A weekend of juicing followed by six months of alcohol, smoking, bad food and exposure to toxins (pollutions, heavy metals, food additives) really does more damage than good and is nowhere near what a detox should be. In order to understand why, it's important to look at how we get toxic and how our body detoxifies.
Over the past 60 years the increase in industrialisation means we are exposed to so many more toxins in our surroundings than we were. Our air is polluted with many toxic chemicals such as sulphur dioxide, lead, formaldehyde, dioxins, arsenic and nitrogen dioxide to name a few (source: Environmental Protection Agency). These can contribute not only to cancer but also asthma, skin and eye irritation. Our water is contaminated with heavy metals such as mercury, hormones, pesticides and other industrial waste. Aluminium in food packaging, pots and pans and medicine, chemicals in our cleaning products, oestogenic compounds and formaldehyde in our cosmetics and toiletries, pesticides sprayed on our food, hormones fed to meat and chickens ... The list is endless. Eventually our body becomes overloaded and we get symptoms such as bad breath, insomnia, irritability, brain fog, tiredness, allergies, skin rashes, hormonal issues, digestive problems to name a few.
So, not only do we need to look at our environment and reduce the number of toxins we are exposed to but also to look at how we can take care of our body and mind. A few simple steps are:
• Avoid cycling or walking in busy roads where you are exposed to car fumes
• Buy organic food whenever possible
• Avoid aluminium food packaging, pots and pans and aluminium-based antacids
• Filter all tap water with a good filter for drinking and cooking
• Limit wild oily fish such as tuna or swordfish (which can be contaminated with mercury) to once a month
• Swap up your household cleaning products for toxin free versions
• Swap your toiletries for organic ones including candles and perfumes
• Cook fresh, unprocessed foods
• Avoid refined sugar and carbohydrates
• Reduce your intake of alcohol and coffee
Marketing detoxes aside, detoxification is a very important part of staying healthy and not just in January but all year round. The liver and gut are the two most important organs in detoxification and it is vital to support them all the time but especially during a detox. The body processes toxins in the liver using four main pathways. Basically, the liver transforms most toxins into harmless chemicals and prepares them for elimination out of the body. In order to do this the liver needs Zinc, Selenium, Minerals, B Complex and antioxidants such as vitamin C and MSM (a sulphur compound).
The gut needs ingredients that help 'mop' up these chemicals such as apple pectin, clay, psyllium and a good supply of green pigments such as wheat grass, barley grass and chlorophyl to get rid of heavy metals.
It sounds like a lot but in order to make your detox effective, it is vital to give your body the nutrients it needs and help it expel toxins more quickly. I've already explained that the token weekend detox is not even worth doing and that the minimum really is 10 days to help retrain the body, get rid of bad habits and establish good ones.Eating healthily is vital and the only rules are:
• Organic as much as you can
• Always fresh
• No refined carbohydrates or sugar
• No soft drinks
• Reduction in alcohol and coffee (you can still have a glass of great organic wine or a cup of properly made organic coffee)
• Quality over quantity
• A daily smoothie or juice (apple, carrot and ginger are ideal)
Otherwise, really enjoy what you eat and take your time to prepare and eat beautiful food. Start on a Friday where you have the weekend free to relax (as the first few days are the hardest). Don't plan any hard exercise, instead enjoy walking or yoga.
After 10 days the body becomes so in-tune with what it needs that instinctively you will relearn what your body wants and the vitality and lightness that follows after a proper detox is incredible. The skin becomes radiant again, stress is handled better and energy levels elevated due to the body using less energy to detoxify not being overburdened. What's so liberating is the fact that the mind becomes clear and full of ideas and vitality.
Below are two of my favourite detox recipes to get you started. For more tips, recipes and advice, visit theorganicpharmacy.com
Lime and Chilli Soup
(for 2 people)
1 cup brown rice
Season with lime/lemon and salt and serve with wholegrain/rye/spelt bread or sourdough.
Mixed Vegetable Quinoa
1 cup quinoa cooked in 2 cups vegetable stock
Gently soften the celery in the olive oil.
Add all the remaining ingredients and the cooked Quinoa.
Season and serve.