Being healthy or healthier usually tops the New Year’s resolutions list, whether it’s quitting smoking, drinking less, or going vegetarian, gluten-free or sugar-free. We just want to feel better, lighter, more energized. What about starting the new year with a 360 detox?
Detox programs are now all the rage, but what is a detox? Usually it entails two steps. One is eliminating or reducing the toxic load, be it dietary or environmental. The other is to clean out of the body accumulated toxins. Both steps are key to give the body a head start for the New Year.
In today’s world, convenience has become a priority, as people become time-crunched. It is not only processed food, but also products used in the house and on the body which can lead to toxic build-up. Detoxing is not only dietary cleansing but also an elimination of chemical household and personal care products.
Cleanse Your Body
Key indicators that the body needs a detox is fatigue, sluggishness, and weight gain. Allergies, sinus issues, or excess mucus are also signs the body is in an inflammatory mode.
As toxins and free radicals infiltrate the body, the first level of defense for the body is to release white blood cells and to absorb excess acid with antioxidants. Acids or free radicals often linger in the body’s fat tissues.
The big question is to fast or to simply eat clean?
Metabolic processes, or repairing the body and cleansing, are secondary to digestive processes. Simply put, if you are constantly eating, especially late at night, it is difficult for the body to repair as it is busy digesting food. A heavy meal can take 80% of the body’s energy. By giving the body a break, it can do its job properly and repair on a cellular level.
The next question is for how long. Research shows that fasting has anti-aging and even regenerative benefits. When done right, even one-day fasting can be good. But fasting over long periods of time is not suitable for everyone.
Before any major cleanse, ensure you have a “clean” diet for at least a week. First reduce or eliminate alcohol, caffeine, processed food, white sugar, gluten, and meat. For the fast or the detox itself, choose between a juice fast and an alkaline diet. This will help the body get rid of excess acidity, or inflammatory foods. An alkaline diet consists of most fruits and vegetables and no meat, dairy, gluten, alcohol or caffeine.
Consult a nutritional counsellor, who may prescribe special herbs, charcoal, or clays during the cleanse to absorb toxins built up in the small and large intestines.
For a beginner’s detox, start the day with a glass of warm water and lemon to alkalize the body. Eliminate as much as possible meat, processed foods, alcohol, dairy, coffee, bread, and sugar, and increase the intake of clean water, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts. Eat as organically as possible.
On a routine basis, give the body at least 10 to 12 hours where it is not processing food. This means taking the last meal at around six or seven in the evening, and truly “breaking the fast”, by having breakfast at six or seven in the morning. This gives the body a proper chance to heal during the night.
Sweat It Out
During the detox, try a daily brisk walk, swim or yoga to get the body moving and to produce sweat. Limit time in air conditioning, and raise the body’s temperature to get sweating, aiding the natural detox process.
Consider an infra-red sauna or a hot stone session. Infra red sauna’s heat penetrates into the skin, bringing up core temperature, rather than the surface only, inducing the release of toxins from the deeper adipose layers. With lower humidity and heat, it is a more comfortable and safer option than conventional saunas. An infra-red sauna is so helpful that many people install them at home.
The lymphatics are the body’s rubbish collection and disposal system. When overwhelmed, it can become sluggish. Dry brushing, from the extremities towards the chest, is a good way to get the lymphatic system stimulated.
Jumping with a jump rope or on a trampoline is also an excellent way to get the lymphatic system moving. Or try a lymphatic drainage massage.
Stimulate the lymphatic system daily, especially during a detox program.
A manual Lymphatic Drainage Massage is unlike the tuina or swedish massages you may be familiar with. It is done with a light touch, just enough to gently stretch the skin. If you can feel the muscles underneath, then it is too strong. You can learn this technique for self-massage as well. Seeing a certified practitioner is recommended, especially if you have serious health conditions.
Colonics can be a good way to clear the body of toxins and old undigested food. On average, a person can carry between five and 20 pounds of undigested or dried food in the small and large intestines, which can impact nutrition absorption and create toxicity.
Also known as colon cleaning, colonic irrigation or colonic hydrotherapy, colonics can be controversial. Be sure to see an experienced and qualified therapist who practices absolute hygiene. Large volumes of water, sometimes along with an herbal blend or coffee, are flushed through the colon to dislodge waste material. The therapist also uses abdominal massage to stimulate and encourage the release.
This procedure is not normally painful. It is uncomfortable especially for first-timers. After all, having so much liquid go up your rectum is not how it normally goes. If you have gas, discomfort increases. If you are the nervous type, try deep breathing to feel more calm and relaxed.
People report differences in their bowel movements and even mood changes after colonics. This is definitely not for everyone and do discuss with your primary healthcare provider first.
Our body is built to eliminate toxins from our systems. Factors such as chronic stress, incompatible diet, incomplete digestion, sedentary lifestyle, and insufficient hydration place additional burdens on the body’s detoxification and elimination organs.
Ideally we change our habits so that we are not always taxing our body and mind. This includes increasing daily movement, drinking more clean filtered water, removing foods that cause allergies, enjoying enough quality sleep, and taking time to relax and de-stress.
Looking for new year resolutions/intentions, what about starting the new year with a 360 detox?
If you are doing a cleanse, take a look at these tips from naturopath and herbalist Andrea McIntyre on how to boost your detox.
An environmental detox and mental detox are also key during any intensive detox program. Check out our tips in next week’s article 360 Degree Detox on how to reduce the toxins in your home, your workplace, and on your body.