In recent years, we have become a society who just loves to do cleanses, detoxes, etc. And why not? We love quick fixes (or thinking we are getting a quick fix). I am by no means innocent of this, having jumped head first onto the cleanse band-wagon many-o-time. Now, I am not saying that cleansing and detoxing our bodies is a bad thing...not in the least! In our modern day lifestyle, we are absolutely exposed to a laundry list of toxins on a daily basis that affect our liver and our overall health in both the short and long term. HOWEVER....putting sudden strain on our liver and other detoxing systems to all of a sudden deal with and purge all of these toxins is not only ineffective, but can be quite dangerous, as well. So lets look at why these extreme detox regimens can be hazardous, and alternatively some safe, healthy, and effective ways to cleanse our bodies and achieve optimal health.
What does it really mean to cleanse our bodies/organs??
Good question Rachel! Thanks guys. So when we are talking about detoxing and/or cleansing, what that typically means is a diet that supports liver and bowel cleansing. The liver is the largest organ in the body, and its primary function is to detoxify, and also plays key roles in body metabolism (hint: if you simply can't lose weight, liver dysfunction may be to blame!). The liver filters the blood coming in from the GI tract...up to 2 quarts per minute! If functioning optimally, it will detoxify 99% of bacterial toxins on its first go (Bauman, 2010). The liver also creates and excretes bile, which is a carrier for many toxic compounds and eventually eliminated in our stool. The liver is detoxifying all KINDS of nasty toxins, including: Environmental toxins such as pesticides/herbicides, heavy metals (mercury, arsenic, lead, etc), drugs/pharmaceuticals, used hormones and neurotransmitters, food additives and altered (trans) fats, and more. A toxin is any substance that undermines our overall state of wellness, and is irritating/harmful to the body. Aside from the liver, we also detox through our respiratory, urinary, lymphatic, and gastrointestinal systems (of which the liver is a part of). So...when we talk about cleansing, we should be talking about healthy, effective, and SAFE ways to support these systems through food and perhaps some herbal supplements. But as is always my motto....start with food!!!
How do I know if I need to detox??
A gentle cleansing diet to support the liver and other detoxifying organs is rarely a bad idea (unless we are suffering from disease/health conditions, in which case consultation with a medical and/or nutritional professional is in order). Common signs of liver overload can include: fatigue, headaches, constipation and/or light/tan colored stool (impaired bile production), rashes, hives, acne (your body trying to detox), bloating, increased sensitivity to chemicals (for example, you walk into a department store and instantly get a headache from the perfumes), and more. These are signs that your liver is not functioning as it should be, and some simple dietary changes are in order, before you ever consider anything more drastic (fasting, liquid diets, etc). If you jump right into an extreme diet like this without having proper liver function first, you will make yourself ill! Too much, too fast. Again, start with food, and lets take a look at how to do this...
What does a cleansing diet look like??
Now, with all of this being said, gently cleansing/detoxing our bodies and organs can be incredibly benefit. Here are some of the reasons why:
• Improved Energy, Vitality, Productivity, and Mental Clarity
• Reduced Food Cravings
• Improved Digestion
• A Jump-Start to Successful Weight Loss
• Reduced Allergic Symptoms
• Lower Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
Cleansing the body should start with ridding the diet of certain foods, like trans fats, processed/refined sugar and flour (this means pastries, cookies, candies, etc), coffee, alcohol, and nicotine. You may also want to eliminate gluten and dairy for a bit. In place of these foods, add whole, organic foods such as fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, whole (preferably non-glutenous) grains, and herbal teas. Include lots of dark, leafy greens (kale, chard, spinach, dandelion and mustard greens, bok choy, etc), and also include seaweed and algaes (dulse, wakame, spirulina, chlorella are a few examples). These will provide the body with important trace minerals (minerals you do not get anywhere else), and also work as natural chelating agents (particularly chlorella, meaning it binds to toxins, particularly heavy metals, and draws it out of the body). Garlic and cilantro do this as well!
So, in summary....I am not necessarily against more extreme detox/cleansing regimens, which may comprise liquid or juice fasts (preferably with vegetable juice), or other types of plans. I have done them myself. However, if our liver and other cleansing systems/organs are not in the proper shape to handle something like this (and most of us aren't given the daily exposures of our modern society), we NEED TO BEGIN WITH FOODS! If you are interested in further cleansing diets/plans, please do so safely and seek guidance from a holistic nutrition professional, like, well....me! :)
Hows THAT for something to think about pre-holiday season???