Wellbeing coach Carole Caplin, leading UK homeopath Lyndsey Booth and top naturopathic doctor Nigma Talib team up to bust some January myths about detoxing.
If you’re planning to start the New Year by giving up booze, coffee and sugar, knowing a bit about how a detox works will help ensure you get the most benefit from it. And even if your diet is already nun-like in its purity, learning about how your body deals with poisons will help you to support its elimination of those environmental toxins…
Poo, pee, sweat and breath are the four main ways the body gets rid of the stuff it doesn’t like. Some toxins can be eliminated directly, while others need to be transformed by the liver into fat or water soluble compounds before they can be excreted.
The liver works extraordinarily hard to keep poisons down to manageable levels. It filters all the blood in our bodies every two and a half minutes, neutralising poisons, or producing bile which carries them to the intestines where the’re absorbed by fibre that can be expelled from the body.
Cutting out alcohol, coffee, refined sugars and saturated fats reduces the liver’s heavy workload; minimising the use of non-natural cleaning and personal healthcare products helps too. This has the double benefit of increasing the liver’s effectiveness in processing the toxins that do remain, and improving its ability to absorb the nutrients broken down in the small intestine. Like the liver, the digestive system has the dual role of extracting the good and eliminating the bad. While it will also will benefit from having to cope with a lower level of toxicants, many detox programs employ fasting, colonic irrigation, drinking lemon juice or honey and cayenne as ways of making the digestive tract more efficient. These will offer some benefits but effects are not lasting.
Nutritional supplements can improve the effectiveness of your detox. So, following a cleanse, taking high doses of pancreatic enzyme supplements containing acid-neutralising bicarbonates will inhibit the re-population of unwanted parasites in the small intestine, while boosting the production of digestive enzymes and beneficial bacteria.
Oregano, thyme, peppermint, and goldenseal root extract can inhibit the growth of candida, bacteria, viruses, and fungi after detoxification. Check, though, that these supplements have an enteric coating to ensure the herbs can survive stomach acids. It’s also the case that many probiotics contain bacteria rendered useless by exposure to light, air and finally (if they can survive the effects of poor packaging to make it so far) stomach acid. Be sure to buy one that delivers the bacteria to where it is effective, the intestine.
Instead of stimulating the bacteria that gets rid of existing toxins, magnesium oxide helps reduce the build-up of toxic chemicals in the first place. It draws water into the intestines causing their contents to soften, swell and scrub the intestinal walls as they pass through. Slippery elm bark coats irritated mucous membranes, drawing out toxins and soothing the intestinal wall. Marshmallow achieves a similar mollifying effect while encouraging white blood cells to seek out and destroy harmful germs, and peppermint leaf extract increases the flow of bile, relaxes intestinal muscles, and reduces cramps and gas that may occur during detox.
The importance of fibre is well known. It expands when it enters the gut, soaks up toxins along with other wastes then carries them away. The best fibres are oat bran (the most soluble fibre of any grain), citrus pectin (helps strengthen immune cells), psyllium husk (more re-absorption ability than other bowel-regulating fibres), and guar gum, (a dietary fibre from the seed of the guar plant that helps clear the colon of toxins and other wastes).
Prevention is better than cure, though. Antioxidants destroy the so-called free radicals which are responsible for a significant amount of toxins in the body. The most effective is glutathione but N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine, quercetin, and milk thistle also work.
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