De-Marketing, De-Mythicizing, De-Mysticizing DETOX
Detoxing seems to be all the rage as we cruise into a new year, but whether we’re curious newbies or veterans, we want to experience a loving engagement with our body, not deprivation, during the process. When practiced comprehensively to include mindful exercises, the dedicated “detoxer" will also likely experience mental and spiritual clarity as channels (beyond the intestines) are unblocked and opened, but I don’t want to get too esoteric because it’s already enough to focus on just the physical aspect of cleansing. (This post is not a step-by-step detox diet plan as I only help clients with a personalized 21-day CLEAN program. It's meant to help shed some light on what detox is versus the marketing of detox. Anyone who is interested in more information about my detox coaching, please feel free to contact me.)
A new year motivates many of us to make positive changes and start off with a clean slate. "2015 will be the year!” we promise ourselves, and the changes we seek are usually about feeling better—in our bodies, in our minds, in our jobs, in our relationships, etc. We’ve heard of detox, and so after weeks of holiday indulgence, it sounds like just the ticket to kick off a new year, right?
As a 10-year practitioner of various detoxing plans, I’ve been watching the scene gain momentum and popularity, and think that this growing interest, part of what I call the Health Revolution, is truly wonderful! But, along with popularity comes marketing hype and it seems “detox” has become the new “yoga”—now used to sell everything from teas to footbaths to juice. But even with something as health promoting (or promising) as a detox, we need to be discerning and careful in a world increasingly being marketed with DETOX products.
As a Certified Holistic Health Coach—and certified detox coach in the Clean Program developed by Dr. Alejandro Junger as of this spring—I think any eating plan that includes lots of fresh vegetables, fruit, and water, and restricts processed foods, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and other troublemakers is great. Do 3 green juices a day equal a detox? Not exactly…
DE-MARKETING: DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE
- With so many new detox programs and products to hit the market, it’s become commonplace to confuse drinking green juice with detoxing. But true cleansing goes deeper and while the end result—usually after a good 21 days—is often a slimmer, less bloated, brighter complexioned YOU, the beginning isn’t all that pretty.
- Depending on our lifestyle habits and the state of our health at the onset, a true cleanse usually causes various uncomfortable symptoms, including headaches, congestion, chills, skin irritations, moodiness, and even borderline-frightening-tar-like-excrement as the body eliminates “mucous" buildup in the intestines. This is the part marketing geniuses leave out!
- If your chosen detox plan only causes hunger pangs due to limited calories and doesn’t prompt at least some of the negative symptoms I’ve mentioned—at least initially—then probably not much is really going on, except that you are treating your body to some much needed wholesome veggies, which don’t get me wrong, is always a good thing!
- Yet, ongoing negative symptoms might be a sign that the body is detoxing then “retox-ing” as Dr. Junger defines it. The toxins don’t get carried OUT of the body, but get re-absorbed, making us more ill than before. This is why I am cautious of juice-only plans that do not provide the body with essential support that cannot be had through juice alone (juice fasting for spiritual reasons is an entirely different endeavor!).
- Especially during detox mode, our bodies need substantial fiber and magnesium—just to name a couple of key nutrients—and most of us also need a quality probiotic to help replenish our gut bacteria. A pure juice plan won’t provide these.
- Juice fasting for more than two days means ultra low caloric intake and that can send our bodies into starvation mode—the body’s natural survival mechanism is to cling onto its fat until the next big hunt!—and actually contribute to messing up our metabolism. Moreover, because many synthetic chemicals are lipophilic, meaning they are attracted to fat, we want our bodies to break down excess fat, not retain it.
- A few days of juicing and eating kale are just not sufficient enough to bring our body into a deeper cleaning mode. Sorry, but that's a false promise.
- Quick results like losing a kilo or two of (water) weight provides immediate satisfaction, but don’t be surprised if that belly fat returns. To blast belly bulge for the better, we need a deeper plan that requires more time to clean house and help stabilize our systems.
- I’m not criticizing juicing though. Why green juice should be included in any great detox plan is that, in addition to the tonic-like immediately absorbed nutrients (I swear by green juice to immediately fix a dull complexion! Works.Every.Single.Time.), it offers the body amazing hydration—and hydrating helps the body to flush out toxins though urine and stool. According to Dr. Alejandro Junger, we should be hydrating enough to urinate once every hour during a cleanse. (Inconvenient, I know!)
- I’m also cautious of plans that include foods that are well known allergy and intolerance triggers. These include even some of our most loved fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries and tomatoes.
- Unless you have a squeaky clean diet and lifestyle (and who really does?), I don’t recommend diving into a detox A thorough detox plan should also have a PRE and POST phase of a few days on each end to slowly prepare the body for a more restricted diet and to ease back into more normal eating.
- A thorough detox plan should also act as a comprehensive elimination diet, so that in the process, we can learn about our personal intolerance triggers—which are not necessarily the ones we assumed we had (such as the assumption “I can’t tolerate legumes”).
- I hope some of the above points will help you better select your detox plan. The method I can’t praise enough though is, yes, you guessed—CLEAN by Dr. Junger.
DE-MYTHICIZING: WE CAN AID OUR BODIES TO DETOX MORE EFFICIENTLY
Recently, there has been a lot of negative media on detoxing, with accusations that it is based on pseudo science. I would guess that most of these critics have never done CLEAN by Dr. Junger, or they would be singing a different tune. They criticize Dr. Junger for selling a super expensive cleanse, but how much do we spend on daily medication, disease management, and awful fake foods? It seems Big Pharma is likely behind a lot of this negative press!
