Detox Do’s and Don’ts
For an instant upgrade in how you feel and look, there are four habits to break and four habits to make. So, let’s start with the hard part. To give your system a break, you need to avoid:
1. Wheat. All wheat contains gluten and this irritates the gut. So, give your insides a week’s break.
2. Milk. It’s the most common food allergen and most people produce antibodies to it. In other words, it causes your immune system to react. It’s also mucus forming. Give your system a week off milk and all dairy products.
3. Caffeine. This might be the hardest part if you’re addicted. But that’s the point. Caffeine is an addictive toxin that makes your liver work hard to detoxify it. If you can bear it, cut out caffeine for one week. If not, then two cups of green tea is the thin edge of the wedge.
4. Alcohol. Of course, this is your liver’s worst enemy. Take a break for a week.
The habits you need to make during the week are:
1. Drink 8 glasses of water a day. After all, your body is 66% water and this alone will help you detoxify.
2. Eat superfoods. Read on and I’ll explain exactly what makes a food ‘super’ and which ones you need to eat to spring-clean your system.
3. Load up on anti-aging antioxidants. They are the key players in detoxifying your body. If you boost your intake, from both food and supplements, you’ll definitely notice the difference.
4. Take liver-detoxifying supplements. From MSM to milk thistle, there’s a combination of seven top detoxifiers to give your liver’s detox capacity an upgrade.
Once you start making these changes, you’ll notice a difference in how you feel and look. You should start feeling more energised and motivated, and your skin and eyes should appear clearer.
How Your Body Detoxifies
Every day in your body, substances are broken down, built up, and turned from one thing into another. A good 80% of these processes involves detoxifying potentially harmful substances, most of which are done by your liver. Your liver is a clearing house, able to recognise millions of potentially harmful chemicals and transform them into something harmless or prepare them for elimination. It is the chemical ‘brain’ of your body – recycling, regenerating and detoxifying in order to maintain your health.
Love Your Liver
Your liver detoxifies substances by preparing them to be eliminated from your body in a process called conjugation. The four main types of conjugation are glutathione conjugation, sulphation, glucoronidation and glycine conjugation. To optimise each of these pathways, it is essential to have an adequate supply of the nutrients fundamental for them to work. You also need an ensured intake of all vitamins and minerals (from a multinutrient supplement).
The key to enhancing the conjugation process is to take glutathione and sulphur supplements. In addition, eat plenty of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. These vegetables are rich in a family of nutrients called glucosinolates, which are necessary for glucoronidation. There are now some great supplements on the market that contain all the key nutrients to support your liver and boost detoxification. Look for one that includes:
• N-Acetyl Cysteine: NAC is a powerful antioxidant and a superb anti-toxin. It not only increases glutathione levels, it helps neutralise toxins.
• Milk Thistle Extract: This is another impressive antioxidant for detoxification. It binds to toxins, and it also increases glutathione levels so the toxins move easily out of your body. You should always look for milk thistle that provides 420mg of silymarin, the active ingredient in milk thistle.
• Cruciferous Vegetable Compounds: In addition to eating cruciferous vegetables, I recommend that you boost your intake of glucosinolates by supplementing cruciferous compounds. Glucosinolates have been shown to help create glutathione in both animal and human studies.
• MSM: This sulphur compound is widely known for liver support, helping detoxification and the generation of glutathione.
• Ellagic Acid: Ellagic acid is a detoxifying substance found in certain foods. Raspberries and pomegranates are excellent sources. Animal research suggests that ellagic acid may help the body excrete toxins. There’s also evidence that it may help promote glutathione production.
• Dandelion Extract: The root of the common dandelion weed has been used traditionally by herbalists for supporting the liver. It is widely accepted that dandelion extract may help increase the flow of bile, which carries toxins out of the body. This is a critical stage of detoxification.
• Alpha Lipoic Acid: ALA is often referred to as the ‘universal antioxidant’.That’s because it is both fat- and water-soluble, allowing it to enter all parts of the cell to neutralise free radicals. This is important because toxins are stored in fat cells. It’s can also help regenerate vitamin E, vitamin C and – critical to your liver function – glutathione.
You also need 5 grams of glutamine a day, which not only supports liver detoxifcation but also feeds the digestive tract to support gut integrity which means less load on the liver since the gut is the vital barrier into the body.
