There is no doubt about it, doing an annual detox is good for you. It is also crucial to those trying to resolve chronic health issues and to those who are trying to simply shed fat. Detoxing isn’t easy or for the faint hearted, but once you’ve done at least one you get a bit addicted to them as you always end up feeling like a million bucks.
Here’s the thing though….. detoxing is just too hard for most people who are already stressed, time poor and living the modern day lifestyle.
If you are looking to undergo a formal detoxification program it is always better to do it under the supervision of a trained practitioner who can tailor it to your needs. However, if you are someone that doesn’t have the time or inclination to do a formal detox, there are many small, easy things you can do daily that can help your body clear toxins. It is far more effective and practical to make these smaller detox practices a permanent part of your daily routine vs trying to undertake a hugely structured, time restricted detox program (unless of course you have a serious health issue that requires temporary diet restriction for detoxification and healing to take place).
I’ve listed some of these for you to consider below… but first… do you really need to detox??
Signs you might need to detox
If you experience any of the following are common signs and symptoms you may be in need of a detox:
- You don’t do a poo every day and tend to be constipated. When you do go it smells.
- Your urine is dark yellow, can be smelly and you only urinate a few times a day.
- You find it hard to sweat or you sweat profusely (especially true if during sleep).
- You have a hard time concentrating and remembering things.
- You suffer from regular aches and pains.
- You have sleeping issues.
- You look dark under the eyes.
- You suffer from sinus congestion, problems and/or headaches.
- You have bad breath.
- You tend to bloat with water and/or gas.
- You have skin issues such as eczema, dermatitis, acne, psoriasis or foreign rashes.
- You are tired a lot, or suffer from adrenal fatigue/ chronic fatigue syndrome.
- You drink tap water.
- You have amalgam fillings in your mouth.
- You like to eat large fish such as tuna or swordfish more than twice a week.
- There is damp in your house or apartment.
- You dry clean your clothes.
- Strong odours bother you, including those of petrol fumes, perfumes, detergents, soaps, chlorinated pool water and smoke.
- You have food intolerances/ allergies. Particularly to things like MSG, sulfites (wines, dried fruit), garlic/onions and histamine foods (fermented foods, chocolate, bananas, dried fruits, etc).
- Caffeine often causes you to feel anxious, stressed, dizzy and/or achey.
- You or your family have a history of diseases such as Parkinsons, Alzeimers, Dementia, Heart disease, Cancer, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, Autism, Autoimmune disease, digestive issues or menstrual/ female repro problems (such as endometriosis, fibroids, PMS, etc)
How to detox without doing a detox
- Start your day with a huge glass of warm water with a squeeze of lemon juice or half a teaspoon of local rock salt
By the time you’ve had a full nights sleep, your body has been deprived of water for 7-9 hours. The absolute biggest favour you can do your liver is to drink a big, warm glass of water (or two) with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or pinch of sea salt. This helps flush away toxins that may have accumulated in the tissues thru the night. It also prepares the digestion for the day by stimulating the stomach acid (NB: I don’t recommend Apple Cider Vinegar to everyone anymore as a lot of people are intolerant to vinegars).
- Drink a smoothie a day to keep the Doctor away
Swapping your morning toast or cereal for nutritious smoothie gives your digestion a bit of a break and generally allows for more nutrition to get in. Smoothies also incorporate more fibre that cleanses the bowel by helping you to push out waste materials via the stool.
The best option is always a green smoothie if you can handle it. Using organic produce is always preferred as well (especially for Dirty Dozen produce). You will be amazed at how little you can taste the green vegetables once everything else is in. My favourite recipe goes a little something like this. Blend together:
- 1 cup unsweetened almond/coconut milk/cococnut water
- a raw egg or a teaspoon of fermented brown rice/ hemp protein powder
- Handful baby spinach leaves
- 1/3 cucumber
- Handful frozen blueberries
- Half a frozen banana (unripened)
- 1 tablespoon of ground flax or chia seeds
- 1 scoop of Guar Gum
- If you want it really green, add a pinch of chlorella/ spirulina
If you can’t bear the thought of being without your eggs or cereal in the morning, you will still reap the detox benefits by replacing any meal with a smoothie. It doesn’t have to be limited to breakfast.
- Swap wheat-based breads and cereals with Gluten Free (GF) options
All reputable detox programs will have you cut out gluten products. Gluten is an inflammatory molecule that will damage the lining of your gut thus cause inflammation (the root cause of every disease), whether you are intolerant to it or not.
An easy way to cut down on glutinous grains is to swap your every day breads, pastas and cereals for GF options, which are available in abundance these days at supermarkets and health food stores.
- Swap your standard wheat based breads (this includes sourdough)for rice or buckwheat loaves. My favourite brand is Naturis.
- Swap pasta for gluten free pastas, preferably made from rice or corn. My current favourite is the San Remo GF range.
