Let’s start by investigating why your body needs a Detox.
- Do you want to Detox in hopes to lose weight?
- Do you feel that your digestion is impaired (gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea) and a Detox would help “clear it up?”
A Detox can be a great way to give the digestive tract and detox organs a much needed “break.” Let me explain this in a little more detail. As Americans, we are constantly eating. We’ve been told by the media and well-meaning professionals that eating small meals every 2-3 hours is ideal to manage weight and hypoglycemic conditions. I will agree that small meals are necessary for hypoglycemic people until they can figure out why they are having these hypoglycemic issues to begin with. I’m not giving medical advice so I will leave it at, but for everyone else that is non-diabetic or non-hypoglycemic, I think you need to re-evaluate how often you eat.
What does frequency of eating have to do with Detoxing?
A few things happen when we eat several times throughout the day. One main thing is that we most likely lose the connection to what it feels like to be hungry. Losing this connection has had a major impact on health because people now eat just to eat. Because food (sometimes it’s questionable that what we are eating is actually food) is there and the marketing is so good, not because we are truly hungry. When we eat outside of regular meals we often do it mindlessly while standing or rushed. Believe it or not, this has an impact on how we then digest and assimilate the nutrients (macro, micro, vitamins and minerals). So to bring it back to why you want to do a detox, if it’s to lose weight then you may want to look elsewhere first. Cleaning up your meals and snack schedule will likely have much more impact on this goal than doing a supplement based detox protocol.
Now, let’s look at what else the frequency of eating can impact. I’m sure you are familiar with what it means to fast. If you have had blood work performed in the past there is a good chance that the doctor ordered it under fasting conditions. So basically, you should have only consumed water or black coffee for 12-16 hours before the test. Most people do these tests first thing in the morning so they can take advantage of their overnight fast while they sleep. Otherwise, asking someone to fast for 12 hours while awake would just be crazy and unattainable right? More on this later, but let’s get back to why a long overnight fast has benefits. For starters, many people don’t fast that long overnight unless they have blood work to perform. From what I see many people eat late at night before bed and then wake up and often have their breakfast shortly thereafter, essentially breaking the fast. Figure out how long you fast overnight by calculating what time you put the last morsel in your mouth at night and what time you eat/drink your first calorie containing food in the morning. If you are fasting less than 10 hours over night then this should be the first area you “clean up.” Try to aim for 12-16 hours of a fasting window overnight. So this would mean that your last meal should wrap up around 6pm and the first meal the next day would be after 6am. Feel free to play around with these times if you eat a later dinner.
Why would you want to do this in the first place? First let me start by explaining what happens with the liver, one of your main detox organs, when you allow your body to fast. Your liver “metabolizes” everything to a degree that passes through your mouth, nose and even skin. Food and drink (pesticides, fertilizers), air (pollutants), medications/supplements and the many chemicals found in body care products that we routinely use all interact with the liver. So basically you can see how this is a full time job for the liver and the ability to rest and rejuvenate and not become overworked can only be achieved while we are fasting. That’s why I recommend increasing your overnight fast time, but also limiting snacking throughout the day as well. This will allow mini fasts of 3- 4 hours that can also allow the liver to function and focus on the more important aspects of detox. If your liver gets bogged down there is potential for Fatty Liver Disease and toxic buildup in the body. Another added bonus to fasting is that it has also been shown to aid in weight loss, see here and here. So if that's also a goal of yours, starting to lengthen your overnight fasting times and between meal fasts can be a great place to start.
Detoxing to help improve digestive issues?
If you are using a supplement based approach to Detoxing for improvement in digestive ailments, then I would compare that to putting a Band-Aid on a large wound that would be much better handled with stitches. What will likely happen at the end of the detox is a return to your normal eating habits and the annoying digestive issues that you were hoping to get rid of. Digestion is a very complex process that has many factors at play. Depending on the severity of your issues there is likely not a quick fix in the form of a pill or a detox. One of the main contributors to digestive issues today is a Standard American Diet (SAD) and/or gut infections and microbiome imbalances. Until you address the underlying cause you will likely only have minimal if any symptom relief from your issues and you can waste a lot of money trying to “fix” the issue.
Our digestive system needs a break as well. Digestion is a huge undertaking for our bodies that requires energy, enzymes and time. People will often notice changes when they do a detox because they are likely limiting food to certain types or restricting calories all together.
Another great reason to implement fasting between meals and longer stretches overnight.
I still want to Detox, so what’s the best way?
Start with implementing the fasting approaches that I mention above, and then move onto using a whole foods diet. This means minimal processed foods. If you can’t pronounce the ingredient list, then you shouldn't be eating it! This can be simple and it’s just lots of veggies, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, lamb, nuts, seeds and fruit. Pretty basic, easy and limits exposure to problematic processed food chemicals that make your liver and digestive system overworked. From here we want to make sure that you include the following foods for the detox powers that they contribute (preferably organic, local and/or low spray):
- Artichokes - Increase livers production of bile which is necessary for breaking down food and being able to assimilate all the nutrients we are eating the food doe in the first place!
- Apples - Rich in flavonoids, phytochemicals and pectin that help detox heavy metals and also stimulate bile production to allow for further detox in the liver.
- Asparagus - This is a powerhouse anti-inflammatory and assists with liver drainage.
- Avocado - Filled with antioxidants including the most powerful one, glutathione. This aids in liver detoxification of synthetic chemicals and carcinogens.
- Beets - The combination of phytochemical and nutrients help as a blood and overall internal cleanser.
- Cabbage - This is a liver cleanser as well and helps move toxins out thru one of the main pathways by increasing urinary output.
- Dandelion Root - Is known to act in the liver and pancreas by filtering toxins and waste from the bloodstream.
- Flax and Chia Seeds - Are an excellent source of natural fiber that can help carry out the toxins that are mopped up for elimination.
- Ginger - A great spice for boosting metabolism and flushing out waste allowing the liver to continue to function optimally.
- Lemons - Help convert toxins into water based forms so they can be more easily excreted.
- Turmeric - Used to treat many liver and digestive disorders in Ayurvedic medicine.
- Watercress - Helps liver by releasing enzymes that are needed to clean out the liver and get rid of toxic buildup.
As you can see from this list, starting a detox can be simple and easy to implement in your own kitchen! This is only a partial list of the many healing vegetables and herbs that will undoubtedly give you the most bang for your buck. Maybe implementing this will give you that nudge to shift towards a whole foods diet, which can help improve overall digestive health, while also allowing you to shed unwanted weight.
Until next time!