Detox is usually a word that we associate with the post-Christmas slump when we promise ourselves a ‘new you’ to go with the New Year, but here, Lifehouse Spa and Hotel’s naturopath, Sue Davis, explains why a fast before the feast is the real secret to a Happy Christmas!
In essence a detox is all about removing the normal workload from the digestive system so that the detoxifying organs can dig a bit deeper and eliminate old stored toxins and waste. A detox or the more preferable term ‘dietary cleanse’ generally involves setting aside some quiet time to allow the body’s detoxifying and eliminatory processes a chance to restore themselves back to optimum function, rather like returning to ‘factory setting’. The process usually involves following a structured protocol incorporating lighter but nutrient dense fresh foods, fresh juices and additional elements such as the use of clay, dry skin brushing and supportive treatments to allow the body to cleanse, release and regenerate.
Typical symptoms highlighting the need to detox include dark circles under the eyes, bloating, spots that won’t go away, poor skin tone, bad breath, nausea at the thought of eating breakfast, the inability to lose weight, headaches and insomnia to name a few.
There are a number of basic elements that are vital for a proper detox …
There is a school of thought with the view detox programmes are waste of time as the body can efficiently handle all toxins in the body without the need for special protocols. This would be a perfectly acceptable position to take if there was no pollution to breathe in, pesticides and additives in our food, chemicals in our water supply, alcohol, smoking or stress in our daily lives. The liver is a very efficient detoxification organ but it does struggle with modern lifestyles and can be damaged when overloaded. The film ‘Supersize Me’ clearly demonstrates that our bodies are not invisible when it comes to poor dietary and lifestyle choices. Equally, cleansing is nothing new and forms an important part of many religions as well as being central to spiritual practices and yoga. Lightening the dietary load holds a long history as mankind’s most ancient healing system with Hippocrates, the father of early medicine, prescribing fasting and dietary cleansing as an important part of his patient’s treatment protocols. Another common misconception about detox is the word itself as it has connotations of drug rehabilitation. Therefore we prefer the use of the term ‘dietary cleansing’, but most people will generally relate to detox as something they need to do in the New Year after over indulging.
A detox prior to the festive period will give the liver and digestive organs a chance to regenerate and cope much better with the onslaught of rich food, alcohol and less sleep. We are much less able to tolerate alcohol when the liver is not working so well so it will come back fighting and working much more efficiently if a cleanse is done prior to this period. Since the benefits far outweigh the negatives it may encourage people to do things a little differently and look after themselves better rather than heading into another year with a thumping head.
Doing regular cleanses (change of season is best) will help keep damaging free radicals to a minimum which will encourage healthy ageing. Equally, an enhanced sense of wellbeing can become addictive naturally leading to a long term healthier lifestyle.
One damage limitation option would be to adopt the 80/20 rule. Eat well and avoid junk food and alcohol for the few days leading up to Christmas and then allow Christmas Day and Boxing Day to be the 20% when you eat and drink whatever you fancy. In fact this is quite a good way to lead a normal week, 80% equals Mon-Fri and 20% equals the weekend. You also tend to appreciate ‘treats’ more when you limit them to the weekend, rather like when we were only allowed sweets as a child on a Friday! Try to eat liver friendly foods on a daily basis; beetroot and carrots help the liver to stay healthy while ample portions of greens including kale, broccoli and spinach are all excellent blood cleansers. The herb Milk Thistle is the best remedy to help with alcohol consumption. Take prior to going out and on return to lessen the effects of a hangover.
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