New year, new you?
With the difficult year of 2020 nearly behind us, the start of the new year may be a great opportunity to take stock of your diet and overall health and make any needed changes. After all, it’s a new start, which (at least psychologically) can make the job a little easier.
You may have tried similar programmes before, or this may be your first time to try one ; you may be thinking just to boost your immunity for the time being with a detox, or you may be seeking to achieve optimum nutrition for long-term change, so why not make 2021 your healthiest year yet!
A body cleanse and detox is a good start
Body detoxification programmes come in many forms – the type you choose is simply a matter of preference (particularly based on what you believe to be your “problem areas”), but do your research and make sure it is sensible and safe. If in doubt, consult your doctor before starting a body detox, and also take into account the following important points about how our bodies take in toxins and then attempt to process and eliminate them.
Despite their variety, the primary aim of cleanse and detox programmes is usually the elimination of toxins, waste and other “poisons” from the body, which have accumulated over time (e.g. as a result of poor diet. environmental factors, smoking, drinking etc). Unfortunately, in this modern age, much of our water and food contains chemical compounds that are foreign (and often remarkably toxic) to our bodies. We are also subjected to an ever-increasing level of environmental toxins every day.
The liver is the body’s main detoxification organ. Each contaminant absorbed into the body (whether swallowed, drunk, breathed in or absorbed into the skin) will end up at the liver. Nevertheless, the liver is actually just one part of a collection of detoxification systems that work together in the body, and its function is to change toxins into forms that are more easily eliminated by the other organs making up the:
digestive system – nutritionists and other natural health practitioners tend to attach much importance to the condition of our intestines and bowels, in terms of the overall health of our liver, lymphatic system and immune system.
urinary system – the kidneys receive toxins that have been converted and made water soluble by the liver, such as the end products of medications, organic chemicals, yeast and hormones.
lymphatic system – this system filters the bloodstream of toxins and waste material. Lymph nodes consist of large amounts of white blood cells that attack bacteria.
respiratory system – gas exchange is the primary purpose of the lungs; inhaled oxygen is given to the blood and carbon dioxide is exhaled.
skin – the skin is our largest organ of elimination and, if it is functioning optimally, we’re able to excrete lots of water soluble toxins this way. Sweat has a comparable composition to urine and is a necessary cleansing fluid, which is why exercise is so important for good health.
Our bodies are therefore usually able to deal with the toxins we are commonly exposed to, but they can encounter difficulties, and our detox systems can come under strain, if dietary needs are not being met and/or the amount of pollutants becomes way too high (known as a high toxic load).
As an example, skin conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis are usually treated as disorders of the skin itself, when in reality, they are often simply external indicators of internal toxicity. In these circumstances, a body cleanse and detox programme may be of benefit.
How does a body cleanse and detox programme work?
The body is best able to process compounds from fruit, vegetables and other natural foods, herbs and plants, as opposed to man-made compounds which, when released into the body, can often lead to some form of reaction from the immune and/or digestive system and are also often toxic in their make up.
While there are numerous cleansing programmes to choose from, and although (as mentioned above) they tend to have the same goal, they can vary quite significantly in their procedure and outcomes.
Some work on a particular system of the body, such as the digestive system (and the bowels in particular); others may support detoxification of the liver, or the blood or look to strengthen the function of the kidneys or skin.
A full body cleanse and detox programme, however, involves the combining all of these detox regimes, which can then potentially help to restore the body’s organs to their most efficient level. Of course, there are other factors to be considered too – like a balanced diet, regular exercise, water intake etc – for which there is no replacement or quick fix. All of these factors will have an impact on the success of any detox plan.
Similarly, how body cleanse and detox programmes work depends on the type of programme being followed. For example, those dedicated to the digestive system will normally suggest a greater intake of natural, unprocessed plants (such as living and raw foods, high in quality dietary fibre and digestive enzymes). These foods will naturally help to promote good bowel function and therefore toxin and waste elimination. They will also usually contain the necessary levels of vitamins and trace minerals to nurture and protect the eliminative and detox organs mentioned above.
With these factors in mind, you can start to think about how you want to detoxify your body, including which systems you would like to focus on.
While a sensible detox, based on an increased intake of cleansing and protective nutrients, can certainly be of benefit for any period of time, ideally, you want to introduce these changes for the long-term. This is sustainable, because there are no drastic measures – simply balance, variety, seasonality, moderation and a healthy diet.
Of course, changing dietary and lifestyle habits can be quite a challenge, particularly if they are ingrained. It requires commitment, not least because of the pressures and time constraints of modern-day living. But, once you experience the potential benefits of a good detox, such as higher energy levels, a slimmer body, better focus, clearer skin and more, your hard work will be worth it.