At this time of year I often notice that the ads for detoxes and cleanses really ramp up as we all start our New Year’s Resolutions to be healthier and happier. Ads that promise you’ll have more energy, lose weight and all you have to do is drink a tea, take a pill or a powder – doesn’t that sound great?
Now, while not all detoxes are as effective at helping your body to detoxify as others, if you really feel like you want to (or need to) detox, instead of just boosting the function of your detoxifying organs, why not look at why you need a detox in the first place?
This is where my Not-a-Detox Detox comes in.
Look at the sources of toxins in your life
Our bodies are built with several systems to process and eliminate toxins. Our liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph and skin are constantly detoxifying our bodies from the waste products our bodies create as our cells are renewed and energy is produced, including carbon dioxide, bilirubin (from red blood cells), hormones, neurotransmitters, fatty acids and a host of other nutrients and biological byproducts. However, our world is full of toxins that we both intentionally and unintentionally subject our bodies to, which puts extra pressure on these organs, especially our liver, often slowing down the processing of the chemicals our bodies naturally produce each day and causing symptoms such as fatigue, migraine, hormonal imbalances, mood swings, bloating, and more.
What we want to do is take the extra pressure off.
Start with what you know is putting pressure on your liver; alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, processed foods, caffeine, sugar, food additives. These are the things you are intentionally subjecting your body to, so in theory should be the easiest to eliminate. You already know the toxic capacity of these substances, so suffice to say, you know they’ve gotta go.
Now consider other sources of toxins you’re subjecting yourself to (albeit probably unintentionally) that you still have some control over; pesticides and chemicals in your fresh produce (including meats), chlorine and fluoride in your water, chemicals in your make-up, toiletries (including body wash, deodorant, sunscreen and toothpaste) and cleaning products, and chemicals from plastic drink bottles and food containers (such as BPAs)
Recognise the other sources of toxins you’re in contact with just by living your life (most of which you have no control over, unless you move to the country somewhere); environmental pollutants, passive cigarette smoke, gamma radiation from flying in an aeroplane, UV rays, X-rays, ELF (extremely low frequency) radiation from electrical devices and power lines and radio waves from mobile phones, to name a few.
Find and Replace with low-toxin alternatives
Food – Reduce you exposure to chemical fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, antibiotics and other chemicals used in conventional farming (ie. the food you buy from the supermarket) and instead buy direct from farmers at markets, and purchase spray-free and certified organic produce, including meats and dry goods, wherever possible. Better yet, grow your own (read Grown & Gathered by Matt and Lentil for a year-round growing guide). Eating seasonally makes organic and spray-free produce more affordable (and tastier, because you’re eating them when they’re at their best). At the very least, avoid the fruits and vegetables that are the most heavily sprayed if you choose not to buy organic (known as the “Dirty Dozen Plus”).
Water – Invest in a water filter, preferably one that filters out fluoride as well as everything else. Chemicals like chlorine are added to our water to prevent the growth of bacterial disease in our water (which is an import thing to prevent), but I can’t help but wonder what the impact of something intended to kill bacteria has on the bacteria that lives in our gut, when we drink it. Then there are the concern with fluoride, due to its electronegativity, displacing iodine, a mineral crucial for thyroid function (the organ that governs our metabolism). Buying your own filter also reduces your reliance on plastic from bottled spring water, which is (in my opinion) the next best option.
Cosmetics & Skincare – The hardest thing about cosmetics is that the ingredients aren’t disclosed, so unless the company is willing to tell you, do you really know what it is your absorbing through your skin (and your mouth) when you wear it? I’ve seen some pretty horrific lists of cosmetic and skin care ingredients, things like formaldehyde, parabens and heavy metals, including lead (eek!). These ingredients can mimic hormones, damage nerves and brain tissue and even cause cancer. Plus, there are so many natural alternatives these days that provide beautiful, pigmented makeup and effective skincare regimes that are not only natural, but vegan in origin and do not test on animals. If you’d like me to share my favourites, let me know in the comments. I’d be happy to let you know!
Cleaning products – Remember that ad with the people cleaning their homes with sea creatures instead of sponges? I think of that every time I clean (quite effective campaign, really) and again, choose natural, plant-based cleaning products to clean everything from my dishes, to my washing, to my toilet. And my house is rather sparkly (in a slightly cluttered-with-character kind of way). Personally, I just don’t see the point in using harsh, toxic chemicals when there are alternatives out there that don’t cause harm to your lungs, your skin and the environment.
