As a Naturopathic Doctor, one of my main goals in helping my patients work back to a state of health and well being is to address the underlying causes of their health concerns. At the root of many health issues is a system overloaded and overwhelmed with different stressors – notably toxic stressors in the system. The simplest way to think of toxins in the system is to compare the blood in the blood vessels of our body to a stream that is polluted with oil, muck, pop cans, chip bags, plastic bags. This stream will not have a lot of oxygen in it, and the fish and plants living in the stream will suffer due to lack of nutrients and fresh clean water. If our bodies have become accustomed to living off nutrient poor foods, highly processed foods, foods filled with chemical flavors, preservatives and pesticides, our blood stream begins to look like this stream and the blood we carry to our muscles, organs and brain is sluggish, and filled with toxins. It becomes easy to see why we might feel tired, sore and achy and have some difficulties with concentration, memory and headaches!
Compare this with a stream (blood in the blood vessels) that is pure clean and unpolluted. The water has a high oxygen and nutrient content and the fish and plants living in it (our cells) are able to survive and thrive!
Detoxification or cleansing refers to the process of clearing toxins from the body by neutralizing or transforming them into less harmful particles in the liver and then removing them from the body through our bodies’ “emunctories” – the bowels, the kidneys, the lungs, the menstrual flow and the skin.
Poor digestion, bowel sluggishness, reduced liver function, and poor elimination through the kidneys, respiratory tract, and skin all increase toxicity in the body. The goal in detoxification is to enhance the body’s ability to remove toxins by improving the health and function of the organs involved in carrying the toxins to the outside of the body.
Detoxification involves dietary and lifestyle changes that reduce the intake of toxins while improving elimination. Avoiding chemicals from food or other sources, including refined food, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, helps minimize the toxin load. Drinking extra water and increasing fiber by including more fruits and vegetables in the diet are also essential.
Cleansing is best carried out under the care and supervision of a qualified health care provider but there are some simple strategies that you can begin to implement today to set your physical self back on track:
- Remove all breads and pastas from the diet
- Eliminate sweets, candies, sugars
- Cut out milk, cheese or ice cream
- Avoid red meat and pork
- Minimize highly sweet fruit like oranges, bananas, grapes and melons
- Eat lots of high fiber fruit like berries, apples, pears
- Eat lots of vegetables, especially cleansing are beets and leafy greens
- Consume whole grains (rice, oats, buckwheat, quinoa)
- Nuts and seeds are good—eaten raw and unsalted (but avoid peanuts)
- Eat chicken, turkey and fish and organic eggs
- Choose organic foods when possible, to limit your exposure to pesticides and other chemical additives.
- You will want to cut down on your vigorous exercise during this time; your body needs to conserve its energy for the cleansing process. Walking, swimming, yoga and stretching are good activities. Try to incorporate saunas a few times a week.
- Fresh air and sunshine are needed to support cleansing and oxygenation of the cells and tissues.
- It is very important to cleanse the skin at least twice daily in a bath or shower or sauna.
- Start every day with a glass of warm water with the juice of half a lemon to help take a load off your lymphatic system, help cleanse your system and detoxify your liver cells.
- It is important to be nice to yourself during the cleansing period! Be gentle with yourself, remind yourself that you are worth the efforts you are putting in to making adjustments to your diet and lifestyle. Engage in positive and affirming self talk.
I encourage people to slowly reintroduce the foods they have been avoiding, being mindful of the body’s reactions. This allows us to make the decision to avoid these foods on a daily basis, not out of guilt, but because we don’t like how they make our bodies feel.
Plan to do a full minimum 12 day cleanse at least two to three times per year. Each time you go through the process, pick one or two healthy habits to incorporate in your day to day life. Before you know it, the choices you make will be healthier and healthier and it will be second nature to you to choose water or herbal tea over coffee, and you will skip to the fruit and veggie tray at your company luncheon, rather than the dessert tray – just because it FEELS good! ☼
Try some of these recipes during your Spring detox!