Erica is our in-house naturopath here at AlkaWay. She keeps us all healthy and educated. Here’s her ‘take’ on spring detox. Worth a read!
Spring, an ideal time to detox
By: Erica Whisson (B Nat, B Com)
During winter we naturally tend to eat heavier and more warming foods. They are the foods we need to stay healthy, especially those in colder climes. We have evolved to do this. During our evolution (especially the ice age) and other times of food scarcity such strategies increased our chances of survival through a long cold winter.
However, when it gets to spring our need for warming foods decreases. By the end of September, many of us are feeling a little sluggish, and not at all like the vibrantly alive active person we want to become summer.
This makes early spring an ideal time to detox and kick start the body’s metabolism.
Any healthy detox programme looks at making long term lifestyle changes, and not just a couple of weeks of “being good”; however often those couple of weeks of being good are a great motivator to a healthier lifestyle.
In terms of a detox diet, it can be as simple as If it comes in a packet or a tin, you don’t eat it.
The layout of most supermarkets makes this easy. If it’s around the edges then it is probably OK, if it is in the aisles, it probably isn’t. This means you eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables (seasonal of course), nuts and seeds as you want. One mistake many people make when detoxifying, is to not eat sufficient protein.
Protein is essential for (among other things) the liver to function, for the body to heal, for the immune system and for brain function. The ideal amount of protein per day is not something that can easily be ascertained and there is no magic amount. For many people about 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight is sufficient. However, if you get a lot of exercises – especially strength training – then requirements are higher. If you are carrying extra weight, then basing protein amount on lean muscle mass or ideal weight is often a better indication.
The choice of protein is also something that gives rise to contention. For every positive of a protein source, there are negatives, so it is important to find the ideal protein for the individual.
Most non-animal sources of protein are deficient in at least one essential amino acid, so protein combining is essential.
Legumes are a great source of protein, but for those with a history of, or predisposition to thyroid issues, they can exacerbate any problems.
Soy is one of the most genetically modified and highly sprayed crops cultivated, so foods like tofu, unless organic, are often not a good choice for a detox protein. You’re trying to lose toxins, not add them!
Red meat is high in saturated fats, and though saturated fats (in moderation) are not as unhealthy as we have been led to believe, red meat, even if organic is usually not the ideal protein when detoxifying. It just makes the digestive system have to work harder.
Seafood would be ideal in terms of amino acid balance and nutrients, as well as being easy on the digestive system, if our waters weren’t so polluted, so only eating smaller fish, the ones at the bottom of the food chain that haven’t accumulated as many toxins is a better choice.
For most people, a protein supplement is not required and you should be able to get sufficient protein from the diet. However, if you are exercising and losing muscle, or recovering from exercise more slowly than normal then supplementation can be indicated.
Another group that may benefit from protein supplementation are those who are eating more than they should, or constantly feel hungry. Protein is more filling and leaves you satiated for longer than carbohydrates. So a protein shake between meals is ideal. For these people, rice and pea proteins are usually a better option than whey protein. This is because whey protein has been found to increase the hormone Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) which has been found to impede weight loss in people who are not getting sufficient exercise. (Milk – The promoter of chronic Western diseases Bodo C. Melnik *Medical Hypotheses Volume 72, Issue 6, June 2009, Pages 631–639)
As simple as it sounds, one of the most important parts of a detox is to drink sufficient good quality purified water. There is no point in trying to remove toxins from the body if, with every mouthful of water, you are retoxifying.
The adequately purified water that also has an increased amount of molecular hydrogen can certainly aid in a detox regime. Reducing the amount of chlorine, chloramines, fluoride, heavy metals and organic pesticides from the water before drinking it is an obvious choice.
Hydrogen Rich Water
Increasing the intake of Molecular Hydrogen is not so straight forward. Hydrogen is, after all, the most abundant molecule in the universe. Molecular Hydrogen, consumed through drinking hydrogen-rich water has been found to be an antioxidant, specific for the hydroxyl radical and peroxynitrite – 2 very active, though thankfully short-lived free radicals that the body has no other defence against. Excess levels of these free radicals can damage virtually all types of macromolecules: carbohydrates, nucleic acids, lipids and amino acids; are implicated in neurological autoimmune diseases and cannot be eliminated by an enzymatic reaction but require antioxidants.
Drinking Hydrogen-rich Water can help to minimise the effects of these free radicals.
molecular hydrogen also increases the levels of some of the most important antioxidant enzymes the body produces, such as superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase and catalase. These enzymes help keep the levels of free radicals in check and help prevent oxidative stress and the health conditions associated with it, such as heart disease, organ damage, age-related memory decline, cancers and chronic fatigue. In addition, these enzymes are an integral part of the body’s natural detoxification processes. They are essential to modify toxins into a form the body can easily eliminate.
As part of a detox regime increasing molecular hydrogen, and through this increase, the body’s natural antioxidant defences, allows more of the bodies resources to be used for healing and eliminating toxins.