Plastics – You have probably heard of BPAs by now (bisphenol A), a chemical found in plastics that mimic oestrogen in the body (known as a xenoestrogen) and lead to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, liver abnormalities, cause erectile dysfunction and promote breast cancer cell growth. There are also other bisphenols in plastics (some of your BPA-free plastic can still have other forms, such as BPF, BPS) that have been shown to mimic oestrogen and other sex hormones in the body, and other detrimental effects. Heating plastics can also increase the amount of bisphenols that are leached into your food and drink, then built up in your body. For this reason I recommend doing your best to avoid plastics – especially those that are heated. For example, cans of food (unless otherwise specified) are lined with plastic, heated, and often filled with acidic foods (ie. tomato) that increase the leaching of bisphenols into your food. Plastic lids on your coffee, any plastic container that you heat food up in in your microwave (including plastic wrap), plastic cutlery, soft drink and beer cans, even your toilet paper and receipt papers are covered in it. I reckon I can do a whole post on alternatives if you ask me extra nice.
Eat lots of these to support your detoxification pathways
Brightly coloured vegetables – the brighter and darker, and the wider array of colours you eat of your vegetables, the more varied your nutrient intake will be – meaning lots of vitamins and minerals. Plus all vegetables are a great source of fibre, which feeds your friendly gut bugs and gets your bowels moving, and in turn, aids the removal of the toxins that your liver processes. Aren’t veggies *just* the greatest?! Five cups per day is your minimum.
Green leafy vegetables – I separate these because they are so important. High in vitamins and minerals required as cofactors to help your liver detoxification pathways work (you have two phases and seven pathways in phase two – seriously, your liver works VERY hard, you guys). Steamed, salads, sauteed, blanched, etc, I don’t care how you get them in, but a good two cups per day is a great amount for any health goal. Some great ones include rocket, dandelion, kale, spinach, cabbage, green leafy herbs like parsley and coriander, and broccoli.
Seaweeds – seaweeds are, again, a potent source of minerals, but especially iodine, which your metabolism hormones are made of. You can get salt grinders with kelp or other seaweeds in them (that you can’t taste), sprinkle over seaweed flakes, eat kelp noodles, fresh seaweeds, rehydrate dried seaweeds in broths and make your own sushi rolls using nori. Heaps of options!
Protein – protein provides the all-important amino acids that facilitate your liver detoxification pathways (taurine, glutathione, glycine, to name a few). Protein has a wide array of functions in the body, and this one is often forgotten, but equally important. To figure out how much protein you should be eating every day, simply calculate 1 gram for every kilogram of body weight you currently are (even if you are bigger than you’d like to be). This is the minimum amount of protein your body needs, and trust me, your liver will love you for giving it the fuel it needs to process all those toxins!
Vegan protein sources – not only are these a source of all important protein, they provide fibre, healthy fats, B vitamins and minerals, all essential for detoxifying and eliminating toxins. Even if you aren’t vegetarian or vegan, including vegan protein sources is essential for a not-a-detox detox. Nuts, seeds, legumes (chickpeas, beans, lentils) and wholegrains all fall into this category and can be eaten in the forms of; patties, salad sprinkle, trail mix, muesli, dips, or eaten as the ‘hero’ of a dish with plenty of herbs and spices. Vegan and vegetarian meals from India and Turkey are my favourite inspirations, but there are plenty of option out there.
Herbs and spices – One of my favourite things about food is that the stuff you use to bring out the natural flavours of a dish actually have some amazing medicinal benefits too, which is why I use them in every meal (and boast about my amazing collection). To that end, there are a lot of herbs and spices that have benefit in detoxification (including herbal tea form). Turmeric (what doesn’t it do?), ginger, garlic, fennel, dandelion, milk thistle (St Mary’s Thistle), schisandra, chickory, peppermint, as well as the foods artichoke, grapefruit and pineapple, just to name a few. Use these and all your other herbs and spices in foods and teas as often as you can to give your detoxification organs some love – they deserve it.
Other tips – Drink 2-3L filtered water a day, try dry-skin brushing (or at the very least, exfoliation), mud masks, epsom/magnesium salt baths or foot baths, meditation, yoga, time outside in nature, and most of all, quality time with friends and family
Please note, that these are all changes that can be implemented into your every day. This isn’t a diet plan or a medicinal detox plan (although, I can make you one of those if you book a consultation with me), and the advice here is intended to inform you and simply ask you to consider what you expose yourself to each day. Not all of these tips may apply to you as they are general advice, but I can assure you that the food will be tasty and fun. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know in the comments below.