Re-set and undo the holiday damage and begin this year with a truly clean start.
The Holidays are a lovely time of year…Lots of parties, lots of food and drinking, lots of everything. Holidays sometimes feel like a time of excess. Maybe it’s my culture but since my vacation started I’ve had a party/gathering/dinner date/activity every day…It’s been non stop! I don’t mind; it’s also been very special and memorable. I feel very grateful that I was able to share some time with friends I only get to see once during the year, relatives that came to visit, my family, and even some romance..which is always a must during this time! However, going back to the excess and the necessary cleanse… During the holidays we usually load up on tasty highly caloric/sugary/fattening dishes. Nevertheless by detoxing you can actually halt or prevent the formation of oxidative byproducts which could lead to arterial congestion and other cardiovascular damage.
So how do you detox? First you need to know the process through which your body eliminates toxins and other byproducts. There are four primary routes of elimination: most people know that the intestines are one; but the liver, kidneys, and skin also play important roles.
Let’s talk first about SKIN DETOX because it’s the easiest. Most people ignore their skin or at least don’t give it the proper care it merits. Did you know the skin is actually the largest organ in the whole body? Nourish and care for it; it’s one of our innate barriers of protection against the environment. Now, most people add as a New Year’s resolution working out more or buying gym memberships, etc. Well that’s the first step! Nothing beats busting out a sweat to eliminate those pesky toxins. I mean you can literally feel the toxins evaporating away. Got a sauna at the gym? This can be really helpful too. Studies have shown that stepping into a hot shower or sauna after a workout can provide an extra kick for skin detox. Using sugar scrubs or loofahs can also help exfoliate the skin and remove all that excess dirt. Applying lavender, rose, birch, or buckthorn oil after that hot bath can help rehydrate the skin and restore a natural glow.
Moving on to the internal organs… I cannot stress enough the importance of having a high fiber diet. Fiber is a great detoxifying agent since it absorbs toxins throughout the DIGESTIVE TRACT and eliminates them with each bowel movement. Moreover, having a high fiber diet yearlong can help prevent diverticulitis, constipation, help maintain a steady weight, curve hunger, keep a healthy glycemic index, lower blood pressure, and even improve cholesterol levels.
THINGS YOU CAN DO:
- You can take fiber supplements if you do not want to change your diet; however there are lots of natural (and tasty) sources of fiber.
- Switching to whole wheat or whole grain pastas, breads, and rice is a small step you can take without changing anything else in your diet.
- Other natural fiber sources include beans, split peas, lentils, chickpeas, pears, apples, bulgur, and almonds. Fruits are a great snack – they are small, portable and packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. You can’t go wrong by snacking on these.
Important health note: be sure to increase the amount of fiber in your diet slowly so that your digestive tract can adjust to the change. Adding excess fiber too quickly can lead to gastric upset, gas and, even some diarrhea. If this occurs dial back on the amount of fiber, but don’t give up. Changes do not occur overnight! It is also important to stay hydrated/drink plenty of fluids. Water has a symbiotic relationship with fiber; they help each other in the detoxification process. So keep going and you will notice a change in bowel habits, hunger, and wellbeing in as little as 2 weeks.
- Watercress is a leafy green that you can add to your salads. Besides being a natural diuretic it can stimulate the hepatic enzymes to aid the elimination process. Leafy greens are packed with chlorophyll; a green pigment that also boosts the elimination of environmental toxins throughout the digestive tract.
- Cabbage is another salad worthy ingredient with liver cleansing properties. Now remember that alcohol is metabolized by the liver and after the holidays, this organ is usually working overtime…so go ahead and cleanse it. Cabbage is a great ingredient for asian dishes, or as an extra in mexican salsas and chutneys. Not a fan of international cuisine? Try a traditional slaw salad with some cabbage and carrots… Need a recipe? You’ll find a great one (created by me) here.
- Artichokes are another natural detox food – they promote healthy liver and gallbladder function. They contain cynarin and silymarin which increase bile production, help prevent indigestion, and may even regenerate liver tissue. They are also known to be natural diuretics, therefore they may even help lower blood pressure. Additionally ingredients in artichoke leaves have been shown to reduce cholesterol by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase enzyme. This is the same mechanism that statins (the #1 selling cholesterol lowering drug) use!!! By doing this they lower bad cholesterol (LDL) levels and even raise HDL levels (good cholesterol).
- Beets, green tea, ginger, and garlic also increase the production of detoxifying liver enzymes.
- Herbal bitters have been used for many centuries to stimulate bile production and bile flow. Bile acid is the primary compound that helps flush toxins and chemicals from the body. Once secreted it makes it way to the GI tract and is excreted in feces. Bile acids are made from endogenous cholesterol and its excretion also promotes processing of dietary fat.
- Lemon water: lemons are known to be natural antiseptics, digestive aids, and are full of vitamin C (a powerful antioxidant). When mixed with water it creates an alkaline substance that helps restores the body’s PH balance as well as halting the transformation of toxins into free radicals and other byproducts.
HOW TO DRINK IT:
- If you weigh less then 150 lbs = squeeze 1/2 of a lemon into an 8 oz. glass of water. Drink this mixture 2x a day, the first glass before breakfast in the morning. Drink the second glass before lunch or dinner.
- If you weigh more the 150 lbs. = squeeze the juice of a whole lemon into 8 oz. glass of water and follow the instructions previously stated.
- Mint, rosemary, and dill are great add ins to boost flavor. Cucumber and dill pair lovely together with this lemon-water concoction.
- TIP: prep ahead a lemon-water pitcher and have it in your fridge, this way you will be more encouraged to drink it. For a recipe click here. (pictures below)
- Health note: Past research has shown that flavonoids (a kind of antioxidant found in tea and citrus fruits, leafy greens plus yellow, orange, and red-colored fruits) could help to lower the risk of heart attack in women with Type 2 diabetes, as well as combat insulin resistance and lower cholesterol levels. This new study found that women having a diet rich in flavonoids also had a lower ischemic stroke risk.
Kidneys are the colanders of the body. They filter everything that goes through your bloodstream. To promote this filtering process, which is the key to any detox, drinking dandelion leaf tea has proven to be helpful. This tea is known to work as a diuretic, but it’s chiefly used to cleanse the liver, blood, and digestive systems. It even helps with heartburn and indigestion. The dandelion leaf contains high levels of vitamin A and smaller amounts of vitamins C, D, B, and several trace minerals. It has been used medicinally and nutritionally for centuries as a natural cleansing element.
HOW TO DRINK IT: According to the Livestrong website for liver and digestive treatments the recommended dose of dandelion leaf tea is 3 to 5g of fresh dandelion leaves steeped in a cup of boiling water for 10 minutes and taken 3x per day.
So now that you’ve read this guideline hope you get inspired to try out some of these tips. Remember you don’t have to do them all or go to extremes. Some cleanses require lots of food restriction and sacrifices. For me, the key to being happy and maintaining a healthy weight is having balance. If you overate at dinner, instead of punishing yourself and becoming angry with your decision, take charge. The next day try to replace that negative action (like for example eating fried food or a greasy piece of steak) with a positive one (having an intense workout, eating healthier, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, etc.) And if you indulged a lot after the holidays (more extensive timeframe) try a 2 week or 1 month cleanse…and it doesn’t have to be drastic, just try incorporating these foods, make a lemon water to keep in the fridge, buy some tea, sign up in gym…take small steps…big bold changes are sometimes difficult to maintain but small steps with a clear goal in mind – now that’s attainable.
http://www.fitsugar.com/10-Detox-Foods-6856184?_nz=59 (picture source)