This time of year is rife with products and protocols aimed at ‘detoxing’ your body; ridding yourself of the hangover, so to speak, from a month or more of festive season indulgence.
Starting off the new year with good health intentions is an awesome idea and one that I can fully get behind – begin as you mean to go on and all that. And although an intensive detoxification program can be beneficial for some people, it’s not always necessary. In my opinion, simple changes aimed at cleaning up dietary and lifestyle habits will offer greater – and longer term – rewards in the majority of cases. Below I’ve outlined the framework of a gentle cleanse I sometimes use with patients. It’s very accessible and perfect for this (or, actually, any other) time of year.
The aim of this cleanse is to reduce the overall load on digestion, improve elimination and maximise your natural ability to absorb and assimilate nutrients from your food. Dietary changes will focus on increasing your consumption of nutrient-dense foods, while also cutting out stimulants, processed sugars and known allergens. It is not unusual to feel unwell for the first few days of a program such as this, but it will not last; and after that initial phase, a sense of overall good health is expected to follow.
TO BEGIN: AN OVERVIEW
? Each morning, start your day with a large glass of room temperature water, in which you’ve squeezed the juice of half a lemon or lime OR a spoonful of apple cider vinegar.
? Drink up! Aim for at least 1.5 – 2L daily, drinking water regularly throughout the day and evening. You will need to drink more in hot weather, or when you are exercising heavily. Herbal tea and fresh fruit or vegetable juices can make up part of your daily fluid intake.
? Herbal teas – one or more of the following teas can (and should!) be drunk up to several times daily: dandelion, nettle, rosehip, ginger, lemongrass, fennel, peppermint, lemon balm, licorice, chamomile. Teas can be drunk cold on a hot day, or hot on a cold one.
? Try not to leave longer than 3 hours between meals and snacks. Aim to consume 4-5 smaller meals throughout the day, rather than 3 large meals, and keep portion sizes of main meals small. Snacks don’t have to be large or elaborate e.g. something as simple as a handful of nuts and piece of fruit, a boiled egg, cup of natural yoghurt, vegetable sticks and hummus, etc.
? Include protein in every meal, this can be as simple as having hummus with some crackers, adding nuts & seeds to a salad, legumes to a casserole, tofu to a stir fry, smoked salmon on rye, or grabbing a boiled egg for a snack. When consuming meat, poultry and fish, I would strongly recommend choosing free-range / organic / ethical sources – better for you and the planet at large. HINT: legumes can be cooked with a little ginger and/or cumin seeds to make them easier to digest and avoid production of gas.
? Eat plenty of dark green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, rocket, kale, silverbeet, dandelion, chicory, broccoli, watercress, etc. A decent handful could be considered ‘one serve’.
? Include lots of lovely fats in snacks and meals e.g. cold-pressed olive oil, flaxseeds, coconut oil, chia seeds, avocado and nuts (especially macadamias, walnuts and brazils). Not to mention oily fish.
? Use spices such as chilli, turmeric, ginger, asafoetida, garlic and onion in cooking. Also include herbs such as basil, coriander, parsley, mint, etc in meals. The more aromatic, the better.
? Get moving: increasing your heart rate for at least 30 minutes at a time, a minimum of four times each week. Daily activity is ideal and can include: walking, running, cycling, swimming, dance, aerobics, yoga, pilates, weights, stretching, etc. Do what you enjoy.
? Brush your skin: it will enhance circulation and aid the body’s elimination processes. Dry skin brushing should be done before showering; starting at the feet, brush upwards towards the heart, avoiding any broken skin and the sensitive skin of the neck and face. Good quality skin brushes can be found in most health food stores and some pharmacies.
STEER CLEAR OF THESE FOR A WHILE
Alcohol | Coffee and strong black tea | Processed and fried foods | Sugar and refined carbohydrates | Wheat and bread products (although some spelt and rye is ok) | Dairy products (some natural yoghurt + sheep or goats’ milk cheese and/or yoghurt is ok)
Depending on the person, I may also recommend a herbal tonic or nutritional supplementation, in order to support digestive and liver function, nourish the nervous system and enhance overall vitality.
This is a plan that can be followed for a short-term cleanse, such as 2 – 4 weeks, or up to several months for those wishing to make longer-term changes. As I mentioned above, the aim is to help you create healthy diet and lifestyle habits that can be continued indefinitely, so as to keep your body in tip top condition, every damn day.
For menu ideas and more health tips on this topic, have a trawl through the blog archive, which is well and truly overflowing with both!