How to Safely Detoxify
I am often asked about detoxification and the most effective way to cleanse our systems.
Let’s face it, we live in a toxic world and are exposed to a whole plethora of toxins on a daily basis. These toxins need to be broken down by our systems and safely excreted; otherwise, they'll be stored in the body and cause further damage or negative implications on our health.
Common toxins we're exposed to on a daily basis come from many sources – environmental pollution if you live in cities or developed areas, and pesticides and agricultural chemicals if you live in the countryside. Toxins may also get into our body when we consume, use, or are exposed to the following:
- non-organic food items
- food additives and by-products from food processing and cooking
- cleaning chemicals
- cosmetics and hair colouring solutions
- perfumes and deodorants
- soaps and shampoos
- heavy metals and plastics
- volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from carpets, plastics, and even your new car smell
- cooking utensils
- medicines and recreational drugs
- even our own metabolic wastes
What happens to toxins in your system
Once a toxin enters your system it needs to be metabolised. Initially once absorbed into the blood circulation your antioxidant defences will attempt to neutralise the toxins and then they will enter the liver where several mechanisms are in place the deal with toxins.
Then your kidneys, lymph and bowels will attempt to excrete the remaining metabolised chemicals. This requires your liver, lymph, kidneys, skin and digestive system to work optimally - which is often not the case. Certain toxins such as heavy metals and pesticides are difficult for the body to metabolise so they are stored in fatty tissues to protect them from damaging the system. Over time, these toxins degrade the fatty tissues in the nervous system and brain leading to a range of neurological conditions.
Apart from accumulating in fatty tissues, toxins also trigger elevated levels of inflammation, block endocrine hormone receptor sites, increase immune reactions that can exacerbate autoimmune and allergy reactions, or aggravate nervous tissues leading to irritability and poor sleep patterns. So essentially, toxins can impact every body function.
Your particular genetic weaknesses tend to be the first area to be affected. If you're prone to allergies then this may be the first symptoms; if you're prone to arthritis this may be affected. If you're prone to hormonal imbalances, then this may be an issue. But toxins can literally influence each and every condition in the body. This is why a well-constructed, safe cleansing program is beneficial for all health conditions.
Specifically for hormonal conditions, you need to consider toxins affecting hormone receptor sites which creates false signals to the endocrine system, irritation to nervous tissues and impacts the liver’s ability to metabolise hormones. This is critical. If you cannot metabolise hormones then everything goes wrong from there. It is very common in women who have severe hormonal issues that they genetically are prone to incomplete hormone metabolism.
Why do it safely
Toxins from all sources and of all types will accumulate in your system. It’s a fact of nature in the world we live and completely unavoidable. How your body reacts to these toxins is important to note.
Some people will live their entire life with elevated heavy metal levels and never have an issue. Others will have minor exposure and react badly. It’s just the luck of the draw.
Generally, people who have chronic illnesses which are unresponsive to treatment have a reduced ability to genetically metabolise toxins. They will need to follow a clean diet and lifestyle to lead a healthy, symptom-free life.
Now with the latest fad to detoxify, many people can make themselves worse through a poorly prepared and planned detoxification. Toxins can be concentrated in the body and when you overstimulate this process, your body can dump the toxins into your system causing damage. If your digestion and elimination organs are not functioning optimally then you can actually make your health worse.
Some steps to safely detoxify your system:
Evaluation: If you are concerned you may have been exposed to some dangerous toxins, then it may be prudent to do some testing first. Hair analysis is a good test for heavy metals and a functional liver test (not a normal blood test) will determine your liver's ability to metabolise toxins. Naturopaths and integrated medicine GPs can assist.
Preparation: Many people rush into a cleanse motivated to clean their body but going cold turkey on all your vices can shock the system. It's best to slowly reduce any current addictive substances you may be having. Then you must start to reduce in your diet heavy proteins and fatty foods, then load your system with plant-based foods. This begins to build your antioxidant reserves and enzyme levels.
Digestion: Ensure your bowels are working every day (a minimum with 2x a day preferably). The last thing you want is releasing toxins only to have them resorbed again. Stimulating your liver and kidneys with herbal teas is also a good idea prior to starting. Dandelion leaves are a good option here.
Alkalise: Consume a diet that is predominantly alkaline and rich in antioxidants. The antioxidant load is critical to whether your body will decide to release toxins or not. Alkaline minimises any detox reactions.
Diet shift: Start by reducing all processed foods and animal products – basically, any food group which is difficult for you to digest. Your digestive system requires 50% of your daily energy demands so taking the strain off the digestive tract signals your system to start to cleanse.
Start juicing: Introduce vegetable and fruit juice daily, between 500ml to a litre depending on what your body can manage. This should be a blend of fruit, greens and root vegetables. There is no hard and fast rule here but what we're looking for is the concentration of enzymes. The live enzymes from fruits and vegetables flood the system and start to release toxins into your blood supply. If you have blood sugar issues it is best to do a cleanse under the guidance of a health professional.
Go raw: Gradually reduce your whole foods and move to only raw fruits and vegetables after a week of predominantly vegetarian. After another week you can shift to only juices for up to a week and then finally if you are going well you can do a few days on water only. But this is for the well-practised and prepared person. Don’t try this on your first cleanse.
Diet management: Gradually reintroduce cooked vegetarian foods over a week and finally move towards an unprocessed clean food diet.
Liver support - the liver requires amino acids primarily from protein to work during a cleanse - but you can't have proteins on the cleanse. So this is where a good liver supplement like Happy Liver can support and optimise the cleansing process.
Alkalising - to minimise the detox symptoms it is important to keep your system in an alkaline state. Green superfood powders are a good way to do this. We recommend Happy Greens for this process.
Antioxidants - Apart from a diet high in antioxidant foods, it helps to flood your system with additional plant-based antioxidants.
Fibre - To maintain regular bowel function then you need to load your system with lots of fibre. This may occur naturally with the change in diet, but if it does not, try soaked chia and basil seeds, psyllium husks or the Klenz product. Fibre is important to bind to and clear any toxins released.
Specific detox aids
For many years I worked alongside holistic dentists doing concentrated detoxification programs for chronically ill patients and heavy metal detoxification. These patients need 1:1 support. However, we used specific supplements of coriander tincture, zeolite, glutathione, high dose vitamin C and chlorella to slowly bring out these toxins safely.
Some added tips
- Herbal teas are an excellent way to support your system and flood the blood with natural phytochemicals
- Get plenty of rest with light exercise only
- Sauna and steam are good ways to assist the cleansing process
- Skin brushing twice a day assists elimination through the skin
- Yoga and meditation are beneficial
- Massage with good quality oils is beneficial to support lymph function
- Body wraps with mineral wraps can be beneficial
- Acupuncture can also assist the process
How you will feel
As toxins begin to come out of your system, often your symptoms will exacerbate as they are the primary cause of your health issues in the first place. You will also notice a feeling of slight nausea sometimes. Headaches are common as well.
Generally, you will sleep very well and soundly. Low energy levels are common during this time, so make sure you can rest.
Emotionally, you may go through a rollercoaster ride. The deprivation of your favourite foods has one influence while the withdrawal of processed foods has another impact. Additionally, your body will also release all stored emotions.
Once you pass through this phase, you will feel like a burden has been lifted from your shoulders. Energy levels will rise and your motivation levels will be at an all-time high. Enjoy the process and feel the benefits of releasing many of these stored toxins. It's beneficial to follow this process at least once to twice yearly.
(Special Note: For those wanting to attempt a juice and water fast, it's best to do this under the guidance of a health practitioner experienced in these processes.)