I’ve been quiet on here this month, enjoying the holidays with my family and frankly, getting slammed with my home business. But 2018 is just around the corner and I know many of you are thinking about your health goals. One of the most popular goals, besides weight loss, is whole body detox. We’re coming off the season where there’s no shortage of sugar, fat, and booze and that leaves many of us feeling a bit bloated and gross.
There are a lot of options out there, though. And if you aren’t careful, you could be wasting your time and money, if not participating in something downright dangerous. So let’s start with some basics if you’re going to do this thing right.
It’s important to remember that is essence, it is our organs that are “detoxing” our bodies and they do it every minute of every day. There is no magical outside substance that will do that for you because your body was already designed to do everything it was meant to sustain your life on the daily. However, our daily habits bring us out of balance often and makes our organs work overtime, leading to disease – such as diabetes, high blood pressure, renal failure, and certain types of cancers, to name a few. We are constantly introducing toxins into our systems forcing our organs to work harder than they should.
A detox should last about thirty days. Anything less is a waste of your precious time and just dumb. You’ll lose some water weight and go right back to old habits the following days or weeks when the detox period is over. It’s also just not long enough to really feel any difference that will create any meaningful habit changes. Why do a detox if you aren’t going to carry some new, beneficial habits with you for months after? It really doesn’t need to go longer than thirty days, either, however. Some habits you bring in over the thirty days would help to keep but not all are totally necessary.
Some foods need to be eliminated in this time period, for obvious reasons, including:
Sugar: I’ve written in past articles why sugar is so very addicting and has been clinically proven so. When you eat sugar, it almost immediately spikes your blood stream levels, causing your pancreas to start working overtime to produce insulin to get that sugar into your body’s cells for energy. But guess what? Sugar is very concentrated in calories and it’s likely you’ve consumed way too much energy than is needed for those cells. The rest is then stored in the liver for later use, which collects as fat and can create a fatty liver if not used. Problem is we habitually over-eat calories and it also collects in our abdomen in the form of fat tissue. This is becoming a pretty big problem in America today, actually. The pancreas eventually putters out trying to keep up, leading to type 2 diabetes. Not a happy subject, but I see this every single day as a dietitian.
Processed carbohydrates: these are converted into sugar when consumed, so same thing as above. It’s not just about avoiding table sugar. Earlier this year, I worked with a group of individuals who took a challenge and avoided these types of foods for thirty days, the results were amazing. They felt more energized, lost weight, and their cravings for sugar diminished. These cravings we experience are caused by dramatic blood sugar fluctuations from eating high sugar foods with low nutritional value. As I mentioned above, they get converted quickly to sugar in your blood stream, but just as quickly your pancreas is working to produce insulin to get it out, which causes a sharp drop in your blood sugar levels. This makes you feel pretty crappy and tired, which means you want more to feel better. It’s a viscous cycle.
Alcohol: most of us understand that this is processed by the liver. Too much of it starts to damage the liver (duh), but during a detox it kinda defeats the purpose if you aren’t abstaining. When we drinking alcohol, our body prioritizes the elimination of it and can’t focus on much of anything else. It’s a good recipe for weight gain, liver cirrhosis (hardening of your liver), and pancreatitis (inflammation.)
Caffeine: this one hurts me. I get it. But caffeine is an extremely addictive stimulant. When consumed in excess, it causes an irritable bowel, disruptive sleep patterns, irregular heart beat, and increased anxiety – all counterproductive to the detoxification process. Believe it or not, it also causes pretty wide fluctuations in your energy levels. If you’ve tried detoxing before and didn’t experience increased energy, it could be because you didn’t give up caffeine. Drinking more water is the most beneficial way to improve energy levels.
Let’s talk about what you do include and why, this is the fun part, right?
