Detoxing for Improving or Maintaining Good Health

by Lara Zakaria, RPh HHC

green_smoothie_cover_shotThe New Year is a natural time for kick-starting new endeavors or recommitting to healthy habits, so it’s a great time to start a detox! After a holiday indulgence, a detox also helps us get back on track, reduce excess bloat, and rehydrate.

New Year’s resolutions that promise to help us “lose weight” or “get in shape” are often at the top of most of our lists. But what if instead of trying to lose weight, we aimed for improving or maintaining good health?

One of the best ways to improve good health is to regularly allow your body to detoxify. I’m a huge fan of doing a formal cleanse/detox at least once or twice a year and peppering in some smaller strategies throughout the year. In fact, if you would like some tips on reducing toxic exposure and toxic burden on a daily basis, download my free Daily Detox App for iPhone and Android devices!

Why do we need to detox?

Though the words “cleanse” and “detox” have become a pretty common part of our vernacular, not everyone knows what they entail exactly. Understanding what they mean is important because the knowledge can help us decide how to best approach a detoxification program.

  • Toxins are everywhere: in the air we breathe, in produce contaminated with pesticides, in fish that’s loaded with mercury, in the plastic containers we use to carry water and leftovers…and that’s only an abbreviated list.
  • Toxins could be causing symptoms like arthritis, allergies, colds and flu, migraines and “fogginess”, IBS, psoriasis and other skin conditions. Toxicity and carcinogenic substance overload have even been linked to various forms of cancer!
  • Reducing toxic burden improves immune function. Seasonal allergies are often a symptom of increased toxic load: most people experience reduced seasonal allergies and overall sensitivities. Along the same lines, if you come down with colds often, your immune system can benefit from a boost in immune function through reducing toxic build-up.
  • When your body can’t get rid of toxins, it stores them in your fat tissue making it very difficult to lose fat. If you’re having trouble getting rid of that pesky “last 10 pounds” this could be why.
  • A cleanse can improve digestion, as well as help your body absorb nutrients more effectively.

There are a few different way to accomplish this:

  • Fasting: the most extreme form of cleansing and possibly the most dangerous (in my opinion). Though intermittent fasting (short-term fasting from sunrise to sunset or for a max of 24 hours) has been shown to benefit metabolism and flush toxins, it can also dehydrate and reduce nutrient stores if not practiced properly.
  • Juice fasting: one of my personal, go-to approaches for reducing inflammation. However, it’s challenging and can be dangerous for someone who does not regularly detox. Though a juice fast provides a lot of micronutrients, it’s low in protein and amino acids that are needed for proper and safe detoxification.
  • Raw food cleanse: this option is great for digestion, provides more macronutrients, and is easier to comply with than juicing. It’s great when combined with juicing to really maximize nutrient absorption. However, I still don’t recommend this for someone who is new to detoxing or might carry a higher toxic load due to lifestyle, environmental factors. or those who are genetically slow detoxifiers.
  • Supported medical cleanse: this is the Cadillac of cleansing options. It offers the right combination of macronutrients, vitamins, minerals, and fiber to support the body in the detox process. It also provides supplemental support to ensure extra protection from reactive oxygen species (ROS) and POPs that can cause cellular damage. Ten to 28 days of this type of slow and supported cleanse is ideal for almost anyone.

How do you detox? To help explain the best way(s) to detox, it’s helpful to define what a detox should not include.

  • A detox should not leave you feeling like a zombie for days or weeks…you should feel energized and clear headed.
  • You should not be running to the bathroom every 10 minutes with diarrhea. This is uncomfortable and could lead to dehydration, which is not only dangerous, but also counterproductive, since water is vital for the detoxification process.

A good cleanse will hydrate, replenish your gut flora and nutrient stores while it flushes out toxins, balances blood sugar and reduces inflammation. It should incorporate aspects of the above in balanced proportions- but should not leave you feeling weak, tired or starved. The best detoxification programs are individually tailored to your specific therapeutic needs.

Don’t get me wrong: a detox is not exactly a skip through the park. It will require self control and dietary restriction. However, your improved energy, mood, and symptoms will help keep you motivated!

What’s the Plan? I’m IN!

If you’re ready to give the detox a shot this January…get in touch with me! I’ll be holding an introductory workshop on January 4th at Yoga in the Heights in Jersey City, which will include:

  1. A free, one-on–one nutrition evaluation session with me.
  2. Detoxification questionnaire evaluation and recommendation.
  3. Detailed instructions for a medically-based, safe, and effective 10 day detox. Includes unlimited e-mail support.
  4. $30 for an individualized 28-day detox support program if it’s more appropriate for you.

Sign up here. And please don’t hesitate to e-mail me if you have any questions about how to jump start your New Year on a healthier note!