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A detox (short for detoxification) is a natural process of removing toxic substances (toxins) from your body, that should be undertaken when you have a prolonged feeling at your best. The basic principle is to decrease (or cut out) the amount of chemicals and toxins you take in, and increase the amount of vitamins, minerals, nutrients and antioxidants, you take in.
A healthy detox could include: a special diet; exercise; vitamin and mineral supplements; spa treatments; colonic irrigation; a liver flush. There are different methods and approaches because it’s possible to target different parts of your body. Detoxing can cleanse, refresh and strengthen the liver, lungs, kidneys, intestines and skin, and will likely give you: more energy; a stronger immune system; improved bowel movements; weight loss; increased self-confidence.
Ideally, a detox program should last between a week and a month, and should not be undertaken more than three times a year. A detox is not meant to be a long-term lifestyle change and continuing with one for long periods of time (this varies from person to person but generally over a month) may result in nutrient deficiencies.
However, many people use a short-term detox as a catalyst for a long-term healthier life; integrating some aspects of the detox (eating more fruit and vegetables, not smoking, taking vitamin supplements etc.) into their normal daily routine.
At the beginning of a detox (2-4 days after starting) you may experience some side-effects, such as: tiredness; headaches; nausea; cold-like symptoms; irritability; diarrhea; acne; hunger. These are a result of your body processing the stored up toxins before it can eliminate / excrete them, and are rarely more than uncomfortable.
If you suddenly cut out your vices, without giving your body any warning, it’s less likely that you’ll be able to cope without them, so gradually reduce your intake of them a few days before starting your detox outright.
Some forms of exercise are beneficial to detoxing, however, try not to place undue stress on your body during this time. Light aerobic exercise (such as walking, jogging, cycling or swimming), that increases your heart-rate and encourages deep breathes, can be helpful, whereas anaerobic exercise and resistance training aren’t.
A healthy detox doesn't require you to deprive and starve yourself of food and drink; if you do this then you’re doing your body more harm than good. You shouldn’t be eating or drinking any less than you normally do; you should just be eating and drinking healthier alternatives.
Aim to eat between 4 and 6 small portioned meals, at consistent times, each day, and, ideally, have your larger meals of the day at breakfast and lunch; eating less in the afternoon and evening. Avoid frying food; instead grill, bake or steam.
It’s recommended that you drink 6-8 glasses of water every day (equivalent to 1.2 litres) and also aim to increase your intake of green tea, herbal tea and vegetable juice. Fruit and vegetables, whether fresh, frozen, canned or dried, should be a key part of any healthy detox; the minimum recommended amount being 5 portions a day.
Fruits that you can choose from include: apples; apricots; avocados; bananas; blackberries; blackcurrants; blueberries; cherries; chestnuts; clementines; currants; dates; figs; gooseberries; grapes; grapefruit; kiwifruit; lemons; limes; mandarins; mangoes; melons; nectarines; oranges; passion fruit; peaches; pears; pineapples; plums; pomegranates; raspberries; redcurrants; strawberries; tangerines; tomatoes.
Vegetables that you can choose from include: asparagus; aubergine; beetroot; broad beans; broccoli; brussels sprouts; cabbage; carrots; cauliflower; celery; cherry tomatoes; courgette; cress; cucumber; eggplant; gherkin; green beans; green pepper; haricot beans; leek; lettuce; marrow; onion; peas; parsnip; potato; pumpkin; radish; red pepper; rhubarb; runner beans; spinach; spring onions; swede; sweet corn; turnip; watercress; yellow pepper.
Aim to increase your intake of non-gluten containing grains, beans, fibre, nuts and seeds. In particular, try to consume: brown rice; rice cakes; quinoa, buckwheat; millet; lentils; kidney beans; chickpeas; pinto beans; mung beans; cereal; baked beans; wholemeal pasta; almonds; cashews; walnuts; flaxseed; sesame seeds; sunflower seeds; pumpkin seeds.
Some foods should be avoided whilst detoxing even though they're not necessarily unhealthy. Do your best to not consume sugar, dairy products, wheat, bread, pastry, processed meats and red meats.
When detoxing, antioxidants (including vitamins A, C and E) are essential for your body to effectively remove toxins. Beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, peppers, tomatoes and watercress are excellent sources. Multivitamin tablets can be used as part of a detox program; however, they should be used in addition, and not in replacement of, fruit and vegetables.
Healthy detox supplements to consider include: alfalfa; burdock root; chlorella; cascara sagrada; echinacea; fennel seed; ginger; horsetail; milk thistle; psyllium husk; red clover; slippery elm; yarrow yellow dock. Some of these can be bought at supermarkets but others are only available from health food stores