After a week of turkey and stuffing (our faces) many of us are now turning our heads to the New Year and debating how to undo the Christmas excess.What should an effective New Year detox consist of exactly? How can you ensure that it really does what it says on the tin, bottle, packet or shake? Check out our guide to choosing your New Year detox to make sure it works for you and brings long lasting results.
Detox programs are totally having their moment right now and from a quick look online it seems we’ve got lots of options on the table including a 101 different juice cleanses, supping aloe vera for 10 days or a fortnight drinking maple syrup, lemon juice and cayenne pepper (good luck with that!). Before you sign up for any it’s good to understand why and how you need might need to support detoxification.
A big selling point for detox’s is of course the fat loss effect. Supporting detoxification is certainly beneficial when it comes to body composition but what seems to have been lost in translation is the most effective way to detoxify. Detox products and programs are a lucrative industry as we’re all looking for a magic potion to brighten our eyes, banish cellulite and turn our liver into a fat burning machine. The main issue with many detox programs on offer is that they promise the earth but the truth is a one week or even a one month commitment to detoxing simply will not cut it, it’s not a healthy, sustainable approach to improve your long-term health nor weight loss. The harsh fact is you’re far better off making a resolution to change your nutrition and lifestyle to one that supports health all year round.
In fact some detoxes may do you more harm than good, especially if you’re battling the bulge. Many people that embark on extreme detox’s get results but they are notoriously temporary because they often place your body in starvation mode (some detoxes are as low as 600 calories a day) and your metabolism will naturally put on the brakes and put mechanisms in place to make sure you don’t starve including:
- Increase calorie absorption in the gut
- Increase ability to store fat
- Lower resting metabolic rate to slow down calorie expenditure
- Increase appetite to motivate you to find food
Essentially these extreme low calorie plans are turning you into a fat storing machine and when you resume your normal eating habits not only will you gain the weight back but likely put on much more.
How Detox Works?
In order to pick a detox you need to ask yourself does it really do the job? There are several organs involved in detoxification and the two main ones we support nutritionally are the gut and the liver. Remember, our body’s are equipped to deal with toxins; there are endotoxins that are produced internally by bacteria in the body and as a byproduct of metabolic reactions that take place and exotoxins that we are exposed to externally within our food, water and environment. The problem is our detoxification systems are becoming overwhelmed, our lifestyles today are more toxic than ever with fertilisers and pesticides being added to food, medications, hormones and heavy metals in our water and most of our household and personal care products are also loaded with chemicals. It’s so important that we adapt our nutrition and lifestyle to give our body all the help it can get!
Our liver plays an essential role in detoxification by adopting a two phase approach to remove toxins from the body. Phase one detoxification collects the toxins including hormones, alcohol, caffeine, medications and antibiotics and prepares them to be removed by putting them through a series of chemical reactions. The second phase of detoxification involves something called ‘conjugation’ where the waste products are wrapped up and passed out of the body via the kidneys (urination) or digestive system (passing a stool). If the toxins are not eliminated, they maybe reabsorbed back into the body which causes all sorts of health issues including increased risk of cancer and inflammatory diseases. Toxicity also causes weight gain and water retention hence the fat loss links. The two phases of detoxification are illustrated below along with the nutrients that support each phase:
Your takeaway here should be the importance of amino acids in the detoxification process. These are a constituent of protein so the juice fasts and maple syrup clearly aren’t supporting liver detoxification, they are simply starving your body. A good detoxification plan also needs an abundance of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. The following foods in particular are rich in detoxifying nutrients and actively support the phases above:
- Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts)
- Garlics, leeks, onions and apples
- Green tea
- Herbs and spices
- Organ meats
Are the above featuring in your detox plan? In fact do they feature in your nutrition at all? They certainly should do. We cram our weekly meal plans with omelette’s, liver pate, flaxseed loaf and soups brimming with vegetables, garlic, leeks and onions to help people get their liver foods in daily. Incidentally, fructose is metabolised by the liver so copious amounts of fruit or fruit juices will actually put an added strain on the liver and have been associated with fatty over disease and type 2 diabetes. Remember this when scanning the ingredients in your shakes and juices.
