After a busy holiday season, many people experience symptoms associated with too much partying. Waking up feeling ‘blah’, fatigue, headaches, bloating, digestive upset, skin breakouts, and trouble getting motivated are all signs your body has had its fill of rich foods and drinking, and needs a reboot.
If you’ve never done a detox before, it can feel a little daunting, but keeping it simple and achievable will help you stay on track, and optimize success.
There are several ways to approach a detox program. More experienced ‘detoxers’ may go all out, avoiding meat, dairy, grains, alcohol, sugar and caffeine. If this is your first detox, I wouldn’t recommend starting there! For people taking their first step into cleansing, a 7-day detox program can be incredibly beneficial and, achievable, which will incentivize you to do it again. Or, continue for another week to complete a 14, or even a 30 day detox!
What are the benefits of doing a detox?
– Improved energy
– Weight loss
– Digestive health reset
– Improved sleep quality
– More focus and mental stamina
– Decrease in digestive symptoms associated with stagnation and congestion
– Clearer skin
How often should you detox?
Yogis recommend a detox cleanse to welcome in each season. However, attempting a detox just once or twice a year can go a long way to ensuring your liver, heart and digestive tract get a chance to cleanse and start fresh. If you’re a smoker or heavy drinker, you could benefit from running a detox program more regularly. Partner with a healthcare professional who can cater a program to your individual needs.
Is detoxing right for everyone?
No. Kids under 18 years of age who are still growing should not undergo a detox program unless specifically instructed by a healthcare professional. Also, people on multiple medications, or, who have an underlying health condition should talk to their doctor before starting a detox program to avoid complications.
How to get started and tips for success:
- Pick a week (or 2) that doesn’t include a wedding, work event, or travel so you can have control over your dietary habits.
- Aim for success, be clear on why you are doing this, and set small targets for yourself. See the weeks broken up into 2, Monday-Wednesday, then Thursday-Sunday. Breaking it up into smaller stints of days can minimize feeling overwhelmed and help keep you on track.
- Ask a friend! Being accountable to someone else is a real motivator. Once you get going it’s easier to continue, but the first few days can be hard, so having a support person doing it with you means you’re less likely to bail out, and can share the proud rush of success when it’s over!
- Pack for success – clear away temptations like holiday chocolates and left over bottles of champagne. Packing them away will make it harder to steer of course.
- Stock the fridge! Prepare accordingly by shopping for fresh fruit, seasonal vegetables, herbal teas, broths and organic juices in advance. By doing this you avoid grocery shopping when you’re hungry, and more likely to buy high caloric and processed foods.
- Meal plan – by having a meal prep plan in place it’s a lot easier to stick to your detox and avoid snacking or preparing ‘easy’ meals after a long day at work. Below is a list of Detox approved meal ideas that are simple to prepare.
- Consider your options – saying you’re going off caffeine, sugar and dairy is fantastic, but what are you going to eat instead? If you’re filling those gaps with bread and high caloric processed drinks like Monster, then your efforts will be naught. Pre-plan your options in advance, and stick to that plan.
– Low or no caffeine: Green tea, herbal tea, hot water with lemon, Chaga latte or golden
– No sugar: avoid all sweetened processed foods, snacks that come in a package (granola bars), even if you think they’re healthy, they often contain sugar. Avoid too much fruit, limit serves to ½ cup at a time. Avoid honey or processed maple syrup and instead sweeten drinks with small amounts of agave, or monk fruit (a natural sweetener).
– Dairy free: this can be very challenging for people who are accustomed to the taste of dairy. There are however a lot of dairy alternatives, but you’ll need to watch the sugar content and avoid creamers and dairy free yogurts that contain more than 6g of sugar. Instead consider almond or coconut milk, natural unflavored cashew or coconut yogurt, sweetened with a teaspoon of agave or ¼ teaspoon of vanilla essence. Use olive oil based margarine or dairy free butter.
- Water! Water is without a doubt the most critical part of a Detox. Without enough water, the body cannot eliminate toxins from cells and organs. Normally, healthy adults should be drinking between 36-72 oz of water per day. During a detox cleanse, you should be drinking a minimum of 64oz- 88 oz of water per day to ensure adequate hydration for optimal cellular detoxification.
- Keep moving – as your body is busy ridding the cells and organs of toxins, you can help this along by exercising. Sweat is a cooling mechanism by the body, but it’s also a source of elimination. So exercising or undergoing steams or saunas during a cleanse period can boost detox potential. Again, be sure you are hydrating sufficiently!
- Supplements – Even if you’re eating clean, avoiding alcohol, sugar, dairy and caffeine, your body is working hard to purify, and that’s where supplements can help. Many companies offer a detox program, equipped with multiple products that can assist in elimination and detoxification along with recipes and support.
Taking a botanical dietary supplement that supports your body’s own natural detoxification pathways and elimination organs can amplify your efforts, and help you achieve your Detox goals.
– Herbal medicines such as Milk thistle and Dandelion are used traditionally to support liver health.
– Burdock, Yellow dock and Dandelion root ensure healthy bowel elimination.
– And Super greens Spirulina, Wheatgrass and Chlorella all help alkaline the gut and fight free radical damage.
Recipe ideas when detoxing:
Starting the day with a glass of water with lemon. Followed by fresh vegetable juices – cucumber, ginger and lemon. Or, beet, carrot and apple.
Breakfast:Scrambled eggs with fresh vegetables and herbs. Chia pudding with coconut milk, agave and fruit. Smoothies with a mix of ingredients like fresh greens (kale, spinach, chard), banana, nut butter, coconut water, berries, mint. A hot cup of green tea or herbal tea, or chaga latte. 2 glasses of water
Lunch: Raw vegetable salad with pepitas, served with falafel and hummus dressing.
Pho soup with tofu and vegetables. Whole wheat/ or cassava wrap with smoked salmon, avocado, grated carrot, celery and lettuce. Supergreen salad with kale, spinach, swiss chard and baby arugula, with tuna or chopped turkey breast, olives, cherry tomatoes, onion, capers and balsamic dressing. 2 glasses of water
Dinner: Roasted chicken breast (olive oil, salt and pepper) with roasted vegetables (beets, sweet potato, bell peppers, carrots, onions, squash, fennel, turnips). Egg frittata with leftover roasted vegetables, cherry tomatoes and fresh basil, parsley and thyme. Stir fry with organic beef strips, broccolini, thinly sliced carrots, bok choy, Thai basil and fresh chillies, ginger and garlic with a small side of brown rice. Red lentil pasta with shrimp and broccoli, with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and red pepper flakes. 2 glasses of water
Snack ideas: 4 pieces of dark chocolate – at least 70% cocoa. Nut butter with green apple slices. Boiled eggs. Hummus with carrot chips. Berries. Homemade guacamole with cassava chips. A handful of chocolate-free trail mix.
Drinking water between meals is critical to allow effective elimination and free radical expulsion. Taking a detoxification program, and eating clean for a set period of time can set you up for more energy, focus and weight loss. And, prevent toxins to accumulate which can complicate inflammation and cause disease to develop. A periodic detox can assist your body to detoxify naturally, and, prepare your system for the season ahead.
Amanda Lovett-Jones RH (AHG) PhD student and Australian Naturopath. She works in complementary healthcare specializing in addressing inflammation as the root cause of disease.