Updated: Apr 10, 2020
Who said you have to spend loads of money and suffer in order to cleanse? Not me! Whether or not you detox or cleanse on a regular basis, or whether you even believe in detoxing, the following mid-Spring tips are meant to be non-restrictive and promote balance. I’ve personally never been a fan of strict detoxing, but believe in ‘gentle’ cleanses as there is no harm in taking short breaks from foods and substances that increase the workload of the liver. The liver is constantly detoxifying. If it’s not detoxifying the food you eat or the wine you drink, it’s detoxifying the air you breathe- especially if you live in the city- and even your body’s own metabolic wastes. So regardless, your liver is always hard at work. That’s why it’s important to sometimes just give your liver a little TLC and help take the stress off by avoiding certain foods and increasing others. These are my tips:
1. Avoid Alcohol
Alcohol, especially red wine, has some beneficial, heart healthy effects. But generally, alcohol does more harm than good as people often have more than what is required for the beneficial effects. Most alcohol is metabolized by the liver. Over the long run, excess intake can lead to liver cell damage and fat build-up. Moderate drinking will likely not result in the above, but it is never a bad idea to take a short break and give your liver a little vacation from alcohol.
2. Increase intake of cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous veggies, like broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts, are rich in Sulphur-containing amino acids. Sulphur-rich amino acids are involved in the conjugation, or deactivation, of toxic byproducts of liver detoxification. These toxic molecules are not necessarily from “toxic” foods you eat, but can be a result from the breakdown of hormones, environmental pollutants and chemicals. The conjugation process ensures that the toxic substance is able to leave the system through urine, sweat, or bile. So eat plenty of these crunchy veggies to support your liver in the detox process.
3. Eat a variety of colourful fruit and vegetables (aim for all the rainbow colours)
By eating a variety of colourful produce (orange, purple, green, etc) you are optimizing your intake of antioxidants. Antioxidants are fundamental in the liver detox process as free radicals are a byproduct of detoxification. Without adequate amounts of antioxidants, free radicals build-up and cause damage to our cell membranes. Antioxidants from flavonoids (i.e. berries, green tea), vitamin C (peppers, broccoli, citrus fruit), vitamin E (almonds, olive oil, avocados), and selenium (i.e. Brazil nuts) are suggested to be particularly important for liver detox.
4. Increase intake of fibre
We all know that fibre is good for elimination. Fibre is also necessary for the elimination of bile. The liver produces bile and is needed for the digestion and absorption of fats in the small intestine. Bile is also a carrier of some the toxic byproducts of detoxification. Fibre binds to bile in the small intestine and is eliminated. It is by this same mechanism that cholesterol gets excreted and thus blood levels lowered. If the diet is low in fibre, bile, along with the toxins, and cholesterol while we’re on the topic, is more likely to get reabsorbed and recycled. This is the one time we don’t want to promote recycling. Make sure to get at least 25g and 35g fibre for females and males, respectively. Good sources of fibre include fruit and vegetables, particularly raspberries, pears, apples, artichokes, broccoli (again!), among many others. Other excellent sources of fibre includes beans, lentils and peas, nuts and seeds (i.e. flax and chia seeds).
5. Drink enough water or herbal teas
The human body is made up of about 60% water. Drinking enough water is fundamental in order for the cells and tissues to function optimally. Much of the body’s wastes are excreted through water, such as through urine and sweat. Low water intake, or mild dehydration, places stress on your kidneys and makes the elimination of waste products more difficult. Having adequate fluid levels also allows nutrients to be transported more easily throughout the body. Herbal teas are a good alternative for those who dislike the taste of water and, of course, for anyone else. Drink it hot, warm, room temperature or cold, whichever way you like (except with sugar). Have chamomile if you are always stressed; have peppermint, fennel or ginger if you have digestive complaints; have rooibos for a spicier, fuller-bodied tea.
6. Cut the crap
If you are a healthy individual, your body will do just fine processing and eliminating any junk you eat. However, for the purpose of a cleanse/detox and some extra liver care, cut the crap! What exactly is crap? Anything that is highly processed and refined, has a long list of ingredients, and has ingredients that are mysterious and hard to pronounce. As a basic rule of thumb stick to foods that come in their original form (fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, eggs, water) as much as possible. Additionally, include healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil and avocados, and avoid fried foods and vegetable oils, unless cold-pressed. Avoid packaged foods that appear to be healthy just because they have the words “Gluten-free”, “Organic” or “Omega”. Organic, gluten-free nachos are not detox-friendly. And, lastly, avoid added-sugars. Small amounts of honey, maple syrup and dried fruit is okay.
Whether you call this detoxing, cleansing or healthy eating, you can apply these tips for a short or long period of time without putting your body at risk for deficiencies. No crazy lemon water detoxes here!