by Rachel Lozon, CHC
What comes to mind when you hear the word “detox”? You might think drug or alcohol detox. Perhaps fasting or eating and drinking things like wheatgrass juice is what comes to mind. It may surprise you to learn that detoxing is none of those things. In fact, my interpretation will change your entire outlook on what a detox is.
So, what exactly is detoxification? Detoxification is the process of eliminating toxic substances that have built up in our bodies over time. Exposure to chemicals causes these substances to accumulate in our fat cells, becoming toxins. The toxins are then eliminated through one or more of the body’s six primary detoxification organs: the skin, lungs, liver, colon, lymphatic system, and kidneys. These vital organs work continuously to remove excess waste in one (or more) of four ways: sweating, respiration, urination, and bowel movements.
Toxins are everywhere. Pollutants are in the air we breathe; the water we drink isn’t always pure; most of our produce is contaminated with pesticides; chemicals are in the foods we eat, medications we take, the materials used to make cell phones and computers. The list goes on, and there is even some evidence that we’ve been exposed to some of these toxic substances before birth. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an American non-profit environmental organization that specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, the average newborn baby has 287 known toxins in his or her umbilical cord blood.Over time, the more we are exposed, the more of a strain these substances put on our bodies. When the chemicals aren’t being completely flushed out, they remain in our bodily tissue and begin to build up. When our body becomes overwhelmed with too many toxins, we become sick. Unfortunately, feeling sick has become the “new normal” for many of us. We don't realize that everything around us has such a negative effect on our health. By not ridding the body of these toxins, we continue to be exhausted all of the time, have brain fog, crave certain foods, gain weight, develop digestive issues (gut imbalances are a huge factor for many), and experience a myriad of additional symptoms such as skin problems, headaches, bloating, inflammation, joint pain, and more.
You can dispose of these toxins naturally by doing a safe and effective detox yourself, at home. This allows the body to have a break from taking in new chemicals and toxins without expensive (and potentially dangerous) medical interventions. During this break, the body is able to move the current toxins into the bloodstream so they can be removed.
The amount and type of nutrients you will need may depend on your symptoms and level of exposure to various chemicals. A detox program that includes eating high nutrient foods should be sufficient in supporting your body as it releases some of these toxins, and the accumulation of the nutrients stored will help your system recover even after the detox process is over.
There are several kinds of detoxes out there.
A juice cleanse has long been used as a way to get an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables. It’s a great way to get your produce in, but many juices are high in sugar and lack the fiber that whole foods have.
The master cleanse is a crazy concoction of lemon water, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and herbal tea. This is a 10-day cleanse and you consume nothing else. It may work short term for weight loss, but it definitely isn’t safe long term. This is not a healthy way to lose weight, and I do not recommend it. Our body needs nutrients. It needs energy. There is no nutritional value in this particular cleanse.
A natural cleanse is made up of herbal laxatives and diuretics. Cape aloe is an ingredient commonly used, but most health experts advise avoiding it. Laxatives can cause dehydration and electrolyte depletion.
The method that I am most familiar with is a five day, whole foods detox. A whole foods detox consists of taking out processed foods, sugar, dairy, gluten, caffeine, and alcohol. These are replaced with whole grains, organic fruits and vegetables (lots of leafy greens!), organic animal products, nuts, seeds, and herbal teas. This provides a daily dose of well-balanced nutrients without deprivation or harm to our body. It’s very gentle, safe, and effective.
An adequate amount of filtered water is very important in any cleanse as this will assist in flushing the toxins out of your system. Not quite sure how much water your body requires? Ideally, you want to drink half of your body weight in ounces. Don’t like the taste of plain, filtered water? Add in some flavor in the form of fruits, vegetables, or herbs! Personally, I love adding fresh mint and cucumber to my water.
During the detox, it’s very common to experience irritability and lack of energy. Some people may develop serious food cravings. Others may have headaches due to caffeine withdrawal. This discomfort is also a sign that toxins are being released, and the detox is working exactly the way it should. The good news is that you will notice a shift in how you feel toward the end of the week. Most people will end the five day detox period feeling great.
Eating clean for five days will be enough time to help you recognize your old, unhealthy patterns while establishing new, healthy ones. It’s important to take care of yourself during this time, and listening to your body is essential. If you’re tired, then rest. If you’re hungry, eat. There’s no need to ever go hungry. Self-care is crucial for our well-being, not just while detoxing, but every day. Enjoy an Epsom salt bath before bed. Go for a run. Relax in a sauna. Your skin is your largest organ, and since it’s one of the primary organs of elimination, the more you sweat, the more toxins you’ll release. I do recommend taking it easy and not overexerting yourself, and always remember to stay hydrated!
The more you put into a detox the greater results you will have, but this also depends on what your habits consisted of prior to the detox. Some will notice an increase in energy, feeling better rested after sleep, improved skin, reduced cravings, better digestion, and even weight loss. Others may discover they have a gluten or dairy intolerance, or that caffeine isn’t doing the trick like they once thought and instead they’re feeling worse. You will also gain insight on which foods are right for your unique body, so you may want to keep a journal before, during, and after your detox.
I hope this article has helped you understand what detoxification is, how it can help improve your health, and why it’s so important. If you’re considering trying a detox program, I do urge you to consult with your physician first, especially if you have any health conditions or concerns, are pregnant, or nursing. Remember: Getting rid of toxins is vital for living a long, healthy vibrant life. If you don’t take care of your body, where else are you going to live?
Rachel Lozon is a certified health and wellness coach. She graduated from The Health Coach Institute in December 2016. Her website is www.revitalizebodyandmind.com. You can contact her at 734.365.6614 or firstname.lastname@example.org; you can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.