- Swap wheat/ oat-based cereals for rice/ corn/ millet/ buckwheat-based cereals. You could try rice/ corn flakes, gluten free muesli, buckwheat kurnels, paleo cereals (usually made up of nuts and seeds) or quinoa (flakes or cooked fresh with warm nut milks).
- Use herbs as much as possible
Standard cooking herbs and teas offer many wonderful medicinal qualities that will help you detoxify. Some great ones include:
- Dandelion, which stimulates bile flow and boosts liver function. Buy dandelion root tea and drink it as often as possible.
- Turmeric, the most studied herb on the planet! It is anti-inflammatory and supports detoxification. Add it to cooking or in your smoothies, from the fresh root or ground turmeric is good too.
- Burdock root, which helps to stimulate bile flow and purifies the blood. It is great to drink as a tea.
- Herbal bitters are an amazing liver tonic. You can buy Swedish Herbal bitters or Flordis Iberoglast from most health food stores. Take them as directed, 15 minutes before meals whenever possible.
- Skull clean water whenever you think of it
Water is the key to flushing toxins out.In a perfect world, we should all be drinking 2-3L of water per day (herbal teas are inclusive of this). The reality is that many people either confuse thirst for hunger or simply forget to drink throughout the day.
The key in drinking enough water is to leave it everywhere to remind yourself. Buy several reusable glass bottles, fill them up (with filtered water) and leave them anywhere you frequent throughout the day. Good places include next to your bed, on your desk, on the kitchen bench, your handbag, your gym bag, the car and the office. Then every time you see any of these bottles, pick one up and take a big skull, whether you are thirsty or not.
Also, tap water is toxic. In Sydney alone it is potent in lead, copper and fluoride which all load up the liver and interrupt thyroid function. If you don’t have a filter consider a reverse osmosis system or distilled water.
- Stick to clear spirits if you choose to drink
One of the hardest things about doing a full blown detox is saying no to a drink when you’re out socialising. If you can’t being yourself to avoid alcohol, do you liver and gut bacteria a favour by sticking to distilled, clear spirits with soda/fresh lime/fresh lemon. Yes, gin and vodka is still alcohol thus remains toxic to the liver, but with distilled spirits you at least skip the sugar, yeast and sometimes nasty preservatives (like preservative 220 found in most Australian wines) that also increase the toxic load. Also remember if you do want to drink, match every vodka or gin for a big glass of water to take the load off your liver.
Your skin is the largest organ in the body and a major one for detoxification. When you sweat, the sweat glands in your skin are able to eliminate certain toxins more effectively than other organs of elimination (such as the bowel or lungs). Some of these toxins include heavy metals and plastic-derived BPA. Good and easy ways to sweat include any cardiovascular exercise, bikram/power yoga, sex and a sauna. The greatest benefits come from infared saunas which make you sweat from under the fat layer, much deeper in the tissues. (NB: always remember when you are sweating to keep your hydration up – coconut water or water with a pinch of rock salt are good options as they are rich in natural electrolytes).
- Dry skin brush before you get in the shower
Like sweating, dry skin brushing is an effective and easy way to maximize toxin elimination thru the skin. It works by improving circulation and stimulating lymphatic drainage. It also has the added benefit of reducing cellulite. You can buy dry skin brushes from most health food stores but if you don’t have access to one, you could use a loofah mit or gloves instead. This is how you do it:
- Naked by your bath/shower, start to brush your feet with low sweeping motions going up towards your heart.
- Brush each area of your skin several times as you work your way up the leg and take care with more sensitive areas (your skin may become more sensitive the more you dry brush).
- Always brush towards the lymph nodes to increase detoxification – these include the groin, armpits and the base of the neck.
- Avoid dry brushing sensitive areas such as the face, breasts, genitals or freshly waxed/shaved legs.
- Once you have brushed your entire body, jump in the shower and rinse.
- Skip breakfast or dinner a few times a week
Skipping breakfast or dinner a few times a week is the lazy mans’ Intermittent Fast (IF). IF’s work by limiting what you eat to an 8 hour period throughout the day. If you were being really strict about it, you would also limit you calories during this period but you really don’t need to go that far. The important thing is to give your body and digestive system a break from food for 16 hours. This break allows the body to regenerate, the liver to detoxify and has been shown to slow down the ageing process. I also personally experience greater clarity in my thinking when I am doing this a few times a week. You could:
- Eat lunch, have a high protein snack around 5pm, then be ready for breakfast the next morning at 9am; or..
- Eat dinner around 7pm, skip breakfast the next day and have brunch at 11am.
Food for thought. Or not.
- Go to the farmers market instead of the supermarket
Swapping the fruit and vegetables you buy at the local supermarket for organic fruit and vegetables from a farmers market is a very fast and easy way to detox. Certified Organic Produce can be expensive BUT if you head to your local farmers market you are bound to find a few farmers that sell inexpensive, organic, uncertified produce (it is actually cheaper than the supermarket). The key is to asking the farmer the right questions to ensure it is chemical/ hormone free. For more tips on how to do that read this little article I wrote a while ago.