Whether you've been pigging out recently or not, your body is constantly at work digesting food, which puts a lot of stress on internal functioning and can result in symptoms like fatigue, anxiety, and circulatory problems (you know, that feeling of having to catch your breath after walking up a flight of stairs?). To help restore your health and wellness, you might want to look into doing a detox—it's a great method for shedding wintertime sluggishness by removing harmful substances from the body.
Linda Page, a naturopathic doctor and author of the book Detoxification, explains in an article titled Detox Diets: Cleansing the Body on WebMD, "Our bodies naturally detoxify every day. It is a normal body process of eliminating or neutralizing toxins through the colon, liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph glands, and skin.” But environmental toxins and other factors can build up and overload the body, and sometimes our systems need a little rejuvenation.
Detoxification has gained popularity recently thanks to books, nutrition centers, and celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Beyoncé, and Salma Hayek, who all endorse its benefits. Hayek even co-founded Cooler Cleanse along with juicing expert Eric Helms, saying, “it’s so important for me to give my body a break from time to time and cleanse my system.” She adds, “After doing a juice cleanse, I’m motivated to eat healthier and not emotionally. Cleansing is like my meditation. It makes me stop, focus and think about what I’m putting into my body. I’m making a commitment to my health and hitting the reset button.”
Like any other lifestyle change, consulting with your doctor before starting a detox is recommended. The most important thing to remember is to practice a detox safely. As Dr. Mehmet Oz explains in a cleansing article on his website, "Many popular detox diets, especially those that involve extreme low-calorie fasting, can rob the body of important nutrients and place the body in starvation mode," which can result in dehydration, fatigue, dizziness, nausea and even colon damage. To avoid these side effects, let your goal be focusing on repairing your body from the inside out, rather than weight loss.
Be aware that detoxing is not for everyone. As Dr. Kathleen M. Zelman explains on WebMD, "Fasts lasting a day or two are unlikely to be harmful for most healthy adults. But high-risk people—the elderly, anyone with a chronic disease, pregnant women, and children—are advised against any type of fasting." Thankfully, there are ways to detox safely and healthily for those who have gotten the green light from their doctor. Read on to discover top tips from experts for detoxing safely.
Things to Eliminate
Getting rid of alcohol, cigarettes, and sugar will allow the body to reset itself to normal levels. Everyone knows the dangers of smoking and consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, and sugar may be more harmful than you think. Research done by the Australian National University found evidence of brain shrinkage in seniors between the ages of 60 and 64 whose blood sugar was in just the "high normal" range. That’s reason enough to cut out high-fructose corn syrup and white, refined sugars. Other foods you might not want to even look at during a detox are fried foods, those high in sugar and salt, dairy, eggs, and items high in preservatives and fats.
While you're eliminating your digestive system of harmful factors, you should also try to relieve the body of stress. Although those daily outbursts caused by traffic jams or slow Internet connections may be short-lived, prolonged stress can have very harmful effects over time. Dr. Andrew Weil, founder, professor, and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, supports that stress has been linked to all leading causes of death and contributes to 90 percent of all primary care visits. Some of the physical consequences being heart disease, stroke, depressed immune system, weight changes, insomnia, and migraines.
Stress can be reduced by doing anything that makes you happier, including yoga, reading, writing, watching a movie, or practicing a particular hobby. "Expressing positive emotions, such as optimism, is associated with a variety of health benefits: lowered production of the stress hormone cortisol, better immune function, and reduced risk of chronic diseases," Dr. Weil says. Taking a few moments for yourself may not seem that critical, but over time, it can significantly improve your mood, and therefore, your health.
