With the warmer weather hitting, you’ll start to see ads everywhere telling you to do a detox, a health kick or a spring cleanse.
Spring is traditionally a time of renewal and refreshment. Traditional herbalists used the plants available during spring time to support the body’s natural detoxification systems.
But what is detoxing all about, and should you be doing a spring cleanse? Let’s take a look at the science behind this and how to choose a program that’s right for your needs.
What does detox even mean?
These days, detox tends to be used as a noun – meaning a period of time that you stop putting potentially harmful substances into your body to improve your health. Detoxes tend to be restrictive and short-term – think the Lemon Detox or juice fasting.
But when a naturopath talks about ‘detox’, it’s more about the body’s natural processes. We have multiple organs and systems that play a role in detoxifying substances in the body.
Every single day, your body will be exposed to waste and toxins that can cause damage if not removed. Some of the toxins you might encounter on a daily basis include:
- Caffeine (yes, coffee can have toxic effects!)
- Recreational drugs
- Heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium
- Excess hormones such as oestrogen and testosterone
- Smoking and second-hand smoke
- Plastics and phthalates
- Pesticides and herbicides
A build-up of toxins can impact the entire body, including the brain, nervous system, immune system and hormone balance. You’re also more likely to be sensitive to these effects during perimenopause, thanks to the further impacts on hormonal imbalances.
The detox and elimination channels
There are multiple organs and channels involved in detoxification and elimination.
The liver is like the project manager of detoxing. It processes everything that comes into the body and bloodstream.
The liver has two phases – phases 1 and 2. During phase 1, it packages up toxins into intermediate compounds and sends them back out. Often, these intermediate compounds are more toxic than the original! In phase 2, it converts the intermediate compounds to water-soluble versions that are sent to the kidneys or bowel to be removed.
Your liver is also responsible for processes such as glucose, hormone and fat production. So it can get overwhelmed easily if we don’t give it some TLC.
The lungs are one of the elimination channels. When we exhale, we expel carbon dioxide and dozens of other compounds. So don’t forget to breathe deeply!
The bowels are another key area of elimination. When we poop, we eliminate waste and toxins. The microbiome plays a big role in this – if bad bacteria overgrow, they contribute to the reabsorption of toxins from the bowel back into the bloodstream.
The kidneys are another major channel for elimination. We can wee out water-soluble toxins, as well as regulating the fluid balance.
The lymphatic system is often overlooked when it comes to detoxification. But the lymph transports toxins from cells and tissues back to the liver for processing.
Unlike the circulatory system, the lymphatic system has no in-built pump. This means it relies on movement and hydration (water) to work properly.
Finally, we have the skin. Although the skin is an elimination channel, it’s often the last resort channel. If you’ve got itchy, dry, rashy or pimply skin, it can indicate the skin is copping the burden as other systems have been backed up.
How can a spring cleanse support your wellbeing?
If you are going to look at supporting your detoxification channels with a reset, there are some potential benefits. These include:
- Helping you achieve a healthy body composition
- Boosting energy levels
- Clearer, healthier skin
- Healthy ageing process
- Less fluid retention and bloating
- Better bowel habits
- Improving immune function
- Clearer head and greater ability to focus
- Better sleep
- Optimising your hormone balance
However, if you want these benefits long-term, you want to look at building long-term daily habits. Stay tuned for a future blog, where we will take a dive into the best habits to support optimal detoxification!
Signs you could use a cleanse
How do you know if your detox systems could do with some TLC? Have a look at these questions – if you answer yes to at least 8 of them, it’s an indication your detox and elimination pathways could benefit from some additional support.
- Do you experience bloating, gas or abdominal discomfort?
- Do you experience indigestion or heartburn, or find it hard to digest certain foods?
- Are you constipated (less than 1 bowel movement per day)?
- Do you feel nauseated or sick after eating greasy, fatty foods?
- Are there foods that give you digestive discomfort or change your bowel habits (loose stools or constipation)?
- Do you have allergies or hayfever?
- Is your skin dull, dry or itchy?
- Do you feel fatigued and tired, even when you haven’t done much?
- Are you having trouble sleeping, or waking between 1am-3am?
- Do you get frequent headaches?
- Do you get general aches and pains that are unrelated to injury or illness?
- Are you run-down and always getting sick?
- Have you had any fertility issues such as struggling to fall pregnant?
- Do you get symptoms of PMS such as food cravings, fluid retention, tender breasts or irritability?
- Do you have symptoms of potential heavy metal toxicity such as nausea, vomiting, garlic breath, metallic taste in the mouth, short-term memory issues, loss of appetite, tremors or kidney issues?
- Have you recently taken antibiotics or other medications?
- Do you consume alcohol and/or caffeinated drinks multiple times per week?
- Are you a smoker or recreational drug user?
Add up your total to see if it’s time for some detox support!
A quick warning about undertaking a detox or spring cleanse
As a final note, if you do decide to reboot for the springtime, be careful which you choose! Some programs can actually make you feel worse, particularly if they involve a lot of supplements.
If you ramp up the phase 1 detox pathways without supporting phase 2, you’ll produce too many of the more toxic compounds. This can lead to a build-up in the body and have negative effects on your health instead of positive!
It’s always best to do a spring cleanse or detox under the supervision of a qualified nutritionist or naturopath with an understanding of detoxification physiology.
You’ll also want to be careful if you’re taking medications such as the Pill. Changing the liver metabolism can impact how quickly you detoxify medication. With the Pill, this can lead to breakthrough bleeding and higher risk of pregnancy!
A spring cleanse only lasts for a season – but you want to make changes that will last a lifetime!
If you’d like your own personalised nutrition & lifestyle plan that supports your body’s natural detox processes as well as helping you to feel in control and sail through menopause, you’re in the right place.
Book in for a free discovery call today, and we can explore how I can help you to support and nourish yourself – mind, body and spirit.