Gill Stannard

Monday, September 24, 2007

More spring cleaning

It is spring clean time again. The return of the warm weather is the ideal time to give your body a break from your favourite ‘poisons’ and give you gut a rest. While the concept of “detoxing” has become increasingly popular – the actuality is another thing. A bit like Lent for atheists – why would you choose give up so many delicious oral gratifications and feel grumpy?

In it’s simplest form a detox is about taking a little pressure off our organs of elimination. While most of us are aware that the liver does the hard work of breaking down alcohol and recreational drugs – it also breaks down our naturally occurring hormones and other chemicals in our body, pharmaceutical drugs, chemical residues (such as pesticides), additives in refined foods and the poisons in cigarettes.

The kidneys do an amazing job filtering the blood but common substances like salt (especially high in processed foods and restaurant meals), alcohol and caffeine make them work even harder.

Our lymphatic system, which is a major part of our immune response as well its role in rubbish removal, will often become sluggish when we eat dairy products and flour.

Our lungs have to deal with dirty city air, let alone cigarette or marijuana smoke – making them work harder in simple gas exchange needed for our survival.

As for our digestive system – the more food we shovel into it, the less efficient it appears to be. The more congested it becomes with partially digested bits of food, the more likely we are to feel bloated, uncomfortable and full of wind.

The kindest thing we can do to our body is to decrease the load on these organs once in a while. This doesn’t mean spending a lot of money on a ‘natural’ product in a box promising to clean us out. In fact it is counterintuitive to keep eating, drinking and smoking in such a way but taking the pills, powders, teas or potions instead.

A detox doesn’t have to be all or nothing but the more you do, the sooner you will feel the positive benefits. Abstaining from cigarettes, drugs, alcohol and caffeine is the cornerstone to detoxing. As these are probably the hardest things you could ask of yourself – get some help dealing with these before you consider doing a detox.

Without these everyday toxins, it is time to look at how we eat. Just like tea or coffee – some foods are equally as addictive. Sugar and its artificial sweetener alternatives are high on the chemical addiction list. Aspartame (such as in diet soft drinks) really seems to hook people – so perhaps, like cigarettes, you should consider weaning yourself of this substance first before tackling food.

Even if you are not a sugar addict and only have 1 cup of coffee a day – the first few days of a healthy diet can often trigger a headache. What is more, we often have strong emotional connections with food. While some people can take on a detox and feel it is in some way about rewarding themselves, for many the predominant emotion is a sense of denying oneself. I strongly recommend anyone with a history of eating disorders to no put themselves on a restrictive detox.

So once you have your head around the idea – that for a set period of time (usually at least 10 days) you will clean up your diet, the first step is to set a date. Finding a clear spot in your social calendar, so you wont be tempted to drink or dine out can be challenging. But committing the time to do so will make the detox easier. The other side to taking the load off our body is also to find a time to not tax ourselves mentally, so choosing a time of low demand at work, home or study is equally important. Planning can really help make the detox successful.

Have a read of last years show on detoxing before you start.

A basic detox

Phase 1: For the first 3 days eat only fruit and vegetables. If the weather is warm enough – raw is best. Include fresh juices if you want, drink plenty of water and herb teas (not green tea, regular tea, mate or guarana – as these contain caffeine).

Phase 2: For the next week introduce whole grains (eg: brown rice, quinoa, soaked oats), beans, nuts and seeds. Do not add salt to your food or fry. A little good quality oil on salads is fine. Eat a wide variety of cooked and raw fruits and vegetables. This is a vegan diet without the fries.

Ideally they food you eat on a detox is organically grown and the water is filtered.

If phase 1 is too demanding, skip to phase 2 as a ‘mini detox’ but to get the most out of it you should consider doing it for at least 2 weeks.

Some extra special detox foods and herbs

Turmeric – especially if you can find some fresh turmeric and add it to a juice for a little bit extra for your liver
Artichokes – steamed but skip the butter, another liver tonic
Leafy greens and bitter vegetables – raw in salads with a dash of lemon juice, also great for the liver
Coriander – finely chop and put on salads, reputedly aids the detoxification of heavy metals
Garlic – a powerhouse of goodness best eaten raw, eat some parsley or fennel seeds with it to sweeten your breath

…and don’t forget to start the day with the juice of half a lemon in a glass of warm water!

Don’t forget your skin

Our skin is also an eliminative organ. While our lungs and skin would benefit from a couple of weeks away from city grime there are still a number of ways we can assist this organ working better.

Skip the antiperspirant – sweating is a natural way that our body sheds toxins. Sometimes at the beginning of our detox our sweat will smell stronger. Blocking up the pores works against this process – even if using a so-called ‘natural’ antiperspirants sold as crystal or rocks. An alternative is to wear natural fibre clothing, wash under your arms twice a day and use an essential oil based deodorant or spritz your pits with your own essential oil blend.

Dry skin brushing each day and a sauna towards the end of the detox also help unclog your pores.

Who shouldn’t detox?

If you are pregnant – though we hope your diet is additive free, full of fresh fruit and vegetables and wholegrains, do not do something as extreme as a fruit and vegetable ‘fast’.

Type 1 diabetics. Type 2 diabetics, if not medicated, would benefit from the 2nd phase of the diet.

If you are on prescribed medication.

While many chronic health conditions can benefit from a spring clean, talk to an experienced naturopath first, as sometimes a cleanout will cause conditions to flare initially (but in some cases resolve it or provoke a remission).

Be kind to yourself. If you haven’t gone on a spring clean before, start by a week or two of no alcohol or sugar – or whatever your greatest weakness is – and see what it brings up for you.

Anyone can go on a healthy balanced diet but to take it a step further it is always useful to get some experienced advice.


Anonymous said...

Hi. I am into my first week of your recommended spring clean program and I was wondering whether non-dairy milk is ok? (such as rice or soy or oat milk). thanks, Mary

Health Trip said...

Most non-dairy milk is highly processed. Soy, more example, is usually high in oil and sugar (such as malt). While coconut isn't so processed, it is high in fat. The idea is to give your liver a 'rest' so to not overload it.

When I reintroduce oats on my detox, I tend to soak them in water or apple juice (from apples I have put through the juicer).

Good luck with the detox.


Diabetes Resource said...

Have you heard about detox with 24 hours fasting and only consume olive oil? Do you think its a safe practice?


Health Trip said...

I haven't heard of such a "detox" and wouldn't suggest anyone follow it. Why flood your liver with fats - however organic or cold pressed, oil will make your liver work harder to break it down?

There are no real short cuts in detoxing. It's about doing the work, not chasing a magic cure all.