Over the last few months we have been exploring food allergies and sensitivities, the symptoms, treatments and knock-on effects they have on our health. If you would like to catch up on any of those articles :
Part 1: Food Allergy or Sensitivity – What’s The Difference?
Part 2: How Do I Know If My Child Has A Food Allergy?
Part 3: Back to School – 4 Steps to Keeping Your Allergic Child Safe
Part 4: The Problem with Wheat – Allergy, Sensitivity or Celiac?
Part 5: Why Going Dairy Free Is Such a Challenge & What to Avoid
Part 6: Food Sensitivities in Children: Why symptoms are so often missed
Part 7: What is the Biggest Cause of Food Sensitivities? Stress
Part 8: Are Food Sensitivities Behind Your Infertility?
Part 9: Food Sensitivities & the Thyroid: Graves’ and Hashimoto’s
Part 10: How Food Sensitivities can Trigger Weight Gain
Part 11: Surviving the Holidays with Food Allergies
Part 12: Top 5 Ways to Minimize Your Food Sensitivities This Holiday Season
In the final part of this series, I want to talk about how to detox your system to return your body to a state of optimal health. This is especially relevant at this time of year as we approach the end of the holiday season. We have all had our share of sweets, rich and fatty foods and perhaps partaken in a few too many cocktails. In addition, many of us have been traveling, recovering from the inevitable colds and flus that circulate at this time of year and, if you have little ones excited for the holidays, you may also be running on reduced sleep and increased caffeine consumption. All of these over-indulgences will lead to us feeling tired, irritable, achy and often fat so, come the New Year, many of us are ready for a detox.
In addition to helping shed the excess holiday pounds, detoxification is an importance process in keeping the body healthy and helping reduce our risks for cancer and heart disease. However, the word ‘detox’ is used so frequently and can mean different things to different people so, in this article I aim to demystify what it is, what it means to body and the basic steps you can take to detox from home.
Detoxification – What Does It Really Mean?
Detoxification refers to the steps the body takes to break down, metabolize and eliminate substances. These substances can be from external sources such as food, beverages, medicines and skin-care products, or internal substances like hormones and breakdown products of protein. When we think about detoxifying, most of us think about the liver and, while the liver is the principle detoxification organ, there are four other organs that have an equally important role in keeping our body healthy: the lungs, kidneys, large intestine and skin. Let’s look at each of them in turn:
The liver is the primary organ for metabolizing and breaking down any substance we eat, drink, inhale or apply to our skin. In Chinese medicine it is referred to as the “General of the body”. It makes the decisions on how, “metabolically”, substances should be broken down and eliminated. This is a great imagery for how a complicated organ can be easily understood. Every substance that is brought, via the blood, to the liver will be directed to one of 7 pathways to be broken down and turned into an inactive or less toxic form before being prepared to be shipped off for elimination via the kidneys and intestines. It is optimizing and improving these 7 pathways that is the basis of any liver detox.
The yogis have it right, it is all about the breath. This may sound simple but proper breathing is essential for health. Optimizing a full, deep inhalation and a slow, deep exhalation is one of the best ways to keep the body healthy. When we inhale we are replenishing the body with fresh oxygen and when we exhale we release carbon dioxide. As well as carbon dioxide, cortisol – one of our major stress hormones – is also excreted through our breath. Eliminating carbon dioxide and cortisol are vital for detoxifying. Sometimes the simplest changes can have the most profound changes on the body. When we practice slow, rhythmic breathing we balance our blood chemistry, reduce cortisol, lower our blood pressure and slow our heart rate.
The job of the kidneys is to filter out all the by-products the liver has dumped into the blood. Staying hydrated provides the kidneys with enough fluid to flush these toxins out of the body in our urine.
The Large Intestine (Colon)
The job of the large intestine is to remove all the physical waste from the food we eat. In addition to food wastes, other toxins and metabolic by-products are dumped into the intestines through the bile. Bile is produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder and its main purpose is to digest fats. Bile is also what gives stool its dark brown color. The best way to keep the large intestine detoxifying is to have daily bowel movements and for some people this may be one of the key aspects to helping their body eliminate waste. The concern is that if the stool sits too long in the large intestine some of the toxic wastes can be reabsorbed back into the body. This is a particular problem when doing ‘heavy metal detoxification’. When heavy metals are pulled out of the fat tissue you don’t want them to be reabsorbed into the body because they sat too long in the large intestine before being eliminated. In any detox protocol, either a mild cleanse or a more intense medically guided detox, keeping the colon moving is of significant importance. This is why all detox formulas and protocols have a fiber supplement.
