If you are one of those people who love to say “our liver does the job of detoxing!”, you are right. It does. But even our incredible bodies need a rest from time to time- especially if your diet has not been ideal, recently. Many detox teas, programmes or powders might be a gimmick, but this should not make us reject the whole idea of cleansing, detoxing, clarifying. Many ancient traditions/ treatments call for a kind of cleansing period when the patient goes easy on their (digestive) system. Muslims fast during Ramadan, Jews fast to observe Yom Kippur; many Buddhists practice one meal a day, and some do not eat in the afternoon. Ayurveda, the science I am currently officially studying, suggests a cleanse if you are struggling with digestive difficulties, suffering from constipation, or irregular bowel movements; if you have intense cravings; if you suffer from exhaustion; have trouble sleeping or waking up refreshed; if you have constant anxiety; if your mind is foggy. The idea of a regular fast is to give our Agni (digestive system) a rest. This helps to revitalise and re-ignite our digestive fire and thereby improves our overall health. It also gives the chance for Agni to burn up any toxins, or Ama, that has built up in our body.
These traditions which commonly practice some form of cleansing are only a few examples of many. They share common characteristics, but there are also differences between them. What this means is that we should keep an open mind when it comes to nutrition and wellness; stay away from dogmatism and arrogance, and do what is best for our own, unique, body.
What detox plan am I following?
I have a HUGE appetite (really), and I enjoy eating. I am always ready to eat, morning, noon, night, and midnight, and hate to miss meals! I do get hangry, and you can ask my husband. It runs in the family. I have such a strong digestive system/metabolism (knock on the wood) that I need to eat on a regular basis. None of those juice detoxes, water fasts, or even calorie counting could be my alley. To me, the absolute, easiest, cleanest, healthiest and also the yummiest detox is Yoursuper detox. You should know by now from my Instagram and Facebook posts, as well as from the blog, that I LOVE Yoursuper mixes. They are all organic, with simple and clean ingredients, no added sugar, no sweeteners, “natural ingredients”, or binding agents. Although I have been using the mixes for years, it took me a while to try the detox prgramme- you know, pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, etc, etc!
The simple explanation of this 5-day detox programme is that you eat whole-food-plant based; stay away from highly processed foods, gluten, oil, added sugar and salt; give the digestive system a break by not snacking in between meals if possible (without starving ourselves) and have a 12-hour rest between dinner and the following day’s first meal. When you get the detox bundle, there is a morning smoothie, with protein and greens, a healthy lunch, and a dinner smoothie with Forever beautiful (which is yummy) and protein again. Before bed, they recommend an adaptogenic turmeric “latte”. You can also swap the mixes: For example, I use “Muscle Power” instead of “Skinny Protein”, because I like the taste better. Hey, if I am not liking the taste, I won’t stick to the plan. Knowing yourself is key! Last but definitely not least, the bundle comes with the detox programme and recipes. You can (and should, really) also join the Facebook page to find accountability, community, folks who are helpful with questions, advice, and so on.
Whatever your cleanse looks like, here is my advice to make it stick
You might have another detox idea. As I said, there are many different ways to detox and cleanse, from simply giving up sugar and processed foods to signing on for a guided programme.
Detox is as much about allowing health as it is about removing toxins. So, the least one can say about how to detox is simply to keep what is beneficial and eliminate the rest. I know it is easier said than done. Especially if you are struggling with emotional/stress eating, do know that I feel you. I have been there. What to do, then?
- For now, don’t force yourself too hard in pushing bad habits away: You will be busy constantly thinking about NOT doing it. Instead, focus on adding healthy habits to your daily life. Making new habits is WAY easier than getting rid of the bad ones. Once the good ones stick, they might help you to get rid of the ones that don’t serve you.
- Make your goals SMART.
Specific: Don’t have abstract goals like “I want to be healthy”. What exactly do you want to accomplish? Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to quit processed sugar/go plant-based? And so on.
Measurable: Say you want to lose weight. How many pounds do you want to lose, in how many days/weeks/months?
