Detox: The Key to Optimal Health

Detox, the buzzword among the health-conscious, is like "spring cleaning" your body

Drinking juiceDusting, vacuuming, throwing away used, old stuff and creating a fresh, clean atmosphere inside your body is detox.

Our body has a detoxifying system in place made up of the liver, lungs, kidneys, gastro-intestinal tract, and skin, all of which work to eliminate toxins that enter our body through air, water, food and skin.

But, considering the times we live in, the kind of foods we eat, the lifestyle we follow present too tough a task for these built-in detoxification systems. Some of these untackled toxins start building up in our bodies causing a host of health problems like loss of vitality, dull skin and hair, weight gain, abdominal bloating, indigestion, and a general feeling of ill-health.

Detoxification, therefore, becomes essential to make our body jump-start itself out of the rut of toxin build-up towards a life filled with vitality.

A complete detox process includes cleansing of the skin, liver, colon, and kidneys. A high fibre diet helps in eliminating residual waste from your intestines; vitamins and nutrition made available by eating fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts provides all the vital enzymes for cleansing the liver and kidneys. Taking a steam bath or sauna, and performing exercise, helps sweat out the toxins accumulated in the skin.

Detox diet

In a detox diet, you avoid certain foods that overload the system and eat other nutrition-rich foods that speed up mopping of old toxins and waste.

This diet will exclude allergenic foods, which may cause problems with digestion and elimination. Foods like wheat [glutens] and dairy [milk, cheese] are often the cause of many unknown allergies where the person may just be feeling down or have a sense of bloating and discomfort.

Refined sugar is eliminated because of its zero nutritional value and, therefore, empty calories. Meats are excluded because they may contain added hormones and/or antibiotics and are very difficult to process, taking a long time to be cleared by the digestive system. Tea, coffee and fizzy drinks are also out because they slow down the process of cleansing. Herbal teas are allowed though. Over-cooking destroys the nutritional value of these high nutrition foods. Eating raw, juicy or steamed food would be the best option.

Weekend detox

Detox diets comprise of eating more fruit and vegetables, drinking more water and cutting down on junk food and processed foods. Never look at detox for weight loss but as a mean of rejuvenation, relaxing and energising the entire system.

Day 1: Plenty of water and fruits [excluding bananas and chickoo] for the entire day in unlimited quantity

Start the day with watermelon.

Mid-morning: apple. Lunch: papaya with lemon squeezed on it, 4.00 pm: grapes, 6.00 pm: oranges, 7.00 pm: papaya

Day 2: Breakfast: watermelon

Lunch: salads + vegetables + pineapple. Use cold pressed organic oils [either sesame or groundnut]. No potato should be included.

Mid-evening: banana

Dinner: salad + vegetable + soup

Day 3: have fruits for breakfast and include peppermint herbal infusions.

Lunch: salad + vegetables + sprouts + 1 roti

Mid-evening: any fruit

Dinner: salad + vegetable+ soup + brown rice

- Courtesy: Naini Setalvad, Dietician & Nutritionist, Mumbai

Ayurvedic angle

According to ayurveda, the best time to go through a detox routine is the time after winter. A complete ayurvedic cleansing programme includes 15 days of preparation and 45 days of actual cleansing.

Ama is the residual matter of incomplete digestion - a sticky toxic substance that clogs the channels that carry nutrients to the cells and waste out of the body. Cleansing is done to eliminate ama out of the body. It is essential that a person wanting to clear ama shouldn't eat any ama-producing foods during this period.

Ama increasing foods Ama reducing foods
Food grown with high level pesticides, chemicals Lightly cooked vegetables
Deep fried food Mung bean soup
Dairy products - Cheese, yogurt, whole milk Sweet juicy fruits - apple, pears, prunes
Sugar/fat-lade sweets Cooked leafy greens
Bread and biscuits Light whole grains such as quinoa, barley, amarnath and small helpings of rice

Spices like ginger, turmeric, coriander, fennel to be used with all the above.

- Source: Maharishi Ayurveda

It is recommended that you drink warm water throughout the day to help flush out toxins. Herbal tea made by boiling ginger and fennel is a good detoxifying agent.

Word of caution

While it is good to follow a detox plan once in a while, or a natural foods diet for life, it is important not to go overboard with fruit juice diets or fasting diets. They may sound a fast-forward way to losing weight, but they may do more harm than good by disturbing electrolyte balance and causing loss of muscle. Getting into a detox regime under the guidance of a qualified therapist is the best way to go about it.

8 Detox Ideas for Life

  1. Water. Keep sipping water throughout the day and consume up to two litre. Don't gulp glasses of water hastily as you may swallow a lot of air which, in turn, causes bloating
  2. Air. Make sure you take a brisk walk in a natural setting.This revs up your circulation and flushes toxins out of the kidneys and liver
  3. Go gradual. Reduce the frequency with which you eat refined foods, red meat, sugar. Go for cereals with half the sugar content of your current sugary cereal, or mix a no-sugar cereal with your sugary cereal
  4. Keep up the taste. Ginger, garlic, lemon rind, freshly squeezed orange, cayenne pepper, black pepper, fennel are some of the spices and flavourings you can add to food to give it a zing and tantalise your taste buds
  5. Fibre. For any meal, choose ingredients with high fibre content. Fibre is the best natural detoxifying agent; it sweeps away all the collected debris in the intestines. Choose whole wheat bread over white bread. Play with interesting grains like cracked wheat, red unpolished rice, and millets for creating variety in your meals
  6. Chew. The age-old granny's wisdom is completely true. Mixing food well with saliva makes it alkaline and, therefore, less harmful than unchewed food. Not chewing your food properly also means that it stays longer in your gut causing indigestion and bloating
  7. Organic food. Food that has not been treated with harsh chemicals and is grown naturally will be good for you. If you have access to organically-grown produce, go for it, or if you have the means to growing it yourself, nothing like it!
  8. Skin brushing. Brushing your body with a soft skin brush rushes blood to the surface capillaries and toxins are eliminated from the pores. Use long sweeps; start at the feet and work up towards the heart. It is a good practice to follow this routine each day for five minutes before shower.

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