Everywhere we turn these days somebody is selling a New York Times best selling book on the latest “Detoxifying Diet.” Walk through the aisles of grocery and drug stores and you can’t help but see the rows of self-detox and cleanse kits. Turn on the TV and it seems each week there is a new celebrity promoting their version of a new and improved cleanse.
These detoxification products and protocols have been said to be used for everything from eliminating “harmful” toxins stored within the cells of the body, resetting the mind, cleansing the palate, removing intestinal plaque, and of course, the benefit that makes the world go around, weight loss. Are all these claims true? Do these detox kits do everything the box states? Is juicing 30 pounds of fruit and vegetables per day that beneficial? Does eating bentonite clay actually remove heavy metals?
Some of the above practices may have merit when supervised, but as a nutritionist, I would much rather you choose a less extreme approach to assisting your body’s detoxification. Many of the people that come to me from around the world don’t understand what a balanced diet consists of, instead they consume copious amounts of processed food, drink their high calorie sodas, coffee’s and alcoholic beverages while rarely ever missing an opportunity to deep fry something.
Instead of following a detox kit or downing 4 litres of fresh pressed juice for 10-plus days, how about going after the root of the problem- which is DIET AND LIFESTYLE. I know it doesn’t sound sexy and super inspiring but much like our obesity epidemic, it is what works. Start cleaning up your diet by choosing predominantly whole foods (and minimally processed foods) and follow Michael Pollan‘s “eat food, not too much and mostly plants” mantra. Next, implement stress management techniques such as deep breathing, yoga and qigong, try to get outside and move that meat suit of yours (exercise) and incorporate other supportive lifestyle choices such as, and often neglected, going to bed around 10pm. If you really want to take supporting your body’s detoxifying processes to the next level, start to replace the chemical laden cosmetics and household cleaners as they expire and reduce your electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure and purchase more organic food.
Below are a few additional tips that are not only less abrasive and less extreme but much safer .
1. Consume whole foods– I already mentioned this above, but it is worth mentioning again as well as placing this a top of the list. Food that is closest to the way it was grown is by far superior to their processed counterparts. However, this doesn’t mean other minimally processed foods such as protein powders and bars, egg whites, greek yogurts and whole grain products, if tolerated, can’t be a part of your diet. I have worked with many people, who time and time again have balked at the inclusion of these minimally processed foods, because they weren’t “natural,” “clean,” “ancestral” etc, only to fall off the wagon every other week, ending up gorging themselves at the nearest buffet, which as it turns out, is far from “natural,” “clean” and “ancestral.”
2. Choose organic when possible– Organic produce has less pesticides and in some cases may be more nutritious. In any event, it is good practice to know your local farmer, and if they are not organic, no sweat as it is still best to purchase produce from the local farm than to rely on the overpriced organic produce that was picked prematurely and ripened while it travelled across the country. At the very least, familiarize yourself with the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen.
3. Consume a lot of plants– Plants contain compounds (phytonutrients- carotenoids, flavonoids, resveratrol, sulforaphane, phytoestrogens and thousands more) that help neutralize toxins, decrease inflammation and reduce a person’s risk for disease. Insoluble fibre is densely found in plants (grains and beans included) and act like a scrub brush in the colon that will help keep the intestinal walls clean. Chlorella, kale, watercress, cilantro, milk thistle (herb) along with the minerals iodine and selenium help support liver function. The last three also boost glutathione production.
4. Sulfur foods– Such foods as garlic, onions, eggs and artichokes help produce glutathione often referred to as the main antioxidant but is also a bonafide detoxifier. N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a metabolite of the sulfur amino acid Cysteine, which also helps produce glutathione.
*Please check with your doctor or health professional before blindly buying NAC or any other supplement.
5. Pre and Probiotic foods– Prebiotic foods such as chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, onions and bananas contain indigestible fibers that feed gut flora. Probiotics, also known as good gut bacteria can be found in cultured foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh and kefir.
6. Drink plenty of clean water– The kidneys are an important organ in the body’s detoxification process. Drink plenty of clean water to help flush out waste. There are many formulas on the internet that claim to calculate the correct amount of daily water consumption but really, the best way to know if you are well hydrated is to always monitor your urine, looking for that light yellow colour.
7. Avoid burning the candle at both ends– Our society has moved to a more “live to work” mentality versus “work to live.” I understand times may be tough for many of us, and making ends meet is difficult but if time is not taken, monthly, weekly and even daily to relax and unwind, weight gain and coffee enemas are the least of your worries.
8. Treat sleep like gold– Another important factor worth mentioning twice. It is important to ensure you meet the adequate quantity and quality of sleep for optimal repair and recovery. Create a bed time routine that includes dimming lights an hour before bed and turning off all electronics. This is a perfect time to spend time reading, journalling, playing with pets and any other activities you can think of! 😉
9. Avoid excess toxins– This is a tough one because we are exposed to toxins all day long. Before you go overboard and wrap tinfoil around your head, lets just identify some of the areas that won’t take much effort to reduce toxins.
–Natural” Household cleaners and cosmetics- Unless you are suffering from a disease at the moment, there is no need to go out and replace all your cleaners and cosmetics the next time you go for a shop. Rather, replace them one by one as the time calls for it.
–Ask your internet provider for their fastest Carrier Pigeon- If you live in a city like I do, there is no escaping Electromagnetic Fields (EMF). However, we can reduce our exposure by turning off wifi at night before bed and not using wireless technology inside metal boxes such as automobiles, elevators, subways and aeroplanes.
10. Get outside– Breathe in fresh oxygen and if possible soak up some immune boosting Vitamin D from the sun… after all their free!
11. Exercise– The vast benefits of exercise are too long to list here but with improved immune health and better digestion/elimination (helps to move stool along the large intestine), need I say more.
An elimination diet, supervised by a healthcare professional, is probably one of the absolute best things you can do for yourself. Food testing can be beneficial but an elimination diet is really the only way to truly identify food sensitivities that may be causing harm to your body. If you live in the Toronto area and want to learn more about an Elimination diet, contact The Dempster Clinic and ask for a free 15 minute consultation with me or if you live abroad or prefer to work online then contact me through one of my “Coaching” programs.
Photo by Aric Sudicky