Our regular columnist, Louise Lambert-Day from Place Eight Wellness in Swanbourne talks to us all about detoxing!

I’d think there are a fair number of us right now who think they could do with a detox after a few months of lock-down. I’m often asked if a detox is worth doing and if so, what the best approach is. I’ve participated in lots of detoxes myself and some are definitely not for the faint hearted. But do we really need to detox and if so, what is a realistic, effective and safe way to do it?

Most evidence for detoxing comes from naturopathy, a system of natural medicine. Even if the clinical evidence for detoxing is still forthcoming, the list of potential benefits is enormous. Depending on your existing level of toxicity (in other words how well or badly you generally treat yourself), you might be surprised to find a whole array of health problems can often disappear. In my experience these can include:

Bloating, nausea, indigestion and a furred tongue may vanish as your liver gets back to optimum function. Constipation, gas and cramping can resolve itself as intestines return to balance.

Frequent colds and flu, tiredness, cellulite, blemishes and puffy eyes can all improve as your lymphatic system shifts into a higher gear. Clogged sinuses, congestion and nasal drip can disappear when your lungs function properly. Urinary problems often clear up as kidneys stop overworking and under-functioning.

At the very least, most people who detox experience a marked increase in energy. Often, they see a clearer complexion and brighter eyes. Concentration and mood can also improve. 

There are many types of detox and some are fairly severe. No doubt you’ll have seen adverts for detox pills and potions, wraps and kits & whilst some are certainly supportive, most are not strictly necessary. Detoxing can actually quite simple. It’s a natural, pre-programmed process that your body conducts on its own. So, the truth is that you really need to do the work yourself – with diet, exercise and some will-power. Sorry.

Below is a very simple detox which is safe, sensible and supports all the main detox systems of the body. Ideally you would stick to this for as long as possible, and as such it’s really its more of a blueprint for healthy living:

Eliminate the following: alcohol; caffeine; dairy; wheat; red and processed meats (ham, sausage); convenience & processed foods (including ready-meals) and of course sugar. 

Eat lots of fresh fruit & vegetables. Make fresh soups, salads, stews and stir-fries. Fruit and vegetable juices, especially beetroot, broccoli and celery, are ideal for detoxing, so try to juice your own whenever possible. Choose organic produce if you can (to cut out pesticides and other chemicals). Use limited sea salt to flavour where needed. Natural herbs and spices are fine, but avoid commercial seasoning mixes, which may contain sodium and other additives.

Have two or three servings of protein a day. Include deep-water fish, organic eggs, chicken and legumes. Grill or poach fish or chicken or incorporate any of the above in salads and stews. You can incorporate some Brazil nuts and sunflower seeds, all of which contain vital detox amino acids (and which make great snacks). Avoid peanuts unless you are certain you have no sensitivities to them.

Instead of tea or coffee, drink herbal teas (nettle or fennel are especially good choices) and/or dandelion coffee, which is liver-supporting. Antioxidant-rich Green tea is also a good choice but be aware that it contains some caffeine.

Start your day with two tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice, half a pinch of cayenne pepper and at least half a pint of warm water. 

Drink eight glasses of still water a day – more if you are exercising – to help flush your kidneys and digestive system. Warm water is a good choice.

Brush skin daily for five minutes before washing to stimulates the flow of lymph and promote circulation. Use a natural-bristle body brush. With long strokes work from the feet up the legs toward the back of the knees and up the thighs to the groin. From the fingers, brush arms toward the armpits, then gently down the neck toward the heart. Then the back and torso, always moving toward the heart. Avoid tender or irritated areas and broken skin. Start with gentle movements, building up to gentle but firm pressure.

Gentle exercise is beneficial when detoxing. Walking and swimming help the lymphatic system. Yoga is superb as it supports and strengthens all systems of the body. 

Have a sauna or steam bath – Whilst most of us don’t have access to these daily, including them where possible while detoxing helps the process. Having a massage, or MLD (Manual Lymphatic Drainage) is also effective. If you have access to hydrotherapy treatments, great. If not, use mud baths or Epsom salts baths at home (avoid the latter if you have high blood pressure).

Allow time to detox your mind by resting it. Try some guided meditation or at the very least permit yourself half an hour per day to just sit.

Get plenty of sleep. The importance of getting enough sleep can’t be overstated. Powerful healing and detoxifying processes happen whilst we slumber.  

Be gentle on yourself. Learn to listen to your body and its needs. If your body is crying out for rest, let it rest. If it is crying out for a slab of chocolate cake, resist (try a piece of fruit or tea with a little honey instead).

Ideally, visit a naturopath or nutritional therapist who can help you devise an ideal program of supportive supplements. Some supplements such as a good-quality milk thistle or echinacea product can be supportive, as can a good quality probiotic.