Achievable: Of course you should expect to be uncomfortable because you are going out of your comfort zone. At the same time, you shouldn’t be too hard on you because if you overdo it, it will only backfire. You need consistency, you don’t want to quit the second day. Start small. You can always do more, but you should keep that threshold low. Let me give you an example. When I was pregnant, I wanted to prepare myself as much as possible for a “natural” birth (I hate that term since every birth is natural! But, you know what I mean). Besides a healthy diet, I wanted to maintain strength and made sure I did my squats. I was never going to do tens of squats at once- hell no. What I did was doing twenty squats every time I brushed my teeth. I brush three times a day, so I ended up doing at least 60 squats every day. And it gets better: Twenty was my starting point but in time, I usually did more- 22, sometimes 25 squats. This habit is still going on, and, yes, it sounds funny (or strange?) but I’m doing 30 squats every time I brush my teeth!
Relevant: How does, say, staying away from processed sugar align with your overall objective? Is a sugar detox worthwhile to you? Is this the right time? Does this match the person you want to be?
Time-bound: Give yourself a time-frame. Say, you do a detox Monday-Friday. Then off the detox over the weekend. This is crucial because it gives you a structure, and the feeling of accomplishment, once the weekend comes. This is how you actually hack your brain, by triggering the dopamine production.
3. Drink your water. I can’t emphasize this enough, even though I’m totally not the “everyone must drink 3 liters of water, every day” kind of person. I think every body is different, and it is more sustainable and healthier to eat more hydrating vegetables and fruits instead of trying to flush everything out by drinking gallons of water a day. BUT when detoxing, water intake helps on many levels. It helps curve craving, dals with pseudo-hunger, emotional or habit eating. Sipping hot water throughout the day is especially beneficial during a cleanse, because it helps the digestive fire to remove toxins (the ama in ayurveda).
4. Stay stocked! Think smoothie supplies, salad supplies, a big pot of lentils, mung beans or black beans and rice for an easy meal, steamed veggies for a sudden hunger, and fruits (even dried fruits) to curb sweet cravings. You should ALWAYS have something healthy, ready to grab, so you won’t have to reach to that cookie jar. (It might be a good idea to get rid of the jar for the time being! Just in case).
5. Exercise discipline. I am sorry it’s tough. You will likely get uncomfortable. Next time it might be much easier. The YS detox I do, for example, has different effects on various people, and different effects on the same person, at different times! Either way, challenge yourself a little. You are learning to be more flexible, you are experimenting with change, you are getting close to something you want.
6. Depending on the type of detox you are doing, try not to snack frequently. Instead, value the feeling of hunger a little. It is the sign that your digestive fire or Agni is strengthening. When it is not busy digesting food, Agni will start cleansing any toxin (ama) you have in your body. So let it do its work.
7. Life does not have to be dull, even without oil, sugar, or even salt. Experiment with different spices, which help enliven digestive fire and aid regular elimination. Use these spices in detox-friendly soups, oil-free salad dressings, and dips.
8. I also take triphala at night to help remove toxic ama that has accumulated in body tissues. Triphala also specifically cleanses the digestive tract. In fact, it is said to be a rejuvenator for the digestion.
9. When to eat matters. These days I’m struggling with this, because I LOVE my solitude, eating calmly, on my own, without my cute toddler making me shove food in my mouth! So I have developed the habit of eating late at night after everyone goes to sleep. I know it’s hard, and occasional late-night-eating is not horrible, but let’s do our best to not make this a habit. This is important because after 10 pm is when the liver is actively detoxifying and preparing the body for the next day. Late meals and late nights disturb this cycle and compromise the body’s ability to detox efficiently. When it happens day after day for years, the liver can become congested and the body can build toxicity levels in the fat throughout the body.
10. Move your body. Whatever your body needs, from weight-lifting to jogging or playing with your dog to a light walk, move your body. Then drink water! Oh, I highly recommend twisting asanas to help with bowel movements and that feeling of detoxing the organs.
BONUS: Think of detoxing your thoughts. Remember what I said in a previous post about Ayurveda suggesting that we are what we digest? Well, we don’t only digest food, but also thoughts, emotions, information. We might not be able to control other people’s thoughts, but, at least during the detox, try to detox your thinking. Be kinder than usual, be more patient with yourself, call up an old friend, elderly relatives, donate to the homeless, or help your neighbour with their shopping.
Editor’s note: The information in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programme.