There seems to be a trend at this time of year with people having a dry January and ‘detoxing’. Recently this has sparked controversy in the medical community with scientists claiming our bodies are armed with the natural ability to detoxify so the whole idea of juice cleanses and the like are a con.

Well there are two sides to that coin; yes we have vital organs such as the liver and kidneys which are designed to eliminate any nasties and keep us in good health. But, in my opinion the point of detoxing is not simply to remove any toxins from the body, but to give these organs a rest so that they are up to speed and able to cope better.

Removing elements which can challenge our detoxification pathways (alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and sugar being the obvious ones) can give the body a chance to catch up with itself. Adding in more nutrients through better dietary choices, veg juices, soups, salads and supplements can bring increased energy, better skin, a boost to the immune system and weight loss as you’re providing your body with the raw materials for it to function properly.

I personally prefer to do it properly in spring. It’s the ideal time when your body is preparing for the warmer months. However after weeks of indulgence a little cleanse gives our livers a much deserved rest.

Follow these suggestions for a week to feel good again. You can also try a month to really get that sparkle back.

Things to avoid

The first and most crucial step to feeling healthy again is to remove irritants and stimulants – things that can harm your body and use up vital nutrients.

Caffeine: this taxes your liver and plays havoc with your blood sugar levels. You may think it’s giving you energy but it’s actually wearing you out in the long-term. If you really can’t go cold turkey, limit yourself to two cups of green or white tea a day.

Alcohol and nicotine: we know these aren’t doing us any favours.

Wheat and dairy: both contain large proteins which can irritate the gut. Give your body a break for a week so that your gut can heal after all the rich Christmas foods and drinks.

Sugar: affects your blood sugar levels, making you crave the wrong foods and also causes a surge of hormones, which then have to be cleared by the liver, adding to the burden. The worst is when sugar is combined with fat such as doughnuts, cakes and biscuits so avoid these.

Saturated fat: meat and dairy are acid-forming. It’s important to alkalise your body to support your liver’s detoxification process. The best way to alkalise is to eat lots of fruit and veg and avoid animal products.

Things to include

Water: vital for every cell in the body and crucial for flushing away toxins. You’ll need to drink at least eight glasses a day.

Liver supporting foods: apple, apricots, globe artichoke, asparagus, beetroot, berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, buckwheat, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, black cherries, chicory, cinnamon, coriander, dandelion, endive, fennel, flaxseeds, garlic, ginger, grapes, grapefruit, kale, kiwi, leek, lemon, onion, parsley, papaya, pear, pineapple, radishes, rocket, seaweed, spinach, sesame and sunflower seeds, turmeric, walnut, watercress, wholegrain rice.

Antioxidants: these help remove toxins in the body. They also directly help the liver do its job. Found in brightly coloured fresh fruit and veg, a fantastic source is montmorency cherry cordial which has been found to have the antioxidant equivalent of 20 portions of fruit. You could also take a supplement to boost antioxidant levels.

Supplements: I would suggest taking a good multivitamin as a basis to ensure you have all the nutrients needed to aid detoxification. On top of this you could consider a liver-specific combination. Look for ones containing things like milk thistle, dandelion, MSM, n-acetyl cysteine, alpha-lipoic acid and sulphur.

This may seem complicated – it’s not. It’s simply following a mainly vegetarian diet, eating things like soup, stir-fries  and salads and having beans and pulses as your main protein. A little organic chicken, fish, shellfish or eggs can also be included.

Miso soup is fantastic for cleansing, as is spicy thai soup. Both are packed with liver-supporting nutrients. Stock is another useful addition – it provides your body with all the raw materials you need to strengthen and repair your body. Adding a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and drinking veg stock as tea is an old naturopathic tool used to enhance any detox programme. I find this very nourishing.

If you’re pregnant, ill, breastfeeding or on certain medications, a strict detox programme isn’t for you but most people who pursue a detox for more than a couple of days certainly notice the difference. The key is planning what you’re going to eat and drink so that you’re not bored for the first few days. Once  you start to feel invigorated you’ll want to keep going.

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