It's early January and the panic is setting in. The guilt, unjustified, surrounding our indulgences over the festive season has us frantically Googling for the 'best detox 2021', or maybe 'how to lose my xmas weight fast'.
This word gets bandied around so much at this time of year and its abuse, quite frankly, bothers me.
The subliminal messages we are being bombarded with can spark fear and more guilt into us that we need to go cold turkey. Leaving us feeling cold with overwhelm and anxiety at a time when the collective stress and anxiety we are living with is challenging enough. I did a quick search on Amazon and there are literally hundreds of products promising all sorts of near miracles including, I kid you not, Health Belly Slimming patches! These advertisers and marketeers are simply toying with us and preying on our vulnerabilities and may even harm us.
Mainstream medicine will argue that there is no need for us to 'detox'. That the body can manage it very well on its own, thank you.
However, I beg to differ.
Of course, a finely tuned human being may well have a highly functioning detoxification system in place. But we live in a challenging and polluted world. One which has polluted air. Polluted seas and polluted soil. There are micro-plastics in our fish and seafood. The soil is so depleted of nutrients that the vegetables and fruit grown in them have little or no nutritional value.
The clothes we wear. Our home interiors, paint, furnishings and carpets are all manufactured with horrible chemicals.
We slather our bodies with hundreds of chemicals daily. We eat way too much processed and ultra-processed food. We drink too much alcohol. We use too much medication, prescription and over-the counter.
We have too much stress and not enough sleep.
Our own bodies too are toxin factories. Each biochemical process creates waste. We make and use a hormone and we need to get rid of it once it is no longer needed, for example.
The female hormone oestrogen goes through 2 phases of detoxification in the liver. If there is alcohol in the bloodstream the liver will want to detoxify this first, ethanol is poisonous to the body. So when used up oestrogen comes knocking at the liver to be safely detoxified and excreted, it can't, because the liver is busy, so it has to go back into blood circulation. This may cause over time, symptoms of oestrogen dominance, like PMS, weight gain, fibroids and so on.
Did you know that the average woman uses 12 personal care products daily? With approximately 168 different chemicals. As many of these are applied directly to the skin, the body's largest organ ,they are then absorbed directly into the bloodstream and need to be detoxified. Chemicals were not around when the amazing human body was first created so it does not know how to deal with them all.
So what does Detox actually mean and what does it do?
Detox is short for detoxification, the physiological or medicinal removal of toxic substances from the human body, carried out mainly by the liver. But we have other organs and routes of detoxification, including the skin as mentioned earlier, the lungs, kidneys and the gastro-intestinal tract.
It is clear then, that the modern lifestyle can overwhelm the body and it may need a little support now and then, just like the immune system does when fighting off infections.
No "Detox Tea" or 'slimming patch" or "weight loss pill" will make you lose weight or detox your body. You will waste your money and worse may end up upsetting your hormonal balance or your metabolism, making things worse.
A gentle cleanse or detox is less about putting things in, there are some of course, but it is more about taking things out. Having a really hard look at what goes into and on your body.
Reduce alcohol consumption
Focus on sleep
Drink more water
Increase fibre intake by eating a wider variety of vegetables and fruit, 7+ a day.
Eat organic where possible
Aim to drink coffee before lunch and then drink herbal teas
Aim to reduce gluten
Minimise exposure to toxins
Choose natural body care products.
But giving it a little break every now and then need not be about calorific deprivation, or removing whole food groups.
Ease your way into a three or five day cleanse. Do not suddenly stop your normal lifestyle and then try a cleanse. You will get symptoms of detoxification, headache, low energy, altered bowel movements, for example. And you will feel hungry and moody and want to give up.
So, better to start reducing the toxins before you start, see the list above, then set a few days maybe over the weekend and a Monday or time where there are less demands on your energy and do a gentle cleanse. Think nourishing protein smoothies, warming soups and slow cooker stews each with a satisfying combination of proteins, fats, and complex carbohydrates.
Add into that, mugs of herbal teas, gentle yoga, relaxing baths and time for you and you will have listened to your amazing body with no calorie counting!
Another little tip which sometimes gets ignored in the fake detox world is that of 're-producting', a word I just made up.
When you finish a household cleaner or a personal care product make the next one you buy a natural one without the nasty chemicals. There are heaps of fabulous greener and vegan and environmentally friendly products out there. I love Authentic House Naturisimo Big Green Smile Neals Yard Remedies
Many people want to start a detox/ cleanse in January, but you can do it anytime in any season. It is always a positive thing to want to look after your health and building some of the tips here into your daily routine should mean that you won't need to do engine searches for the fake detox product of the year.
Written by Patricia Alexander-Bird, Registered Nutritional Therapist, Dip NT, Lifestyle and Medicine Practitioner and Health and Wellness Coach (in training).
The views expressed are my own based on my training, experience and research.
Always seek professional advice before undertaking a detox if you have a medical condition or are pregnant or taking prescription medications.