By Naturopath Jeremy Hill
It's that time of the year again when we're keen to throw out the bad habits of the past and get off to a fresh start. So begin the year with a resolution worth making and commit to a revitalising summer cleansing program to boost energy and enhance wellbeing.
Maybe you're living free of the full blown symptoms of disease. Perhaps in the last year you've repeatedly suffered colds, or maybe you're just doing okay, healthwise. Regardless, you could probably be a little, or a lot, healthier. Good health is a lot more than "not feeling sick".
First, get to the guts of the problem by adding fibre and some yoghurt or a probiotic supplement to your meals to improve bowel health. A toxic gut stresses the body causing allergies, sensitivities, inflammation, malnutrition and liver stress.
Add to this the stressors of modern living, that "age old" problem of ageing, some extra belly fat and daily exposure to a bunch of toxins, and the fallout can be serious.
All this adds up to oxidative stress (from free radical damage) and reduced energy from the damage to the cells' powerhouses, the mitochondria. Fatigue and dysfunction in the body's organs and systems then reduce the capacity of the body to regulate itself, leading to disease.
Kick your program along with one of the biggest pieces in the health puzzle, and the missing link for most people today, exercise. I love the paradox that it takes energy to exercise and yet it makes you feel energetic. Keeping frequency, intensity and duration in mind, start your program with a slightly challenging mix of aerobic and resistance exercise, supported by some stretching.
Exercise can affect your energy, mood, body and brain more than anything else. And remember, the pain of discipline is nothing compared to the pain of regret. It's well worth it. I also recommend treating yourself to a massage to untangle any new muscle knots and assist the detox process by squeezing out congested lymph.
Don't feel the need to fast or cut out protein to achieve a good cleanse. On the contrary, high quality plant proteins such as legumes (beans, lentils, peas), nuts and seeds, and a little lean animal protein actually assist the liver's ability to remove toxins, as you release accumulated POPs (persistent organic pollutants) such as heavy metals, PCBs and dioxins.
In fact, formulated detoxification powders tend to emphasise quality protein content for this reason. They often contain concentrated, fortified low allergenic legume or rice proteins, because other protein foods such as dairy, nuts, seeds and seafood can cause allergic reactions ranging in severity.
Your meals should be smaller than usual and made up predominantly of plant-based and non processed foods.
Raw food isn't necessarily better: many nutrients are made more available through cooking which deactivates the digestive inhibitors. Even goitrogens, which occur naturally in several healthy foods and may inhibit thyroid function in susceptible individuals can be made harmless through cooking.
Often on a cleanse, weight loss will occur. Unfortunately, this often welcomed change also comes with the risk of mobilised toxins, which can also oxidise cholesterol - increasing atherosclerosis risk. Obviously, the last thing you want to do when trying to get healthy is increase your heart disease risk, so be sure to load up on antioxidant support. Berries, green tea and vegetable juices are a great start, but their protective effects can be really enhanced with the correct supplements.
During a cleanse, the liver has enough to do without the extra burden of a few kilos of mobilised, potentially oxidised fat. So it may be worth supporting your cleanse with a liver tonic. This should ideally be prescribed by a professional trained in nutritional and herbal medicine. The potential for unknowingly exposing yourself to unwanted contaminants, fillers, binders and toxins in supplements is very real. Supplements can differ greatly in absorption, activity and efficacy - and toxin level is another category that deserves attention.
Heavy metal contamination in fish oils, for example, has been shown to vary over 100-fold, and recent research into a class of Ayurvedic herbal medicines known as Rasa Shastra actually found extremely high levels of mercury, lead and arsenic in about 20% of a wide sample range purchased over the internet. The study also noted heavy metals in three quarters of samples whose manufacturers actually claimed on their labels to either test for metals or follow good manufacturing practices.
The short-term goal of detoxing and recharging is easily achievable if you keep it simple, stick to a plan and develop strategies to manage potential obstacles (parties, people, habits) that may impede your progress. Your results depend on your actions and, more importantly, your mindset, so I guess the rest is up to you!
Jeremy Hill (Diploma of Natural Therapy) is a Qualified Naturopath.