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Don’t detox, do this instead

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Let me guess… you’re scrolling through your social feed right now, thinking “what kind of cleanse should I do for January?” Though I hope this isn’t the case, if it is, I want you to stop. The myth of needing to cleanse, or worse, “detox” your body is so prevalent, I’m always compelled to write a post about it every January. I won’t get too “sciencey” here, but trust that the organs of your body all detoxify themselves multiple times daily and no, they don’t all dump into your bloodstream. If this were true, you would have dropped dead a long time ago!

This time of year, the “wellness” industry assumes you have destroyed yourself over the holidays, and aims to sell you expensive, unnecessary and potentially harmful “detox” products to “undo” whatever you might have eaten over the holidays. There’s no doubt that the holiday break can leave us feeling tired, bloated and sluggish, usually from way more than just all the sugar, alcohol and extra foods we enjoyed. Forget the detox and follow these tips instead to start off your new year! These are great for kids and parents alike!

Firstly, a detox is a medically supervised process that is often used for those suffering with substance-use disorder. It must be done in a hospital or rehab setting, so don’t kid yourself, you ain’t “detoxing” at home. Cleanses come in many formats these days, from traditional juice fasts, bone broth fasts, ultra-low-calorie diets, cutting out food groups, to ingesting herbal concoctions to “remove toxins”. Typically, this all boils down to mean cutting down your food intake and inducing some form of laxative effect that is supposed to make you feel like you’ve “cleansed” everything unhealthy from your body (a.k.a. You will have low energy and probably diarrhea).

This is problematic for many reasons. First, as I mentioned, your body regularly removes toxins on its own. Second, ultra-caloric restriction and / or inducing laxative effects can be incredibly harmful. You can get dehydrated, cause dreaded re-feeding syndrome or spark mental health issues, such as OCD-behaviors or ED. Third, extreme diets are unsustainable and often result in corresponding binge patterns with food and alcohol weeks after they are completed. And fourth, they promote the idea that you have been “bad” or unhealthy by indulging during the holidays. So, let’s take it easy on ourselves, acknowledge that the holidays are full of both festive meals and changes to our normal routine, and take a few little steps to get back to feeling like ourselves again!

The tummy discomfort you felt over the holidays might be due to lack of fibre, movement and fluid, both of which changes digestion. Add 10 grams of fibre to each meal per day (this could look like ½ cup of nuts, or ¾ cup of beans or high-fibre cereal or even 1 cup of non-starchy veg). Feed your gut bacteria, and they will happily thank you by bulking and moving that good stuff out! Think 100% whole grains, whole fruit with the skin as a snack, an extra 1.5 cups of veggies with skin, or ½ cup of some seeds or nuts into your smoothie or oatmeal. This goes for children as well!

The holidays are full of delicious drinks, but your body is probably craving extra water due to heated indoors, dry air and extra heavy meals. To assist with digestion and give you more energy, have 2 cups of fluid in-between meals and in the morning upon waking. Carry around a water bottle with you to drink throughout the day; make it easy on yourself and grab a 1 litre bottle you can fill twice.

Some foods force our body to release more fluid, which can be helpful with regulating bloating and digestive upset. Sometimes the bloating we feel is due to fluid retention, so try adding: watermelon, celery, fish, apples and ground flax seed to help to release (aka pee) some of that excess fluid out. Don’t worry, it’s a mild effect and is not dehydrating.

Getting back into your sleep schedule is the best thing you can do to feel more energetic, reduce cravings and re-regulate your hormones. Aim for 7-8 hours per night. Eat your dinner 3 hours before sleep, and avoid caffeine 12 hours before, to promote a deep restorative sleep.

We aren’t suggesting any extreme exercise routines here but getting 20-30 minutes of movement daily (so your heart-rate is higher than normal) is 100% effective to help reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, improve digestion, hormonal regulation, blood pressure and stabilize mood. Exercise is true “snake oil”. Anything is better than nothing; try going for a brisk walk midday or after dinner, joining a yoga class or doing some exercises at home with the kids using an app or free YouTube vids.

Holiday meals often involve a lot of buttery baking and meat-centered meals, which can mean a lot of saturated fat. Try focusing on some healthier sources of fat for now, such as avocado, nuts, and olive oil. Aim to have at least 1 to 2 tablespoons of high-quality olive oil daily, and at least ¼ cup of nuts and seeds. Make fish a priority meal 2 x weekly for important brain fats.

While cleanses are full of many herbs or laxatives or purgatives in large quantities (as pills, teas or potions) they can induce a lot of digestive distress. Adaptogens are small doses of evidence-based herbs such as Ashwagandha or Maca, that are meant to boost your body’s own healing abilities, instead of overriding them. You can enjoy these immune-boosting herbs in a variety of meals and beverages. Moringa, Chaga mushrooms, Ginseng, and Maca can be stirred into hot beverages, blended into smoothies, or added to your sauces and soups to provide energy and immunity benefits. This is one I would keep to just the adults in the family!

Follow these, and you will be feeling yourself in no time. No “guilt”, shame or suffering required, because these are changes you can continue. Take some deep belly breaths, reflect on all the great moments you had in 2019, including all the good food you enjoyed.

Happy New Year, 2020 couldn’t look brighter!!!!!

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