At the beginning of each year, it’s easy to get caught up in the onslaught of media advertisements pushing various weight loss regimes, intense exercise plans, ‘miracle’ body transformations and detoxes. After a festive season of indulgence and cosiness, we’re more vulnerable to feeling guilty about our bodies, and more likely to fall into the trap of setting resolutions for the year that focus only on punishing ourselves, instead of honouring and loving ourselves. Instead of listening to fad diet adverts however, what if this year you turned inwards and listened to what your body really needs? In the Wintery cold of January and February, we don’t need to deprive ourselves, we need to nourish ourselves. There is however, a big difference between nourishing ourselves with healthy movement, wholesome foods and replenishing self-care practices…. And sitting in front of the television finishing off those extra boxes of Christmas chocolates. To find the right balance between giving ourselves what we need and naturally ‘detoxing’ from what we don’t, read on for your guide to a kind, gentle way to start detoxing to let go of what you don’t need, and bring in what you do.
What does detoxing mean?
Despite the convincing advertisements, those diet teas, powders and pills on the market aren’t doing your body any good…. If weight loss does happen to be an important factor for your health, know that losing weight quickly often leads to gaining it back again very quickly, so throw those too-easy-to-be-true diets out the window, along with any self-criticism.
Detoxifying is the process of removing toxic substances from the body, and your body is doing this naturally all the time. The main detoxifying organs in the body are the liver, bowels, skin, lymphatic system, lungs and kidneys, but whilst they’re equipped with antioxidant and detoxifying defences, we haven’t evolved to be able to handle the sheer amount of toxins thrown at us on a daily basis. Toxins aren’t just found in what we think of as toxins (alcohol, sugar etc ), they’re all around us. Things like tap water, processed foods, cleaning products, makeup, traffic pollution, deodorant, household mould and even our clothes and furniture all have the potential to add toxins to the body. If you want to know whether something is a toxin or not, just ask one simple question: does this thing exist purely in nature? If the answer is ‘yes’, it’s quite likely it’s not a toxin (although of course there are indeed toxic plants and mushrooms that we don’t want to be consuming). If the thing you’re thinking about is man-made; if it comes wrapped in plastic; if it has an unusually long ingredient list with unpronounceable words, or even if it’s not truly organic, it probably contains at least some toxins.
Rather than overloading you with a to-do list for detoxing, the most helpful way to start is simply by supporting your body’s natural detoxification systems, and that part is easier than you might think.
How To Gently Detox
- Let Your Skin Breathe
Around 70% of what we put on the skin goes in the body, which can contribute to issues like cancers, heart and liver disease, and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Skincare should never include harmful toxins like parabens, aluminium, artificial colours or synthetic perfumes, as these are all ‘endocrine disruptors’, and as the name suggests, they can hugely disrupt our hormone balance. Choose natural skincare products like the Yogamatters Restore Organic Body Soap – the lavender scented vegan bar is 100% vegetable based and made from a combination of natural ingredients. Use a product like the Hayo-u Body Oil to deeply moisturise your skin without parabens, SLS and SLES, and the MOA Green Balm, which is multi-purpose and can be used on even the most sensitive skin, with 99.9% natural and organic ingredients.
As well as detoxing your skincare regime, it’s important to support the skin’s natural functions such as shedding dead cells and sweating, which are two vital parts of removing and releasing toxins. Dry body brushing stimulates the removal of dead skin cells, but also the lymphatic system, thus improving the health of the immune system and circulation. Use the brush before a bath or shower in circular motions moving from the feet upward, brushing towards the heart. The practice can be both energising and stress-relieving too. After body brushing, taking a half-hour long salt bath is a great way to pull excess toxins from the body. You’ll need a good quality bag of salts such as Westlab’s Cleanse Salts, and be sure to sip water throughout and after the bath to stay hydrated. Two final tips for detoxing via the skin are to sweat often, whether by exercising or finding your nearest sauna, and to make sure you’re using a completely natural deodorant. Sweating is a vital part of detoxing, and if we wear anti-perspirants, the toxins that can’t escape through the armpits are pushed internally, potentially damaging the lungs and kidneys. Choose something without any heavy metals like the Natural Deodorant Co’s Active Deodorant Balm infused with orange and bergamot.
Love Your Liver
Any toxins we come across have to be filtered by the liver, which means after a weekend (or entire month) of treats and drinks, your liver needs some love. Given the right support, even a damaged liver can recover and actually re-grow parts of itself, but we want to make sure this organ is working well at all times to breakdown things we don’t need in the body, which includes old and excess hormones too.
Show your liver some love by dramatically reducing sugar, processed foods and alcohol. A lot of people focus on doing ‘Dry January’ or ‘Veganuary’ at the start of the year, but you could really do your body a whole lot of good by trying a ‘no-processed-foods’ January or even an ‘organic January’. When we eat non-organic foods, we’re also eating the pesticides and chemicals that have been sprayed on those foods, so whilst it might seem expensive, try to buy these foods in an organic form, as they’re all on the ‘dirty dozen’ list, meaning they tend to harbour pesticides more, or they’re sprayed with chemicals more than other foods. This is the list compiled by data from the Pesticide Action Network UK: Grapefruit, clementines / mandarins / satsumas, strawberries, most pre-packed salads, grapes, lemons, peaches, pears, spinach, chilli peppers, apples, most dark coloured berries.
There are also specific foods to eat to support liver health, including apples, beetroot, grapefruit, blueberries, green tea, coffee, cruciferous veg, asparagus, lemons, onions, garlic, artichoke and rosemary (again, organic if possible). Try making meals from scratch too, so you know all the ingredients in your meals. Use recipes from books like Easy Vegan Bible: 200 Easiest-Ever Plant Based Recipes and My New Roots by Sarah Britton, with recipes suited to every season.
- Choose A Mental Health Detox
As well as ‘detoxing’ our bodies naturally and regularly, our minds benefit from a gentle scrub too! What we ‘consume’ isn’t limited to foods and drinks, but social media, sounds, sights and personal interactions too. A stream-of-consciousness journaling practice first thing in the morning can help you ‘dump’ whatever is in your mind onto the page, allowing you to uncover and release thoughts and emotions that can often get ‘stuck’. Keeping thoughts and feelings locked in the mind can be damaging – Emotions are energy-in-motion, and they really need to move! Choose the Nikki Strange Elements Notebook to write down how you’re feeling each morning, and notice how much lighter your mind is for the rest of the day.
Another way to mentally detox is to pay attention to your relationships, both online and in the real world. Are there people in your life you’d consider ‘toxic’? Those that seem to drain your energy or pull you into a negative state of mind? Try spending less time with these people, and more time with those who make you feel good. When you’re scrolling through social media, notice how you’re feeling too. Are there accounts that make you feel bad about yourself or that seem to spark your inner-critic? Do you spend more time enviously looking at other people’s lives online than engaging with your own? Commit to un-following two accounts each day that don’t serve you, and following those that bring you genuine joy. Paul Greenberg’s Goodbye Phone, Hello World is a great reminder to look up from the screen more often too.
Have a go at these sustainable and gentle detox techniques this January for a positive start to 2022!