The skin is the largest organ in the body and has a significant role to play in the elimination of toxic substances – through our sweat. Sweating is one of the ways the body can eliminate toxins from the body but some people are not very good at it and need to find ways to increase it. Exercise is one of the most common ways and increasing physical activity increases your circulation and increases sweating. Hot yoga is an amazing way to detox. However, if you have never tried a hot yoga class and would like to experience its detox effects I do recommend easing into it. When I first started doing hot yoga I would get a headache after each class. It took a while to work my tolerance up so I could handle a full class where I am drenched after intense exercise. Another option is sauna therapy and many detox clinics will add exercise and sauna therapy into their treatments. In addition, taking oral Niacin (Vitamin B3 ) will promote sweating. Many of these detox techniques need to be started slowly so as not to cause a big detox reaction, for example, Niacin has a facial flushing effect and if you are not use to it, this can be quite uncomfortable the first time you try taking it. The first time I took oral Niacin and then stepped into a hot sauna, I left feeling worse than when I first stepped into the sauna.
How to Detox
There are many different ways to do a detox and the health food store shelfs are loaded with powders and pills that all promote a liver detox or cleanse. It is important to be aware that there is a difference between a simple cleanse and medical detox – a medical detox should be done under the care of your physician but a 10-14 day cleanse can, for most people, be done alone. These are my basic guidelines to include in a post-holiday detox:
Eliminate the following from your diet:
- Refined carbohydrates
- Saturated oils
- Artificial colors & sweeteners
- Processed and junk food
- Heavier animal meats with higher amounts of fat such as beef & pork
- Any foods you know you are allergic or sensitive to
Consume the following (daily)
- Water – stay hydrated by drinking at least 64 fluid ounces of water a day to help the kidneys flush out toxins and to aid regular bowel movements
- A fiber supplement, a magnesium supplement and a probiotic to keep the bowels moving
- Anti-oxidants – Vitamins A, C E plus zinc to protect the tissues from damage
- A liver detox formula – either in powder or capsule form to optimize the 7 pathways of liver detoxification
- Organic fruit and vegetables
- White meat such as chicken or white fish (shellfish and heavier fatty fishes many have more heavy metals in them )
- Bean and legumes
- Sleep – get as much rest as possible during a detox. At least 8- 10 hours sleep a night
- Sit in a quiet environment for at least 10 minutes a day and observe and practice slow, steady breathing for a count of 8 in and 8 out in order to optimize lung detox
- Sweat – exercise, take a sauna or a hot bath to encourage your skin to sweat out the toxins
- Avoid emotional stressors during this time (emotions can be toxic too)
Life is a balancing act between times when we are extremely health-conscious and take impeccable care of our body and the times when we indulge on the foods, alcoholic beverages and tasty desserts and, barring any serious food allergies or sensitivities, the damage done by these indulgences should be minimal. Health is a journey and, over the course of our lives, we are exposed to an exorbitant amount of pollutants, in our air, water, soil and food. Health is maintained by how well our bodies are able to defend themselves and excrete the large volume of toxins that enter the body every day. When the body is not able to deal with these toxins there is a backlog and this increases the damage to our cells and to our DNA. It is this damage, in addition to our genetic makeup, that increases our risks for cancer, heart disease and general ill-health. The good news is, there are steps we can take to help minimize these risks and keep us on a path to health and periodic detox is one of the ways we can actively do this. If you are interested in finding out more, or if you would like to do a candida or food allergy cleanse under my supervision, please book an appointment today.
Thank you for following this series on food allergies and sensitivities, I hope you have enjoyed it and found it useful. This is, not only the last blog of the series but also the last of 2015, join us in the New Year for our new series of articles on Fertility.
Wishing everyone health and happiness in the New Year.