What is a detox and should I do one?
SHOULD I GO ON A DETOX?
Welcome to September! Many of us return back from our summer holidays, thinking we need to jump on the detox wagon after months fuelled by rose, freshly baked baguette and one too many irresistible trips to the local gelateria. And whilst a little reset can do wonders for both mind and body, embarking on one of these quick-fix, miracle promise detoxes, may actually do more bad than good!
Read on for my thoughts on detoxing and the best way to reset post holiday fun.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE OVERINDULGE?
CHANGES IN GUT HEALTH- Overloading your digestive system with large rich meals, refined processed carbs, constant grazing, sugar-filled cocktails, caffeine and fizzy drinks, can out extra stress on your gut. Rich meals and constant eating doesn’t allow your gut time to fully digest, and it can result in excessive acid secretion in the abdomen, potentially resulting in bloating, excess gas, acid reflux and stomach pain.
HUNGER REGULATION- Eating foods high in salt, fat and sugar can release feel-good hormones such as dopamine, which activates pleasure sensors in the brain. Overtime, the body activates these pleasure sensations with certain foods, and eventually this process overrides hunger regulation, encouraging us to eat more for pleasure rather than for hunger.
WEIGHT GAIN- After months of consuming more energy dense and refined foods than usual, some individuals may notice an increase in body weight. A continuous energy surplus over time is often stored as excess body fat.
SKIN- Any changes to diet and lifestyle can impact our skin, but excessive amounts of white carbohydrates, alcohol and sugar are often the biggest culprits when it comes to skin breakouts.
ENERGY FLUCTUATIONS- After periods of overeating, we can find we feel more sluggish than usual. This may be due to reactive hypoglycemia, which is the process of blood sugar levels dropping shortly after eating a big meal. If this process if taking place on the reg, your blood sugar levels can be left muddled, which is associated with symptoms such as low energy, headaches, sluggishness and sleepiness. (1)
DO WE NEED TO DETOX?
Firstly, the human body detoxifies constantly, 247 – all by itself!
The simple way of looking at it is, if toxins did build up and the human body could not get rid of them, we would not be able to survive. A healthy human body has kidneys, skin, a liver and lungs that are all detoxifying right now – there is no perfect “ detox” that can do this better than a healthy body itself.
But with all the marketing ploys we have on social media, in magazines and online, it’s hard to not be sucked in by the detox industry! It can be tempting to reach for the quick fix promises but many are comprised of laxative teas, diuretics and restrictive diets low in nutrients and calories, which can leave you worse off than you started!
That being said, there are a number of natural ways we can support our bodies natural detoxification pathways – keep reading to find out!
HOW DOES THE BODY DETOX?
There are 3 phases of detoxification, and the liver is the shining star when it comes to eliminating toxins from the body.
Detoxification is broken down into 3 categories, Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3.
PHASE 1- Phase 1 detoxification is the body’s first line of defence against toxins, and uses a group of enzymes to protect your cells from damage.
Phase 1 is often activated by external toxins entering the body, think caffeine, alcohol, drugs, medication, the contraceptive pill and even paint fumes.
Phase 1 is all about the oxidation of harmful toxins, breaking them down into less harmful metabolites.
However, the byproducts of Phase 1 detoxification can be dangerous for the body if the toxins are left to build up and stay in the liver. They can cause damage to DNA and proteins, so it’s vital for Phase 2 liver detoxification to be working efficiently to ensure these toxins do not build up.
PHASE 2- Phase 2 detoxification neutralises the byproducts of Phase 1 and any remaining toxins by making the toxins water-soluble. Phase 2 is all about conjugation, using 6 different pathways to remove Phase 1 metabolites from the body through urine, bile and bowel movements.
PHASE 3- This is the final detoxification phase and is all about transportation.
The aim here is to transport phase 2 conjugates to the kidneys for further filtration and then out of the body through urine, or via a bowel movement from bile being pushed through to the small intestine and down via the gastrointestinal tract.
Phase 3 detoxification requires:
- Adequate hydration levels for the kidney-urine elimination
- Sufficient gut health so you can excrete via a solid, well formed stool
- High intake of fibre from nuts, seeds, wholegrains and psyllium husk to avoid constipation to faster waste removal
HOW TO NATURALLY DETOX?
EAT MORE FIBRE
Your gut is home to many microorganisms that keep you protected from pathogens. These bacteria function to the best of their ability when healthy and well-fed- and fibre is their favourite food to munch on. Fibre also benefits your liver, as the gut supplies blood to the liver, which helps to filter out any waste or toxins.
Aim to get a minimum of 30g of belly-loving fibre daily, from a variety of fibre-filled foods such as grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. And yes, this may sound like a lot, but 30g of fibre packed into meals may look like:
Breakfast: A bowl of porridge topped with 1 tbsp of chia seeds and 1 sliced pear
Lunch: Avocado on toast with spinach and a boiled egg
Snack: 1 cup of raspberries with 2 squares of 70% chocolate
Dinner: Lentil bolognese with brown rice pasta
Don’t forget cruciferous vegetables (also known as the brassica family of veggies) when it comes to supporting the body after a period of overindulgence. Cruciferous veggies contain compounds called glucosinolates, metabolites that help to break down into compounds that upregulate the liver’s detoxification enzymes.
