When it comes to food and drink, for many, the holidays are a time of indulgence. And along with it often comes the thought of how, when the holidays are done, “a detox” or “cleanse” will be just the thing to make it all better.
While we certainly don’t want to dissuade you from that – a good cleanse can be absolutely revitalizing – it’s worth remembering that all of us need to detox to some degree on a consistent basis, not just after indulgence. To that end, a post from our archives…
Originally posted on October 1, 2014. This version has been edited and updated.
Most people think of a detox as a fortnight of misery, consisting of noxious liquids and starvation – something only to be endured after the excess of the holidays.
But the truth is, all of us need to detox to some degree on a consistent basis.
At this point in history, we have lived in a hugely industrialized society for more than 100 years. There are gazillions of factories all over the world, producing food products and other everyday items in unimaginable quantities, belching tons of smoke into our sky and dumping trash in our soil and waterways.
And in order to attain the precious profits they crave, they do things as cheaply as possible, which usually means synthetic materials and even possibly toxic substances.
Since 1976 scientists have linked exposure to toxic chemicals to many health risks. There is growing recognition in the scientific community that exposure to even low doses of certain chemicals, particularly in the womb or during early childhood, can disturb our hormonal, reproductive, and immune systems, and that multiple chemicals can act together to harm human health. Some toxic chemicals can even persist in the environment, for decades sometimes, building up in the food chain and in our bodies. Cancer, learning disabilities, asthma, birth defects, and other reproductive problems are all associated, to some degree, with exposure to toxic chemicals in animals or humans.
And then there’s the food we eat.
The Standard American Diet – SAD – is lousy fuel for a human engine. Too much overcooked protein. Tons of bad fats. Overflowing with sugar. Not nearly enough fiber and antioxidants to keep the system functioning properly. Massive grocery stores sell aisles and aisles of processed foods, and sodas (made in those factories we talked about) that are causing all manner of health concerns such as inflammation, arthritis, diabetes, and possibly even cancer.
Plus, the vast majority of produce you find in such stores is grown with industrial farming techniques that are depleting our soil of nutrients that the vegetables need to grow and that we need for them to pass on to us!
Your body is designed to be a self-cleaning device. It’s fully equipped with magnificent filters to glean nutrients from food and oxygen from air and water. The organs primarily responsible for the daily “janitorial maintenance” that your body requires are your colon, liver, kidneys and skin. Each one behaves like an efficient office manager, filing, sorting and processing everything your body is exposed to.
The most beleaguered organ of all is the liver. Your liver is kind of like the strainer in your kitchen sink: Everything has to go through it, and it can’t pass the big hunks of gunk, so to speak. While you get to dump the remnants of the sink strainer in the trash, your liver needs help to process all the crud that finds its way to the liver’s door.
The first thing in the morning, enjoy a big glass of water. This “rinses” your colon so your body can better absorb nutrients from food. It also wakes up your metabolism and lymph system, and gets blood and muscle regenerating contentedly. Taking it with a bit of lemon juice helps alkalinize the body. It also reduces inflammation, provides vitamin c for immune health, electrolytes for optimal hydration and bioflavonoids to soothe allergies. (Keep in mind, though: Too much lemon juice can damage tooth enamel, so use judiciously.)
In all truth, you should be really drinking half your body weight in ounces of water every day. So if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink 75 ounces of water every day. Relax, that’s barely 5 pints! And you got one of them out of the way in the morning right?
Avoid those fancy enhanced waters; filtered water or plain spring water is best. And preferably at room temperature or warmer. You operate at around 98.6 degrees; cold water will just slow down your engine.
Eat more vegetables! We can practically feel your eyes rolling through the computer screen, but it really is the undeniable secret to health and happiness. Fruits and vegetables are simply the very best way to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to continue running day in and day out year after year.
Organic vegetables have been proven to be more nutrient dense time and again. A wide variety can provide you with delicious antioxidants to protect your cells, with all the minerals they pulled out of the soil while they were growing to rebuild your muscles and bones, and fiber in it’s many forms to gently “sweep” your colon of digestive debris.
When you plan a meal, the vegetables should take center stage; the protein and starches, additions to your veggie dish or sides. Veggies that particularly enhance detoxification include leafy greens, cabbages, broccoli and beets.
Walk up stairs, take a jog, walk the dog, dance to your favorite tunes, do the housework, jump in a sauna or steam shower, get sweaty!
Sweat is your way of releasing water soluble toxins and getting your circulation and lymph system moving. Yoga poses that involve twisting, stretching and bending also increase circulation, open valves and help to physically shuffle food through the digestive tract.
Just by making these simple changes in your daily routine, you can make a huge difference in how well your body functions in all respects.