Thinking about a “detox”? You are not alone! New Year’s resolutions often contain a theme of renewal, change and improved health, and I am commonly asked about detoxification programs this time of year.
TOXINS & DETOXIFICATION
We are exposed to toxins on a daily basis, both from our environment and through our lifestyle choices. Within each of us exists a natural and complex system of metabolic detoxification that works every day to identify and remove toxins from the body. Many factors can contribute to an accumulation of toxins in the body, including:
- Exposure to pesticides, plastics and industrial chemicals
- Heavy metal exposure
- Bacterial overgrowth in the gut resulting in endotoxin exposure
- Poor food choices
- Overconsumption of alcohol
- Lack of physical activity
Cultures around the world have long believed that the accumulation of toxins in the body is an underlying cause of a variety of health problems. For centuries, various cleansing and detoxification therapies have been used to minimize toxin exposure and aid the body’s ability to break down and excrete toxins.
DO YOU NEED TO “DETOX”?
Our bodies are actively detoxing on a daily basis, however sometimes they have trouble keeping up! When our natural system of metabolic detoxification becomes overburdened, toxins accumulate in the body. These toxins can cause tissue damage and may interfere with normal cellular processes. Common symptoms of toxic overload include:
- Fatigue/low energy
- Poor Sleep
- Chronic constipation
- Abdominal pain, gas and bloat
- Increased allergy symptoms
- Itchy skin/rashes
- Bad breath
- Confusion or “brain fog”
If you are experiencing symptoms of toxic overload it may be time to consider a detoxification program. Such a program generally involves:
- Reducing exposure to toxins.
- Supporting and enhancing the body’s natural detoxification systems.
- Encouraging the removal of toxins from the body.
While there are many approaches to detoxification and many programs available, I focus on three simple steps to ensure a safe and healthy detox.
THREE STEPS TO A HEALTHIER DETOX
STEP ONE - FOCUS ON NUTRITION
I am generally not a fan of “juice cleanses”. Not only are such programs lacking in fiber and protein, they can also upset hormone balance by raising cortisol and disrupting blood sugar regulation.
For effective detoxification, I prefer to focus on nutrients that support the body‘s natural detoxification mechanisms and emphasize clean, organic whole foods. In particular I recommend adequate amounts of quality protein providing amino acids essential to the metabolic detoxification pathways in the liver, and a variety of colorful non-starchy vegetables which add supportive vitamins, minerals and fiber.
While non-starchy vegetables are alkaline, most toxins are acidic, so consuming these vegetables will help to push acidic toxins to be filtered out through your kidneys. Specialized proteins shakes and targeted nutraceuticals may also be utilized to support detoxification pathways.
STEP TWO - INCREASE HYDRATION
Adequate hydration is essential for a safe detoxification. Proper hydration can protect the cells and tissues in your body from the damaging effects of toxins. Water intake promotes removal of toxins from the body through your kidneys via urine, and through your intestines via stool.
During a detoxification program, I recommend higher than average water intake. To determine the amount that is right for you, take half of your weight in pounds and convert that to ounces of daily water (for example, a 140 pound woman should consume at least 70 ounces of water daily during detoxification).
STEP THREE - TREAT YOUR GUT FIRST
If you have digestive problems, it is essential to address these issues before beginning a detoxification program. This is especially important for those with chronic constipation.
Why is the gut so important in detoxification? Because you have to “take out the garbage”! The gut (along with the kidneys and your sweat glands) is the primary pathway by which toxins leave the body. I recommend support for bowel regularity with water, fiber and magnesium to help this process.
Bacterial overgrowth in the gut contributes to toxicity by exposing the body to bacterial endotoxins. For those with a history of chronic abdominal bloat, gas, and diarrhea or irregular bowel movements, identifying and treating underlying gut imbalances is an important first step in detoxification. For some, I recommend an herbal gut cleanse prior to beginning a detoxification program.
Are you ready for a personalized detoxification program? Let’s get started!