- Water with lemon. Lots of it. Aim for half of your body weight (pounds) in ounces each day. Water is a natural diuretic and so is lemon. This helps your kidneys out. They need flushing so they don’t get backed up. Your kidneys are probably one of the most important filtering systems in your body and I can’t tell you how many people I see regularly that land themselves in the hospital with temporary failure because they got dehydrated. It’s well over 50% of the people I see every single day. Other problems that happen regularly are fatigue, joint and back pain, headaches, and sweet cravings. I recommend pure lemon essential oil since it comes from the rind rather than the juice and it’s way more concentrated than a squeeze from the fruit. One drop of lemon essential oil is equivalent to the juice of thirty lemons (but not nearly as sour!) It is also known for supporting healthy lungs and digestive system.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables. When IS the last time you consumed five (or more) in one day? Be honest. Aim for the rainbow, or at least vary your colors. Plant based foods get their pigments from the nutrients they provide which means if you are eating a variety of colors, you are also getting a variety of nutrients in addition to fiber.
- A good multivitamin. This can be tough to find. A couple of years ago, some of the country’s most popular retailers of supplements were busted for selling fake products over the counter. In fact, when tested, only 22% of their supplements actually had any of their claimed product in them at all. Walmart being the worst at only 4% of their products containing what they claimed. Ultimately, they settled in court to keep the attorney general quiet – I’m not too confident that means they grew a conscience about what they are selling, though.
- Whole food enzymes. Again, lets help the body out, we’ve been eating low nutritional value foods and now we’re including fresh plant based foods. Unfortunately, today’s food supply is still a bit sub-par in the vitamin/mineral world and even fresh fruits and vegetables are sprouting up from nutrient-depleted soil. Whole food enzymes break down the food and help our bodies utilize the nutrient they provide easier. If you struggle from vague health symptoms like fatigue, joint discomforts, or headaches, it could be because you are lacking certain nutrients that your body has been missing out on.
- Probiotics: so many benefits here, I did a blog post a few months ago on how everybody should be taking some. For the purposes of a detox, they aid the digestive and immune systems. We are exposed to environmental toxins regularly, our immune system works overtime, especially during the winter. Let’s help it out, shall we?
- Pure essential oils. Essential oils are a fantastic way to support the body’s natural capability of cleansing itself. The organs we are focusing on here are our liver, colon, kidneys, lungs, and skin. Like supplements, the essential oil industry can be tricky so it’s important you know the source you are buying from. But when unadulterated and without synthetic additives, they can prove to be an important part of your detox program. Rosemary, cilantro, and juniper berry essential oils are well known for supporting the liver in it’s normal processes. Geranium and tangerine essential oils are helpful in supporting the body’s systems as a whole as it removes unwanted substances. Think of it as bringing things into balance after weeks (maybe months) of use and abuse with unhealthy foods and habits such as lack of exercise, smoking, environmental threats, and even medication use. My favorite product is a detoxification blend that contains all five of these essential oils that can be taken in a soft-gel form.
- Omega 3 fats: great for reducing inflammation, often exacerbated by eating highly processed foods, alcohol, and red meats. Let’s help the body out by adding this in while removing the inflammatory foods, why don’t we? Be sure you are consuming a source rich in eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid (EPA and DHA) to get the maximum benefit. You could always consume fish three times a week, but remember this is a detox and we are going for the concentrated versions. Ok? I personally choose to take the supplements daily because I never eat fish that often and I’ve experience the benefits well enough I don’t want to stop.
In essence, our bodies have everything we need to survive and cleanse itself out from our lungs to our stomach to our intestines, kidneys, and liver. They all have a job to do filtering out the air we breath, food we eat, liquids we drink, and bacteria we come into contact with. Even so, we can feel out of balance in today’s world as we are consistently pummeled with toxic threats. If you feel like it’s time for a reboot, feel free to contact me for more information about how to schedule supplements, the brands I trust, and meal schedule to follow so you get the most out of your detox.
P.S. If you’re looking for online support with like minded moms striving to live a healthier lifestyle, you may be interested in joining my free support group here.
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Jillian McMullen, RDN, CSOWM, LDN