Avoid the Bad Guys
Substances that interfere with proper liver function include caffeine, alcohol, cigarette smoke, saturated fat and charcoal-barbecued meat. Needless to say, you need to avoid these during your detox. It is not always easy to give up caffeine, and you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches when you stop drinking coffee and tea. However, any withdrawal symptoms should disappear within a few days. If you want to have a hot drink, the best alternatives are herbal coffees and teas. I am partial to Rooibos (redbush) tea and Teeccino herbal coffee (available from healthfood shops).
Another important factor in supporting your detoxification pathways is to maintain the right acid-alkaline balance in your body by decreasing acidity. That’s why my detox diet plan includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (foods which are alkaline-forming) and no meats or cheeses (foods which are acid-forming).
Protect Yourself with Antioxidants
We are all threatened by internal toxins as well as external ones. For example, oxygen is the basis of all plant and animal life and is our most important nutrient. It’s needed by every cell of our bodies every second of the day. It is also chemically reactive and highly dangerous.
Even in normal biochemical reactions, oxygen can become unstable and capable of ‘oxidising’ neighbouring molecules. This can lead to cellular damage – triggering inflammation, cancer, arterial damage and aging. Dangerous oxidants are made in all combustion processes and are found in cigarette smoke, exhaust fumes, radiation and fried or grilled food. That’s why you need powerful antioxidants to disarm them, including vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, the mineral selenium, and other nutrients such as bioflavonoids, anthocyanidins, glutathione, lipoic acid and CoQ10. It is wise to make sure your daily supplement programme contains significant quantities of antioxidants, especially if you are older, live in a polluted city, or have any other unavoidable exposure to oxidants.
The easiest way to do this is to take a comprehensive antioxidant supplement including the nutrients mentioned above, in addition to a good multivitamin-mineral complex.
Your Detox Action Plan
I find it best to start a detox program over the weekend, or during a time when you don’t have too much going on. You’ll also want to set aside some time each day to walk for at least 15 minutes. Don’t be surprised if you feel worse for a couple of days before you feel better. This is especially likely if you are eliminating foods to which you are allergic or dependent.
What to Drink
Drink at least eight glasses of water a day. This should include purified, filtered or bottled water. You can also drink herbal coffee or tea. In addition, I recommend drinking one cup of fruit or vegetable juice each day. Try a carrot-apple blend with grated ginger (you can buy the two juices separately and combine them with one-third water), or fresh watermelon juice. The flesh of the watermelon is high in beta-carotene and vitamin C, and the seeds are high in vitamin E, zinc and selenium. You can make a delicious antioxidant cocktail by whizzing the flesh and seeds in a blender.
What to Eat
During your detox week, there are some foods that you should eat in abundance, some only in moderation, and others you’ll need to avoid.
Eat in abundance:
• The fruits with the highest detox potential include fresh apricots, cantaloupe, citrus fruits, kiwi, papayas, peaches, mangoes, melons, red grapes and all types of berries.
• Vegetables that are especially good for detoxification include artichokes, peppers, beets, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, red cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, kale, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potato, tomato, watercress, and bean and seed sprouts.
Eat in moderation:
• Limit grains – including brown rice, corn, oats and quinoa – to no more than two servings a day.
• Limit fish – such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies and sardines to no more than one daily serving.
• Limit bananas and potatoes to one serving every other day.
• Have one handful of raw, unsalted nuts and seeds each day. Choose from almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and flaxseeds.
• As for oils, use extra-virgin olive oil for cooking and cold-pressed seed oils (such as flaxseed oil) for salad dressing.
• Cut out meat and dairy products, including red meat, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt.
• Avoid wheat and other gluten grains such as spelt, rye, and barley.
• Also avoid salt and any foods containing it, as well as hydrogenated fats, artificial sweeteners, food additives and preservatives, fried foods, spices and dried fruit.
In addition to these dietary changes, make sure your daily supplement programme includes a good, all-around antioxidant complex and a liver-support complex, as mentioned above. By the end of seven days, you are sure to feel more energised and alert.
Find out more
For further information and some delicious recipes, plus a more comprehensive plan if you want to detox for longer, read The 9 Day Liver Detox Diet .
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