Last week I started on a detox, or cleansing diet. With the warmer weather and all the beautiful spring vegetables, it is an ideal time to take on ‘the cleanse’; Also as we get closer to the end of year celebrations, it is a good time to optimize your health. Similarly, in the first few months of the New Year after the excesses of the festive season is another good time to undertake such a detox.
The detox is really all about increasing your vitality and optimizing your health. Do you work hard, eat a bit erratically, or eat lots of refined foods or have lots of coffee and snacks to get through the day, drink most days, not sleep well and wake up wanting more sleep? Are you under constant stress due to work pressure and deadlines? Do you look tired or unwell?
If you answered yes to even half of these questions, then you probably need to give your body a cleanse…. a detox.
How is your blood pressure? What is your glycemic index like? What is your cholesterol level? What are your bowel movements like? In our modern times, with our eating and lifestyle habits, we find ourselves in the middle of an obesity epidemic. Type 2 diabetes levels are skyrocketing and heart disease is high.
Our urban lives are full of stressors which put an overload on our nervous, metabolic and digestive systems. A detox is a way to decrease the stress on and load on our gastro-intestinal tract.
The major aims of such a program are:
1. To increase your energy
2. To decrease your exposure to toxins through dietary and lifestyle changes
3. To improve your digestion of foods
4. To replace ‘bad bugs’ in your digestive system with healthy bacteria
5. To help your liver remove toxic waste products
6. To look and feel great
To draw an analogy, it is a bit like renovating your house. To renovate properly, you seek out the damp spots, the leaks, the rot, the white ants and then get rid of them. Then you rebuild and remodel and make beautiful. The detox is like that.
The three stages of a ‘cleanse’ involve:
1.You stop the aggravation:
We do this by stopping placing into our gut those things which aggravate it.
2.You cleanse the system:
This is done developing an eating regimen specially helpful to cleansing out the system. These foods are foods which decrease load on the liver and pancreas, help improve the digestive and absorptive process and then allow healthy elimination.
3.You rebuild the system:
There are certain supplements which will aid the health of the gastro-intestinal tract. These include the healthy bacteria, Acidophilus and Bifidobacterium with Colostrum. As you progress along, and the absorption of the gut has improved, there are other herbs and vitamins which will support the activity of the liver, pancreas, kidneys and gut to improve their function
The detox goes over a few weeks, or however long is necessary. The full-on version is not for everyone. Some people need to gradually adjust their bodies to a full detox program. People who are sick, exhausted, under a very heavy schedule (or all three as the case may be) may find the effort required more than they can cope with, and should probably do a modified version of ‘the cleanse’.
The initial stage of a detox is severe as your body ‘comes off’ some of the foods you have become ‘addicted’ to, especially the sugar, caffeine and alcohol, and your diet is limited to the very simple and limited foods allowed at this stage, which are, essentially, brown rice, vegetables, fish and yoghurt (the only fruit at this point is grapefruit, lemons and limes)
Following the initial week of healthy deprivation you are allowed more protein, more grains and more fruit. It is here that the addition of certain herbs and supplements will help rebuild the system.
What are “toxins”?
I have talked about toxins and toxicity here, but what are these ‘toxins’?
Toxicity is literally how poisonous a substance is. Some things are very poisonous, and even a small amount can be very harmful (e.g. arsenic). Many substances are slightly poisonous, so that small amounts are able to be removed without harm. If you have a large exposure to these milder poisons (e.g. pesticides), then over time they can overwhelm your ability to ‘detoxify’ or remove them from your body. Exposure to several mild poisons at once is much more dangerous than one at a time.
One of the body’s defence mechanisms when faced with toxicity is to store the harmful chemicals in your fat tissue. This means that these poisons can be stored for many years in our tissues, becoming an ongoing source of ill health.
A detox, or cleanse, is designed to reduce your toxic exposure and also improve your body’s detoxification ability.
Most people with toxicity develop a problem called ‘leaky-gut syndrome’ (intestinal permeability). In a healthy digestive system, the lining of the digestive tract is a very good filter, allowing beneficial nutrients such as vitamins and amino acids to pass into the bloodstream, whilst keeping toxic bacteria and waste products of digestion within the bowel.
This filter is easily damaged by infection, medications and toxic bacteria, which then leads to the unregulated transport of large quantities of partially digested foods and bacteria into the body. Some of this debris is transported to the liver where it then has to be processed and removed. This places a tremendous stress on the liver, and eventually a percentage of this material escapes capture by the liver and it ends up entering the general circulation, where it can lead to many of the symptoms of toxicity. As a result, ‘leaky gut syndrome’ results in a great deal of stress upon the immune system, the liver and virtually every other organ or system of the body.
To successfully detoxify the body (or cleanse the liver) you must treat the digestive system and improve the lining of the gut to improve optimum absorption of nutrients. If you don’t start here it is like replacing the oil in your car without replacing the filter; the oil is going to be ruined very quickly……. and hence here we are again at the three steps of our detox….. stop the aggravation, cleanse and then rebuild the system.
This is definitely something we all need to consider from time to time to optimize the quality, and ongoing health, of our lives.