Have you ever commenced a detox after going through a phase of partying like it’s 1999, only to find that within the first few days your symptoms seem to have actually increased and you’re feeling worse than ever?! Trying to reverse the damage of an excessive lifestyle can be daunting but it’s comforting to know that this is a fairly common reaction to the detoxification process and one that is only transitory, like that caftan that seemed like such a good idea at the time or the marble wash jeans and hyper-coloured tee that once hung proudly in your wardrobe. So yesterday.
The increase of symptoms we feel when embarking on a detox is often known as a Detox Reaction or a Herxheimer Reaction. These reactions occur when the body tries to eliminate toxins at a faster rate than they can be properly disposed of. Often times, you may feel worse, like you are majorly hung-over with additional flu-like symptoms and headaches, and conclude that the treatment is not working. However, these reactions are in fact signs that your body is beginning the process of cleansing itself of impurities, toxins and imbalances. The increased reactions are temporary and can occur immediately or within several days or weeks. In some cases, the symptoms can be identical to the health issues you may be experiencing at the time so it can be really confusing.
The type of detox reaction you’ll experience will depend on your level of health or the severity of your present health condition. As old bacteria die off and are replaced with new tissues, the toxins within the bacteria (endotoxins) are released into the body. The more severe the initial state of the body, the more bacteria present. With larger quantities of bacteria come an increased number of endotoxins and hence a stronger cleansing reaction. This is when it’s really important to rest and try and help the detox process along.
A very simple method for avoiding or decreasing detox reactions is to ensure adequate hydration and mineral consumption. It’s important to drink as much water as possible to flush the toxins from your body. The addition of a green juice will provide needed nutrients which can be absorbed easily by the body. Commencing the day with a hot water and lemon will kick-start your metabolism, alkalise the body and help with water retention.
The body uses alkaline minerals like calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium to process cellular debris and counter increased uric acid production when fighting a detox reaction. It is important to ensure that you are consuming adequate amounts of these minerals when detoxing. If not, the body will remove calcium and magnesium from the bones and teeth to combat the lost minerals. Try and get all of your vitamins and minerals from your food but if you have mal-absorption issues then it is a good idea to speak to your local naturopath or nutritionist to give you a non-synthetic magnesium and calcium supplement and ensure that the amounts you are taking are balanced. If you’re planning on buying a detox kit, many of these contain synthetic ingredients, additives and laxatives that will do you more harm than good and burn a whole in your back pocket. Remember that the best way to approach things is naturally.
One of the most important vitamins to include when detoxing is Vitamin C which is a powerful antioxidant that helps the body break down toxins, allowing them to be flushed out of the body. A diet high in Vitamin C rich foods also works to stabilise free radicals, lowering the risk of chronic diseases. You can enjoy delicious foods on your detox and foods which are rich in Vitamin C include:
- Red and Green Chilli Peppers
- Dark leafy Greens
- Mustard Greens
- Brussels Sprouts
- Citrus Fruits
If you are embarking on a detox, and wondering what to eat, then the golden rule is to enjoy a simple whole-foods diet which eliminates processed foods, gluten, wheat, dairy, yeast, sugar and caffeine. Consuming easily digestible foods along with good fats such as extra virgin cold pressed olive oil, extra virgin coconut oil and fish oils which contain omega-3 essential fatty acids, will help to eliminate toxins and heavy metals from your body and assist you by drawing out nutrients from food, enabling the healing process.
After the initial detox reaction you should be feeling lighter and have more energy. This is when you may feel like jumping off the wagon, and leaping headlong into your old eating and drinking habits, but once you have detoxed, it’s important to continue to make changes to your diet every day, however small and these will help you to achieve optimum long term health and heal your body at cellular level to prevent disease.