This article was originally posted on sexfoodandkettlebells.com, June 11, 2013.
Detoxes. Cleanses. Eat this amazing detox food, buy this product, try this protocol. The claims are everywhere. As is the question: "What's the best detox for me?"
There is no one answer - much like everything in life, the simplicity of a topic can only be found once you've embraced it's inherent complexity.
The truth is, as with everything, there's no easy button, no easy detox to fix a complex underlying issue - change, health, and growth take active effort, dedication, support, and evolving strategies.
I should preface this by saying that I am not about to launch into an in depth physiological analysis of the validity of detoxification as a whole. Let's move forward with the premise that it (we're going to define "it") is something desirable and of benefit - given the proper use, timing, and individualization.
The aim today is to clarify the topic, and present you with some real life options to start making a changewhere it counts.
What is "detoxification"?
This has become a rather nebulous term in the holistic health world.
For the purpose of this post, we will use the term "detox" as anything that
(a) decreases the daily toxic load on the body
(b) supports the function of the body's primary elimination pathways (liver, kidneys, skin, colon, lungs)
(c) initiates the elimination of bio-accumulated toxins in the body (ie. heavy metals), thereby additionally stimulating the body's elimination pathways (read as: taxing)
Ideally, our first areas of focus should always be (a) and (b), not (c) - always within the context of the individual in question.
The elimination and added stimulation in (c) is inherently taxing on the body. Which, to a strong system, is a manageable stress; while to a weaker one can actually be quite destructive. Most online articles, supplement company statements, cleanses/etc focus on definition (c), with perhaps a minor nod to (b). The same thing can be said about restrictive dietary detoxes (sugar detoxes are a great example here), which when done without the proper foundation or guidance, can be highly thyroid suppressive, and thus negatively affect your metabolism as a whole.
THE BOTTOM LINE
What's the point of added stress on organs and systems that are not functioning at full capacity when your daily intake is constantly adding stress?
Deal with the things that are directly within your control first.
START HERE INSTEAD
Let's get you started on a simpler path. Want to do a "detox"? Great, pick from one of the categories listed below (remember my moderation post? - choose one that is least overwhelming), assess where you currently stand on it, and make a plan. Set a goal, set a timeline, and make a change one step at a time. Have fun with it!
For example: if you decide to tackle the beauty/hygiene product section first; begin by looking at the shampoo and conditioner that you use. Is it a well known brand that is highly chemically laden? Look into options within your price range, and make a change. Keep in mind that your hair/body will go through some adjustments, and that you may need to try several different products or approaches before you settle on one that you like long term.
Remember that changes should be:
- financially feasible long term
- easily accessible/available for purchase
- not too overwhelming
- something you can willingly comply with long term, and ideally enjoy
So, if the change you want to make involves swapping a $20 product for a $200 product that you will need to purchase again every month, perhaps that is not wise. Unless you have the resources, that is.
Find options that match your lifestyle.
A - Decreasing Daily Toxic Load
Addressing food quality - organic vs local vs gmo vs sprayed
Removing food additives/chemicals
Assessing common food allergens
Improving drinking water quality
Addressing air quality - indoors; look into air purifiers or plants that naturally do the same
Replacing beauty/hygiene products
Replacing household cleaning products
Assesing clothing quality
The health of your work and home environments
Looking into the health of your relationships
B - Supporting the function of the body's elimination pathways
Ensuring proper hydration (+ water quality as mentioned above)
Ensuring sufficient mineral intake - especially calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc
Ensuring sufficient sugar intake - Yup, I said it.
Ensuring sufficient saturated fat intake - I said that too. Just eat the butter/coconut oil/etc, folks!
Improving gut health - fermented foods, probiotics, or antifungal foods
Moderating fibre intake - excessive fibre intake (especially when paired with a long transit time and dysbiosis) can increase endotoxin production in the intestine, thereby unnecessarily stressing the liver
Considering food combining - a debatable one; usually dealt with by cooking with traditional herbs that address fermentation/etc. (A post on this topic is coming soon)
Improving sleep quality - not just quantity (see HERE)
Increasing exposure to natural light
Practicing deep breathing
Maintaining moderate physical activity - be aware of over training as this will achieve the opposite
Supporting the lymphatic system - dry skin brushing, contrast showers, etc
Other stress management strategies - journaling, reading, meditating, etc
Other alternative healing modalities - reflexology, massage, etc.
WHAT ABOUT (C)?
There is definitely a place and time for a more proactive and agressive approach - ALWAYS under the guidance of a professional.
HERBS/HOMEOPATHICS/OTHER PREPARATIONS: Again, ONLY under the guidance of a holistic healthcare practitioner, and will come only after you have done as much as you can to address other areas. The only situation you may jump to this prior is if deemed necessary as part of a protocol designed specifically for your needs (ie. to deal with a current medication or disease process). Keep in mind that this part of the protocol will usually follow a lengthy and intensive strengthening portion.
*IF you have just begun with a healthcare professional, and the very first thing they do with you is a detox - grill 'em as to why. If they don't have a good response (ie. to counteract effects of heavy metals in a chemotherapy drug, etc) then consider the situation carefully.
Remember to be an active participant in your care. Be vocal, be communicative, be helpful.
ARE DETOX SYMPTOMS NORMAL?
That is another post in itself, really. But, briefly - if a "detox" is level appropriate, and the proper foundation has been laid to strengthen the targeted systems, then the body will be able to handle the added burden without major noticeable effects. If you experience severe symptoms, it may be that you undertook a bit too much, or too soon, or both. Either way, this is a time to dial back and get some guidance.
IS THIS GOING TO SUPPORT MY --- insert your own - GOALS?
If you're wondering how all of this will help you: (ie) If you are looking to do a detox for weight loss, then remember that it is all about managing stress (and threat, neurologically speaking).
Troubleshooting any of the above points will decrease your overall baseline/chronic physiological stress level, thereby supporting your endocrine health, and address your goals.
It's all connected, folks.
So, play around, and let me know how your bare-bones-lifestyle detoxes go!