December is the month of gift-giving, holiday cheer, celebration and sugar! If you are anything like me you have a sweet tooth that is heavily tempted this time of year. Whether you are at work, a gathering, or just chatting with your neighbors it seems cookies or candy always ends up in front of you! I do my best to stick to my healthy routines, but there is something about the holiday season that validates giving in to those sweet little treats. If you find yourself over indulging in rich foods you don’t typically eat you may notice you are not feeling as well as you normally do. Your digestion may be sluggish, you could be experiencing more headaches than normal or you may not be feeling tired and sluggish. Sugar, especially in abundance can have detrimental effects on our health and wellness. Fortunately, there are great natural ways to detoxify your system that will have you feeling better in no time.
What is a detox?
Detoxification refers to the cleansing of your blood. Our blood is the carrier for all of those yummy nutrients we ingest from the food we eat. This also means our blood carries all of the toxins, chemicals and other bad things we ingest through non-organic or processed foods, chemical exposure or air pollution. Our bodies have amazing natural detoxification capabilities through our lungs, kidneys, liver, intestines and skin. However, if we overload our natural detoxification systems, like through a sugar cookie binge, our bodies may not be able to properly filter everything out. This can leave us feeling sick, tired and less-than-healthy. Some commercial detoxification plans require major commitment, can often be costly, ineffective or even cause damage. Today I will be discussing a more natural approach.
What a detox is not
When most of us think of a “detox” we think of juice cleanses, formulated powders, chugging cayenne and lemon juice, maybe taking a few supplements and avoiding eating food. Any cleanse that puts you on a liquid diet is a bad idea and should be avoided. People seem to think a liquid cleanse will help you lose weight and flush out toxins but in reality you are losing water weight not actual fat. As mentioned above, a detox can only occur when your organs are functioning properly, starving your body does the exact opposite. In my definition, detox is synonymous with “clean living”. You want to care for your body by supplying it with enough nutrients, water and rest for it to recoup on its own. Liquid cleanses can also cause you to flush out all of the good bacteria from your gut. This can leave you with digestive issues for years as your body works to rebuild the good flora – no good.
Where to start?
I always suggest eliminating certain behaviors before you start a detox. Drinking caffeine or alcohol, smoking cigarettes, eating refined sugars and saturated fats will completely sabotage your detox and will effectively render it useless. It is also important to limit your environmental exposure to chemicals while attempting to detox as well. Leave the chemical-based household cleaners and personal care products in their bottles and opt for natural, organic substitutes. Reducing stress is also very important to the success of a detox. Consider adding a 10 minute walk to your daily routine, some quiet time for meditation, or even carve out some time to read a book. “Checking-out” through non-electronic outlets can have great benefits on your brain, stress level and overall health. The following are simple ways you can help your body refuel, recharge and reboot just by changing a few things in your daily routine. Even small changes can be extremely helpful for your body. My suggestions are completely safe but I always recommend consulting your midwife, naturopath or doctor if you are breastfeeding or pregnant.
- Eat plenty of fiber as well as tons of water based fruits and veggies (organic if possible) to keep your digestive tract moving – consider taking a good quality probiotic, drinking kombucha or eating fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut!
- Cleanse and protect your liver by drinking green tea 2-3 times per day (preferably after a meal), add a squeeze of fresh lemon to boost its cleansing effects.
- Take vitamin C, this will help boost your immune system and help your liver eliminate toxins more efficiently.
- Drink at least two quarts of room temperature water a day. Spring or mineral water is an excellent choice. By drinking water at room temperature your body will absorb it more efficiently because it does not have to waste energy warming it up first. Add a lemon wedge for added benefit!
- Breathe deeply, this is one of the easiest yet most overlooked aspects of our health and well-being. Many of us keep our breath up in our chest but if you practice “belly breathing” you will lower your heart rate, oxygenate your blood and naturally reduce stress!
- Transform stress by emphasizing positive emotions. Start a grateful heart journal and jot down at least one thing each day you are grateful for.
- Take a bath at least twice a week! Fill the tub with water as hot as you can stand. Add around 10 drops of lavender oil and a cup of Epsom salt. Epsom is basically magnesium and your skin will drink it in! Many people are deficient in magnesium so this is a great way to naturally increase your intake of important minerals – plus a hot bath will help you sweat and the soothing lavender will definitely decrease your stress!
- Sweat in a sauna or steamy shower so your body can eliminate wastes through perspiration. During a detox I would also recommend discontinuing use of any antiperspirants, your body rids itself of toxins through sweat so it is best not to interfere with its natural cleansing process.
- Dry brush your skin. Sounds weird, right? But by using a special all-natural bristle brush to ‘brush’ your skin you are helping your blood circulation. By bringing fresh, oxygenated blood to the surface you are not only improving its detox powers but your skin will give off a health glow, too!
- Exercise. This is number 10 on the list but is probably the most important step in a successful detox. I highly suggest practicing yoga. Yoga positions are specifically designed to help your internal body, energy and organs work to their full potential. Incorporating cardio will also benefit you greatly because the more you sweat the more you detox! Try to exercise at least 30 minutes a day 4-5 times a week.
Give yourself a gift this year: one of better health. Simple changes in your daily routine, over time, can amount to huge changes in your overall health and well-being. Don’t feel like you have to implement every suggestion immediately, this often causes people to feel frustrated, overwhelmed and stressed. It is important to begin slowly, change a few things each day so you don’t shock your system. Over time, these behaviors can become habits that have you living a happier and healthier life! So here’s to good health in 2015!