Detox in 3 steps
The human body is under an onslaught from the stress and toxins of our modern lifestyle and diet. Learn how to detox in 3 steps by giving your body the foods it really needs and get rid of the “garbage”.
We’re designed to live in nature, but unfortunately as we increasingly depart from our natural way, our systems come under strain as they’re faced with substances they cannot recognise and struggle to deal with.
The body is a truly amazing entity that rejuvenates and repairs itself at every opportunity. In fact, it’s in a continual state of detox – dealing with the influx from stress, inflammation, lactic acid and environmental and food toxins.
But when it cannot deal with this onslaught, symptoms of toxicity occur. These may include: clouded thinking, joint or muscle pain, sensitivity to odours, lethargy, fatigue, irritability, headache, abdominal pain, poor concentration and food allergies.
The body also simply cannot achieve its best without our giving it the tools it requires to heal. A sub-optimal nutrient load along with an overloaded toxic body system is not a recipe for success.
Luckily we can support our bodies in this task with a correct lifestyle and diet. You can’t put garbage in and expect to get gold out.
Detoxification is simple and, although it varies from person to person, the aim and outcome are the same: get into the body what it needs and get out what it doesn't need. With the right food, cravings will subside, appetite will normalise and correct weight and youthful energy can be achieved.
Here’s how to go about it:
Step 1: Remove toxic food sources
Aim to eliminate the following: alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, sugar, food additives, refined salt, refined starchy carbohydrates, hydrogenated fats, cooked fat and fatty meats (e.g. sausages) and processed foods. These are demineralised foods that are often filled with compounds that the body struggles to deal with.
Temporarily eliminate or reduce all suspected or known irritating allergenic foods. These will depend on you, but may include wheat, gluten, corn, peanuts, dairy, eggs, beans and soy.
Anything that compromises the gut will compromise the liver, the immune system and the body's ability to detoxify and achieve its maximum potential. Remember, your detoxification systems are overworked, hence the toxic load needs to be severely reduced.
Step 2: Add superfoods
Focus on foods that provide those missing elements to make bodily processes work more efficiently. The latest identified superfoods include the following:
Beetroot is a potent addition to any detoxification regime, beetroot stimulates lymphatic fluids to dislodge and flush away fatty deposits from adipose (fat) tissue, as well as from the gallbladder and the liver. It also dissolves acid crystals from the kidneys, helping to eliminate toxins in the blood as well as lubricating and stimulating the colon.
Betanidin is the pigment in beetroot that, when degraded in the stomach, causes beeturia – this turns waste products pink and is nothing to be alarmed about. Use beetroot in garden salads and soups or as pickles.
Leafy green vegetables are rich in magnesium and chlorophyll, leafy green vegetables are highly alkalising and should be a primary focus in any detox regime. Detoxification and correct functioning of all systems can only take place if body pH is restored. Green vegetables are one of the most powerful tools for this purpose. Chlorophyll also aids oxygen metabolism, energising and cleansing the entire body.
Examples of green vegetables include spinach, swiss chard, mixed salad wild greens, broccoli, green beans, parsley and rocket: use these liberally in salads, stir-fries, smoothies, raw juices, soups etc.
Also remember to use liver-friendly dandelion leaves as well as coriander, which acts as a diuretic as well as an effective heavy metal detoxifier (e.g. of mercury) from the central nervous system. The effect is particularly potent when combined with algae or seaweed such as nori/dulse.
Seaweeds also provide a great source of iodine for boosting the metabolism, which may have experienced a knock from high stress and poor diet. I generally advise the intake of various green powders with a mix of chlorella, spirulina, wheatgrass, alfalfa, barleygrass and blue-green algae to really boost alkalinity and restore oxygenation to the system.
Brassica family vegetables are rich in sulphur, which is important in the formation of the major detoxifying amino acid, glutathione. They stimulate liver detox, and have a potent cleansing effect, clearing and removing chemicals and toxins, especially old oestrogen metabolites from the tissues.
I generally recommend the slight cooking of cruciferous vegetables for ease of digestion e.g. kale, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choi, collards, turnip, kohlrabi.
Brussel sprouts are an under-appreciated vegetable. They contain calcium d'glucarte, which has a fibre that pulls out toxins, and also stimulates the kidneys to release more water. Try frying Brussel sprouts with coconut oil and a touch of salt for added flavour.
Watercress, rocket, chicory and raddichio are also of immense value.
Cabbage detoxifies the stomach and aids in the removal of waste when raw; red cabbage contains more antioxidants. Use fermented sauerkraut as a side to meat dishes or with salads. Horseradish, watercress, wasabi and radishes all contain powerful mustard oil content, which helps dissolve excess mucus and cattarh accumulations from starchy carbohydrates, and aids digestive juices.
All sulphur compounds – including the thiols e.g. onion, leek and garlic – promote perspiration, and cleanse the system of urea and excess sodium.
Turmeric, otherwise known as curcumin, is the orangey-yellow spice found primarily in Indian cuisine. It’s traditionally roasted/sauteed in fat e.g. ghee, coconut oil or butter, and seems to be better absorbed this way.
