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The Safe and Easy Way to Detox

In last week’s article we looked at the pros and cons of detoxifying the body to help remove harmful substances and improve health. This week we will look at safe, gentle and effective ways to allow the body to cleanse itself from the inside out, without causing any unnecessary discomfort.

The need to detox arises when the amount of harmful substances in the food we consume is greater than the ability of our bodies to remove them. The presence of excess toxins in the bloodstream can lead to fatigue, sluggishness, poor concentration, digestive disturbance, joint pain, skin problems, body odour and bad breath.


All sorts of products and diet plans are available which claim to detoxify the body; however, many of these approaches are unproven, and some may even be harmful, leading to worsening of symptoms in the short term and nutritional deficiencies in the long term. Harsh detox diets, particularly those which only include raw foods or juices, are not ideal during the winter months as they can weaken the digestion, and therefore ironically increase the toxicity of the body.


In order to detox effectively, the body needs to maintain a good strong digestion.  This can be likened to a furnace, which needs to burn hot in order to effectively break down foods and kill microbes. Too many cold or raw foods eaten during the winter months can dampen the digestive fire and allow the proliferation of microbes in the gut, and the passage of improperly digested molecules into the bloodstream.


It is therefore important to avoid very cold foods such as salads, yogurt, and refrigerated water at this time of year. Choose warm foods such as steamed vegetables, rice, and easy to digest pulses, such as red lentils and mung beans; and use herbs and spices which assist the digestion, such as cardamom, coriander, fennel and turmeric.


The most important thing is to eat as much natural, unprocessed food as possible, particularly fruit and vegetables. A good detox breakfast is gluten-free rice porridge with steamed fruit and cinnamon. Most fruits are also fine to eat. However, avoid plums and rhubarb, which increase the levels of uric acid in the body.


Kedgeree is another great detox dish, variations of which can be eaten for lunch and dinner.  It is made by cooking easy to digest basmati rice with red lentils or soaked mung beans in water for about 40 minutes. Use spices such as cardamom, coriander, cumin fennel and turmeric to aid digestion and add flavour, and add vegetables in any combination, All vegetables can be eaten in unlimited amounts except those of the nightshade family (potapes, peppers, aubergines, tomatoes). Also avoid mushrooms, and any vegetable that disagrees with you (cabbage, cucumber and onions are common culprits).


Snack on fruit and make sure you drink plenty of fluids to flush toxins out of the system. Many detox diets advise drinking two Litres of water or more per day, which many people drink straight from the fridge.  However, drinking very cold water can damage the digestion. It is important to take plenty of fluids when detoxing, but ensure that water and juice is taken at room temperature and don’t drink too much at mealtimes in order to avoid diluting the digestive juices. Herb teas, and warm water with a squeeze of lemon or lime, are great for cleansing the system and increasing fluid intake between meals


By ensuring the digestion is functioning effectively, and by simply avoiding the main causes of toxicity in the body (such as packaged or processed foods, fried foods, red meat, dairy products, sugar, wheat, caffeine, and alcohol) the body’s own detox systems will naturally start to remove toxins from the body. However, herbs which support the major organs of elimination include dandelion root, milk thistle, and chicory for the liver; and nettle, cleavers and celery seed for the kidneys.


Unfortunately, excluding refined sugar and caffeine always runs the risk of withdrawal symptoms and even the gentlest detox plans can cause unpleasant effects such as headaches, fatigue and skin breakouts as the toxins are eliminated from the body.  However, these symptoms should be mild and pass within a few days; and the benefits you will feel afterwards will definitely make it all worthwhile!