Cruciferous vegetables contain two important glucosinolates that can impact detoxification:
Sulforaphane- a natural sulfur-containing compound found in cruciferous veggies, especially broccoli, that is well studied for its numerous health benefits, including acting as an antioxidant and supporting healthy inflammatory responses. Sulforaphane promotes healthy detoxification balance through its actions on Phase 1 and Phase 2 detoxification pathways. (2)
DIM- During digestion, I3C, an unstable compound, is converted to DIM in response to the acid in your stomach. DIM helps to support the body’s detoxification pathways. (3)
Studies suggest that DIM can promote the upregulation of genes that control the expression of your detoxification enzymes, whilst also helping to support a healthy inflammation balance in the body. (4)
SO, which cruciferous veggies are high in both sulforaphane and DIM?
- Broccoli and broccoli sprouts
- Brussels sprouts
- Bok choy
- Collard greens
The way in which we prepare these veggies can also impact how many of these mighty compounds are absorbed by the body. Heating may increase absorption, but overdoing it can also inhibit bioavailability.
Based on research on broccoli, steaming is the best way to obtain sulforaphane (5). Aim to lightly steam for just 3 minutes to retain all of the goodness.
Ahh sleep. We all know the importance of it and how good we feel after catching up on our Z’s, so try to really prioritise it this month. Aim for 7-9 hours of good quality sleep by including the following sleep hygiene measures:
- Put all screens and tech away an hour before bed. Try reading or listening to a good book that won’t spike your cortisol.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine 2-3 hours pre bed.
- Aim to finish eating at least 2 hours before bed to let your meal fully digest before sleeping.
- Try to wind down before sleeping by meditation, deep breathing or a warm bubble bath with epsom salts
Whilst we sleep, the brain undergoes physical changes that allow the system to work faster. Many cytokines, inflammatory markers and hormones are impacted by our sleep. Studies have shown that our bodies use non-REM sleep to help wash our brain of toxins. By monitoring sleeping patients, scientists witnessed that non-REM sleep neurons in the brain synchronise, firing on and off together at the same time. (6)
Moving our bodies fastens the pace at which we breathe, promotes blood circulation and increases sweat production- all of which promotes the release of toxins. The more blood that is circulated throughout the body, the easier it is for the liver and lymph nodes to do their job at detoxification.
Try to include some form of mindful movement every day, even a brisk 20-minute walk. Incorporating 2-3 resistance training workouts a week will also help to build lean muscle and keep you feeling strong- opt for yoga, pilates, or weight training.
Staying hydrated is key for our health, especially for supporting detoxification. Hydrating ourselves is essential to aid the liver and kidneys to do their job efficiently, helping to filter out toxins and any unwanted substances within the body. We excrete these through perspiration, urination, and defecation.
Aim to drink 1.5-2 liters of filtered water a day, and remember to sip up more if you’re consuming large amounts of caffeine or alcohol.
It has been used for centuries within different cultures to help rejuvenate the skin, keep it looking healthy and help clear out pathways to remove toxins. Dry brushing involves running a dry brush in circle motions around the skin, working as a form of stimulation to help increase blood circulation, activating the lymphatic system and setting your body up for toxin elimination.
When used for 15-30 minutes several times a week, using a sauna is a great way to enhance, facilitate and boost detoxification, whilst increasing overall health and vitality.
An infrared sauna can promote detoxification even further. Unlike traditional saunas, infrared saunas do not heat the air around you. They use infrared lamps to warm the body directly, heating up your body before heating up the air.
Infrared saunas can promote a deeper level of detoxification in comparison to ordinary saunas, as the heat from an infrared sauna is soaked up by the skin. This Increases body temperature deep inside the core, helping the body to remove excess toxins.
The physical stimulation triggered through massage therapy can help to dissolve and remove toxin build-up in the tissues helping to provide a natural relief from symptoms such as fatigue, muscle aches and headaches. Massage helps to transport toxins out of the body through excretion. Opt for lymphatic drainage massage.
There are certain supplements that can assist the body with the detoxification process:
Milk thistle– Silymarin is the active ingredient in milk thistle, wich acts as an antioxidant to reduce free radical production. Research shows this may create a detoxifying effect in the body (7). Clarissa recommends Viridians Organic milk thistle tincture, available here.
Fennel– Fennel contains potent antioxidants which the body requires to fight off harmful pathogens in your environment, that you may be exposed to without even knowing. Clarissa recommends a good fennel tea, such as Pukka Organic three fennel available here.
Probiotics– A good quality probiotic works to increase the volume of good bacteria in your microbiome, which can aid to reinocculate your gut whilst helping you absorb nutrients more efficiently. Bio.me barrier by Invivo will do just that, available here
Good quality multivitamin– A high-strength, good quality multi vitamin can help to support those who lead modern, busy lifestyles. Supporting immune health, energy production, normal psychological function and helping your body cope when it comes to everyday modern life stressors is key to feeling and performing your best. Try Nutri Advanced one a day multivitamin available here.
*Please remember to always check in with your GP when taking new supplements.
If you are wanting to work with a professional to create an enjoyable, realistic plan that will get you back to feeling your best self again, contact my team for a free discovery call at firstname.lastname@example.org