The safe way to detox for the New Year
Christmas and the build up to it is the season of over-indulgence. Despite our good intentions we inevitably consume too much sugary and fatty foods not to mention alcohol. The result? Not only will you pile on the pounds but you’ll feel tired, bloated and low in energy. Is it any surprise that many people kick start the New Year with a detox programme?
Nutritionist Christine Bailey comments “Many people think a detox programme is all about fasting or dramatically restricting what you eat. However, fasting is one of the worst things to do if you want to cleanse the body. This is because your liver detoxification pathways require a vast array of nutrients including protein to function optimally. The process of detoxification can also lead to a build-up of harmful chemicals, which need to be deactivated by antioxidants. So, another reason to ensure your diet is packed with fruit and vegetables plus lean protein too”
Dr. Justine Hextall, Consultant Dermatologist also agrees that fasting is not the right approach “There is a lot of evidence now that yo-yo dieting and irregular sleep patterns harm our general health. I would not therefore advocate a feast and famine approach.
It is a fact of life that most of us will have periods where we eat and drink to excess. If this is balanced with longer periods of healthy food, minimal alcohol and some exercise we can probably allow ourselves to relax from time to time. Problems begin when partying is persistent and we fail to give our bodies time to recover. I am not in favour of alternating a poor diet high in processed foods and excessive alcohol with a week of abstinence e.g. vegetable smoothies and water. I advise a more balanced approach.”
Do you need to detox?
Christine Bailey explains that there are many signs that your body may benefit from a cleanse. Symptoms include:
- Headaches / migraines
- Night sweats
- Fatigue and sluggishness
- Poor skin or acne / breakouts
- Low mood and irritability
- Brain fog
- Chemical, odour or pollution sensitivities, such as sneezing, wheezing, nasal drip and/or dermatitis
- Adverse reactions to sulphites, such as are found in wine, salad bar food, dried fruit and many processed foods
- Bloating, excess wind and constipation
- Hives or itching
- Difficulty losing weight
“Long term many research studies have linked a high toxic load to several health conditions including cancer, obesity, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson’s disease and autoimmune conditions.” Christine adds “A study in 2002 in the research Journal Toxicology linked several environmental chemicals to an increase risk of autoimmune conditions. If you’ve been struggling to lose weight without success, then a detox may improve your efforts. This is because your body stores toxins in fat cells so by cleaning up your diet and removing toxins you may find those excess pounds disappear too. If you suffer with any of the following symptoms I would advise start the new year with a detox programme.”
What is a safe detox diet?
Christine Bailey explains what a safe detox diet involves “An important part of any detox is to cut out as many toxins as possible in your diet and focus on clean, unprocessed low allergen foods.
So, ditch the sugar, alcohol, fizzy drinks, caffeine, processed foods, ready meals, hydrogenated fats, sweeteners and common allergens including gluten and dairy. Instead base your meals around lean proteins (poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, nuts, seeds and pulses) and colourful vegetables. Rather than frying try steaming, poaching, oven roast or lightly grilling food.
Hydration is particularly important. Drink at least 2 litres of water daily and include herbal teas and green tea. To minimise your exposure to pesticides, switch to organic produce where possible. A detox diet should aim to rebuild your body while you cleanse which is why certain foods and supplements designed to support liver function are recommended.
To support any detox diet, include exercise. Exercise improves circulation, lymph flow and expels toxins via sweat. You may also wish to try dry skin brushing. Before your daily shower, brush your skin from head to toe using small, quick circular movements. Brushing your skin for 5 minutes a day helps increase circulation and break down fatty deposits within your body.
If you’re looking to give your skin a boost at the start of the year, The Harley Medical Group’s Peptide Vitality Power Peptide Resurfacer (£140 per treatment) is great way to improve firmness, and give an instant lift to the skin. works to help accelerate the shedding of dead skin cells associated with sluggish cell turnover. The perfect remedy for those who desire an instant skin lift.
Is it beneficial to have a dedicated detox?
