By Noonie Zand Goodarzi of www.eatupyourgreens.org Detoxification is actually a medical term for a series of chemical reactions that occur naturally in the body.
It is basically what our body chemistry does 24.7 to rid itself of unwanted chemicals. The term detox however has now been hijacked as a marketing term and has become so over-used that orthodox medicine has piped up, saying that detoxification programmes are pointless and/or dangerous because our bodies are continuously detoxing anyway. Now, even though your liver is doing its job regardless and even though some of the so-called detoxes written about are not to be recommended, there is no doubt in my mind that cleansing your body from time to time – by cutting out foods that are harmful and by increasing foods that encourage the excretion of unwanted toxins - is absolutely essential for our long-term health. The fact is, we live in a toxic world and we all have to deal with an enormous amount of toxins on a daily basis regardless of how healthy we think we are.…from the air that we breathe, the food and water we ingest, the medications we take, the creams and potions we put on our skin. That is not to mention the toxins that come from within us, such as those produced in the body as by-products of metabolism. All these toxins need to be dealt with too. Detoxification is taken care of mainly by the liver – the workhorse of the human body – but the kidneys, the skin, the gall bladder and the gut all play an important role. It’s a complicated process that depends on your nutritional status, your toxic load, your gut health and so much more. Keeping it simple, here’s 10 key things that you can do to support one of your body’s most important systems:
- First and foremost, reduce your exposure to toxins by using natural cleaning and beauty products, reducing time in traffic, quitting smoking, avoiding storing (particularly acidic and fatty) food in plastic or cling film, filtering water and limiting dairy intake. Food is the major source of exposure to toxins so choose organic if possible. Fruit and vegetables most contaminated by pesticide residues include apples, peaches, strawberries, grapes, cucumbers, potatoes and green beans. The least contaminated include onions, peas, avocado, cabbage, kiwi, grapefruit, asparagus and sweet corn.
- Avoid acid-forming foods such as red meats (and excess animal fats of all kinds), processed foods, trans and hydrogenated fats, sugar, refined foods, fried foods and wheat, as they all put a strain on the liver. Eat more alkaline foods (fruits and vegetables) as they not only provide antioxidants that protect the cells from toxic damage, but they also alkalise the body and enhance the excretion of toxins.
- Choose healthy sources of protein daily. Protein is generally acid-forming, but a little is also essential for detoxification processesas it supplies amino acids to make substances which bind and eliminate toxins. Protein sources are lentils, soya, beans, nuts, seeds, fish and organic chicken.
- Avoid or reduce coffee, alcohol, paracetamol and other non-essential medications (if safe to do so) as they increase the burden on the liver. If you do drink alcohol, you should have at least three days per week without it to give your liver time to recover.
- Eat a daily helping of cruciferous vegetables,like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts. They contain a substance called indole-3-carbinol that helps balance the two stages of liver detoxification, plus they particularly help the body eliminate excess oestrogen – associated with a decreased risk of oestrogen-related breast cancer.
- Increase fibre: Fibre is needed to absorb toxins and to prevent constipation. In the intestines, the bile and its toxic load are absorbed by fibre and excreted via the faeces. Water-soluble fibres, such as pectin, can bind with toxic heavy metals and promote excretion.
- Include chelating agents in the diet: These are compounds that can chemically bond with toxic elements and eliminate them via urine or faeces. There are many chelating foods such as garlic, chlorella, vitamin C, kelp, pectin and sulphur containing foods (such as organic beef and poultry, eggs, lentils, garlic, onions, kale and beans).
- Try adding fermented foods such as live yoghurt, miso or fermented vegetables into your diet. These contain beneficial bacteria which are potent detoxifiers, capable of drawing out toxins from the body. They also help keep the gut healthy by keeping the right balance of good bacteria.
- Increase bile flow. Bile is made by the liver and stored in the gallbladder and acts as a safe carrier of toxins out of the body. If bile flow is inhibited – often caused by impaired liver function due to high alcohol consumption – toxins stay in the liver for longer with damaging effects. Certain foods stimulate bile flow so include them in your diet daily: beetroot (including its leaves) or beetroot juice, watercress, artichokes, radishes, bitter leafy salad greens such as dandelion, chicory, endive and rocket.
- Consider saunas, dry skin brushing and Epsom salt baths to encourage detoxification through the skin.