Ok I confess. The title was designed for clickbait. Because in all honesty you shouldn’t detox, not in the sense that marketing companies want us to do in January. But please bear with me, because I do believe detoxing can be beneficial.
I get asked a lot, especially this time of year whether we should detox or not. And it really isn’t a straightforward answer.
We all detox naturally, every second of every day. No matter whether we are concentrating on sipping detox teas or stripping things out of our diet. We detox via our liver, kidneys, gut, lymph, sweat, tears and breath. So we have a whole detoxification system primed and ready to get to work and going on a ‘detox’ isn’t going to change this.
However, our environment is incredibly toxic. Even if we try our best to buy organic food, use natural cleaning products, filter our water and avoid plastic use. There are still an enormous amount of chemicals that we are exposed to every day and many that we still don’t know much about and the effect on our health. All these external chemicals, along with chemicals produced internally have to be detoxified and eliminated from the body.
I like to liken detoxification to a bathtub. Everything coming into our bodies or needs to be detoxified is like the water flowing from the tap into the bath. And everything being removed from the body once detoxified is like the water going down the drain. Just like the bathtub can hold a certain amount of water before it starts overflowing, our detoxification system can handle so much until it starts overflowing. This comes out as illness or chronic disease in the body. Now the bathtub can overflow for two reasons, one, too much water flowing in, and two, the drain being clogged. And our detoxification systems can ‘overflow’ from one, too many toxins coming in and/or two our detoxification system working slowly or inefficiently.
So is a detox a good idea? If you are looking for a quick fix to lose weight then I would say no. But if you are looking to support your body to help it function a little better, lessen the load in January then I would say absolutely! As women we especially need to support our detox systems as we have the added burden of needing to detoxify excess oestrogen. The body will prioritise detoxifying external toxins (as these generally are more toxic) over our own hormones, so if the liver becomes backed up, it can result in oestrogen hanging around too long and we end up oestrogen dominant. Common symptoms of oestrogen dominance include weight gain, PMS, heavy or painful periods, breast tenderness, bloating, fibroids, cysts, histamine issues, acne, anxiety and thyroid problems.
So where should you start? First reduce the water flow a.k.a. the amount of toxins your body is exposed to. Lessening the load is the best place to start, because that means that your body has to deal with less, so you are automatically helping to optimise detoxification.
Step 1: Reduce your toxic load
Eat and drink clean
Opt for organic produce including fruit, vegetables, meats, eggs and dairy where possible. Opting for organic produce means that you will avoid the majority of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, antibiotics and hormones used in non-organic produce. If organic isn’t available or within your budget, make sure you wash fruit and vegetables with a veggie wash to remove the pesticides. You can also use the dirty dozen (most chemical laden fruits & veg) and clean fifteen lists (less chemical laden fruit & veg) as a way to prioritise what to buy organic. The list is updated annually and the UK list can be found here https://www.pan-uk.org/dirty-dozen/
Drink filtered water. This should help to remove any chemicals and heavy metals found in tap water.
Limit your alcohol, caffeine and sugar intake. All three put extra unnecessary pressure on the liver.
Avoid processed foods which contain additives, colourants and preservatives which are ‘foreign’ to the body. As a rule if you can’t pronounce it or your grandmother wouldn’t have used it to cook with, then try to avoid it.
Clean up your kitchen
Avoid all plastic that food or drink comes into contact with. Think chopping boards, tupperware, plastic water bottles, cling film and more! Plastic contains bisphenol-A (BPA) which is known as an endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) which messes with our hormones. Try to avoid all plastic, even BPA free, as they often contain other bisphenol chemicals with a similar structure to BPA which are just as toxic. Opt for glass or stainless steel containers, and bamboo or wooden chopping boards instead.
Avoid cans that aren’t labelled BPA free, especially fatty foods, as BPA is found in the lining of cans.
Avoid Teflon coated cookware and never use non-stick cookware that is scratched as this increases the transfer of the chemicals into your food. Opt for ceramic, stainless steel or cast iron cookware instead.
Switch up your cleaning and personal care products
Switch to natural household cleaning/laundry products, toiletries and cosmetics. This website is great for looking up cosmetic chemicals https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ or you can use the Think Dirty app as well
Avoid anything with fragrance in it as these contain phthalates which are known carcinogens and cause hormone disruption. That goes for perfume, air fresheners, body lotions, toiletries, reed diffusers, candles etc. Opt for products scented using essential oils instead.
Step 2: Optimise your detox
Support your liver and gut with food
If you aren’t pooping each day, this is where you need to start. The gut is a major route of toxin elimination, so if you are constipated, you need to sort it.
Try to consume 1-2 portions of cruciferous veg daily which support the detoxification pathways in the liver. Cruciferous veg include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, Bok choy, cabbage, rocket and watercress
Up your sulphur intake which also supports the liver. Think eggs, garlic, onions and leeks
Focus on fibre. Fibre is really important to keep our guts moving and help us to have a bowel movement each day which is one route of elimination.
Include liver loving foods like turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, beetroot, celery, fennel, garlic, coriander, parsley and rosemary
Consume protein with every meal. The liver requires protein to work optimally, so the problem with most ‘juice detoxes’ is that they are devoid of good quality protein and don’t actually support the liver
Keep hydrated as this is another way to flush out toxins from the body
Juice, but don’t go on a juice cleanse. Juicing is an excellent way to flood the body full of nutrients and gives your gut a bit of a break too which can be great for energy levels or if you have any digestive problems. Just make sure to consume good quality protein and fats alongside your juice.
Sweat! Sweat is another toxin route out the body so put your running shoes on or sit back and relax in a sauna. It doesn’t matter how, you just need to get sweaty.
Stimulate your lymph. The lymphatic system is another way to get rid of toxins but it doesn’t have a pump so it can’t move on it’s own, it needs to be moved ‘manually’ or via muscle contraction. Massage or dry skin brushing is a great way to get the lymph moving. Movement will also help so you could get a double detox whammy by stimulating the lymph and getting a sweat on…sign me up for hot yoga!
Epsom salt baths. The magnesium and sulphur found in Epsom salts helps to stimulate circulation moving waste and supporting the liver
Get a good night’s kip. Sleep is the body’s time for rest and repair. When we sleep, the brain cleans out its waste products mobilising it to the rest of the body to be detoxified and eliminated from the body. How cool is that?!
Breathe. We can detoxify through our breath so practice some deep belly breathing to take full advantage. There is a reason why a good exhale can be so cathartic.
Have a good old cry. Our tears are another way for us to detox so if you need to cry, then cry. Crying can be a great way to release any emotional detox you might need.
In my opinion, considering the toxic world we live in, focusing on detox is no bad thing. It just shouldn’t be a short term, detox tea drinking thing we do in January. It should be something we do all year round to support our health and hormones.
If you feel stuck on where to start please do reach out to book in for a free call to discuss how I can help you get you to where you want to be.
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