As we mark a year of living with the tension and hypervigilance imposed upon us by the deadly pathogen called SARS-CoV-2, it may be the perfect time to detoxify, both mentally and physically.
The term “detoxification” refers to biological processes responsible for safely removing harmful substances from the body—everything from sugar and alcohol to pollutants and household chemicals to the waste products produced by our own cells. This involves the coordination of several body systems, including the circulatory system, liver, intestines, kidneys, and more.
Shifting our diet and lifestyle patterns, as well as providing higher amounts of certain nutrients to the body, can help enhance this process. In a whole-person approach to detoxification, we also place an emphasis on repatterning our mental processes and what we choose to feed our mind. Here are some strategies to help support this holistic approach to detoxification.
Foundation of a good detox program
The foundation of any well-designed detoxification program includes
- reduction in the burden of toxins ingested through the diet
- regular exercise to increase circulation and sweating
- the normalization of bowel function to enhance elimination through the liver/gut pathway
- adequate water intake
Some lifestyle modifications
Ditch highly processed foods
Remove these from your diet: refined sugars, pop, caffeine, alcohol, and fast food. Refined sugar is a common soft “addiction” in North America; symptoms of temporary withdrawal from refined sugar might include intense cravings, irritability, and fatigue.
Respect food intolerances
If specific food intolerances such as wheat or dairy exist, the trigger foods should be avoided.
Eat more fruits and vegetables
Aim for 10 servings per day of fruits and vegetables. One serving, for example, equals 1/2 cup cooked green vegetables such as green beans, rapini, and broccoli or 1 cup raw salad greens.
Get into fiber
Along with fruits and vegetables, 2 Tbsp per day of extra fiber can be added using ground flaxseeds or oat fiber.
Beverages should include water and herbal teas such as green tea, peppermint tea, or ginger tea.
To promote blood and lymphatic circulation, incorporate at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise daily. Additional benefits of exercising include endorphin production and decreased cravings, as well as promotion of better bowel function.
If detoxification involves the removal and cleansing of harmful substances from our bodies, then there is certainly a role for mental “detoxification” when it comes to improving our overall health.
Chronic stress, worry, and anxiety not only exert a harmful effect on our physical health, but also reflect a deeper imbalance contrary to human health and flourishing. Detoxification should involve strategies to clear and declutter our minds as well.
Strategies for mental detoxification
Scrutinize your social media use
Impose a “fast” from social media—for instance, not accessing social media for 30 days, or imposing a hard, half-hour daily limit.
Prioritize nature time
Spending time in nature, whether gardening, hiking, or going for a walk, is a forcible break from other stresses, promotes relaxation, and fosters an appreciation for natural beauty. Nature therapy has been found to mitigate the modern-day “stress state” and “technostress.”
Find your artistic expression
Expression through music and art can help us reduce anxiety, participate in beauty, and help us discover and express new meaning.
It’s important to be selective of the company we keep. Seek the company of those who leave you feeling revitalized and inspired to be better, and spend less time with those who leave you depleted and negative.
Natural health products
Certain natural health products may enhance the body’s detoxification process, such as probiotics, fiber, magnesium, milk thistle, n-acetylcysteine, and glutathione.
Gut flora contribute to the breakdown and elimination of metabolites in the digestive system. In animal studies, probiotic supplementation increased bowel excretion of the hormone disruptor bisphenol-A (BPA). In lab studies, probiotic supplementation reduced enterohepatic recycling of bile salts and increased cholesterol excretion through the gut.
Used as a gentle laxative and muscle relaxant, magnesium also helps promote regular bowel function and elimination. Be sure to check with your health-care practitioner before taking a magnesium-based laxative.
Fill up on fiber
Add extra fiber to your diet with ground flaxseed or oat fiber; these act as a “mop” to soak up and bind toxins in the gut for elimination.
Try milk thistle (Silybum marianum)
A well-researched hepatoprotective plant, milk thistle contains flavonoid antioxidants, known collectively as silymarin, that have membrane-stabilizing properties and have been shown to help reduce inflammation and regenerate liver cells exposed to toxic injury. Milk thistle may also have chelating effects for certain metals (meaning it can bind to them) and has been shown to reduce iron overload.
Make note of N-acetylcysteine
The precursor for glutathione, NAC is one of the most important antioxidants involved in detoxifying reactions in the liver.
Go for glutathione
Taken as a supplement, glutathione has demonstrated an ability to reduce liver enzyme alanine aminotransferase levels in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, which is a measure of its ability to halt progression of this disease.
Foods that increase glutathione
- Brassica vegetables
- polyphenol-rich fruits and vegetables (berries, greens)
- pomegranate juice
- green tea
- whey protein
Various other nutrients may be considered based on individual needs, including vitamin B12, folic acid, and choline, which can assist in important detoxifying reactions in the body.
Enhancing detoxification can be tough, but it yields important improvements in our overall health and well-being. That’s well worth the odd craving!
Do you need a sugar detox?
- healthy weight loss
- stabilized blood sugar
- reduced mood swings
- increased energy
- less bloating
- improved skin health
Sugar substitutes (use in moderation!)
- raw honey (sparingly)
- date paste
- maple syrup
- coconut sugar
Your heart doesn’t heart sugar
A 2014 study found that, over a 15-year period, the risk of death from cardiovascular disease increased in those who consumed a higher percentage of calories from added sugar in their diets (more than 25 percent) compared with those with a lower-sugar diet (less than 10 percent of calories from added sugar).