Turmeric acts as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant for purifying and cleaning the blood and thus is a potent liver aid. It gives an interesting bitterness to smoothies and fresh juices if one is brave – otherwise its use in curries makes a special, medicinally enhanced meal.
Artichoke and asparagus boost your polyphenol count and snap up some seasonal artichoke and asparagus whenever it becomes available. Globe artichoke supports the liver and gall bladder in its aid in fat digestion. Asparagus breaks up oxalic and uric acid from the muscles and blood and clears them in the urine.
Mushrooms are another good detox food and source of the antioxidant vitamin D. They have a wonderful strengthening effect on the immune system and neutralise toxic residues in the body from the consumption of animal protein.
The entire citrus family, (including orange, lemon and grapefruit) work as strong solvents in the body, stimulating the liver and gall bladder, loosening and stirring up inactive acids and latent toxic settlements that cannot be eliminated in any other way.
The white spongy inner of the lemon, called limonene, alkalises the body and destroys bad bacteria and parasites. The naringenin found in grapefruit juice (as well as in licorice and wild cherry) removes inorganic calcium from excess consumption of devitalised white flour and pasteurised milk products.
Although citrus is gentle on the pancreas and blood-sugar content, it has a powerful role in breaking up and dislodging fatty plaque, eliminates toxic materials (especially environmental hormones) and clears symptoms such as boils and cattarh.
Caution is advised when using large volumes of citrus alongside medication or in extreme toxicity circumstances due to its strong role in liver metabolism.
Pomegranate increases levels of the antioxidant glutathione, and works as an astringent to cleanse and purge the bladder and liver. It aids in metabolism and reduces inflammation. Just a daily 50ml serving of concentrated pomegranate juice is delicious and can be taken as a shot or added to sparkling water as a refreshing summer beverage.
Apples, being rich in malic acid and pectin (soluble fibre) have at their core a flavenoid called quercetin which removes environmental chemicals as well as alleviating oxidative stress. Kale, cherries and olive oils are all abundant in this component.
Essential fats, found in fish, nuts and seeds, aid healthy cells and ease excess inflammation often caused by chemicals. Fish oil, olive oil, avocado, walnuts, pecans and coconut are all beneficial additions. Seed lignins found in some seeds contain fibre as well as powerful isoflavones.
Flax/linseeds have a role in clearing old oestrogen metabolites. Sesame aids lipid and cholesterol metabolism and protects the liver from toxic agents. Look out for black sesame seeds as they have a higher antioxidant content and affinity for the liver. Sesame seeds are wonderful in the form of tahini to be used in dressings or as a nutty spread.
Berries, bursting with colour and phytochemicals – blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, acai, cherries and cranberries – are excellent liver cleansers. Try to choose organic berries as they tend not to be highly sprayed and contaminated with chemical residues. Nutrition is found equally in both fresh and frozen berries.
Other sources with powerful detoxifying polyphenols include: green tea, wine, red/purple grapes, oregano, figs and the beta carotene family (apricots, squash, sweet potato, papaya). The prune is also a dynamic fruit that is excellent for an inactive liver. Chocolate contains powerful antioxidants but be careful as it is still a stimulant.
Herbal remedies that assist in detoxification include milk thistle (protects and regenerates damage to the liver) as well as St John's Wort (for enhanced detoxification enzymatic processing in the liver). Both of these herbs should be used under guidance and with caution, especially when combined with medication.
Step 3: Follow a healthy lifestyle
In general, keep your diet light yet provide it with all the essential key nutrients for effective detoxification. Strive for organic foods, sufficient colourful fruit and vegetables daily, good quality clean sources of protein (e.g. wild meats, organ meats, fish, eggs), good quality salt, low heat cooking, and cleansing teas. Some meals can be replaced with liquid diet options as in soups, smoothies, vegetable juices, alkalising broths. Give your body a break and a chance to heal.
Optimise detoxification by supporting the other mechanisms of removal, i.e. kidneys (adequate water consumption), bowels (fibre for toxin removal, e.g. pectin, psyllium husks, glucommann), lungs (fresh oxygen, preferably from nature) and skin (epsom salt baths or sauna/sweating).
Remove all sources of toxic man-made chemicals, e.g. drugs, unfiltered water, radiation, cleaning products in the home and at work, and try to find healthy natural alternatives.
Find a way to clear a toxic negative mind through meditation, restorative sleep, exercise, yoga and spending time in nature.
Various symptoms such as headaches, body aches, skin problems, excess mucus, hormone problems, body odour, halitosis, bowel irregularities, discomfort, emotional fluctuations, deep doubts and soul searching can accompany a detox.
Go easy on your body while it churns up all the old sludge and support it as it flushes it out and transforms you. A profound detoxification should be a feel-good experience – mineralised foods create a more attractive appearance on all levels – in blood chemistry, emotionally and physically. It’s your free ticket to feeling and looking radiant and to a more energised and positive life.