Detox, it's not a dirty word
Detox has been hijacked by marketeers. It has become synonymous with fad diets, weight loss, juice fasts, broths, protein powders and potions. And I’m here to rescue it back!
While recently meeting with a potential client, I mentioned the d-word when suggesting possible health programs for their company. By the look on her face, you’d have thought I’d sworn up, down and sideways, and quite frankly, I don’t blame her. The products, programs and quick-fix promises being marketed in the name of health are nothing short of irresponsible.
It makes me angry and sad when clients recount stories of going hungry, feeling irritable, suffering painful headaches and fatigue. That’s what happens when you don’t eat real food for a period of time! Their confidence and self esteem is then smacked sideways when they inevitably succumb to the ‘retox’ phase; eating everything in sight, as their body attempts to regain some sense of equilibrium.
Detox is not a 7-day wonder to all your health and weight woes. The truth is, there are no short-cuts to deep healing and long lasting health. Real health requires long term heathy habits. Deeply and properly healing our bodies and minds is not found in a box of powders or a week of green smoothies.
As a clinical nutritionist, I know the difference it makes when we take a few weeks out a couple of times a year, preferably timed to the change of season, to practice eating well, exercising right, supporting proper digestion and elimination, getting off the booze and getting to bed early.
Think about it. When we are unwell or recovering from an illness, this is exactly what we do for ourselves and our health. So why wouldn’t we periodically offer that same self care as a form of prevention?
A detox is simply avoiding toxins as much as possible, while nourishing and supporting
your digestive and elimination organs and systems. It is also the perfect
time to tame toxic habits like emotional eating and get cravings under control.
Taking the load of the body and providing proper nourishment can be one of the most powerfully healing things you can do for yourself. But modern living has a habit of getting in the way of this process.
In functional nutrition, we look for the root causes of illness and the fact is, at the most fundamental level, deficiencies of nutrients and toxicity are the two main reasons for disease.
Nutrient deficiencies leave the body struggling to perform the myriad of minute by minute cellular reactions needed for life, while toxins act to interfere and block these same life affirming processes. Toxins also make us feel like crap.
Anyone who lives in the modern world is subjected to an onslaught of toxins that, honestly, we were never designed to encounter let alone process and eliminate. We have had over 20,000 man-made chemical combinations introduced into our environment over the last 60 years, and it’s increasing every day. We can now detect over 500 chemicals in our blood and mother’s breast milk that our grandparent’s were never exposed to.
Without listing the litany of chemicals in our world, it’s safe to say that if you eat, drink, breath, bath, brush your teeth, wash your hair and clean your house, then you are coming into contact and absorbing more toxins in the form of synthetic and industrial chemicals and pollutants than our elimination channels can handle.
The human body and mind are primed for survival. Given any situation, we will do our darnedest to stay alive and, in the world of toxic overload, this means that chemicals not immediately packed and eliminated are sequestered away from vital organs such as heart, lungs and liver and stored, mainly in fatty tissue.
And we wonder where that excess fat and cellulite appeared from, why we get headaches, sore joints, moody, suffer fatigued, bloating and digestive distress. A struggling system can cause you to feel nauseous when you eat, especially fatty foods or just outright crappy at random times, and for no apparent reason.
The point is, while I don’t advocate off-the-shelf-one-size-fits-all detox products and get-clean-quick gimmicky diets, I do believe that periodically focusing on supporting the body and naturally encouraging the release of stored toxins is a smart way to regain and maintain long term health.
So we need to start thinking about detoxing in a different way. It’s not about a 7-day juice fast, it’s not about a 14-day protein smoothie diet, and it’s certainly not about subsisting on lemon-cayenne-honey water until you are emotionally and physically depleted.
A detox can in fact be as basic as cutting out a few things to give your body a bit of a break so it can get on with the job of repair and renew.
This will most certainly include eliminating the junk:
• Sugar and flour
• Cow dairy except well made plain yoghurt
• Processed food
While nourishing with real food, basically:
• Plenty of vegetables and some fruit, organic wherever possible
• Quality protein, preferably giving heavy meat dishes a instead rest the digestive system by opting instead for fish and plant based proteins
• Whole food fats from nuts, seeds, avocado, fish, olive oil, coconut oil and ghee.
It would be ideal if food alone did the trick but we don’t live in an ideal world. Stress, compromised digestion, imbalances in microbiome and many other factors mean our body’s natural detox and elimination need extra support. We also often need to correct deficiencies. That is why I recommend various personalised practitioner-grade nutrients and herbal remedies on a case by case basis.
Personally, I like to do a detox for 2-4 weeks, two or three times per year. Beginning of autumn and spring are perfect times and perhaps a shorter one mid way through our rather long celebratory summer season. The longer the better, but even if you manage a mini detox over a long weekend, it’s a great way to reset taste buds and cravings that may be wondering too far in the direction of sugar and alcohol.
Preplanning is the only way I can successfully stick to a detox for any length of time. Digging out favourite recipes. Working out which left-overs will work for lunches the next day, shopping, pre-preparing and cooking in batches as much as possible means I don’t wind up being chained to my stove top and oven for the duration. I tend to encourage clients to do their own research but for first-timers and those with chronic conditions needing a longer detox, I have plenty of sample meal plans
and recipes to help them navigate any bumps.
If it’s your first detox, or first you’ve done in a while, over days 1-3 you may encounter a headache or feel lethargic especially if you are coming off stimulants like caffeine and sugar. It can also be a sign that toxins are being released from cells before being eliminated. Drinking plenty of water and resting are the ideal solutions. By day 5, and often before this, most people feel energised, are sleeping better and experience a lift in their mood.
So, if you are also sick (literally and figuratively) of doing detox the wrong way, and want to know that feeling of being totally nourished and renewed, get in touch and I'd be happy to help you through and teach you the process.