We are surrounded daily by harmful chemicals – blue light exposure, car fumes, heavy metals, mould exposure, exogenous hormones in conventional animal products, medications, BPA coated receipts, plastics, perfumes and fragrances, pesticides, cleaning products, radiation – you name it!
Unless we are to live in a secluded forest we will all be exposed daily to some less-than-ideal chemicals. I think it is important that we remove the urgency and panic and even sense of deprivation that comes from the idea of detoxing, and our focus should be a way of life that optimises a sense of well-being, both physical and emotional.
Do detox diets actually work?
Detox diets often promise a plethora of benefits such as glowing and dewy skin, weight loss, more energy, less pain, decreased over-indulgence coupled with the idea of being “clean” … and endless other spin-offs. It’s no wonder detox diets are so popular – but do they work?
The reality is that detox diets such as juice and water cleanses, for example, are often counterproductive because they deprive your body of essential nutrients it needs to work optimally.
It isn’t what you do for 7 days of the year but what your day consists of 90% of the time, 365 days of the year.
Your body is wise and does a lot of detoxing on its own but certain chemicals or a higher toxic load make it tough for your body to clear toxins efficiently.
A sound eating protocol can assist you in strengthening your detox organs by supporting your natural detoxification pathways.
Like you I often feel the need to “clean house slightly”. This happens when I feel a little off-tinker – somewhat sluggish, too caffeinated, my digestion is poor, my skin and hair is dry, I feel inflamed and experience an overall lack of zest for life. We all feel it.
Your body is always communicating with you and if we tune in we will know what is needed naturally. I avoid over-the-top rigid diets or quick fix detox protocols and instead focus on my daily actions.
Because we are all in it for the long game, right?
First, get to know your organs of detox and how they work
Detoxification in your body is a system of cleansing or detoxing by ridding your body of harmful impurities.
It is done through 5 major pathways:
- liver (performs a major role)
- kidneys (also perform a major role)
- digestive system
The role of your kidneys is to flush waste/toxins from your blood by turning it into urine, after it has been filtered by your liver, which performs a number of tasks, so much so that it impacts how you feel.
Every day your liver’s role is to break down and eliminate toxins and excess hormones, balancing your blood sugar, producing bile, and eliminating waste products.
As it works so hard, sometimes symptoms of liver dysfunction or impaired function may not show immediately. You may feel tired or sluggish, blocked up or headachy, and perhaps feel intolerable to substances like alcohol, caffeine which can indicate that your liver may benefit
How to optimise your detox pathways
1. Always start with food
There aren’t necessarily any bad foods, but bad ingredients. Most of our toxic exposure comes from our food supply, and water.
The most important change you can make daily is to source the best quality seasonal food. Look for local, regeneratively raised/organic foods wherever possible. This will take your health a long way, long term.
There are hormones and antibiotics in commercially raised animal products. Pesticides and other agrochemicals are rampant in our food supply, even being “vegan”, plant based, keto, carnivore is no advantage if the quality of your food is compromised.
Remember to nourish daily and not deprive yourself, you need key nutrients to support your organs, your brain, your mood and hormones. Think of adding more of the good stuff. Go for these foods and have one day a week to eat primarily plant foods and a weekly 24 hour fast for those who feel they want to take it to the next level.
Get enough protein. Several amino acids are important for liver detoxification including glycine, taurine, glutamine, arginine and more. Protein is essential as your body requires adequate amino acids to construct enzymes and other molecules integral to the detoxification pathways. Without supplementation, the body catabolises its lean tissue to source the amino acids necessary for this function.
Have a tablespoon of seeds per day
Pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, and flaxseeds, which contain the omega-3 and omega-6 essential fats to help repair damaged cell membranes. They are also rich in the minerals needed for detoxification. Antioxidants are substances that protect cells within the body from damage caused by free radicals. Have the equivalent of a tablespoon a day.
Fibrous, organic vegetables and greens
Organic produce is grown in nutrient-dense soil, which means it tastes better and studies have shown that organically-grown vegetables contain more vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other micronutrients than conventionally grown produce. These should fill about 60% of your plate. Vegetables and greens can be raw, lightly cooked or cultured (a wonderful way of doing it) or in a smoothie adding lemon/ginger for added flavour. Avoid GMO sources of foods and go organic where possible. Locally grown produce is often better so get to know your local producers selling at local markets, and surprisingly it will more than likely keep your costs down.
