Spring is here! Even though the weather might not seem that way, the change of season is a great time to give your body a boost and consider a detox. Trust me, doing a detox is not a scary, depriving, horrible experience. It’s actually a great way to get refocused on healthy eating habits, give your digestive system a break and ultimately support your health.
There are countless programs out there, and even more products you can purchase to detox. I recommend this basic program because ANYONE can do it, no special products are required, and you can customize it to your comfort level and physiological needs depending on how ‘toxic’ you are. It’s also a fantastic way to determine whether you have any food intolerances or allergies, and provides great perspective on how you eat and your general attitude toward food.
Why Detox? Modern urban life is toxic by definition! Many people live a fast, hectic, stressful pace, and rely on convenient and time-saving measures to feed themselves. We are surrouded by a variety of chemicals in our environment too. Your body has its own detoxifying systems (liver, kidneys, bowels), and does an amazing job of removing wastes from your body. However, if the volume of internal waste exceeds what it is able to safely process, these organs can be overwhelmed and not function properly. If your body is carrying more toxins than it is built to handle, your health will be at risk.
The concept of detoxifying and cleansing your body has been around for hundreds of years, and has been used medicinally to promote the healing of many ailments. By giving your digestive system a ‘break’ from the task of processing, digesting, and eliminating certain foods, it can direct more energy towards cleaning out the build up of the potential stored toxins in your cells. Seasonally detoxifying supports all organ systems, allows for cell renewal, and will help you look and feel younger!
When? At minimum I recommend a detox protocol seasonally, unless there is a specific health concern that has developed to which a detox can offer benefit. To plan your detox you need to find a time when your social and work calendar is not over-booked, and when you can give yourself the time for some additional rest. It’s often a good idea to start on a weekend, so that the bulk of the detoxifying can start before the typical work week begins.
What are the benefits? After a detox program you should notice increased energy, clarity of thought, improved digestion, better sleep, glowing skin, and even the subsiding of certain health concerns. You’ll likely feel good about yourself that you were able to exert some discipline and will power, and possibly even determined some food sensitivities or allergies.
Are there any adverse effects? As your body is clearing itself of toxins you may experience some symptoms, but they are generally nothing of great concern and a sign that the detox is working. Remember, your digestive system will be healing and although you may be uncomfortable at times, they are healthy responses. Some symptoms you might experience are: furry tongue, headache, irritability, excessive elimination (urinating, diarrhea), flu/cold-like symptoms, skin eruptions, fatigue. Similar to when you contract a cold, develop an infection, or contract food poisoning, your body is doing its job to expel what does not belong inside! Consult a health professional if you experience anything that concerns you, but rest assured what you are feeling is temporary.
The plan: It’s pretty simple – Remove irritating foods and beverages, and overload your body with proper nutrients to support healing and increase the elimination of waste.
Avoid: alcohol, caffeine, refined sugars/candy/chocolate, processed food, wheat, gluten, dairy products.
Choose: an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole foods
Let me be clear, many items we consume taste great, offer us comfort, connect us socially, or fill some other need that is not nutritional. Consuming those types of foods or beverages occasionally (think 20% of your diet) is not necessarily harmful but it’s not a health-producing habit. The objective with a detox is to support your health so minimizing (if not completely eliminating) these items is key.
BASIC 7 – DAY DETOX FOOD PLAN
DAY 1 – liquids only, unlimited quantity (water, fresh fruit and vegetable juices, unsweetened herbal teas, vegetable broth, dairy-free smoothies )
DAY 2 – liquids and fruit only
DAY 3 – add raw vegetables
DAY 4 – add cooked vegetables and brown rice
DAY 5 – add beans, lentils, nuts and seeds
DAY 6 – add grains and live yogurt*
DAY 7 – add fish
Seasonings? At any time after day 3 you need to add more flavour to your foods, consider lemon, lime, olive oil, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, black pepper, Bragg’s unfermented soy sauce. There may be organic, pure foods I have missed here, but just keep it simple for a few days. If in doubt whether something is appropriate or not, just look at the ingredient list and if there are items you cannot pronounce or that are not real food…pass on it!
Customize it: depending on how ‘toxic’ you are, or your interest level, this program can be implemented for anywhere from 7-30 days! If you have never done a cleanse before, consider a simple 7 day program to see how your body responds. If you are more comfortable and confident with the restrictions, consider a lengthier program. Although everyone can benefit from a 21 day cleanse, only you can determine what will work for you based on your level of commitment. You might find that once you start with the first week, continuing on is easier than you think!
To create a lengthier cleanse, simply follow the food implementation protocol but extend the number of days. For example, for a 14 day program follow the DAY 1 protocol (liquids only) for 2 DAYS, for a 21 day program follow it for 3 DAYS, for 30 day program follow it for 4 days..
You can do this!
You may have read through this and thought about being deprived, and what you are giving up for a week, wondered “What am I going to eat?!”….but I’d encourage you to think about what you are going to gain from changing your diet for a week instead of what you are losing. You’re stronger than you think! It’s only a week, and chances are, you’ve done many tougher things before and surprised yourself with the result.
Like any healthy habit, making choices to support a better body is never a poor investment. Regularly giving your body a detox boost is just another part of a healthy balanced lifestyle.