OK, it’s that time again – every other advert on television seems to be for some kind of weight-loss product or new exercise regime. It’s also the time when I am regularly asked about detoxing – what it means, how to do it, do I do it? etc.
The human system, in particular the liver, is extremely efficient at breaking down toxins, rendering harmful, cell-damaging and noxious substances less harmful so they can be eliminated without causing harm.
This incredibly complex process can become sluggish if the body is over-burdened for prolonged periods. Our capacity to detoxify is also partly genetic so some can cope with far higher levels of toxic intake than others. So, I would never discourage anyone from giving the detoxification system a bit of a breather by having a period of considered abstinence but I am not an advocate of the extreme ‘detox-diets’ so often recommended at this time of year.
Weight loss can be achieved following these severely restrictive programmes which are often liquid / juices only for up to 10 days, however this weight loss will not be sustainable once returning to a ‘normal diet’. Further health benefits sold to those feeling in need of an internal clean-up such as increased energy, clearer skin and improved liver function can all be achieved through a much gentler approach while avoiding the nasty side affects commonly experienced when ‘detoxing’ such as intense cravings, acute headaches, disrupted metabolism and sleep patterns, mood swings and obsessive thoughts of food.
Follow these simple principles for a few weeks and you’ll lighten the load on your liver in a gentle, healthy way:
– Start every morning with a large glass of water with fresh lemon juice – this is a great way to hydrate your body, it will reduce excess acidity and prepare your digestive system for breakfast.
– Increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables you have on a daily basis.
– Significantly limit your intake of processed meats like sausages, cured meats, pre-made pies / pastries etc.
– Cut out alcohol (predictable, but alcohol is one of the greatest burdens placed on the liver). If you’re in the habit of drinking every day, cut down to a maximum of 4 days a week and continue to gradually cut back until you no longer automatically think of having a drink every evening.
– Cut out or radically reduce caffeine (except for green/white tea). If you are a heavy tea and coffee drinker, reduce your intake gradually and try lots of alternatives like barley-based hot drinks, rooibosh (red bush tea) and herbal teas until you find a few you really enjoy. Having a good alternative is the only way you’ll stay off the caffeine (and the alcohol).
– Restrict dairy products and those you do have should be organic. Dairy, especially cow’s milk, is a hard protein to digest and often contains residues of the antibiotics, growth hormones and other medications included in the feed of intensively-reared cattle. Grass fed cows produce milk much higher in omega 3 and gamma-linoleic acid both of which are essential for health, including weight loss. Sheep and goat’s milk products are preferable to cow’s.
– Avoid processed food as much as possible and when you are buying packaged / tinned foods check the label for trans fats, artificial additives and preservatives.
– Limit or preferably cut out refined grains such as white bread, white rice and sugar and opt for healthier alternatives like wholegrain rye bread, brown rice or pot barely and to sweeten opt for honey or better still, Xylitol (see my earlier blog on this).
Rather than seeing this as a short-term fix, why not decide to follow these simple guidelines 80% of the time, all of the time and you should find you lose weight gradually and sustainably, you’ll feel fab, you won’t be hungry and you shouldn’t find it hard to stick to – a perfect plan for the start of a new year, no? 🙂