Try my daily green pesto
Concentrated greens either in powder form, spirulina, or green juices are a great addition for getting all your antioxidant nutrients. One of my favourite ways to include greens is by making the following pesto which is a rich concentration of all my essential greens, recipe below.
- A handful of watercress, baby leaf spinach, basil leaves, parsley leaves
- About 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- A good squeeze of lemon juice
- Some pine nuts
- Whizz all the ingredients together in a mini blender or food processor, or if you don’t have one of these handy, finely chop the herbs and stir in the oil.
Such as cold pressed olive oil helps convert toxins into water-soluble forms that can be excreted easily.
Drink lots of clean filtered water between meals but drink minimally with meals so as not to dilute the digestive enzymes.
Avoid these foods…
Gluten is a protein found in the cereals wheat, rye and barley. Obvious sources of gluten in the diet are bread, pasta and breakfast cereals. Gliadin is primarily found in major sources of gluten which irritates the gut. Give your inside a break by avoiding all bread made from wheat and all commercially made cakes, biscuits, pastries and pasta. Also, check the labels of all other commercially made foods to ensure that no wheat is included. Instead, buy non-wheat, gliadin- free alternatives such as oats and oat cakes, brown rice and rice cakes, quinoa, corn, millet or buckwheat.
The body treats it as a toxin. Take a break from coffee, black tea, carbonated sweet drinks and other caffeinated drinks. Reduce coffee to a maximum of one cup a days.
Ditch it for a few weeks. Give your liver a total break.
We are the only beings on the planet that consume another animal’s milk. Most of us are allergic and intolerant to dairy. We don’t have the enzymes to digest the lactase. It is also mucous and acid forming.
Take a break from all, all fried food – including vegetables, fries and crisps – and all processed foods, along with commercial margarines and spreads and mayonnaise. They contain hydrogenated oils. Aim for healthy essential fats from fish, eggs, olive oil, raw nuts and seeds, seed butters and oils. Only cook with olive oil or coconut butter.
For obvious reasons, but mainly because it down-regulates your immune system, is heavy on the liver and negatively disrupts blood sugar levels.
Here’s a sample meal plan
- ON WAKING
Drink a glass of lukewarm, filtered water with lemon.
- Green vegetable juice: (spinach, celery, apple, ginger, lemon, cucumber) with some eggs, poached or boiled and avocado.
- Papaya with lemon juice and walnuts or grated apple and pumpkin seeds
- Quinoa with almond milk, cinnamon with pumpkin seeds
- Coconut yoghurt with cinnamon and mixed seeds and berries
- Two poached eggs with wilted greens and avocado
- Herbal teas/ green tea or rooibos.
- An abundance of beautifully bright and vibrant seasonal vegetables, preferably nutrient rich greens such as rocket, watercress, spinach, asparagus with cold pressed olive oil, coconut oil or avocado oil and some lemon juice. Always add some cooked veggies too in season. Fresh wild fish (avoid farmed fish) or meat from animals that are pasture-raised, roam freely. A size that fits the palm of your hand.
- Make a simple dressing using 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil, 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice, and an optional 1 teaspoon of fresh-chopped herbs.
- Make sure to eat a large raw salad, with steamed vegetables and with either a small piece of fish or alternatively some sweet potato or quinoa.
- Make sure your dinner is 70% vegetable based such, examples:
- Brown rice/ quinoa with baked vegetables and a large green salad
- Steamed salmon with fresh herbs and lemon with spinach or broccoli
- Large raw salad with steamed vegetables and wild caught fish or grass fed protein
- Delicious vegetable soup and a salad with avocado.
Click here for more on portion sizes for the ideal nourishing plate.
DO’S AND DON’TS
- Eat real whole food. Keep things simple
- Source the best quality ingredients you can find.
- Focus on nutrients and nourishing your body
- Food is information always.
- Cook meals from scratch
- No snacking between meals
- Allow 4-5 hours between meals
- Eat your dinner 2-3 hours before sleep
- Keep it real. Avoid all “fake and artificial” ingredients
- Ditch fizzy drinks – even the diet ones
- Chew your food well. Eat slowly. Not only does this extract more nutrients from food, but you will feel full before overeating.