Dr. Justine Hextall, Consultant Dermatologist says “Our bodies are built to remove toxins at all times; it is a myth that they only get released when we carry out a so-called detox. However, when we suddenly change our diet, for example removing carbohydrates, stopping caffeine and consuming greater quantities of vegetables, we will see greater changes. In the short term, you may even experience some negative symptoms that may put you off. It makes sense that suddenly withdrawing caffeine and alcohol can cause headaches and consuming multiple green smoothies can cause bloating.
“However, in the long term these changes will help, and you will start to see noticeable differences in your energy levels, skin and general health.
“A balanced diet rich in anti-oxidants and foods that support a healthy skin barrier such as oily fish, avocado and nuts and seeds will protect skin against daily stresses and help to get that skin glow. Keeping hydrated is important and incorporating a good skin care regime is all important for the best outcomes.
If you are looking for skin glow this will come from foods that calm skin, protect it from free radical damage, hydrate it and support the skin barrier. Swap coffee for green tea and drink pomegranate juice for its anti-oxidant properties. Yellow and orange peppers contain carotenoids again that protect against free radical damage in skin. Nuts and seeds contain essential fatty acids which are important for the lipid layer in the skin barrier. Tomatoes contain lycopene which protects our skin against sun damage.
To make the most of a healthy lifestyle, it is worth thinking about treatments that can give your skin a boost that will see it past the inevitable excesses. I am a fan of skin boosters. These are multiple micro-injections of hyaluronic acid into the deeper layers of the skin that essentially hydrate the skin, giving it a natural healthy skin glow. The Harley Medical Group’s Derma FNS (£145 per treatment) is also an excellent treatment for stimulating new collagen. After a course of 3 treatments skin appears firmer, brighter, fine lines improve as does skin tone.
“Another treatment I recommend is The Harley Medical Group’s Microdermabrasion (£95 per treatment). To help regenerate skin, microdermabrasion is a non-surgical method of skin rejuvenation using mechanical skin exfoliation. Tiny, sterile particles are used to exfoliate the top layer of skin, which improves its tone and texture whilst enhancing the absorption of moisturiser. The results are instant so you can leave this treatment right up until the day before a big event. Loss of facial volume again can be helped with dermal fillers, ask your expert about recommended treatments.”
What are the top detox foods?
Nutritionist Christine Bailey lists her top foods to starting incorporating into your daily diet if you want to detox:
Leafy greens: Try cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, romaine lettuce, kale, Brussels sprouts, spinach, watercress, chard. Rich in compounds known as glucosinolates to support detoxification
Lean protein: Including fish, shellfish, light meats (poultry and turkey), eggs etc. These provide the amino acids essential to support the various detoxification pathways in the liver.
Carotene rich foods: Pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato, red pepper, cantaloupe melon high in protective antioxidants to neutralise toxins in the body and those created as we detox.
Berries: High in antioxidants to neutralise harmful free radicals which are often created during detoxification, plus they are packed with soluble fibre to support digestive health
Green Superfoods: Wheatgrass, chlorella, spirulina, moringa help with removal of toxins and good source of magnesium and chlorophyll to energise the body. These can be added to juices and smoothies
Quercetin-rich foods: Quercetin is a potent anti-oxidant and great for lowering inflammation too – found in apple, onion, kale, cherry, extra virgin olive oil, beans, broccoli, green tea
Probiotics: Includes coconut yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi to provide beneficial bacteria important for digestion and removal of toxins
Spices: Ginger, garlic, turmeric have all been shown to support detoxification and lower inflammation
Sea vegetables: Throw a handful in a soup or stew. Known for their ability to chelate toxins removing them from the body
Green tea: It's high in catechins — a flavonoid — which speed up liver activity and protects the body from harmful free radicals produced during detoxification
Citrus fruits: Try lemon juice in warm water each morning. Lemons are a great source of vitamin C, which is known to help the body detox. Try drinking water with lemon every morning as a way to alkalise the body and help with kick starting your digestion
Flaxseed, chia seed, gluten free oats: All provide plenty of fibre to improve elimination
Globe artichokes and beetroot: Known for their ability to support bile flow and gallbladder function
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