Detoxification is about resting, cleansing and nourishing the body from the inside out.
We are in constant contact with harmful organisms and pollutants. They’re in our water, in our food and in the air we breathe; it’s very difficult to get away from them. Whilst the body has its own mechanisms in place to detoxify itself, the problem is when the toxin load gets too high and then places additional burden on the liver.
Let’s begin at looking at ways we can begin to counteract toxins and pollutants – far short of living the rest of our lives in a protective bubble!
What does it mean?
Detoxification is simply the process of eliminating toxins from the body. This may help to cleanse the body, leading to improved vitality as the body’s organs function at a more optimum level.
Did you know that the body has several mechanisms for removing waste?
The excretory system plays the largest role in detoxification. The main organs that compose the excretory system are the skin, liver, lungs, large intestine and kidneys. Your skin is also part of your excretory system and aids in elimination through the sweat glands. When sweat passes through your sweat glands, it takes toxins with it.
The liver is the main organ of detoxification, filtering and excreting waste, hormones, drugs and other foreign substances. The lungs help to remove carbon dioxide (the waste gas resulting from breathing). The large intestine has several important jobs. It absorbs water and remaining nutrients from food. It also converts waste into stool to be expelled from the body through defecation. The kidneys filter the blood and help remove waste from the body through urination.
What are toxins?
Toxins are any substance that can be poisonous or cause negative health effects. “Toxin” refers to all the metals, chemicals, pollutants, artificial food ingredients, pesticides and poisons that cause the body harm.
How are toxins introduced into our bodies?
- Food: additives, preservatives, overcooked food, rancid oil, toxic load of meat and fish (e.g. heavy metals in tuna).
- Water: chlorine.
- Cleaning products: household & body.
- Cosmetics & toiletries: parabens, sodium lauryl sulphate.
- Toxic living or working environments: moulds, electromagnetic stress, air pollutants & chemicals.
- Medication: e.g. painkillers.
- Recreational drugs (including cigarettes).
- Stimulants (caffeine, sugar, alcohol).
- Amalgam fillings.
Symptoms that may suggest a detox could help you:
- Unexplained fatigue
- Sluggish elimination
- Irritated skin
- Low-grade infection
- Puffy eyes or bags under the eyes
- Menstrual problems
- Mental confusion
Phases of detoxification in the body
The liver is the main site of detoxification in the body. It does this in 2 phases:
Phase 1 (bagging up the toxins)
This phase alters the toxins making them inactive or less harmful. They are then either eliminated through the digestive system or converted into an intermediate form before being processed by phase 2.
Phase 2 (sort and excrete)
The components of the toxins are made water soluble in this phase so that they can then be eliminated from the body by the kidneys.
Foods that stimulate Stage 1
- Fruit (especially berries as they are high in antioxidants)
- Kiwi Fruit
- Red grapes
Foods required for Stage 2
- Brussel sprouts
- Pak choi
It is important that the 2 phases of liver detoxification are kept in balance.
Foods that balance the two phases include watercress, artichoke and pomegranate.
Other foods that are important in providing the nutrients needed for the 2 phases to work efficiently are:
- Grains: Oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley, millet, corn
- Fish: Mackerel, sardines, anchovy, trout, salmon
- Nuts and seeds: Almonds, brazils, pumpkin, sunflower, flax
Substances that may interfere with optimal liver function
- Exhaust fumes
- Saturated fat
- Oral contraceptive pill
- Industrial pollutants
- Steroid hormones
- Charcoal/BBQ meat
- Chemicals e.g. deodorants, household products.
Contraindications to Detoxing
It is important to make sure the kidneys and bowel are working before starting a detox programme.
We wouldn’t detox under the following circumstances:
- Chronic kidney problems
- Certain medications (especially those for the liver. Prior to starting a detox programme, always consult your GP or medical practitioner if you are on any medication.)
- During pregnancy or whilst breastfeeding
Basic Detox Programme
- Refined foods
- Animal products (meat & dairy)
Increase these food groups to help the body heal and rejuvenate:
- Foods high in antioxidants such as berries
- Wholefoods e.g. oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley
- Fruit and vegetables – choose organic where possible
- VARIETY/SEASONAL food
- Water – remain well hydrated aiming for between 1.5-2 litres of fluid daily
- Oily fish e.g. salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines
- Choose the right foods
- Exercise & meditation
- Raw alkaline diet
- A high-quality air purification device is the best way to keep your air fresh and toxin-free. If a quality air purification device is out of your budget, get a few house plants instead; they’re nature’s air fresheners. They help filter the air and remove toxins.
- Teas: Nettle (liver), Dandelion (kidneys), Slippery Elm (digestive tract)
- Ginger: to help with nausea if healing reaction to detox
- Apple Cider Vinegar (unpasteurised): acid/alkaline balance, detoxifier
- Chlorella/Spirulina: antioxidants, aid elimination of heavy metals
- Seaweed: can help chelate and remove heavy metals
- Probiotics: help get rid of nasty bacteria in gut and protects against pathogens by producing antibacterial bio-chemicals.
- Aloe vera: help eliminate toxic materials from the body
- Garlic: helps liver detoxification system/clears gut parasites
- Berries: high in antioxidants
- Pomegranate: high in antioxidants, helps the liver balance phase I and II
- Fresh air and exercise (get some fresh air, sunshine and the circulation and lymph moving). Good exercises on a cleanse include yoga, swimming and walking
- Get plenty of rest and sleep (it’s when your body has a chance to repair)
- Epsom salt baths – to promote elimination of impurities through the skin (you could give yourself a salt glow or rub before taking the bath)
- Dry skin brushing: Long upward strokes towards heart. If you are brave, finish your shower with a blast of cold water to really boost your immune system and circulation.
Don’t forget: emotional/mental detox
- Relax and rest – what do you do to relax?
- Tip: watching TV shouldn’t be your response!
- Try yoga, meditation, walking, reading, hobbies
- Relationships – any toxic friends?
- Self -criticism / negative thoughts – be kind to yourself!
- Stress coping mechanisms – do you have any?
Consult your doctor before using any health treatment, including herbal supplements and natural remedies, and tell your doctor if you have a serious medical condition or are taking any medications. The information presented here is for educational purposes only and is in no way intended as substitute for medical advice.