrots lemons, cilantro, and liberal quantities of green leafy vegetables.
- Season with herbs and spices.
- Consume brown rice, quinoa, millet and amaranth as your only grain choices.
- Protein sources should include fish, free range or organic turkey and chicken, beans, and raw nuts, nut butters, and seeds. Roasting destroys the integrity of the oil in nuts and seeds so be sure to find raw alternatives.
- Choose unsweetened foods or foods sweetened with stevia (available in most supermarkets as ‘natvia’).
- Include healthy forms of fats and oils such as expeller-pressed, cold-pressed or unrefined oils only.
The first day or two of the detox you may feel a bit sluggish (this is mainly due to the caffeine withdrawal) so if you are a coffee ‘addict’ I recommend starting it on a day that you can stay home and rest.
Take Quality Supplements
You can experiment with various supplements to help the liver remove toxins. For example, N-acetyl-cysteine is great for those trying to remove residual phlegm from a lingering upper respiratory infection (the typical recommendation is a 500mg capsule taken once or twice daily). A few other detoxifying herbs include dandelion root, milk thistle, and turmeric. However, I recommend you discuss any supplements with a qualified practitioner first as although it is easy to be persuaded into buying ‘off the shelf’ generic ‘detox’ supplements, they really should be individually prescribed based on your own health and medical background. If nothing else, be sure to buy your supplements from a ‘practitioner only’ company for quality assurance and to avoid the added excipients (which often cause their own issues and thereby defeat the purpose of undertaking a detox) that are all too often added to most retail brand supplements for cost based reasons.
Support the Detox Process
You can also support the process of detoxification through other routines such as yoga, colonics, using saunas, and massage. A colonic will move toxins out of the system via the large intestine and this is particularly important for anyone who has had any issues with constipation or has had less than regular bowel movements. Yoga, using saunas (particularly infra-red saunas) and massage all help to move toxins out through the lymphatic system by sweating, or specific movements that twist and “ring out” internal organs.
Not too bad right? Were you expecting something a little more drastic? The truth of it is that it shouldn’t feel awful. A little uncomfortable (as your daily routine is altered) but definitely not awful.
A well designed detox program goes a long way to improving health and wellbeing. There is no doubt in my mind that after undertaking such a program you will feel better, feel lighter, have more energy and less fatigue, have better sleep, have improved immunity and suffer less allergies and less hormonal problems. In all honesty, I have no doubt that a detox program will make you feel amazing.
I state this with the full knowledge that a peer reviewed study has yet to support it.
I guess you could say I’ve come a long way.