Now that Christmas is over, your thoughts may well be turning more towards shedding any extra pounds you’ve accumulated, and resolving to adopt a healthier lifestyle over the coming year. Here’s a quick guide to detoxing and healthy eating.
Detoxing and weight loss is quite a popular pass time at this time of year, although it’s still a little early. In the summer we naturally gravitate towards lighter, cooling foods like salads, and in the winter, more hearty comforting meals. We naturally crave starchy carbohydrates during the winter months as they help us adapt to the darkness, so putting on a little extra weight is really nothing to worry about.
In the days when we used to live off the land, we would have had to survive the winter on preserved meats, grains, and root vegetables. Fresh food would have been pretty much unavailable until the spring came, when Mother Nature would compensate by making the most nutritious plants appear first. Many of these are still used by Herbalists as tonics and detoxifiers, giving patients a much needed lift at this time of year.
Poor digestion is associated with weight gain, so if you’re looking to get lighter, you need to be firing on all cylinders. You can help yourself by drinking a cup of hot water with a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice every morning, and a couple more times during the day. Not only is it packed with Vitamin C, it will also help your stomach to digest your food and your cells to burn off fat. Of course there’s nothing like exercise for burning fat, and in most cases combining a sensible diet with daily vigorous exercise will do the trick.
Detoxing has become more fashionable in recent years, and there have even been TV programmes like ‘Celebrity Detox‘ showing a supervised detox in graphic detail. Most natural therapists agree that there are numerous health benefits from detoxing, and cancer formulas such as Hoxseys and ESSIAC, and Gerson therapy are all aimed at detoxifying the body. However, I have known people to become quite unwell when taking over the counter detox tablets, as the body has been overwhelmed by circulating toxins to the point where they’ve had to stop their tablets. The key is to take tonics first, especially if this is the first time you are detoxing, and to go very, very gently. Fasting is not recommended these days, as they put the body into a starvation response and it’s less effective than a cleansing diet.
If you want a really good go, it would be best to see a Herbalist or Naturopath who can design a regime and keep a close eye on you. First timers and people who are debilitated can struggle with a detox and having the moral support as well as the right herbs and foods will be invaluable.
For a D.I.Y detox, start in the spring. The top 3 detox herbs are:
Dandelion: The root cleanses the liver whilst the leaf works on the kidneys. It’s also full of Potassium so unlike some conventional diuretics, there’s no need to take Potassium supplements.
Nettle: Is a great tonic, full of Iron and other vitamins & minerals. The young nettle tops in particular make a really nice sweet tea. In herbal astrology Nettle is ruled by Mars, the planet associated with strength and action, and it really is a great fortifying tonic.
Cleavers: Also known as Goosegrass, this plant is a gentle but powerful lymphatic cleanser and a mild diuretic.
Drinking these fresh or dried in a ratio of:
Dandelion root: 1 part
Dandelion leaf: 1 part
Nettle leaf: 1 part
Cleavers 2 parts
With a few slices of lemon several times a day will help give you a thorough cleanse, and you may notice some associated benefits like clearer skin and more vitality.
There’s nothing wrong with easing yourself into a detox over a couple of weeks, as it gives your body time to make the transition from normal diet to detox mode. Use this preparation time to gradually cut down your intake of alcohol, caffeine, dairy products, sugar, and refined foods to zero, and reduce your oils & fats if you need to.
If you’re generally in good health, two to four weeks in a D.I.Y detox regime is fine. Longer periods may be used by people with more serious health issues who are detoxing under the supervision of their therapist. During this time, maximise your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables and juices (good quality carrot, beetroot, and apple juices amongst others are available in most supermarkets). Beetroot juice is an excellent liver tonic, and apple juice cleans and soothes the bowel. Also include smaller amounts wholegrains, nuts, lentils, pulses, and organic chicken or fish if you eat meat. It obviously makes sense to eat everything organic during your cleanse, as you don’t want to add to the toxic burden, but the costs might well be prohibitive for many people. If this is the case, try to make sure that any meat is organic at least, and whatever else your budget will allow on top. You may well notice that you lose weight during this time, particularly if you incorporate some gentle exercise into your routine.
Aim to drink at least 1 ½-2 litres of mineral water, herb teas, and diluted fruit juices every day during and after your cleanse.
At the end of your detox, think about how you feel in comparison to normal and whether you’d like to make any changes to your usual diet. Then slowly start to reintroduce different foods and observe how you feel after eating them. It’s common to notice adverse reactions to certain foods when they’re reintroduced at this stage, which may indicate a food intolerance in some cases.
If you feel unwell, it’s likely to be due to the circulating toxins, so use your best judgement as to whether or not you should continue. Headaches can be caused by caffeine withdrawal and will generally pass after 3-4 days, and usually other symptoms will too. As always, for more advice, go to www.nimh.org.uk to find your local herbalist and contact them.