Author: Joanna Falcone
Spring is a great time to lift your body’s spirits- a time of rejuvenation and rebirth. Free yourself from the burdens of a long winter and emerge revitalized. Winter often steers us away from our usual intake of fresh produce and whole foods. It happens, but if poor food choices persist, the body rebels.
Detox diets have been a Hollywood fad for years. However, they aren’t just for young starlets or leading men. Detoxifying one’s body is a promising way of getting back on that wagon and flushing bodily toxins acquired through dietary and lifestyle contaminants, and spring is the perfect time to turn over a new, freshly blossoming, leaf.
What is a detox?
A detox, short for detoxification, removes possibly harmful substances from the body. Foods, herbal supplements, and fasting are common ways to cleanse one’s self from environmental and dietary toxins. These may include inhaled chemicals, resulting from bad air quality and smoking, as well as ingested ones such as pesticides, preservatives, excessive saturated fats, and the infamous MSG (found in many processed foods).These corporeal criminals clog up the body’s systems and prevent the everyday wastes from being flushed out, becoming detrimental mainly to the colon, liver, and kidneys.
With the colon for instance, when junk food enters the body, the brain signals the digestive system that more work needs to be done in order to break it down. Upon hearing this, the colon secretes a layer of mucus that covers the colonic walls, protecting them from the intensified digestive process. But, if junk food becomes a regular part of the one’s diet, the mucus continues to accumulate as more and more junk food is consumed.
A new mucus layer forms before the previous one has time to be flushed out. The accumulated mucus can become 3/8 to ½ an inch thick and as hard as rubber, making it hard for even the healthy foods to move through the colon. This leads to indigestion and constipation.
How do I know if it’s time for a detox?
If vital organs like the colon aren’t functioning at optimal level, the body will provide additional indicators. Some of the more common ones include fatigue, skin ailments (acne, eczema, and psoriasis), bad breath, indigestion, and muscle pain. Ultimately, the accumulation of toxins can lead to disease, inefficient metabolism, hormonal imbalance, and on the more extreme end, cancer. If more than one of the aforementioned symptoms sounds familiar, perhaps it’s time to try a detox.
What can I eat?
There are many different options when it comes to picking out the best route for detoxifying your body. Diets range from basic raw foods to lemonade, honey, and cayenne pepper only for 2 weeks. A standard detox diet revolves around the following foods and is prescribed to last 1 week to 10 days:
- Whole foods that are high in fiber (grains, nuts, seeds, etc.)
- Organic food and drink because they contain no pesticides
- Fruits and Vegetables in high quantities
- Lots of water
- Certain herbal supplements such as Licorice, Milk Thistle, and Psyllium seed
Contrastingly, it will tell you to avoid:
- Alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, drugs
- Processed foods and refined flours/sugars
- Certain supplements due to additives
- Meat and Dairy
The diet will increase the frequency of urination and bowel movements, which, in turn, cleanses the body of built up contaminants.
As spring brings about budding verdure, it’s a great time to capitalize on leafy green vegetables and incorporate them into your detox. Arugula, chard, and mustard greens are just a few members of spring’s host of lush and flourishing flora. Fresh, local fruits may be more difficult to find, but spring is prime season for strawberries, rhubarb, and pineapple, all high in vitamin C.
There are also herbal supplements that claim to assist in or completely facilitate a bodily detox. An herb like Milk Thistle is helpful because it contains a powerful antioxidant, which defends the body from free radicals. Free radicals are chemicals in the body that destroy cells in a process known as oxidation. When the body is exposed to chemicals like those found in exhaust fumes, cigarette smoke, and some medications, the amount of free radicals increases.
Secondly, the silymarin in Milk Thistle further protects the liver from toxins and improves its overall function. As the liver is the chemical processing plant of the body, any boost in its performance is going to improve the body’s ability to flush out harmful chemicals. Milk Thistle is available at any natural food store and in most supermarkets’ vitamin section.
What are the benefits and side effects?
Important benefits of detoxifying your body include clearer skin, improved digestion, greater ability to focus and concentrate, as well as boosted energy and metabolism. Detox diets are also a great way to jump start a healthier lifestyle in the long run. There are some side effects to detoxing. Headaches and lethargy may arise due to a decrease in caloric intake.
Also, for someone that is more dependent on caffeine, tiredness and irritability are common as withdrawal sets in. Diarrhea can occur because of increase fiber consumption. Constipation can also occur if that fiber consumption is not met with plenty of fluids. Weight loss does typically occur, but it is mostly a loss in water weight and some will be regained upon the diet’s conclusion. Ultimately, your body will feel rejuvenated and healthier overall.
Is a detox right for me?
There are those who should not partake in a dietary cleanse. Women who are pregnant or nursing are advised to abstain along with those with anemia, eating disorders, diabetes, kidney disease, thyroid disease, autoimmune disease, cancer, terminal illness, certain genetic diseases, and other chronic conditions unless under the supervision of a health care provider.
Ultimately, a detox diet provides you with a clean slate. Don’t get down if your pantry has forgotten its usual wholesome residents and played host to some unwelcome guests this winter. You can get back on track and do your body a real favor by ridding it of harmful toxins, just in time for the warm weather!