post-holiday nutritional detox plan
Get ready to kick off your health journey in 2021 with a whole-body cleanse! After enjoying some holiday indulgences, a new year’s detox is just what the doctor ordered! Follow these simple guidelines to get your health journey back on track after the holiday season.
As we kiss 2020 good-bye, we can be forgiven for a few extra holiday indulgences this year. The holidays are a time to revel, celebrate, and relax. Have dessert, enjoy a decadent Christmas ham, try a new holiday cocktail, and be kind to yourself. We’re human after all, and we need to let ourselves live a little. But if you are feeling less than optimal after the holiday season, you are not alone. January is a great time to scale back on the indulgences, say no to cocktails, and get yourself back on track. A full-body detox is the best (and quickest) way to get back to feeling great and making healthy choices.
What is detox?
While “detox” has become a buzzword, detoxification is a process that the body goes through every minute of every day. Organs like the liver and kidney filter your blood multiple times throughout the day to remove natural waste products, minimize toxic exposure, and keep the body in balance. The body has many fine-tuned mechanisms to regulate your acid-base balance (pH), electrolyte levels, and blood sugar.
I like the analogy of a car engine to illustrate this bodily process. Just like an engine, our cells produce energy, and this process creates byproducts. One byproduct is heat. For example, a car engine heats up when it is working, and our cells give off heat as well. The more important byproduct is waste – cars produce exhaust and our cells produce metabolic waste products. While cars have 1 or 2 exhaust pipes, our body has several ways to eliminate those unwanted leftovers.
The liver filters waste and sends it to the colon for elimination, while the kidneys filter blood and send waste to the bladder, and we breathe out Co2. Beyond just the everyday waste that needs elimination, the body is also exposed to many novel chemicals. These substances can be introduced in food (pesticide residue), water (medication residue), air (pollution) and our personal care products. The body has to continually deal with potentially toxic substances.
When doing a full-body detox or cleanse, I typically focus on the “6 organs of elimination”. The main ones are the kidneys, liver, colon and lungs. However, our skin acts as an extra organ of elimination when needed. Sometimes an overburdened or sluggish liver will show up as skin issues – acne, rashes, eczema, psoriasis, etc. I include voice or expression as the 6th organ because it is a way to release emotional tension or baggage. While this type of “toxin” is not a physical waste product, emotional well-being is definitely tied to physical well-being, and so this “organ” of elimination deserves our attention as well.
If the body is doing this all the time, why do we need a special detox? It is just like doing a deep clean in your home when periodically, we need a little something extra to keep things working smoothly. At least once a year, it is a good idea to set aside time to cleanse. This can be a short cleanse at 1-3 days or a longer process of 3-6 weeks. Every once in a while, my husband and I do a technology cleanse where we say no to phones, TV, computers, etc. for 24 hours. (This is much easier in the summer months.) Once a year, I do the 3-week cleanse I lead and facilitate for the She is You community. Even doing a one-day water fast is a great mini-detox.
When we do an intentional cleanse or detox, we are cleaning up the debris and getting back to neutral and re-setting. This can be done any time of the year but post-holiday, it makes a lot of sense. Most of us need a reset come January. Transition times are also good for a detox – the new year or seasonal changes like the start of spring, summer, and fall. My favorite reason to detox is the vast amount of self-knowledge it provides as you go through the process. When you deep clean your diet and organ systems, you get back to a natural state of health. We remove common allergens as well as the most inflammatory foods so your body can function as it is meant to.
Each person has unique challenges. Is it harder to give up coffee, cheese, or sugar? What are your strongest food cravings? How do your taste buds change after only 3 weeks of clean eating? At the end of a cleanse, you get a clean slate to relaunch your health journey. Reintroducing foods slowly allows you to see how your body feels with each new food. Do new or old symptoms emerge like joint pain, headaches, anxiety, sleep issues, constipation, etc.? A cleanse is better than doing expensive blood work like a food sensitivity panel because it gives you more information and is completely individualized. When someone is sensitive to a food, it can show up physically in many different ways. Some people have a severe gluten allergy that causes serious intestinal problems. Others are mildly sensitive which may cause bloating, acne, headaches, joint pain, etc.
How can we detox (in a healthy and safe way)?
Join the challenge and work with other women who are motivated to get great health results! Follow some simple principles and consider working with a holistic practitioner to get the best outcome. I have seen a lot of fad diets and detoxes that are incredibly restrictive and very extreme. You do not need to eat only one food for 3 weeks or do a liquid diet to have a good detox.
