A handful of years ago detoxing was approached with curiosity and maybe a little skepticism. It has now become a popular method for jump starting a weight loss plan and is recommended by many naturopathic physicians as a safe way to combat fatigue, headaches and autoimmune disorders. While the body cleanses itself constantly, it can be beneficial to facilitate deeper healing by doing a detox. It is important to be strategic about your cleanse and prepare in advance so you have plenty of time to rest considering you may be consuming less calories than you are used to.
Wait! What? Plan for a detox?
Detoxing is a method of purifying the body to eliminate negative impact of environmental pollution, pesticides and heavy metals and as these toxins leave the body it can cause a variety of changes. As an alternative medicine practitioner, I have seen detoxing produce transformational results. However, it can also have negative impacts if a detox deprives the body of proper nutrients. Nutrition is a basic tenement of a vital life and detoxing can be an effective way to reset the body’s immune system when done correctly.
Prepare to detox
Detoxing is a mental shift as much as a physical one. Give yourself a week to reduce sugar, eliminate dairy, alcohol and caffeine from your routine. Create a meal plan around your work schedule so you will be prepared to make smoothies, chop veggies for salads and balance your snacks with protein, fruit and plenty of water. Easing into and out of a detox is key to maintaining new and healthy habits for the long haul.
Are you feeling the energy drag after you eat? Digestion a tad sluggish? Desire a metabolic or immunity boost? Nutritionists recommend smaller meals more frequently to prevent the body from overload. Toxicity seems to be cumulative and can create a whole slew of health concerns. Detoxing is useful for targeting causes of unexplained body pain and helps the body recover from prolonged effects of stress. It can reverse (or at least shine a light on) food allergies, speed recovery time from illness, clear up skin and balance hormones.
Some signs of issues may include food cravings, skin problems, constipation, headaches, bad breath, mood swings and sleep disorders. Many health practitioners, myself included, recommend a safe detox routine for preventative medicine every season!
How long to detox
It really depends on what you hope to achieve. A quick reset? Your next three-day weekend is a good trial run. Have more time and hope to jump start a weight loss or new fitness regimen? Two weeks is better. If you are really in it for the long term and hope to invite a new relationship to food, a month is a solid target. Success comes through moderation, simplicity, variety, managing time with rest, creating healthy habits and setting realistic goals.
Not only is your detox supporting your health, you can also support a green economy by purchasing local, in season and organic whenever possible. Make sure you get enough protein, fiber and minerals to supplement your level of activity. Herbal tea is a good way to get your fluids and random dance parties are always a plus. Most importantly, have fun because that is the best part of trying something new!
Practical Detox tips, tricks and recipes
Toss the Sugar
This is a big one and the most prevalent ingredient in processed food. The body turns carbohydrates; breads, crackers, pasta, etc., starches and alcohol into sugars. When activity is too low that sugar cannot be burned as fuel for the body’s metabolism it gets stored as fat. Sugar is the culprit for inflammation which is in turn a major precursor to every life threatening disease. So, let’s make this the first ingredient that gets tossed.
The only way to stop eating sugar is to stop eating sugar. Use honey (sparingly) instead. Buy dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate. Forget packaged, frozen, canned and processed foods. This means more prep time to cook all your meals. Your body will know the difference and after the first week sugar cravings are non-existent.
Ditch the Dairy
The second leading health concern on this list and a major player in causing food allergies and digestive complaints. Cheese is hard to replace for those that love it a bunch, but the addiction is real. I will be honest with you, nut cheeses are just not cutting it so maybe try goat cheese and just eat less of it. If you are like me, not putting cream in your daily coffee is offensive, but coconut milk (from the can) mixed with your morning coffee in a blender for 30 seconds is amazing.
* a note on milk alternative: soy mimics estrogens and 90% of soy is now GMO- not a great choice for a cleanse.
Cut the Coffee
Sorry friends. This is going to hurt a bit, but caffeine adds to your overall ph tipping into acidity which then throws off the whole purity show. I advise cutting down 50%, adding a little honey instead of sugar and a milk alternative like hemp which is nice and creamy. Replace your fully leaded chai with a decaf version and try my personal favorite: Rooibos with green tea pearls. Yum.
No way around this one either it just has to be omitted. Unfortunately, there are no fancy alternatives. The truth about alcohol is that it weighs down the liver with a lot of extra work causing inflammation, turning into sugar, changing the body’s ph and weakening the heart function. Whoa. No fun, right?!
Gluten free (GF) is all the rage and partly for good reason. Gluten has been over used and has become such an extra in our daily diet that it bogs down the digestive and immune systems leading to many of the food allergies we see today. During a cleanse it is wise to rule it out altogether (sugars, remember?) and outside of a cleanse eating minimal bulking foods and going with GF options is generally cleaner. Grains like millet and amaranth are easier to digest and are a whole food. Quinoa is a grain that rivals steak with its level of protein.
This ingredient is found as an extra in a lot of packaged foods. Like soy, it has been so over processed that it can be difficult to find corn that is not genetically modified. It gets turned into sugars which are pointless work for the body on a cleanse and the harder your body has to work the less you are truly benefiting from your detox. Instead of corn chips, go for rice crackers. Avoid corn syrup by reading labels and replace grains and corn fillers with carrots and homemade hummus.
I wish you good luck on your next DIY Detox! The way to get the most out of your cleanse is to start slowly, test new food, read labels, avoid the most obvious enemy ingredients and practice, practice, practice patience. Mindful nutrition requires awareness and remember to be kind to yourself. Here’s to your health!
Green Apple Smoothie
8oz Fresh coconut water
1 handful of cilantro
1 fistful of greens: kale, swiss chard or spinach
1 green apple
1/2 lemon (juice)
1 sprig of mint (optional)
blend together on high in blender or vita mix
*a natural sugar pick-me-up and cleansing-the-colon boost
8oz almond or cashew milk
1/2 frozen banana chopped
1 tsp maca powder
1 tsp hemp powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1 Tbsp chia seed
shake well in mason jar and put in fridge for 4-6 hours stirring once or twice
* high powered protein mix that can be eaten for desert
Golden Spice Non Milk
8-12oz warm non dairy milk of your choice: almond, cashew, hemp
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of clove
pinch of grated ginger
pinch of black pepper
top it with a tablespoon of creamy coconut milk
*anti-inflammatory and warming to nourish the body
Disclaimer: This site does not provide medical advice. The nutritional information on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician regarding a medical condition.