Do you need a post Christmas Detox?

Photo by Alina Karpenko on Unsplash

Christmas and the holiday season often lead to overindulgence. But as January rolls in, we often feel the need for a refresh with food choices, exercise and alcohol consumption. Its a great time to do a detox.

Why do a detox?

The world we live in has changed considerable over the last few decades. As a child, I ate food almost exclusively from the farm & our garden, the latter of which was organic. We didn’t have access to ‘non food’ foods like fizzy drinks, or packet meals or sweets. Go back another generation and my grandparents used horse and cart to get around. The world certainly wasn’t filled with petrochemicals and plastics in their time. These things are ubiquitous nowadays. This is relevant to detoxification in our bodies. The issue is that we are not genetically designed to get rid of such a large chemical load. We are drowning in a mix of chemicals from the foods we eat, the products we put on our skin, the items that we clean our bodies and homes with, chemicals that go into our gardens and that we build our homes and infrastructure from, and even the air we breathe. Current studies have shown that even breastmilk contains microplastics!

Our bodies however are amazing and have organs that are designed to remove toxins and even in the case of overload, protect us from them. A detox helps these organs to function optimally.

What are the major detoxification organs?

The liver is the most significant detoxification organ in the body, followed by the kidneys. But the skin and the lungs and any other part of the body that interact with the outside world have detoxification capabilities, such as the eyes (such as when you cry out stray debris). The liver itself undergoes two phases of detoxification, and has number of different pathways or biochemical reactions which can be supported.

Is a detox even a thing?

In the same way you can use food and nutrients to strengthen your bones or improve cardiovascular health, you can use nutrients to support the health of the liver. Foods and herbs like turmeric and milk thistle, green tea and certain mushrooms have been shown to be protective of the liver. Detox programs are generally designed to provide nourishing nutrients whilst reducing known liver stressors, such as alcohol and sugar. The liver uses two steps to remove toxins. During Phase One, a family of enzymes know as Cytochrome P450 cleave biochemical groups to reduce the toxicity of certain toxins. They then head into Phase 2 where they are conjugated to make them able to be excreted from the body. There are a number of reactions required which can be up or down regulated with nutrients such as glutathione, certain amino acids, activated B vitamins for methyl transferases, and the brassica group of vegetables for sulfation. It should also be noted that many of the reactions are also oxidation/reduction, and the role of water is very important in these. You may have read about liver supporting foods such as green tea, berries or garlic. There is scientific literature to support the use of many of these nutrients. However, doing a juice fast is not a detox in my view, as it misses key nutrients which are required to support these pathways, in particular, essential fatty acids and key amino acids. A good detox needs to be balanced, not an extreme dietary fad.

What are the signs that the liver needs support?

There can be many signs from feeling sluggish, constipated, having hormone issues, skin break outs, yellowing in the eyes, difficulty losing weight & general brain fog. Many of us also know post Christmas and the holiday season that we have overindulged in things like alcohol and sugar. All foods that we eat are processed and packaged in the liver for distribution around the body. Any toxins that enter the body, either environmentally or as medications for example are removed via the liver. Our sex hormones are made in the appropriate organs, and once spent, undergo the same. The body is very clever and when the detoxification pathways are overwhelmed, the liver has the ability to use fat to wall up any toxins for later processing. This is why often when people lose significant amounts of weight, they may get symptoms of excess estrogen, as it starts to release from the fat cells, because the pathways have been freed up for clearance. This is also why it is suggested that the body will not allow weight loss if the body cannot process toxins, hence the liver pathways need to be supported first.

Detox Tips

  • For a period of at least 2 weeks, but preferably longer, remove all alcohol, sugar and gluten containing grains, seed oils and all processed foods
  • Drink plenty of water and/or herbal teas including green tea. Try dandelion coffee.
  • Consider removing coffee. The jury is still out on this one, but you will fee better after a few days.
  • Eat good quality protein at every meal, including breakfast (if you normally eat this). These can be animal or plant based.
  • Add in a rainbow of coloured vegetables each day, with a particular focus on brassicas (cauliflower, broccoli, kale etc). Vegetables should be the basis of your meals, where you might normally eat some grains. For example, you might replace rice with cauliflower rice.
  • Add in berry fruits for their anthocyanin content.
  • Add good quality fats to each meal, such as nuts and seeds, avocado, olive oil, coconut yoghurt, tahini & butter. Use all of these to make dressings for salads or vegetables. Oily fish can also form the protein/fat part of meals.
  • Add herbs in abundance. Rosemary, turmeric, coriander, garlic, dandelion, ginger, black pepper, parsley, oregano, peppermint are all good additions. Each of these herbs and spices has a role in assisting liver health.
  • Ensure you are eating omega 3 containing foods such as fish, walnuts, chia seeds & flaxseed, hempseed, and their oils.
  • Lifestyle matters. Encouraging the body to sweat is also useful. Exercise, sauna and body brushing can all be helpful in this context. Daily exercise is a must, but you don’t need to run a marathon, just move and preferably do some sort of resistance exercise.

Finally, some of the best liver supporting herbs come from supplemental form, as not that many people are out collecting milk thistle seeds and turkey tail mushrooms. Get good quality liver support from reputable brands. (Some of our favourites are listed below). If you are interested in completing our Liver Detox two week programme, get in touch with us in store. We run this for individuals and also it can be helpful to do with a friend/partner. The programme includes a consult, recipes for two weeks of quality NZ food based recipes which contain all of the elements listed above and also supplements. It is available to start any time during the summer months (it can be done in winter but the recipes have been designed with New Zealand seasonal foods in mind.) All the ingredients can be found in your pantry/fridge and the local supermarkets.

Quality Liver Supplements we recommend

Now Liver Refresh

Biotrace Glutathione with Broccoli

Coyne Green Tea

Coyne Biomax B

Flow State Turkey Tail

Natroceutics Curcumin

Be Pure Perfect Protein

Romilly E. Hodges 1 and Deanna M. Minich, Modulation of Metabolic Detoxification Pathways Using Foods and Food-Derived Components: A Scientific Review with Clinical Application

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