More on Detox Supplements
As part of a spring detox, a supplement to help improve digestive function, support the liver and assist the body in eliminating toxins from the digestive tract through increasing peristaltic action and eliminating parasites can be invaluable in increasing vitality and overcoming that sluggish feeling. Ingredients to look for include the herbs wormwood, black walnut, pumpkin seed, milk thistle, olive leaf, pau d’arco, gentian, barberry, garlic, thyme and cloves. (Such supplements should be used short term only).
Garlic, thyme and cloves are all anti-microbial, thus can be beneficial in eliminating harmful bacteria in the digestive tract. Wormwood, black walnut, pau d’arco are used as anti-parasitic herbs which also increase the action of the large intestine and have a laxative effect. A laxative can be an important part of any detox as sluggish bowel motions gives more time for faeces to ferment in the bowel which increases the toxic load on the body. Some fermentation is essential for good bacteria, but too much can be detrimental.
St Mary’s thistle, pumpkin seed, garlic and barberry may help to improve liver function and improve the levels of liver enzymes thus improving the ability of the liver to eliminate functions. St Mary Thistle, also known as Milk Thistle, is a well-researched herb for improving overall liver health and potentially helping restore liver cell function after damage.
Gentian is used to stimulate digestion, specifically the release of gastric acid and digestive enzymes. This increase in function can help to increase nutrient absorption and the overall action of the digestive tract.
So… to kick start your vitality a spring detox is strongly recommended.
For most people eating only fresh foods and drinking only water and herbal teas, and taking a short course of a supplement that can stimulate the body’s natural detoxification systems is sufficient. To optimise efforts, the water should be hydrogen-rich and purified, the foods should be seasonal, local and organic, the supplement should support all the systems of elimination. If done properly a detox should not have side effects. If you do have the frequent side effects of headache, nausea and fatigue then you are probably detoxing too quickly and intensely. In this instance slow down everything you are doing, simply starting with drinking the best water is usually the best approach.
Of course, anyone with an existing health condition should consult a health professional before beginning any detox regime.
Answers to a couple of frequently asked detox questions
Is a detox is a waste of time and money if the body does this anyway?
Some people will attest that the body will naturally eliminate toxins and that a liver function test will identify any need to do anything to improve liver function. However, very rarely does the liver suddenly become damaged. Like every health condition, it takes time to develop. Thus it is often beneficial to give the liver some support a few times a year, depending on your lifestyle, to prevent major health conditions.
Should children detox?
In an ideal world, no. Children have not had the years of accumulating toxins and thus detoxing is not required. However, many of us live in a polluted world and our foods have higher levels of toxins than the body can cope with. For children with a less than ideal diet, and living in polluted areas a gentle detox may be indicated. For most children, eliminating all fluids other than water and mild herbal teas such as chamomile, and increasing fruit and vegetables (ideally organic) and ensuring sufficient good quality protein is sufficient. For children with conditions that may be associated with toxicity (such as some skin conditions, allergies, or fatigue) then a more complete approach may be required and a visit to a naturopath is strongly recommended.
What are good herbal teas to assist in a detox?
Good quality chamomile is a gentle and effective detox herb. Loose-leaf chamomile, with the petals, still attached will generally work better than teabags as the herb in the teabags has been processed a lot more and some of the therapeutic value is diminished. Another good herb is dandelion root (the leaf is a diuretic) which can stimulate the liver. For a combination of herbs try yellow dock, burdock, nettle and maybe a little ginger.
Garlic has antimicrobial, antiviral and antibacterial properties.
J Tradit Complement Med. 2012 Jul-Sep; 2(3): 192–201.
Recent Research Progress on Garlic (大蒜 dà suàn) as a Potential Anticarcinogenic Agent Against Major Digestive Cancers
Rajasekaran Raghu, Kuan-Hung Lu, and Lee-Yan Sheen*
Wormwood, as the name suggests has traditionally been used to eliminate parasites such as worms from the digestive tract. It does this by increasing the rate and strength of the contractions of the intestines causing parasites to dislodge from intestinal walls. This also has the effect of increasing the removal of wastes from the intestine.
Black walnut is used to eliminate parasites, including worms and also as a laxative. (http://www.ndhealthfacts.org/wiki/Juglans_nigra)
Pumpkin seeds have been found to have antioxidant actions, and also to improve liver enzyme function thus improving the ability of the liver to eliminate toxins. (In Vitro antioxidative activity of pumpkin seed (Cucurbita pepo) protein isolate and its In Vivo effect on alanine transaminase and aspartate transaminase in acetaminophen-induced liver injury in low protein fed rats. C. Z. Nkosi, A. R. Opoku and S. E. Terblanche Phytotherapy Research Volume 20, Issue 9, pages 780–783, September 2006)
(Advances in the Use of Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) Janice Post-White, Integr Cancer Ther June 2007 vol. 6 no. 2 104-109)