Spring Clean for Physical and Mental Wellness
Spring is a great opportunity to give our liver some good old TLC
As our bodies battle constantly with our toxic environment which is loaded with chemicals in the food we eat, the liquids we drink and the air we breathe, our liver, a multi-tasking workaholic, filters about 90 litres of blood per hour. It works 24/7 as it purifies the blood and detoxifies toxins. Environmental chemicals (pesticides, medications, alcohol and caffeine for example) as well as internal toxins like our own hormones and toxic waste from the digestive tract are what our poor liver has to deal with on a daily basis. Our often under – nurtured liver constantly converts one substance to another changing chemical structures of different foods we consume to build structural proteins. This amazing organ also changes environmental toxins, chemicals, drugs and medications into safer more soluble molecules which can then get eliminated through our “number 1’s” and “number 2’s”. Interestingly, even when the liver is not functioning at full capacity, it still has the capability of regenerating, correcting and improving its own function. But the greatest regeneration can simply come from us being kinder to it. Supporting “Life Education” by giving your body a break from alcohol for a few weeks can help you do just that.
When the liver is over challenged, it may start to send you some signals in the form of symptoms.
Do any of these symptoms look familiar to you?
- Recurrent headaches or migraines
- Muscle aches and weakness
- Hormonal imbalances
- Any skin conditions (acne in particular)
- Recurrent infections
- Poor short term memory and concentration
- Chronic fatigue
- Anxiety and mood swings
- Constipation or incomplete stools
- Waking up between 2am – 4am (liver detox times)
- Sensitivity to alcohol
- Sensitivity to environmental chemicals and smells
If you find that you are suffering with one or more of these symptoms - your body may be trying to communicate to you – ‘nurture your liver’!
Your Optimal Detox Plan
By reducing our toxic exposure, making conscious food choices and supporting the liver with nutrients involved in the function of each of the liver’s 3 detox phases, we can enhance our liver’s function and begin to move towards not only a leaner, more energised body, but long - term optimal health. The liver detox diet is a low reactive one, containing the types of (natural, unprocessed) foods which are less inflammatory and easier to digest. The following guidelines can be followed for a minimum of two weeks:
- Avoid all alcohol and caffeine and replace with herbal tea, green tea, matcha tea and white tea. Increase your water intake to at least 2 litres a day.
- Kick start your day with a cup of warm water (or herbal tea) and the juice of half a lemon.
- Choose organically grown or pesticide – free fruit and veggies. Otherwise, wash your fruit and veggies thoroughly. Soaking in warm water with a splash of apple cider vinegar will help break down some of the pesticides.
- Avoid using cheap plastic containers, water bottles etc. to help reduce your exposure to harmful BPA (Bisphenol A) and phthalates.
- Take a good look at your personal care and cleaning products and opt for toxin-free, SLS free and paraben free products instead. Remember – the skin is your largest organ and it absorbs toxins very quickly and effectively.
- Remove all sugar and refined carbohydrates including lollies, chocolate, ice cream, soft drink, sweet and savoury biscuits, chips, deep fried foods, cakes, cookies and bakery goods including any other products containing white flour or sugar. Replace with fresh fruit as well as a variety of cooked and raw vegetables. Choose rainbow coloured veggies to cover your plate with to increase your intake of antioxidants and phytochemicals.
- Avoid dairy while detoxing including milk, cheese and ice cream (yoghurt is ok to have as long as it’s full cream and sugar free). Replace with the less reactive, less inflammatory form of dairy including goats or sheep milk, goats or sheep cheese or yoghurt. Other dairy alternatives include almond, coconut or rice milk, and coconut yoghurt.
- Replace wheat with other grains such as spelt, millet, rye, buckwheat and wholegrain oats.
- Avoid all processed meat and red meat. Replace with fresh fish, organic/free range chicken, organic/free range eggs and turkey, beans, lentils, peas, nuts and seeds.
- Avoid all commercial sauces such as tomato, sweet chilli and barbecue sauce and replace with herbs and spices.
How Can We Help Speed Up the Process?
The liver detoxifies in 3 different phases. It relies on certain nutrients, which work as catalysts in its detoxification reactions. The amino acids glutamic acid, glycine, methionine, cysteine and taurine (which come from consuming protein in the diet or in supplement form), are needed to complete our phase 2 detox.
Phase 1 detox relies on other nutrients including vitamin B12, B6 Folic acid and antioxidants. Both phase 2 and 3 can be enhanced by antioxidants and phyto nutrients as well as curcumin (from turmeric) and green tea.
Where’s your Head at?
It is common to experience headaches in the initial stages of a detox, especially if you are a heavy alcohol or coffee drinker. After three or four days though (for some it may take longer), you should begin to feel a lot better and notice your energy levels and clarity of mind starting to improve significantly. If you are taking any liver tonics or nutritional supplements for liver support and you are experiencing severe headaches, simply reduce your dosage by about half or more and notice if any improvements occur. Rubbing lavender oil onto your temples can help with headaches, as well as taking magnesium.
Should Juice Fasting be our detox of choice?
Although juice fasting can be a fantastic way to initiate a detox, as a nutritionist I do not recommend purely juicing long term. In spite of the initial increase in energy levels as we consume more fruit and vegetables and no processed food, the longer term effect can become a problem. Juicing alone does not supply the body with enough amino acids (from protein) to support the very important phase 2 liver detox, which can unfortunately still leave us pretty congested with toxins.
Incorporate freshly blended fruit and veggie juices to a protein rich diet OR add vegan protein powder to your juices (rice or pea protein for example).
Lighten the Baggage
Chinese medicine looks at the ‘emotional’ liver as the organ which stores emotions of anger, frustration and jealousy. As we allow negative emotions as such to linger, we can experience some ‘issues within our tissues’; our emotional issues can overtime cause damage to our physical tissues as they develop into symptoms and later on – conditions. Detoxifying the physical liver presents us with a fantastic opportunity to also cleanse any toxic emotions. Meditation, breath awareness and yogic pranayama (breath regulation exercises) can help us let go of any negative emotions residing in our emotional liver.
Our Second Liver
In natural medicine we look at the skin as our ‘second liver’ or ‘third kidney’. We recognise that when there is congestion within any of our detoxifying organs, including the lymphatic system, the skin can be the one who suffers. Acne sufferers specifically can benefit greatly from a great big cleanse, as well as lymphatic stimulation through exercise (especially Tai Chi and yoga), gentle lymphatic massage and dry skin brushing.
Detox Brekky Smoothie
1 cup rice milk/almond milk/coconut milk
½ cup berries of your choice
1 scoop vegan protein powder
1 tsp chia seeds
1 handful baby spinach
1 tsp raw honey