Making changes to our diets often comes with detox symptoms as we reduce the consumption of sugary foods, caffeine, or alcohol in our diets. Let's talk about what detoxing is, how it affects us, and what we can do to lessen the severity of symptoms!
What Is A Detox?
The Center for Functional Medicine says, ""Detox" has 2 meanings: (1) to withdraw from the use of drugs or alcohol to which one has developed an addiction, and (2) to describe the body's physiologic process of rendering chemicals, compounds, hormones, and toxicants less harmful." (17IFM07_Detox Food Plan Comprehensive Guide_final_v6.indd (centerforfunctionalmedicine.com)
Your body works every day to unload toxins from your system. There are multiple ways the body does this! The lymphatic system (part of the circulatory and immune system) maintains body fluid levels by recirculating lymph (colorless fluid from tissues and organs) throughout the body and transports proteins into the bloodstream while also protecting us from illness. It has an important role in cleansing and detoxifying since it keeps things moving in our body. Massage therapy; which is something I do, helps to increase that circulation and move lymph throughout the body--there's actually a modality of massage called lymphatic drainage that does this! I highly suggest using massage as a tool to help you in your detoxing process!
In addition to the lymphatic system, your kidneys and liver are constantly filtering out the junk inside your body. The intestines (large intestine mainly) also helps to filter toxins out through the process of digestion. Our sweat glands also play a role; not only in keeping you cool, but by eliminating toxins from your pores! Another great tool for helping with detoxing AND detoxing symptoms are essential oils, which can also be absorbed through the pores.
So What Makes A Body Toxic?
So what constitutes a toxic body? We ingest, breathe in, touch, and come into contact with an abundance of toxins every single day through our diet and environment. Sometimes your body cannot eliminate the toxins as quickly as it accumulates. In fact, we don't get a good start as an infant when; according to the Center for Functional Medicine, there are at least 700 toxins in an average adult body and over 200 toxins in a newborn! How crazy is that? While there are many influences over the health of a newborn, such as the abundance of healthy bacteria that vaginal birth children are exposed to vs. how much less is on a child from a c-section birth, it's still a daunting number of toxins we are facing right from the beginning of life!
The many toxins that we have taken in has manifested in so many of the diseases we are facing today: Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's and other neurological issues, metabolic disorders like Diabetes, infertility, a variety of cancers, chronic fatigue, obesity, and other mental issues contributing to behavioral and mood disorders. Toxicity creates inflammation in the body, and the worse we feel--the less we really feel like doing! So we create this cycle where we live in this constant state of internal and external toxicity and it feels like an uphill battle to escape from. However, if we can keep our eyes focused on the long term benefits of a detox, then we can stick with it long enough to really see and feel the difference it can make in our lives.
Can Food Bring Us Freedom?
One common denominator that poisons us is the food we eat. Ironically, while it's food that can keep us in a toxic state, it also is the saving grace to maintain longevity. There are toxins all around us every day, and while we cannot escape everything, we can control what we put in our mouths. That one thing can determine if we will live until 65 or 95...it's up to us!
Many of my clients are trying to eliminate some type of toxin they regularly ingest--sugar, alcohol, refined carbohydrates like flour, gluten, sugar substitutes, coffee and/or other caffeinated beverages. At the end of the day, none of these are truly beneficial for our bodies. I'm all for balance and allowing yourself a variety of food in moderation; however, with the abundance of gut problems, chronic conditions, and food sensitivities and allergies, it makes sense to eliminate problem foods for a while.
Sometimes our bodies are so out of balance that it takes something drastic to bring it back into alignment. Most of the time we don't even realize how bad we feel because we are so accustomed to feeling that way. It's only when we eliminate a trigger food (ex: dairy) that we begin to find relief and realize how refreshing and energizing life can feel without it! For some people; once the gut is healed, they find they can reintroduce the trigger foods and they are no longer triggered by them!
For example, dairy is a very common food sensitivity. Actually, most people are lactose intolerant and we have been fooled that dairy is even necessary for our diets (but that's another topic). People who are sensitive to dairy can experience cramping, diarrhea, constipation, sinusitis, acid reflux symptoms, joint pain, and other problems. Once they go on an elimination diet and abstain from all dairy for a period of 6 months to a year, some people find they can reintroduce dairy and not have any more of those symptoms. Other people decide that they like life better without dairy and choose to continue living a dairy-free life!
What Are The Symptoms Of Detox?
Detoxing can be painful or pleasurable depending on how well you pay attention to your body throughout the process. If you stay in tune with what your body is saying, you will know what you need and when you need it. Some symptoms of detoxing include:
Tiredness and fatigue usually hit first. The body is overloaded with trying to eliminate toxins and so all of your energy wants to go to that process, which leaves no energy left for anything else. You may find yourself having trouble concentrating and wanting to sleep a lot, and that's normal! The best time to detox is during a time when you can rest. If you know a big project is coming up next week and you'll be spending late nights at work hustling, maybe next week isn't the best time to do it. Healing requires time and space.
