If waking up every day feels like a hangover without a cure, it may just be your body telling you that it needs a break. And not just a day of healthy food either. A real break, the kind that will enable the body to regenerate so that you can feel more alert, healthy and alive. That’s where detoxing comes in. It isn’t just a liquid fast and a resulting headache, but rather a gentle and mild process that is achievable annually or more frequently.

stomach careThe festering digestive sea

Believe it or not, in the average lifetime, around 100 tons of food is digested in your stomach and 300,000 liters of digestive juices help break it down. Since the skin of the digestive track is only about a quarter of the thickness of paper, it can easily be damaged by toxins like pesticides, food additives, alcohol, caffeine and cigarette smoke.

Add in the fifteen pounds of putrefied fecal matter that sits in our bodies on an average basis and our intestinal system begins to resemble a denser, sludgier version of Victoria Harbour on a good day. And if toxins are allowed to build up in the body and get into the bloodstream, there could be serious consequences. Chronic fatigue, stress, food allergies and hormonal imbalances are all possible by-products of a poisoned body. But detoxing just once a year allows the body to renew itself, naturally.

yogaHow to Detox

The lemon-juice detox diet that Beyonce is said to be so fond of? That’s not a proper detox. While the combination of cayenne pepper, lemon juice and maple syrup may help you shed a few water pounds; it’s not giving the body the replacement nutrients that it needs. Instead, the 21-day detox is the safest option.

By training your body to eat more often but in smaller amounts, energy is replenished every few hours (no more fainting spells), and those hunger pangs will be a distant memory. This type of eating also maintains a stabilised insulin level, which means that there’ll be less stored fat, as well as faster metabolism. Here are same basic guidelines and rules that can be followed to ensure healthy detoxing and a healthier lifestyle after the cleansing.

spa treatmentThe Basic Detox

The easiest and simplest form of detoxification is suitable for all people, of all ages and sizes. As it is generally mild and has minimal side effects, this detox diet can be practised for a prolonged period of time, depending on what preference the person has. Try not to think of it as a diet, but as a ritual that takes time and is calming in the process – take five meals or more a day.

Try to eat more often, but less food. It is normally advised that no alcohol, sugar, and processed foods are taken during this period, and caffeine-loaded tea is limited to about two or three cups a day. If a food is unnaturally white (bread, pasta, oats, rice, even sugar), it means it has been processed and has lost all minerals and nutrition.

If you restrict yourself, you’ll crave ‘danger’ foods and could end up bingeing, so try to pacify your needs by eating little and less. Dairy products should be generally taken in moderation – try to substitute it with Soya products. For those who aren’t as attached to dairy products, it’s best to avoid eating them for 21 days at least. Light exercise is recommended, and other rituals such as aromatherapy and yoga can be a pleasant mood lifter.

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Here is a list of foods that should become staples during detoxification.

Soya milk and soy products: More stores in this city now sell a wide range of soy products, including soy cheese, soy yoghurts and different variations of Soya milk. Be warned though, calcium enriched Soya milk is safe, but avoid vanilla, sweetened, or chocolate flavoured versions, as they tend to be filled with sugar.

Fresh vegetables: Frozen vegetables lose their nutritional value in the freezing process, so try to buy vegetables in their most natural state. Particularly good detox vegetables include artichokes, beetroots, broccoli, cauliflower, and most green vegetables. Onions and cabbage contain naturally occurring toxins and should be avoided.

Fresh fruit: All fruit is allowed. Be more inventive in your choices to add some variety to your diet – try starfruit, custard apples, pomegranates, kumquats or figs. A diet heavy in berries is suggested, blackberries, bilberries, cranberries, acai berries, goji berries and blueberries all have excellent beneficial properties.

meditatingGrains: Brown rice is preferred. White rice is basically brown rice without the bran covering, thus losing an essential source of fiber. Brown rice is digested for longer, as the fiber slows down the absorption of carbohydrates. Quinoa, amaranth, millet and buckwheat are all grains that can be substituted for rice, but are generally hard to find in stores.

Seeds and nuts: Flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds are all excellent sources of nutrition and energy. Try almonds, cashews and walnuts instead of peanuts.

The Aftermath

After 21 days, you should be feeling much healthier and can start reintroducing meats and fish. However, dairy products should still be eaten in moderation and in light of a new healthy eating regime, avoid alcohol and processed foods. Meats and fish are generally safe from the toxins that weight-loss diets claim they have, so will not clog the system after a period of cleansing. The liver is most capable of eliminating toxins from these meats, as long as they have not been altered in any way.

exercisingWhat the experts say

There’s simply no scientific evidence to suggest that our bodies need help to get rid of waste products if we are healthy. There’s also little proof to support the claims that detox diets work.

Many nutritionists, dieticians and doctors believe that our bodies are completely capable of excreting waste without the aid of ‘detoxing’ – that’s what our liver, lungs, kidneys and skin are designed to do, after all. Most experts also say that strict detox diets followed in the long term, can lead to nutrient deficiencies and health problems.

For example, by eliminating dairy products from your diet, it’s very hard to meet nutritional needs for calcium, a mineral that’s needed for strong bones and teeth. And in the long term, a deficiency of calcium can lead to osteoporosis or brittle bone disease in later life.

eating rightThe Verdict

There are a few aspects of detoxing which can certainly help boost your health. These include eating more fruit and vegetables, drinking more water and cutting out the ‘junk food’ in your diet.

Nonetheless, without solid evidence that a detox diet is necessary or actually works, the restrictions should be minimal and it should really be part of a longer and more varied, healthy eating plan.

Remember, there’s no substitute for a healthy diet and regular exercise when it comes to being healthy, losing weight or just feeling in shape – and if you’re eating well most of the time, there’s simply no need to get caught up in the detoxing cycle. However, done right, it can certainly give your body a lift and be a fine break from the everyday routine.