NEW YEAR DETOX
Naturopath Ann Vlass shares lots of doable – and quite painless! – tips for setting off on a healthy path this coming New Year.
Q: I want to start the New Year right this year. Any suggestions?
New Year is only days away – as if anyone needs reminding. So, I’ll start by sharing a couple of little tricks that can help neutralise the damage wrought by a long night of celebration. First: from today, increase the amount of water you drink. Consider starting each day with some hot water and fresh lemon juice, and on the big night, make a point of drinking some water between each alcoholic drink to ensure you don’t become too dehydrated.
Then for the week after New Year, try to get some good sleep because some key detoxification processes occur during the sleep cycle. Many people tend to overlook this – or are unaware of it – and do a lot over that week.
In cases of excess, a little detox is good – but do steer clear of over-the-counter detox programs, which can be quite debilitating.
Fasting is a brilliant detox in itself. I love this trend of the two-day fast (The Fast Diet: the secret of 5:2 intermittent fasting by Michael Mosley). I’m pleased the author doesn’t claim the concept as his own, because it originates from traditional natural medicines. Ayurvedic medicine, for example, recommends people fast one day a week, or at least skip dinner for one or two days a week. And this is exactly what I suggest people do after New Year: fasting once or twice a week for the next month or so as it’s a very good way to get everything back into shape.
The 5:2 plan is proving very effective for weight loss, too, in part because fasting dramatically alters insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a human growth hormone implicated in ageing and diabetes. This means the body clicks into repair mode, which is what we want.
Here are some other suggestions to promote gentle detoxification through January:
Take advantage of the quiet January period by getting plenty of rest to help repair the festive-season damage. Follow the lead of the southern Europeans and indulge in 20 to 30-minute siesta after lunch.
Three mornings a week, make a juice of beetroot (very beneficial for stage-one and stage-two liver detoxification), carrot, and a little wheatgrass. Cold-natured people, or very thin and dry-natured people, could add some warming ginger. Turmeric, with its powerful antioxidant properties, is another beneficial addition as it also stimulates liver secretions and bile flow. It needs a touch of black pepper to boost absorption.
Another key factor is weight-bearing exercise. Ideally, use your time in the sun to go for a walk, or perform some resistance exercises using your body weight or free weights.
The wrists, hips and spine are the areas most vulnerable to fracture, so you may consider consulting a qualified fitness instructor to develop a regimen for strengthening these areas.
Coffee and Tea
- Reduce coffee intake during January, and ensure what you drink is good-quality home-brewed coffee, ideally organic.
- At the same time, drink more green tea as it helps improve the blood and the liver pathway. Green tea is loaded with flavonoids and catechins, which are strong antioxidants that protect the liver.
- Focus on eating organic seasonal food to work with your body’s rhythm.
- If dandelions have invaded your garden, consider this a bonus salad green and pick a few tender young leaves to add to your salads – provided no chemical sprays have been used. This traditional medicinal herb stimulates the liver secretions and bile flow.
- Alternatively, make a green spinach pie as this is also a great detox.
- Chicory contains a bitter compound that really helps the liver and gall bladder wake up and stimulates digestion. You can eat the leaves, or boil the root, adding some fennel leaves and lots of garlic to help the sulphur pathway in the liver.
- Dress salads with extra virgin olive oil. Use it for cooking, too. I’m not against extra virgin olive oil in cooking: after all, it’s been done in southern Mediterranean cultures for generations. Coconut oil is excellent, as is ghee, which has the power to remove heavy metals from the body.
- A little apple cider vinegar taken with meals will strengthen digestion, which is likely to be impaired following the Christmas/New Year excesses.
- Women who feel puffy and bloated after the festive excesses should eat cooked broccoli or cabbage as they’re important for the phase-two liver pathways and oestrogen metabolism, which is usually behind the bloat.
- Load up on beautiful summer berries for their powerful antioxidants and polyphenols. Berries and grapes also help with kidney function, another key organ of elimination.
- Mangoes are fantastic, being very rich in beta carotene and vitamin C. Ayurvedic medicine classifies them as a medicine.
Nettle tea helps de-acidify the body tissues.
- Alternating hot and cold showers is another great way to detoxify the body and wake up the immune system so it can remove debris. Alternate between hot, cold, hot, cold, spending just 10 seconds on each, and have the water as hot as you can stand without scalding yourself, and as cold as you can manage. This also gets the blood pumping around the body, delivering nutrients to the cells for repair.
- Dry skin brushing sloughs away dead skin cells. Brush the entire body with a soft loofah, always working towards the heart. I usually advise people to do this after they shower, although it can be done at any time.
Be sure to spend some time in the sunlight, not just for the vital vitamin D, but also because sunlight is a natural antibacterial agent.
- Try to avoid using plastics in food preparation. Instead of cling film, use ceramic or glass containers where possible. Use stainless steel cookware and stainless steel drinking bottles as well.
- Install a quality water filter. While you don’t have to go with ridiculously expensive models, the more you pay the better it will be.
Finally, if you’re feeling particularly blah after the month-long festivities, consider seeing a natural therapist as they can help by prescribing more powerful herbs and supplements. Don’t be concerned that they’ll place you on an impossibly stringent regimen: they can tailor their detox program to different levels and work within your needs. However, a milder detox may take slightly longer.
A naturopath might look at boosting your mineral intake, because minerals buffer the acidity in the body that tends to develop over Christmas, and we need to alkalise the cells to enable the body to detoxify.
To really wake up the digestion, an herbalist may prescribe herbs such as gentian, ginger, cinnamon and other liver herbs such as artichoke leaves and milk thistle that are specific digestive stimulants. I also use yellow dock, which is a really good blood cleanser and liver cleanser, and also benefits people with excess mucous production in the body. The therapist will probably consider a hydrochloric acid supplement and some enzymes, and an herbalist would help with bowel clearance as well.
For women who are struggling with bloat, a naturopath/herbalist can look specifically at helping support the oestrogen pathway.
So, enjoy every moment of this festive season – but just be aware that your body needs space for a bit of catch up afterwards.