Moodiness and irritability usually go hand in hand with the fatigue. Parents, be ready to show some compassion for yourself and be flexible when the kids are bugging you to play video games or eat cake for breakfast. Detoxing can make us feel cranky and moody. We may find ourselves snapping at our significant other or children. You may want to have a conversation with family and friends ahead of time to inform them of what you are doing.
Bowel changes are normal. You may be constipated from eating less food, or even experience diarrhea from increasing the amount of greens you are eating. Drinking water is extremely important in helping with these changes. You may also experience flu-like symptoms. Some people have so many toxins they may vomit during detox. It's understandable to be concerned about viruses going around this time of year, but if you are detoxing, that is most likely the culprit.
Lastly, as toxins begin to work from the inside out, you may find skin conditions worsening. Acne, psoriasis, eczema, rosacea flare-ups, and even hives are all issues that can happen as the body heals. Sometimes these symptoms can last a couple weeks. Have grace on your body and know that it's doing its best to heal and these things take time.
How Can You Support Your Body Through Detox?
So how can you support your body through a detox and alleviate some of the symptoms you experience with it? The more comfortable you can make the process, the more likely you will stick with the changes that come from it. And that's the whole goal--to stick with it long-term and create a sustainable toxin-free lifestyle.
So what kind of essential oils help with detoxing? First of all, there are oils that help with the actual detox, and there are other oils that help with the detox symptoms. Oils like fennel assist with stimulating the stomach for digestion, while peppermint helps soothe and relieve cramping and digestive upset. Oils such as ylang ylang and neroli can be uplifting and help with feelings of depression, while lavender can bring calmness to moments of irritation. See my List of Essential Oils for Detoxing to learn how oils can support you through the process!
Water is ESSENTIAL to providing detox relief! Most people should at least be aiming for 64oz of water daily, but if you want maximum benefits try to get in 1oz of water per pound of body weight. Also, try to choose the most filtered, alkaline water available. Purchase a reusable water bottle and keep it full at all times. Bottled water is a back up choice, but keep in mind that we are trying to eliminate toxins and plastic water bottles have been known to have bisphenol-A which is a chemical that can leech into the water and is also an endocrine disruptor for us. That also goes for canned/packaged foods--another reason to eat clean!
Eating clean simply means eating more of what's grown in nature. The best rule of thumb is to shop the parameters of the grocery store and stay away from the all the middle sections. Choose as much organic as possible. If you cannot shop all organic, make sure to at least choose organic for the Dirty Dozen foods. Eating organic means choosing foods that do not have GMO's, heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, and endocrine disruptors. Always choose leaner meats, as pesticides tend to concentrate in the fatty tissue of animals. Interestingly, if we have more fatty tissue on our body, does that mean obese people are more toxic? Just food for thought!
Also, when choosing food ingredients, watch out for preservatives such as food coloring and dyes, artificial sweeteners, food additives to enhance flavor, MSG, sulfites, and other ingredients that don't truly serve any purpose except to make it look prettier, taste prettier, or last longer on the shelf.
Fulvic Acid is another way to support yourself during a detox. Fulvic and humic acids come from the ground. It's healthy dirt! Soil is slowly becoming more and more depleted of its natural minerals and in turn, our food is not as nourishing as it once was. Fulvic and humic acids are mineral-rich compounds from deep underground that have been shown to bind to toxins and remove them from the body; as well as, adding minerals and nutrients to the body, restoring gut health, providing energy, fights viruses, enhances sleep, and much more! If you'd like to learn more about this miracle dirt, check out Black Oxygen Organics!
Psyllium Husk is also a way to assist in your detox through binding with waste in the gut and moving it along to eliminate. It provides extra fiber and bulk, so drink plenty of water! The more you eliminate, the better you'll feel. One of my favorite products is Young Living's Essential Oils Cleansing Trio. Comfortone capsules have psyllium husk along with a ton of other healthy ingredients to help with detoxing! Other products you'll find there (or you can purchase on your own elsewhere. Just pay attention to quality) are pre- and probiotics and digestive enzymes. Personally, I like many of the products that come from Dr. Eric Nepute. Digestive enzymes will help break down your food, reducing some of the work in your gut and leaving that energy available for other functions. The pre- and probiotics help with the restoration and replenishment of a healthy microbiome as all of the junk leaves your system.
So, What Next?
To take the next step, decide what it is you need to eliminate from your diet or your environment to begin making changes. No one will ever be 100% toxin-free, but we can continue to strive to live at optimal health knowing that we did everything we could to feel our best and have a long, happy life.
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