You may be feeling like your body is in dire need of a DETOX this time of the year: a fresh start, or reboot.
If you ask me, denying yourself a treat or 10 every now and again is a form of self-harm - especially during the last few months of cold, wet miserable weather we’ve all had to struggle through. I’m just about starting to rid myself of all the questionable habits I’ve been lovingly indulging in. Sadly, cake, biscuit, hot chocolate, even Easter egg season is officially over and it’s time to show our bodies some love!
The good news is, no fad detox diets are required. Your liver is perfectly capable of getting the job done; all it needs are the necessary raw materials in order to do it well.
If you are experiencing some of the symptoms below, it may be due to an imbalance in your detoxification pathway.
Headaches, irritability, fatigue, poor concentration
Bloating, excessive wind and constipation
Itchy skin, rashes, acne
Sensitivities to foods like chocolate, cheese and wine; and even
Difficulty in losing weight
It’s easy enough to tell you exactly what you should be eating, but I believe that for you to be able to take control of your health and wellbeing you need to have a basic understanding of why and how your body uses these nutrients. If you take good care of your body, it will take good care of you!
Your liver is responsible for removing substances it no longer needs; many of these can be harmful if they hang around in your system. Some of these are found in alcohol, tea/coffee, medication (including incorrect use of supplements), and the food we eat.
Your liver does this in two phases: first it bags them up, then it throws them out. The first phase working too fast, or the second too slow, is when problems can arise.
How to help your liver out
In the perfect world we would all eat organic food, free of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. We would breathe clean air and live a happy stress-free existence. Alas, this is not realistic. So we can only do our best with what we have. And it can be enough.
A few things to consider:
Let’s talk about poo - how regular are you? This will mean something different to everybody; for me, if I don’t go at least once a day I already start thinking, why? What did I not have enough of, or what did I have too much of? Stool is a waste product and therefore contains toxins that your body needs to eliminate. If left in the colon for too long these toxins can be reabsorbed into the bloodstream which adds further strain to your hard-working liver.
Making sure you eat enough fiber (grains/pulses/vegetables) on a daily basis will help keep your digestive system regular. It can also lower cholesterol, high blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease, while it’s at it.
Drinking sufficient water is essential to the detoxification process, even more so if you find it difficult eating your daily 8-10 portions of vegetables in your diet. When your body does not get enough water through your diet it will take what it needs from other functions and cells which causes stress to your body, and we certainly have enough of that already in our urban lifestyles.
Many of the important nutrients your liver uses, such as B vitamins, vitamins A, C, E, Zinc, Magnesium and Selenium, can be found in abundance in a varied balanced diet. Ensuring you include variety in your diet will increase the chances of providing these.
Different coloured fruits and vegetables contain different vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and therefore ANTIOXIDANTS; we’ve all heard about those. Your liver is particularly keen on cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, sprouts, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, pak choi and spring greens, all packed with the essential nutrients required for the detoxification process.
Eat the right fats.
Healthy or unsaturated fats increase the production of bile essential to the detoxification process. Conversely, saturated fat reduces bile production (meat, full fat dairy products, processed foods). Nuts and seeds also contain many of the other nutrients the liver needs. Try to include 2-3 portions per week of oily fish such as salmon, tuna or mackerel; sprinkle nuts or seeds on your meals; use olive oil, avocado or hummus instead of butter or margarine on bread - olive oil can even be used in making sauces or baking, too..
Protein is made up of amino acids, some which the body can make itself and some which are supplied by the food we eat. AAs are not stored by the body and need to be provided through the diet on a daily basis. Animal products such as meat, fish, dairy and eggs contain all the essential AAs. If you are vegan, it is then more important to include a variety of grains, pulses, nuts and seeds every day.
Be active: sweating helps detoxification through the largest detox organ in the body, your skin!
As for things to avoid:
Your liver has its work cut out for it already, be kind :)
In reality we all know that sugar in any shape or form is bad for our health and completely unnecessary as far as the functioning of our bodies is concerned. In fact, most processed food is full of anti-nutrients that are difficult for our bodies to process and cause a lot of damage and stress to our organs and health. Alcohol, smoking, recreational drugs, diet drinks - all these things should be consumed sparingly, if at all.
Be wary of detox and weight loss programmes advertised: too good to be true usually is! Losing weight too fast releases toxins stored in fat, disrupting the functioning of many organs (especially your liver!) and eventually leading to disease.
Balance is key, and there is nothing wrong with enjoying an alcoholic beverage now and again or eating a 15” pizza to recover.
If you give your body the nutrients it needs to function well then it is fully capable of handling you slipping off the rails now and again without causing irreparable damage.
Sometimes what is bad for your body is good for your soul..
Peace, love and nourishment.
Tip: I find it useful keeping a food diary for a few days if I’ve not been feeling my best. It helps me pinpoint where I may need to make a few adjustments. It doesn't need to be complicated, easy enough to keep a note on your phone. It can be done as you go or you can do a recall at the end of the day. We are so busy all the time, it’s easy to lose touch with what we are putting in our bodies. When reviewing my food diary I feel it is more productive to focus on what I am missing rather than what I am having too much of. Once I start adding more nutrient dense foods that were lacking into my diet, the rest falls away naturally.
Ola is passionate about helping people transform their relationship with food and works with families within her community to help simplify the information overload about nutrition. She provides online nutrition counselling and more about her and her latest offerings can be found at www.nutritional-intelligence.com; on Facebook or Instagram