My 3-week detox is roughly based on Whole30 but a little more straightforward. The simplest way to cleanse is to focus on eating clean, healthy food for 3-4 weeks. If that is all you do, you’re doing great! I like to add a few more elements to get full activation of all the organs of elimination. The detox handout details clean protein shakes, supplements, and activities to enhance the detox experience. I rely on protein shakes 1-2 times daily when I detox because it makes it much easier to plan ahead. It reduces the need to cook every meal from scratch. It is easy to take on-the-go and ensures you are getting adequate protein and essential nutrients. I also recommend supplements to support the liver and colon during a cleanse. Gentle exercise, dry skin brushing and contrast showers are also easy ways to maximize the detox.
If you have any pre-existing health conditions, you need to work with a qualified healthcare professional to make sure that the detox plan meets your needs. Individuals with diabetes, cancer, and thyroid disease need to be particularly careful before they make radical shifts in their diets and lifestyles. Any detox plan can be modified to take your individual needs into account. As always, the information published here does not replace the advice of your primary care provider.
My general detox plan includes a few supplements to support specific organ systems. If you want to purchase high-quality professional supplements, use this link to my online dispensary where I have the detox protocol. You can also find my dispensary link under the Resources tab on my website. A quick word about supplements: they are basically like navigating the Wild Wild West! There are not very stringent guidelines that companies must follow in terms of quality control, transparency, and purity testing. I recommend those supplement companies that voluntarily go above and beyond to ensure independent third-party testing, quality, and purity standards along with testing for contamination and toxins. Companies like Thorne, Metagenics, Integrative Therapeutics, Standard Process, Pure Encapsulations, Nordic Naturals, and Carlson’s all reach these high-quality standards.
How to support the 6 Organs of Elimination:
- Lungs – these two beauties bring in life-giving oxygen and release toxic carbon dioxide all day long. Breathing is so essential that we do not have to think about it for it to work. But oftentimes we breathe inefficiently. If we want to focus on optimizing our breath, it involves practicing belly breathing and exercising our lungs. Deep belly breathing uses the diaphragm to ensure that the lungs fully inflate. This gives us more oxygen in our blood. The next time you are yawning, take a couple of belly breaths and the yawning will likely stop. Exercise also strengthens our lungs (and heart!). Doing 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise is a normal recommendation; but during the cleanse, you can opt for gentle exercise – walking, biking, yoga, dancing, swimming, etc. You may feel a little fatigued as your body cleanses, so choosing gentle exercise ensures that you do not push yourself too hard.
- Liver – the liver is a workhorse and, as such, it is a largely unappreciated organ. It filters our blood, processes nutrients, breaks down hormones and toxins, makes protein, stores vitamins, makes and stores cholesterol, among many other functions. The liver appreciates it when you make healthy choices because it decreases its burden. Cruciferous veggies are particularly supportive of the liver – broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc. Many herbs support optimal liver function as well.
- Colon – The large intestine ensures that waste products leave the body and it also reabsorbs water. (Absorption of most nutrients happens in the small intestine). The colon is related to the liver’s efforts as it receives the liver’s waste products along with any un-digestible food products. The colon’s job is made easier with high amounts of insoluble fiber. Eating 5-9 servings of veggies and 1-2 servings of fruit daily is the best way to get fiber. Supplementing with psyllium husk and other natural fibers can also augment your dietary intake. Make sure to get plenty of hydrating fluids or all that fiber will stop you up; 80-100 oz daily is a good starting point, but optimal intake depends on size, activity level, season, and climate.
- Kidneys – the average adult human has 1.2-1.5 gallons of blood that gets filtered multiple times a day. The kidneys like it when you stay hydrated. They create a filtration system and when there is not enough fluid, it hampers their ability to do their job. Watching your sodium intake helps your kidneys as does eating enough but not too much protein.
- Skin – the skin has pores, which facilitate the body’s general process of detoxification. The skin also absorbs substances so be sure to check the ingredients in your beauty products with a resource like The Skin Deep database. Drinking lots of hydrating fluids keeps the skin hydrated. Getting nutrients like collagen, vitamin C, and protein help to support collagen production and skin health. Dry skin brushing also keeps the skin healthy while moving lymphatic fluid in the body. Hot and cold showers (2 minutes hot, 30 seconds cold, for X3 cycles, and as hot and cold as possible!) are a great way to stimulate the skin. Alternating hot and cold is like wringing out a sponge. The blood flows in and then the cold cycle flushes out metabolic waste products. Infrared and steam saunas followed by a cold rinse is another great way to get this effect.
- Expression/Voice – we use various modes of expression to share our thoughts and feelings. It is important to unburden ourselves from emotional toxins as well as physical ones. Speaking, singing, journaling, writing, drawing, creating works of arts are all ways to “detox”, using our powers of expression.