Spring has sprung and it’s time to shake off that winter hibernation feeling. I find myself cleaning out the house and wanting to clean out my body at the same time. I am about to embark on a 2-week Spring Detox with a colleague of mine. We’re happy to have our cars serviced regularly but we seldom do the same to our bodies.
If you experience any of these symptoms it may be time for a tune-up:
- Low energy
- Foggy brain
- Feeling low
- Frequent colds
- Bad breath
- Smelly stools
The ability to detoxify efficiently is a major determinant of good health.
‘Detox’ means different things to different people. Some associate it with a fast (just water), a juice fast or perhaps a liver flush, but this plan involves real food for 11 of the days and liquid food in the form of nutritious juices and soups for 3 of the days.
It includes a structured supplement protocol to support liver detoxification pathways and a non-allergenic diet (cutting out foods that can be potential allergens such as gluten and dairy). It also means staying away from stimulants such as coffee and alcohol to ease the burden on the liver.
Any structured detox program includes 2 elements:
- Reducing toxins that are taken in (eating clean)
- Supporting detoxification pathways to increase elimination of what’s already in (staying clean)
The aim is to up-regulate the body’s ability to clear these toxins.
A toxin is defined as any compound that has a detrimental effect on cell function or structure .
Toxins can be exogenous (created outside the body); in our modern world we are inundated with them. These include toxic metals, tobacco, coffee, pollution from industry and traffic, household cleaning products, drugs, personal cleaning products and cosmetics and agrichemicals like herbicides and pesticides.
The body itself also creates it’s own endogenous toxins; these are mainly intermediate or waste products of metabolic processes. These can include CO2, lactic acid, urea, ammonia and hormones.
The result is that chemical compounds, ubiquitous in our food, air and water, are in every one of us. The bioaccumulation of these compounds in some individuals can lead to a range of dysfunctions, and disease states. These xenobiotic compounds mostly affect the immune, neurological and endocrine systems. Toxicity in these systems can lead to immune dysfunction, autoimmunity, asthma, allergies, cancers, cognitive deficit, mood changes, neurological illnesses, changes in libido, reproductive dysfunction and glucose dysregulation .
The liver, intestines and kidneys are the body’s primary organs of detoxification. The body eliminates toxins directly by neutralising them or by excreting them in them in urine or faeces. Toxins that the body is unable to eliminate build up in the tissues, typically in our fat stores. Most chemicals and toxins are fat-soluble, so can reside in the body’s fat deposits. Sub-optimal liver function can result in symptoms such as headaches, nausea, irritability and skin problems.
The liver plays various roles in the detoxification process. It filters the blood to remove large toxins, synthesizes and secretes bile full of cholesterol and other fat-soluble toxins and disassembles chemicals through a 2-stage process referred to as Phase I and Phase II. The detoxification efficiency of the liver can be improved with dietary measures, special nutrients and herbs.
The aim is to eat, where possible and affordable, organic fruit and vegetables. We’re aiming for a daily rainbow of colour including a minimum of 10 portions of fruits and vegetables (maximum 3 portions of fruit). They not only contain soluble and insoluble fibre, which enhance the body’s detoxification systems, they also contain valuable plant compounds called phytonutrients. These are plant nutrients, such as the carotenoids and flavonoids, with particular biological activities in supporting human health, .
In addition to the eating plan, we’re maintaining hydration with filtered water, which is needed for all body processes including digestion, absorption, circulation and excretion. Water is necessary to carry essential nutrients to the cells and remove waste from the cells. Low water consumption makes it difficult for the body to eliminate toxins.
And then there are the additional lifestyle shifts to address such as managing stress and ensuring sufficient sleep for rest and repair. On the schedule are some hot yoga classes for a good stretch and sweat. It would be ideal to also include saunas and a lymph massage to help the detoxifying processes.
If you feel it’s time to give your body a tune-up, please do get in touch.
1. Murray, M.T. and Pizzorno, J. 2012. The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine Third Edition. New York: Atria Paperback
2. Crinnion, W. 2000. Environmental Medicine, Part 1:The human burden of environmental toxins and their common health effects. Altern Med Rev. 5(1):52-63
3. Zhao, J. 2007. Nutraceuticals, Nutritional Therapy, Phytonutrients, and Phytotherapy for Improvement of Human Health: A Perspective on Plant Biotechnology Application. Recent Patents on Biotechnology(1):75-97.