I LOVE a new year. Although I set goals and try to live well through each of the twelve months, there is just something sort of cleansing about a new year. A fresh start, if you will. I am sure your Twitter and Facebook feeds are full of plans for jumpstarting a healthy new year. New Year – New You! Prescribing detox plans and rigid exercise programs will sell a lot of books in January.
But is any of it necessary?
We expose ourselves to myriad toxins all day, everyday, even while we sleep. Poor dietary choices, alcohol, prescription drugs, recreational drugs, air pollution, water with added crap in it, lazy attitudes, stress (financial, emotional etc.) and so much more can create a build up of toxins in our bodies, causing illness, fatigue and weight gain. The good news is, our bodies are amazing things, capable of so much more than we give them credit for. On their own, our bodies are in a constant state of detoxification, night and day, 24-7 ridding themselves of the damage our bad habits can cause.
Because our bodies were purposefully created to detox, going on that New Year juice cleanse is not only unnecessary, but can be dangerous. While billed as a weight loss tool, or a great way to recover from the additional abuse we endured through the holidays, a complete cleansing can actually backfire. If your liver and kidneys aren’t clear, the toxins being expelled through a typical juicing plan have nowhere to go and can actually make you sicker.
The key is to slowly ease your body into it, and provide your system with added tools to boost its natural detoxifying ability. It is true that a sluggish system can be responsible for weight gain, fatigue and even certain cancers, but this cannot be fixed in 3-5 days of juicing carrots and spinach. In fact, fasting and quick cleanse plans can cause headaches, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, irritability, fatigue, insomnia and more, making them very difficult to stick with.
You don’t need a quick cleanse, you need a lifestyle change
Your body’s own detox system is made up of the liver, the intestines, kidneys, lungs, skin and the lymphatic system. Let’s take a closer look at how we can give them the boost they need and be on the road to a healthier more energetic life!
- The liver. This organ eliminates toxins through urine and bile. The best thing we can do for our liver is avoid alcohol. I am not suggesting that we don’t enjoy a good Cabernet from time to time, or even a little bourbon, but as with all things in life, moderation is the key. Our liver can also benefit from amino acids, which can be taken in a capsule or by eating raw walnuts; chlorophyll from leafy greens (kale, spinach) and vitamin C (add a little lemon to your water).
- The intestines. These guys are responsible for balancing the good and bad bacteria in our gut, which helps us to produce natural antibiotics. In order for the intestines to do their job properly, we need to avoid sugar, coffee (sorry), white flour, dairy products and alcohol. I know, it seems impossible, but I think you’ll find that if you ease into it, after a while, you won’t even miss those things. You can also help by adding fiber (eat an apple) and sulforaphanes (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and cabbage).
- The kidneys. Your kidneys filter the blood. They can’t do that well if we don’t help out by keeping them clean, which means… drink water! Drink enough water that your pee is clear. Hippuric acid helps too by cleaning out the uric acid. You can get this with cranberry juice. I don’t like cranberry juice, so I drink green tea, which I add a bit of dandelion to. You can find dandelion extract at most health food stores. Dandelion contains a lot of potassium, which acts as a diuretic.
- The lungs. These awesome tools expel toxins out of the body through our breath, so the best thing you can do for the lungs is USE THEM! Yoga and other exercises that require slow, deep breathing are essential, as is good posture. Also, and this should go without saying, stop smoking. Period.
- The lymphatic system. This system is many parts working together, using our white blood cells to pick up bacteria and other harmful agents, move them home (like to the lymph nodes) and then destroy them. Exercise is the key here, as it helps pump blood throughout the body at a quicker rate. Also, eat more raw fruit and on an empty stomach. Eating them on an empty stomach helps you digest them faster and adds maximum lymph-cleansing benefits.
- The skin is our largest organ and should NOT be neglected! Taking care of your skin not only helps you look more youthful, but because healthy skin eliminates toxins faster, you will find you feel better overall. One awesome thing we can do for our skin is SWEAT! The other is to stay hydrated (which of course allows you to sweat even more). I also have a few things I like to do occasionally just to offer my skin a boost (especially after indulging in the holidays).
- Use a dry, soft bristled brush in a circular motion all over your entire body. This removes dead skin cells. Then apply a little sesame oil, which is a natural detoxifier and adds moisture too. Leave it on for about 5 minutes and then hop in a warm shower.
- Soak in a tub with 1 cup Epsom salt, 1 cup baking soda, one cup sesame oil and a few drops of your favorite essential oil (I like lavender at bed time).
- Look at your favorite store for a clay mask, or make one at home. Use 1 TBS of either Kaolin Clay or Bentonite Clay (available on line or at your local health food store), with 1 tsp apple cider vinegar and any essential oil. You can also mix the clay with a tsp of coconut oil and a tsp of raw honey.
Finally, I will add mindfulness to each of the above. Simply taking the time to relax, mediate, walk, pray, live in the moment. When our bodies are filled with stress, we struggle to move the toxins out, and instead more toxins build inside, making us literally sick with worry.
Water, exercise, mindfulness. Three essential daily habits.
So here is the BIG question… can you stick with it?
Of course you can. I am a firm believer that you can do anything, if it’s important to you. For me, I am not super happy with my weight, but I am not unhappy enough to give up sugar, butter, bread, coffee or Wild Turkey.
What is important to me, is being here to raise my kids. I battled breast cancer this last year, which was determined to be environmental, not heredity. I never want to put my family though that again, so I’m pretty motivated to keep the toxins moving out of my space as quickly as possible. You need to find your own motivation. Motivation and practice are the keys to your success here. Don’t be discouraged if you slip up once in a while. Perfection is not the goal. The goal is overall better health, so even if you only adopt one or two of these items into your lifestyle, you’ll be doing better than you were before, right?
If you’d like to read some supporting scripture to help you focus on your new healthy habits, start here:
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
Daniel 1:8, 12-15
But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way… ‘Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.’ At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.
1 Timothy 4:7-8
Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.