Our article today is provided by Nutritional Therapist Claire Clerkin, a graduate in Nutritional Therapy from the College of Naturopathic Medicine (CNM). She explains the benefits of detoxing and how to do the programme both effectively and responsibly in order to get the most out of your spring cleanse.
Spring is a perfect time to give our body’s detoxification systems a boost, with a gentle cleanse that should never be onerous.
Spring is a time of renewal, rejuvenation and activity. We observe it in nature and, just as the birds, insects and animals come out of hibernation, so too does the human system shake off the cob webs in preparation for a busy summer period.
We are often inclined to do an annual ‘spring clean’ of our homes, but what about our bodies? Spring is a time when we move out of a period of conservation and into a more active time. This is a perfect opportunity to give our bodies a little bit of an ‘MOT’ and think about our overall health. Are our important digestive organs working at an optimum level? Is our immune system in good shape? What about our ideal weight? Are we still carrying around a little too much leftover Christmas pudding?
The body has a fabulous, intelligent detoxification system already installed. The liver, kidneys and other organs of the digestive system spearhead the major detoxification processes. When working as they should, they effectively rid our bodies of toxins that could cause health problems if left unmanaged.
How does detoxification work?
The liver is crucial in getting rid of toxins. The phases of liver detoxification are intricate, but basically, the liver first breaks down toxins and then conjugates (or packages) them into forms that can be excreted by the digestive system or kidneys.
B vitamins, zinc, sulphur, amino acids and the anti-oxidant vitamins E and C are required by the liver to do its work properly. If you don’t get enough of these nutrients, the process of detoxification in the liver will be compromised.
The liver also synthesises and secretes bile which is used to carry the toxins to the intestines where they should be secreted. Bile is also important for emulsifying fats and fat-soluble vitamins (A, E, D) and improving their absorption.
The next step in detoxification is elimination. The kidneys and the bowels need plenty of water to flush toxins out of the body. In addition, adequate dietary fibre is required to excrete the products of detoxification in the faeces.
What are toxins?
Toxins can be broken up into two types: endogenous and exogenous.
Endogenous toxins are by-products of metabolism and energy production. These are naturally occurring as part of the process of living (like exhaust fumes are a by-product of driving a car). They can be used-up hormones, by-products of exercise or metabolites of energy production.
Exogenous toxins are those we absorb from the environment. These include toxins from cigarettes, mould, pollen, chlorine from water, insecticides and pesticides from food, alcohol, caffeine, medications and chemicals from plastics and cosmetics.
So, while our bodies are naturally equipped to get rid of toxins from our bodies, modern life has introduced many more elements for our detoxification system to deal with.
The thing is, even with these new exogenous toxins to manage, our systems can still adequately detoxify to keep us healthy. However, they need the right tools to do the job correctly. And this is where a cleanse or detoxification programme comes in.
The Western diet is often at odds with good detoxification
Western diets are typically low on fresh organic produce, low in fibre and high in sugar and preservatives. As a result, our systems of detoxification are often short of the nutrients, water and fibre they need to operate effectively.
When the detoxification system is not working adequately, toxic metabolites can accumulate and start causing health issues. Some symptoms of a sluggish detoxification system include:
- Low energy levels
- Bad breath
- Foul-smelling stools
- PMS or other issues related to hormonal imbalance
- Low immunity (more than two colds per year)
- Brain fog, or inability to think clearly
- Worsened hangovers
Setting aside some time for a spring cleanse is a great way to support and enhance your natural detoxification systems.
A wholefood cleanse enhances detoxification
There are hundreds of variations of cleanses and detoxes – some more extreme than others. Each practitioner is different, and my approach to seasonal cleanses is to work on enhancing the systems of detoxification.
The goals of a good spring cleanse should be to eliminate foods that increase the burden on the liver; remove or limit possible allergens; provide support for organs of detoxification; and improve digestion and bowel transit time.
A spring cleanse does not need to be onerous. While some are as short as three days, 15-20 days is optimal, and a month is ideal. Each person should assess what is possible in their specific circumstances. A cleanse should never be stressful and can be accomplished by the following:
- Eating at least 6-8 portions of fresh organic vegetables and fruit daily – favouring vegetables. Vegetables provide the nutrients your liver needs to do its job. Vegetables from the brassica family such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale and cabbage are excellent as they stimulate the phases of liver detoxification. Smoothies are a great way to pile in plenty of nutrients while keeping in the plant fibre.
- Focus on eating plenty of fibre-rich foods to establish good digestive elimination. Oats, lentils, chickpeas, brown rice and quinoa are excellent sources of fibre and B vitamins. Legumes also provide a broad spectrum of amino acids, so are great replacements for animal protein during this period.
- Drink 1.5-2 litres of filtered water daily. Decaffeinated teas such as fennel, ginger, nettle, mint and liquorice count as part of this total and nourish the detoxification organs.
- Eat portions of raw food daily. These contain powerful enzymes that help you digest food more easily.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, smoking and common food allergens such as dairy and gluten. All of these can aggravate your digestive system and increase the toxic load on your liver.
For some people, the start of a detox can be a little uncomfortable. Withdrawal from caffeine can result in headaches and, as your body starts to release toxins, you may feel fatigued and have flu-like symptoms. This is normal, however it should not last longer than 3-4 days.
Ideally, start tapering off your caffeine, alcohol and sugar a few days before you begin a detox in earnest. That way there is less of a shock to the system and you will be much more likely to see the whole programme through.
Adding nutritious whole foods won’t damage your health, but if you are on any medications or are pregnant, you should make your GP aware that you are changing your diet.
Claire graduated in Nutritional Therapy from the College of Naturopathic Medicine (CNM), where students train for successful careers in Nutrition, Herbal Medicine, Acupuncture, Homeopathy, or Naturopathy, based on a holistic, natural approach to health. For information on CNM Diploma Courses, Postgraduate Courses and Short Courses in a range of additional therapies, visit: www.naturopathy-uk.com
Claire’s website is: www.claireclerkin.com
With many thanks to Claire for this informative article. The detoxification process in the body is essential to ensure the ridding of potentially harmful toxins. Claire has given us a brilliant insight into how the process works and techniques to enhance the efficiency of your own detoxification.
If you have any questions regarding this article, any of the health topics raised, or any other health matters please do contact me (Amanda) by phone (01684310099) or email ([email protected]) at any time.
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