We all know the feeling: we’ve had a caveman winter, storing up fat against the cold, huddling cosily in our caves with roaring central heating warming our chilled extremities; and now spring is edging its way into our consciousness, with fearful portents of gloomy sessions in the wardrobe, wondering how clothes manage to shrink so comprehensively when left alone for a few months.
- A few telltale signs of winter woes
- Wan-looking skin with no glow to it
- Or worse – spotty, pimply skin!
- Lank hair with no life
- Puffy eyes
- Puffy fingers and pudgy ankles
- Bloating that never seems to shift
- Lack of energy
- Swollen lymph glands
- Flare-ups of old symptoms such as eczema, varicose veins, thrush, etc.
Thanks to greater awareness of toxins (malevolent beasties that lurk in dark corners of the body waiting their chance to contribute to everything from wrinkles to cellulite) and the unfortunate trend of modern life towards nourishing these unwanted troublemakers, many people feel the urge to detoxify as spring approaches. This, generally speaking, means creating a cleaner internal environment, not only ridding your body of existing toxins but making it less likely to store further batches.
What does detoxifying entail?
Well, there’s a question. To judge by the pages of magazines and newspapers these days, it might be anything from a weekend fast on biodynamic onions to several months at a Health Farm. The reality of detoxifying is less alarming. It must be undertaken at a level that is feasible given your particular lifestyle and circumstances. Also, and possibly most powerfully, what you undertake depends on how grotty you feel and therefore how much you have to gain by sticking to a detox programme.
My advice would be to avoid the programmes that recommend fasting or existing for several days on fruit and good vibes, unless you are able to suspend your everyday life and spend the detoxing time in a mountain retreat or at least at home with willing slaves bringing you freshly squeezed juices at regular intervals. The problem with quick fix fasts is that they cause toxins to rise into the bloodstream and circulate, leading to headaches, aching joints, spots, lethargy and general unpleasantness. ‘Great!’ you think, ‘I must be detoxifying!’ But if you haven’t ensured that the exit routes are open for these toxins actually to leave the body, they’ll just settle right back into the tissues once they’ve enjoyed their little tour around.
GET THE EXIT ROUTES CLEARED FIRST!
This means, in descending order,
- The bowels
- The bladder
- The liver
- The kidneys
- The skin
- The lymphatic system
All of these areas help offload toxins, and if the bowels and urinary tract are working well, all the other areas will have less to do and you will feel a powerful lot better.
Really, it’s not that painful. Start with the bowel. In naturopathic medicine, daily bowel movements are seen as vital to health. After all, if you’re putting food in three times a day, you should shift some of it out at least once! If you aren’t quite at this level, and if your abdomen often feels uncomfortably bloated, take two teaspoonfuls of psyllium husks in a glass of water or juice, followed by another glass of water or juice, twice daily until your bowel is working every day, preferably twice a day. Then reduce it to once daily until your bowel movement has become regular and easy. If you are badly constipated you may need a herbal laxative, but don’t use it long term, as your bowel can become lazy.
Drink plenty of water (that doesn’t mean one glass in the morning and another at bedtime…) – we’re talking at least 1.5 litres daily. This helps the bowel and also flushes out the urinary tract.
Many people don’t realise that their bladder will be stronger the more water they drink. It is drinking heaps of coffee, tea and fizzy drinks that makes you run to the loo constantly.
Avoid extra salt, added sugar, alcohol and foods with more E numbers than ingredients.
Don’t avoid sugar by using artificial sweeteners – they’re harder for your body to handle than ordinary sugar. Use fruit juices and dried fruit to add sweetness to your life! Ask in your health store for healthy sugar-free goodies.
Your liver will also be grateful for a reduction in the amount of fried food and dairy produce that it has to process. Most people have got the hang of counting fried foods as unhealthy, but many people suffering from constantly swollen glands and/or persistent catarrh don’t realise that the amount of dairy foods they eat contributes to their problems. Toxins, with which the overburdened liver can’t deal, get offloaded onto the lymphatic system and mucous membranes. Here are some ‘do’s’.
- Eat regularly. None of this starving nonsense! Chew your food thoroughly and don’t eat huge portions, but don’t skip meals or snatch a bite on the run. Give your digestive tract a bit of respect…
- Try vegetable as well as fruit juices. Beetroot juice will stabilise your blood sugar and reduce cravings. Celery juice gets rid of fluid retention.
- Eat plenty of vegetable soups and stews, warming and filling.
- Use short grain brown rice, as it not only provides you with sustained energy, but also helps pull toxins out through the bowel.
- Eat fish instead of meat and have some days when you eat no animal products at all. (Go on, be brave and experiment!)
- Ask in your health store about alternatives to dairy products. There are loads of them now – everything from milks to cheeses to creams and ice creams – and they taste amazing.
Look for kits to help you clear some of the winter clutter from your system. Make sure that the focus is on the bowel and urinary tract, with herbs that cleanse and strengthen your bowel, liver, bladder and kidneys. My favourite kidney herb is Golden Rod, with Uva-ursi strengthening the bladder and Dandelion root doing wonderful things for the liver and gall-bladder. Calendula is a herb I have started using frequently, having a very positive effect on congested lymphatic systems – a good herb to take in the spring.
Really, once you get started you’ll be surprised how little unpleasantness can attach to a sensible detox programme and how good you feel as a result.