As well as eating foods that support the liver remember after the second phase it’s the digestive system that plays an integral role in removing toxins from the body so it’s vital we take the trash our daily. Many low calorie detoxes leave people constipated and effectively recycling all the waste products in their sluggish bowel back into the body. There are several foods which promote healthy digestion including the following:
- Live/fermented foods
- Bone broth
- Organ meats
- Fibre rich foods
One thing we emphasise on our plans is the importance of balancing gut bacteria. Within the gut there are good guys and bad guys that need to be balanced to support a healthy metabolism, immune system and detoxification. Simple sugars will potentially feed the overgrowth of bad bacteria or yeast infections, known as dysbiosis, so if you are supping away on fruit juices and maple syrup all day long this could lead to one big bloated belly as the bacteria ferment the sugar and produce excess gas, nice!
Ensuring that gluten is eliminated from your nutrition is also important, it’s strongly associated with a number of inflammatory digestive and immune disorders. This is something we guide everyone through and encourage people to sustain post Fitter Food plans. It’s a very simple and sustainable step to take and we cover this more here.
More servings of vegetables is probably the one thing most detox programs have in common. Packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre they will improve feelings of satiety and the frequency of bowel movements, an absolute must when it comes to any detox protocol.
Make Sure It’s Sustainable & Realistic
Remember you’ve just had a good old holiday so it’s pretty unacceptable to head back to work and sit at your desk looking stoned and staring into space with withdrawals and severe fatigue. Many steps you take to encourage detoxification will be tough on the body at first but if your detox program is sensible and realistic it should offer guidance and advice on supporting your blood sugar levels, aiding physical detoxification and buffering cravings and withdrawals. Many drastic versions do not and leave people crawling back into bed by day 2, if you value your career chose your detox wisely.
Also try and make the changes sustainable! A sensible detox will bring about health benefits and improve your quality of life, therefore it makes sense that you should endeavor to continue with them beyond 31 January. Why would your only pursue superior health on a temporary basis? Many of the simple changes we suggest in our online programs people are able to take on board and implement as a daily habit; including a protein based breakfast over cereal, getting to bed earlier, walking more, swapping in courgetti in place of pasta, cooking your own meals and ditching the processed, empty foods that offer no nutritional substance. We work hard to develop recipes that are tasty, hearty and hit the spot and put together nutritious, homemade desserts and pancakes so you can enjoy your food and not have to suffer a sugar hangover.
If you are sat staring at your 7 day meal plan of lentils and lemon water and wondering how you will cope or more importantly how you will celebrate reaching the end (a bottle of vino, pint of coffee or a kilo of Dairy Milk???) then maybe it’s time for a rethink, especially when there are plans out there that will nourish you and only involve eating awesome, tasty healthy food without a lentil in sight, hint hint 😉
What do you really learn from drinking syrupy water for a week? Very little and the reality is many of these detox products are not really interested in educating you about health and the essentials of detoxification, they want you to buy and depend upon their books, shakes and supplements to get results. When you think about how much time you spend eating, drinking, exercising, sleeping and stressing doesn’t it make sense to address these areas of your life first to get the biggest bang for your buck? All of these can be addressed to support any health goal: detoxification, fat loss, immune support, mood health and wellbeing. What’s important is you understand how and why and therefore are more likely to implement and sustain the changes. Education is empowering which is probably why many commercial companies don’t wish for you to acquire any real knowledge and understanding, as there is a danger you wouldn’t need their products any longer! As life evolves and develops if you have the knowledge and know how you can adapt and make the best possible health decisions, if you’re just sipping syrupy water to reach your health goal it is unlikely and besides people might start to question your sanity.
How Holistic Is It?
To truly be healthful a detox should address several aspects of your lifestyle and mindset beyond what you eat and how many detoxing yoga poses you do. This year we’ve taken an external coach on board to support our online programmes and help people embrace a more positive mindset. He will be guiding members through some simple, practical steps that make a significant difference by detoxing the mind of negative chatter and unnecessary stress. Ideally the tools, support and guidance you gain from your detox program, should mean that when January 2016 comes around you don’t even need to consider any shakes, pills or potions as you’ve already mastered detoxing for life!
We hope our guide to detoxing has helped and if you need more information about our Ultimate January Detox which will kick off on Monday 05 January you can take a peek at the details here.