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Is It Time to Detox?

Health + Wellness

Are you feeling a little sluggish, even though spring is finally here?

The truth is, we face toxins daily—out in the world and at home—from chemical flame retardants in our couches and carpets to toxic chemicals in consumer products, and from BPA in our food cans to toxic skincare products, and, of course a number of daily assaults on fresh air and clean water.

Drink two liters of water each day. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

How can you tell if you are experiencing toxic overload? If other underlying conditions have been ruled out, then here are a few symptoms you might be experiencing: constipation, bad breath, an extra sensitivity to smells and a difficulty in shedding pounds. Other clues include muscle or joint pain, sluggishness, difficulty concentrating, headaches and mood swings.

Rodale offers a quiz, adapted from The Detox Prescription by Woodson Merrell, MD, to see if a major detox is in order.

Some swear by detox methods—whether it’s called a cleanse, a fast or a diet. But do detox diets truly offer any health benefits? According to the experts at Mayo Clinic, detoxification diets are popular—and some individuals report feeling more energetic and focused—but they're not scientifically proven. The body can be quite capable on its own of cleansing toxins through the kidneys and liver. Also, one can experience side effects from a detox diet, from fatigue to dehydration. And, of course, get approval from your physician before beginning any detox program, or taking any herbs or dietary supplements.

There are fads and there are tricks, like any special diets, but if you are serious about lightening the toxic load on your body, here are some ideas for you to consider.

First, when is the best time to detox?

Basically all seasons but winter, when our bodies are tired and cold. Here is why spring is a good time to detox:

  • Spring brings regeneration; it is a good time to refresh our systems.
  • Waste builds up during the winter, so we need to clean out our bodies.
  • According to Chinese thought, spring is the time to cleanse and nourish the liver.
  • The transition from winter into spring is a great time to work towards losing weight and cleanse accumulated toxins from the body.

So how do you know which detox program is right for you?

Every Diet lists dozens of detox diets, raw food cleanses and juice fasts to consider. A basic detox diet is recommended to include organic food and drink; high mix of vegetables and fruit; two liters of water each day; and whole unprocessed foods like grains, nuts and seeds. A detox diet should eliminate alcohol, caffeine, tobacco and drugs; processed and refined foods; added sugars; and certain supplements due to additives.

AARP offers the following tips for a gentle detox diet, which should be followed for at least two weeks, gradually adding back your regular foods in moderation:

1. Drink at least eight to 10 glasses of filtered water every day. The kidneys rid waste products from our bodies and water plays a key supporting role.

2. Eliminate white flour and white sugar.

3. Eat six or eight little meals every day of whole unprocessed foods that include vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains.

4. Each of those meals should include a serving of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts. Garlic, onions and cilantro all contain properties that aid detoxification.

5. Eat real fruit, rather than drinking fruit juice, which is often high in sugar.

6. Unless you are a vegetarian, include small portions of lean animal proteins and fish. If possible, organic and pasture-raised meats and dairy products are recommended to avoid ingesting additional hormones or antibiotics.

7. Avoid stimulants, such as caffeine.

8.  No drugs or alcohol.

9. If you suspect you might have food sensitivities, try eliminating wheat/gluten, eggs, dairy, yeast, soy and corn products, and see if you feel noticeably better after a few weeks.

10. Take a daily multivitamin.

Gaiam offers a Detox 101, with their five favorite detox diets—from a simple fruit and veggie detox to a juice cleanse—or, something for everyone.

Gaiam also offers the following 10 diet, supplements and lifestyle practices to cleanse your body daily, even after a detox diet has been completed:

1. Eat plenty of fiber, including brown rice and organically-grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Beets, radishes, artichokes, cabbage, broccoli, spirulina, chlorella and seaweed are excellent detoxifying foods.

2. Cleanse and protect the liver by taking herbs such as dandelion root, burdock and milk thistle, and drinking green tea.

3. Take vitamin C, which helps the body produce glutathione, a liver compound that drives away toxins.

4. Drink at least two quarts of water a day.

5. Breathe deeply to allow oxygen to circulate more completely through your system.

6. Transform stress by emphasizing positive emotions.

7. Practice hydrotherapy by taking a very hot shower for five minutes, allowing the water to run on your back. Follow with cold water for 30 seconds. Do this three times, and then get into bed for 30 minutes.

8. Sweat in a sauna so your body can eliminate wastes through perspiration.

9. Dry-brush your skin or try detox foot spas/foot baths to remove toxins through your pores. Special brushes are available at natural products stores.

10. What is the most important way to detoxify? “Exercise," says Peter Bennett, N.D., co-author of 7-Day Detox Miracle. "Yoga or jump-roping are good. One hour every day." Also try Qigong, a martial-arts based exercise system that includes exercises specifically for detoxifying or cleansing, as well as many other exercises with specific health benefits.

How has detoxing made you feel? Any steps you’ve tried that you’d recommend or tell others to avoid?

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