With the advent of a New Year, many people are looking for ways to shed excess pounds and post-holiday sluggishness. And what better way to cleanse body and mind than with a detox program, right?
Well, not exactly.
While a detox can be a great way to purge the sins of seasons past, there’s a right and wrong way to go about things. Certain popular over-the-counter detox programs and fads have been linked to serious side effects, water intoxication and brain damage – and even death.
So why detox?
Simply put, detoxification describes the body’s way of processing excess materials (generally referred to as “toxins”), and converting them into matter that is excreted by a complex set of glands and organs – namely the gut, liver and kidneys.
Most detox programs incorporate fasting, juicing or an abundance of supplements, leading people to believe they can simply erase the sins of the season through short-term deprivation or set of magic pills.
On the safe side
In general, it’s best to stay away from programs that require you to eliminate all solids from your diet, as these can be potentially dangerous to your health. (And to be honest, any weight loss achieved through that kind of regimen tends to be short-lived).
The cornerstone of any good detox program isn’t about deprivation at all; the body should still receive all of nutrients it needs. The idea is to nourish the body while eliminating unnecessary or excess ingredients caffeine, alcohol, sugars or saturated fats.
There really aren’t any quick fixes to erase the damage you did at aunt Matilda’s buffet. However, there are easy steps you can take right now to reduce your body’s toxic load and help you feel much better in the days and weeks ahead.
Many people rush headlong into detox with a zero-tolerance for caffeine, downing three juices per day, and nibbling on grass and styrofoam disks. And instead of feeling better, they end up feeling nauseated, cranky and, well…like crap.
A detox is a big undertaking, and while elimination is part of the process, so are withdrawal pangs. The feelings can be distracting, or downright overwhelming – which is why most people quit detox before they feel the positive effects.
Instead of all-or-nothing, try weaning slowly off of your habits. Instead of a tall vanilla latte at Starbucks, get a short coffee with skim and a flavour shot. Instead of two glasses of wine at dinner, try having only one – or make it a spritzer by adding soda water. Cut the sugar in your baking by a quarter cup. By the time you start your detox, you’ll have implemented some of the changes your body needs.
Also research the different kinds of ingredients and foods you can swap out in recipes, and stock your pantry accordingly with wholesome and healthy alternatives, which will help you stick to a new diet or eating plan.
Eating less is often a component of detox, but in most cases, they end up hungry because while they’re limiting portion sizes (or just drinking their calories), they negate to increase intake of foods that promote satiety – that feeling of fullness (potatoes, legumes, greek yogurt, eggs, fibrous/leafy fruits and veggies and oatmeal).
Balanced meals contain proteins, fats, fiber and carbohydrates are what the body needs in order to function properly. Insufficient calorie consumption can cause your body to go into “starvation mode” which actually slows your metabolism (and promotes fat storage).
In fact, consuming insufficient calories for more than 48 hours can even cause your body to go into starvation mode. When this happens, your metabolism slows down and your body will hold onto fat instead of burning it.
Although most detox programs incorporate juices or some kind of shake to stave off hunger and symptoms of withdrawal, the best best way to ensure the flushing process is to stay hydrated. Don’t like water? Add a few apple or lemon slices, or get the Right Cup – a scent-infused cup that tricks your brain into thinking you’re actually drinking flavoured water.
Herbal teas are a refreshing way to ward off thirst, and the antioxidants are an added boost!
Supplement, don’t substitute
There are a number of supplements and vitamins that can bolster your detox – and of course, we happen to have a few that will help you with your cleansing regimen. But vitamin and supplements should be just that: supplements.
Some people or programs rely heavily on supplements as a “replacement” for well-balanced and healthy meals, but “integrating whole, healthy foods into your diet on a regular basis can seriously benefit your well-being,“ says Hyperbiotics Julie Hays. As mentioned earlier in the section about eating properly, your body needs the antioxidants, minerals and vitamins that come from the food you eat.
So even if you’re taking handfuls of every imaginable vitamin each morning, you may still have a nutrient deficiency if you aren’t consuming enough of the right foods.
To help your body process its new, nutrient-dense diet, incorporating an effective exercise program into your routine can boost your metabolism and help your body burn off excess fat. Whether it’s a brisk 30-minute walk, or an intense hot yoga class, any activity that gets your heart rate up is key.
Catch up on some Zzzzs
Getting adequate rest is an extremely important part of a detoxification. Sleep promotes the body’s ability to process carbohydrates, and regulate hormone levels associated with weight gain.
If you’re having trouble sleeping on your new route, eliminate caffeine entirely from your diet (that includes chocolate) if you haven’t already done so, or introduce a natural sleep aid to help with attaining some shut-eye.
Also, try scheduling your bedtime! That means an hour before you get your shut-eye, avoid blue light-emitting technology such as computers, TV and yes, your cell phone before going to bed.
While this certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, following these tips as part of a larger detox program can help alleviate symptoms of overindulgence. Before undertaking any detox program or regimen, it’s important that you consult with your physician and research potential health issues and associated side effects.