The best way to start flushing toxins from your body is to drink more water. The kidney’s job is to get rid of these toxins, so as long as you keep hydrated, your body will work on its own to keep things moving—a process that detoxing can help with. Founder and director of The UltraWellness Center and author of The Blood Sugar Solution, Dr. Mark Hyman says in an article titled Detox Made Safe and Simple that to relieve uncomfortable side effects like constipation during a safe detox, "Drink plenty of purified water. Try warm water with lemon first thing in the morning.” If you don’t like the taste of plain water, adding some fruit to a pitcher of water will help the fluid absorb slightly sweet flavor to give you an all-natural fruit drink that is devoid of sweeteners or additives
Running and cardio-conditioning are great for re-awakening your internal organs when you're eating a healthy, balanced diet— but exerting yourself while detoxing is not recommended because you will be consuming fewer calories. Dr. Hyman says, "Actively engaging your parasympathetic nervous system helps restore your energy, which your body needs to replenish itself. Meditation, deep breathing or any calming activity is good." Walking, stretching, and light yoga are also ideal forms of exercise during a cleanse, and saunas are great for eliminating toxins, too.
“Regular exercise encourages circulation in the blood and lymph system. Doing so will also enhance digestion, reduce tension, lubricate joints, and strengthen your body," Matt Dower, spa director at Mirbeau Inn & Spa tells Shape.com. "People who exercise regularly have far fewer total toxins in their systems."
Dr. Oz recommends preparing for your detox ahead of time, as one of the important components of the practice is to slow down, and you don't want to make impulse buys or feel rushed when eating. He suggests meals like quinoa with prunes, vegetable broth soup, and a kale, pineapple, and a ginger detox drink. He also advocates eating dark berries, whole grains, and cruciferous vegetables. Raw vegetables are encouraged, as are beets, garlic, lemon, tea, and greens. Other recommendations include not eating after 7 p.m., drinking plenty of water, getting a good night’s sleep, taking Epsom salt baths to help you sweat out toxins and relax your muscles, and drinking dandelion tea to aid in digestion.
Gwyneth Paltrow has really been behind Dr. Alejandro Junger's Clean Program, even endorsing it on her own website, GOOP. Dr. Junger's Elimination Diet encourages eating seaweed, nut milks, and certain fruits like apples, cantaloupe, peaches, and pears. Some other ideal detox foods are brown rice, tuna, chicken, legumes, almonds, avocados, cabbage, and carrots. Jung’s plan excludes orange juice (even oranges), strawberries, dairy, eggs, white rice, pork, beef, soy products, peanuts, and butter. Overall, his plan includes and excludes these foods to avoid the major foods that cause allergies, food sensitivities, and digestive problems. Thankfully, you can have chocolate, but only if it is raw (dairy and sugar free).
One proponent of detoxing that society has really become interested in as of late is juicing, which requires a juicing machine—but if you do not own one, you can also find smoothie recipes for a blender. Using a juice press or a high-powered blender are both great ways to get a powerful, super-charged dose of vegetables and nutrients into your system—and the concoctions are surprisingly filling. The thought of going on an all-juice cleanse may be daunting, but even substituting one meal a day with juice is a healthy start.
Doctors and nutritionists can provide you with healthy juicing plans, but you can also find them online. For example, Joe Cross of the film Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead provides recipes on his Reboot Program website. Below is the recipe for his popular "Mean Green Drink." For it, you will need a juicer— we recommend the NutriPro Cold Press Juicer. Mix the juice of the below ingredients together, and enjoy. Note that juicing can be time consuming, so it's important to put aside a few minutes for preparation.
4 celery stalks
6-8 leaves kale
1 tbsp fresh ginger
Giving the body a break from digesting foods can help clean out old matter, especially from the small intestine. Juicing is an ideal way to release the 5-10 pounds of the matter our bodies naturally hold on to, which can help provide a feeling of total rejuvenation.
When you're refreshed and ready to complete your detox, don't go straight for the bucket of chicken. There are healthy methods for coming off a detox as well, and eating smaller portions of easy-to-digest food should be heeded towards the end of the process. Overall, to detox safely, you want to drink plenty of water, herbal tea, eat fibrous foods, stress less, and relax. Following these tips should help you enjoy this time and the new connection you will have with your body.