Finally it feels like winter has
left! After a long, dark winter in which we’ve been
eating heavier meals to keep warm, and generally doing less
exercise than is perhaps good for us, it’s no surprise
that we might be feeling a little run down. Now, as the days
are longer and milder, and fresh fruit and veg is more
available, is the time to think about preparing for a detox;
not the depths of January when all we want to do is snuggle
under a duvet.
Many writers believe that a
yearly detox isn’t an optional extra only undertaken
by health zealots, but should be done to some degree by
everyone. They suggest that stress, modern living and
convenience meals can lead to poor assimilation of food and
the inefficient elimination of waste products and unwanted
materials from the body. This accumulation of waste products
(often termed "toxins") is then implicated in many
conditions, from arthritis and allergies to diabetes and
depression. If you have prolonged problems with cellulite,
smelly feet, sour breath, frequent colds, urinary
infections, catarrhal congestion, bloating or fatigue,
it’s possible your system needs a flush out. By
detoxing, the body will be more able to remove these toxins,
and to keep itself in healthy balance again.
The aim of detox programmes or
techniques is to expel toxins that may have built up in the
main organs responsible for cleansing the body – the
intestines, liver, kidneys and skin. In a sense, you can
think of it like descaling the washing machine or the shower
head – there comes a point when the cleaning equipment
itself needs cleaned!
A programme intended to help
cleanse organs typically involves some element of
fasting, but fasting doesn’t
necessarily mean going hungry for days. Fasting has a long
historical tradition, with Lent and Ramadan two of the best
known, and even now new fasting techniques such as the 5:2 diet
are being investigated for their beneficial effects on the
body. Fasting can mean eating small amounts of simple foods
rather than not eating at all, allowing the body to
concentrate on elimination rather than assimilation.
If undertaken sensibly,
short-term fasting can effectively help the body concentrate
on cleansing and detoxing. A popular way to fast is the
fruit fast where one fruit is chosen, eg grapes, to replace
meals. Instead of breakfast, lunch and dinner, a filling
portion of the fruit is eaten, and water is drunk through
the day. Any fasting days should only be undertaken when you
have minimal demands on you and you have ample opportunity
to rest, relax and do simple, gentle activities such as
stretching and taking a bath. For best results, precede and
follow your short fast with a one to two day cleansing diet
where you cut out stimulants, starches, meats, alcohol,
sugar, wheat and dairy and try to eat as much fresh, raw or
lightly cooked vegetables, fruits, seeds and pulses as you
can. During your detox, don’t be surprised to feel a
bit worse before you feel better, due to the release of
toxins. You can minimise this by starting your detox gently
over a longer period and drinking plenty of water and
cleansing herbal teas.
Easy detox: simple,
drama-free techniques for a spring-fresh you
Although fasting can form part of
a detox program you could just make some changes for a
simple detox. How rigorously you detox is for you to decide,
taking into account your state of physical and mental
health, other demands on your time and energy, and what your
diet and lifestyle is like at the moment. Broadly the more
stressful your life, the more stimulants you use and the
more processed food you eat, the slower and gentler your
detox should be. Try incorporating a couple of the tips
below into your life and take it from there.
- Drink 1 1/2 litres of water a
day, but not with meals as it dilutes the digestive juices.
Often hot water can satiate the urge for a coffee or
- Plan your meals so there are
three times as much vegetables as protein or carbohydrates
on your plate.
- If you do need to buy the odd
ready meal, look for the ones with the most
‘real’ ingredients and the least amount of
additives.Better still, make your own ready meals by batch
cooking and freezing.
- Liven up your food with herbs
and spices rather than lashings of salt and rich sauces.
- Don’t eat while
you’re working, in a rush or are upset. Sit down at a
table, switch off all devices and focus on eating. Chew your
food well to stimulate saliva production and so help
digestion. You’ll enjoy your food more, feel fuller
and are less likely to experience bloating.
- The water and the fibre in the
plant foods you’re eating should help your bowels move
daily, encouraging the expulsion of waste instead of hanging
around inside your guts. If this isn’t happening, try
a gentle laxative or take a couple of teaspoons of Psyllium
Husk in plenty of water before bed.
- Aid digestion further and help
cleanse the liver and kidneys by beginning and ending the
day with a drink of hot water and fresh lemon juice. Try
adding grated fresh ginger, which is especially helpful if
you’re suffering from a cold, flatulence, indigestion
or nausea. Try eating more lemons and ginger in your food in
general: both are helpful and considered
- If possible, try to support
local greengrocers rather than the supermarket giants. A
shopkeeper worth her or his salt will know their suppliers
and may have some influence in terms of the use of
pesticides etc. If you can’t afford to buy organic,
consider peeling/scrubbing and rinsing food to help reduce
residue. A dedicated nail brush is ideal for this!.
- The majority of toxins are
metabolised in the liver, one of the body’s most
important organs. It functions rather like the sewage plant
of our bodies, neutralising pollutants and waste products.
Milk Thistle (Carduus mariannus) supports liver
health by reducing the depletion of glutathione, an amino
acid-like compound essential for the detoxification process.
Milk Thistle has a powerful antioxidant effect and also
promotes the regeneration of liver cells. Milk Thistle is
available in capsule form from Solgar, in tincture form with
Artichoke and Dandelion in Vogel’s
Milk Thistle Complex and in the actual
seeds of the plant. Rather than making a tea,
the seeds are best ground up or chewed as some of the
beneficial components aren't very water soluble.
should only be undertaken under professional guidance if you
are currently dealing with a lot of stress, are pregnant,
breast-feeding, frail, unwell or under the age of 12. If
you have any long term condition, check with your herbalist
or GP first as they may advise that you need a specifically