The first time I did the CLEAN program a few years ago, I didn't buy any products. I only followed the instructions and made my own shakes. It is possible to do. A bit more of a hassle, but possible.
If our bodies can naturally eliminate toxins with no external help from us with no worry for overload, then I guess we can just consume all the bluefin and shark we want, along with a diet full of pesticide laden produce and antibiotic pumped meat and dairy, and expose ourselves to endocrine disrupting paraben filled body products and various toxic environmental chemicals knowing our body can "deal" with it and we'd be dead if we had toxic overload?
Detox and cleansing—both body and mind—have been part of Ayurveda since ancient times. My Ayurvedic doctor refers to Ama and Ama toxicity all the time. (In simple terms, according to Ayurveda, Ama is caused by improperly digested toxic particles that clog our system, such as the intestines, lymphatic, urinary, and cardiac, but also our non-physical energy channels, called nadis.)
When we refer to detox, it should be understood as assisting the body's natural detoxing ability.
DE-MYSTIFYING: DETOXES ARE NOT JUST FOR SKINNY YOGIS
- True, a lot of yogis are veterans of cleansing.
- The ancient system of yoga has Shat Kriya—six yogic cleansing processes used to help purify the physical body, so I don’t think it’s a stretch to attribute much of the newfound interest in detoxing to the multi-million strong yoga community.
- But, detox is not just for yogis. The hot water and lemon in the morning, the strange green drinks, the tongue scraping, and the neti nasal irrigation methods are indeed quite routine for many yogis, but detoxing has now been marketed to move mainstream.
- Detox is also for those who have never stepped foot in an ashram, yoga shala, or even on a yoga mat. Detox is being demystified so that millions of people suffering from one or another chronic illness, lack of energy, and overall heaviness can help themselves to feel lighter and brighter. Yes! 2015 could be the year to try out this detox thing wisely!
NON-FOOD RELATED DETOXING HELP
- SWEATING: another significant way our body detoxes. Naturally, most detox plans focus on food—what to eat, what not eat, how often to eat—so we can relieve the body and help it be more efficient digesting and eliminating. Yet, although our liver is the hardest working detox organ, our skin is the largest organ of elimination and certain chemicals are known to come out of our sweat more readily than our urine, so it’s good to involve our skin in the detox process!
- According to Dr. Junger, in a healthy person, the skin is usually spared the job of eliminating heavier toxins and mainly releases water, minerals, and salts. However, if the bowels are not functioning properly, the body will recruit the other organs of elimination, which can potentially cause skin irritations. (Anyone who has done the CLEAN Program detox knows that it’s quite normal to experience some skin issues the first days. This is actually a good sign that stuff is happening!)
GET SWEATY WITH A HOT SALT AND GINGER BATH!
- This is the part that will feel less like work and more like pampering!
- Sweating is important, but when I’m doing a detox, I prefer not to workout too hard. I prefer a gentler yoga program and more stress relieving techniques, to encourage my body to sweat, I love a good long soak.
- Pour about 4 cups of mineral rich Epsom or Dead Sea salts into bath water as hot as you can tolerate and soak for at least half an hour to give the salts a chance to work and work up a good sweat. It’s also wonderful to add some fresh ginger root and relaxing lavender essential oil into the water as well.
- Drinking a hot herbal or ginger tea and lighting romantic candles can help transport you mentally to a relaxing spa (but know your body is working hard!).
- If you can end your bath with several blasts of alternating cold and hot water, you will rev up your body even more! (I truly truly hate cold water, so I just can't do this! I blame it on being Vata!)
DRY SKIN BRUSHING
- Dry skin brushing comes before the bath.
- I dry brush several times a week, not just during a detox, because it’s an economical and highly effective way to exfoliate dead skin cells, stimulate the circulatory and lymph systems, massage the muscles, and keeping the skin super smooth.
- A dry brush on dry skin can feel abrasive, so remember to massage your skin gently with circular motions—and always inward toward the heart!
- If you have access to a sauna, especially an infrared sauna that uses long light waves to heat the body instead of heating the air, this can help maximize perspiring.
- A sauna bath a few times a week, or even daily if you don’t overdo it, is optimal.
- Remember to hydrate well during and after.
- (Secret tip: I sometimes wrap a cold wet turban on my head as per the advice of my Ayurvedic doctor who does not like the head to get too hot!)
OTHER "DETOX" AIDS
- The image above shows the aforementioned Dead Sea salts and the dry skin brush (I prefer this type without a handle because it's easier to manipulate), but other little tools such as a nasal irrigation "neti" pot are also helpful.
- Water retention in this area can increase puffiness under the eyes, and nasal irrigation can really help to reduce the puffiness under the eyes by helping to drain the sinuses.
- A tongue scraper can reach areas at the back of the tongue that harbor bacteria that can cause odor and bad breath...something no one wants!
- Weleda Birch Tree Cellulite Oil is just the best oil I have found to help tighten and tone the skin and reduce cellulite. I adore this oil and have given to several girlfriends as gifts.
I hope this information has been helpful. I'm a big advocate of both regular full detoxes of three weeks, at least every other year, as well as shorter periods of "pulsing out" troublemaking food for up to five days to help reset our body. Please refer to my Detox Page for more information about the CLEAN program created the cardiologist by Dr. Alejandro Junger.
Here's to your health and happiness! Love and light,