- Bless your food before eating.
- Eat seasonally.
Supplements that can help with detox
Key supplements support your detoxification system, this is important as we are all potentially exposed to an overload of toxins.
Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant produced in your body that detoxifies chemicals produced in the body as well as outside toxins. It also supports liver enzymes that break down mould toxins and heavy metals and in general supplementation will increase glutathione cell concentration. It is important to choose a liposomal glutathione supplement that makes it through your stomach into your system. Click here for an interesting article on why it is hard to argue that strengthening the glutathione system is critical. You may find this useful.
A super nutrient rich blue green algae that is high in antioxidants. Which therefore makes it a great supplement as detox food. It helps alkaline the body and remove toxins and pollutants. I take Marcus Rohrer Spirulina, and have been doing so for 11 years.
Found in the spice turmeric, it is a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. Supplementing with curcumin can help to neutralize free radicals and boosts the activity of your body’s own antioxidant enzymes. Always seek a supplement with proven ingredients and scientific studies for bioavailability and active life.
I love liposomal Vitamin C as additional anti-oxidant support especially as one can feel a little run down when removing sugar and other inflammatory foods like gluten, grains, processed foods and often commercial dairy.
Charcoal binds to chemicals such as aflatoxin and other polar mycotoxins, BPA, and common pesticides which when once attached, can be eliminated normally. It can also bind to essential nutrients too (i.e. vitamins and essential minerals) so I don’t recommend taking it within an hour of other supplements. Try taking a couple charcoal pills along with exercise or a sauna session. They should absorb many of the toxins you release into your gut and GI tract.
A note: If you have a lot of fat and you’re burning it off quickly, you’re probably getting rid of a lot of toxins at once, and you may get a headache, digestive problems, brain fog, etc. If that happens try taking more glutathione, vitamin C, and charcoal. Be sure you take charcoal at least an hour away from other supplements, as it binds to vitamin C.
Milk Thistle & Dandelion Drops
They are bitter herbs that support the mechanisms for detoxification and excellent to be taken together for liver support.
Lifestyle habits & interventions for detox
Beyond food and supplements, certain activities can enhance your detox pathways – try turning these into habits.
We are too sedentary, we need to add movement each day for circulation and lymph, even if it is dancing, or the rebounder which is my favourite, daily walks and of course resistance training. If you can build up a sweat even better.
Deep breathing helps with detox, in fact, our bodies are made to release 70% of toxins through breathing. Carbon dioxide is a natural toxic waste that comes from the body’s metabolism and needs to be removed regularly.
Sweating (45-60 minutes) does more than cool you off. It also helps you get rid of both heavy metals and xenobiotics – foreign compounds like plastics and petrochemicals – in small but significant amounts. A 2012 review of 50 studies found that sweating can remove lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury, especially in people with high heavy metal toxicity. Another study put participants in both traditional and infrared saunas and found similar results. Sweating also eliminates hormone-disrupting BPA, which accumulates in your fat cells.
Cryotherapy and cold exposure
It causes the lymphatic system to contract, forcing fluid through the lymph nodes to support detox and it stimulates mitochondria, the energy organelles in your cells. Mitochondrial oxidants promote cell death.
Dry body brushing / lymphatic drainage massages
Daily dry body brushing is a great tool to increase circulation and lymph flow. I love to dry-body brush with some peppermint essential oil and have a cold shower after or go into a sauna. For the ultimate treat try a lymph drainage endermologie massage.
This is everything. Having regular bowel movements also helps eliminate toxins, including excess hormones, from the body. Hydration, exercise, fibre and having enough magnesium are important here.
Chelation therapy for heavy metals
Chelation therapy is an IV treatment that uses compounds called chelators to remove heavy metals (lead, mercury, aluminium, arsenic, iron, and copper ) from the body leaving them unable to further poison the body. Chelators mobilize the toxins which then pass normally by urination or are bound up with adsorbents like activated charcoal.
I am not a fan of using the word ‘detox’, I am more of a fan of using ‘intelligent living daily’. Our bodies do incredible work, we just need to create the right environment to let that happen
Much love xx