January is the month for thinking about a ‘detox’ after the holiday excesses… If you are thinking of embarking on a detox read this guide first…
It’s important to remember that our bodies are naturally constantly detoxing – through our skin (sweat), lungs (breathing), GI tract (poop), kidneys (urine), and liver (poop again).
However, we do live in an increasing toxic world and those same routes through which our bodies detox may be routes we are taking in more toxins and chemicals e.g. polluted air, toxic personal care products, chemicals and pesticides in our food. Imagine the toxic load in your body as a sink – you want water flowing from the faucet to flow out as soon as it reaches the sink. If there is hair stuck in the drain, or if the faucet lets in far more water than the outlet can remove, then the water(toxins) starts to build up.
In our bodies, a toxic load may produce very low grade symptoms e.g. slight fatigue, brain fog, low mood, achy joints, and if you stop adding to the toxic burden and started clearing out the load your symptoms might resolve. However, if the toxic burden builds up without you ever clearing it – then your symptoms may worsen, you might start experiencing medical ailments like food allergies, migraines, fatigue, low mood, hormonal issues like PCOS or endometriosis…
The good news is, your body already knows how to do the job – you just need to remove the stumbling blocks, support it, and stop adding to that toxic load in the first place so it can clear the backlog.
Here are some tips which can help support your body:
Make sure you are pooping regularly – at least once a day if not twice… make sure your stools are nice and soft by eating a high fiber diet (minimum 40g a day but preferably higher, if you have IBS or digestive issues and are sensitive to FODMAPS, speak to a practitioner who can work with you to improve your gut health). Fiber binds to and transport toxins out of our bodies. Fiber also feeds our beneficial gut bacteria which in turn help us break down xenobiotics and pesticides so maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is key for detoxification.
Stay hydrated – this will help your kidneys get rid of toxins and also help keep your bowels regular. p.s. try to drink filtered water (as municipal water has been found to be contaminated with prescription drugs, metals and chemicals).
Support the liver – Liver is our major detoxification organ, and carries out phase I and phase II reactions to convert fat-soluble toxins into water soluble compounds that our bodies can excrete. Phase I and II need to be balanced perfectly, because Phase I reactions can create highly reactive intermediate compounds that are sometimes more toxic than the original toxin – and must be neutralised by the Phase II reactions. If phase II pathways cannot catch up, then these intermediates created by the phase I pathways can start to cause problems in our bodies. One reason why a whole food plant based diet is naturally ‘detoxifying’ is because it provides a high concentration of nutrients needed for phase I pathways to work (veggies and fruits are rich in B vitamins, folate, flavonoids and antioxidants which will help neutralise excessive Phase I intermediates should phase II not be up to speed). Phase II detoxification requires sulphur containing amino acids like cysteine, methionine, taurine and others like glycine, leucine and isoleucine which can be obtained from legumes, nuts, seeds and vegetables *with the exception of taurine which is mainly found in animal products, but our bodies can make taurine so it is not an essential amino acid. Herbs like milk thistle, dandelion root can also support the liver but always check with a doctor before you supplement in case there is interactions.
Support the kidneys – by staying hydrated with plenty of water. Excess dietary protein can put a strain on the kidneys too, so unless you are an athlete, a recommended intake of 0.8g/kg of body weight is sufficient (those over 65 years of age and athletes may need a bit more). Parsley, and herbs like goldenrod may help support the kidneys but always check with your practitioner first in case there are contraindications for you.
Sweat – exercising is a great way to boost the master antioxidant in our bodies glutathione, get the lymphatics moving, and also promote sweating which have been shown to contain heavy metals.You can also use a sauna to promote sweating.
Get into nature – our lungs are a way for toxins to enter our bodies, but is also a way toxins can leave our bodies – getting into nature to move your body and breathe in fresh air is another way to get rid of toxins.