1 April 2007

Detox diets - An overview

Spring is supposed to be the best time not only for spring cleaning but also for cleaning up the mileu interior of our body. A few pointers on how to get into a detox diet and how it helps are outlined in this article.

Detox seems to be buzz word among the health conscious. It is something akin to spring cleaning your house. Dusting, vacuuming, throwing away used, old stuff and creating a fresh, clean atmosphere inside your body. Our body has a detoxifying system in place made up of the liver, lungs, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, and skin, all of which work to eliminate toxins that enter our body thorough air, water, food and skin. But considering the times we live in, the kind of foods we eat, the lifestyle we follow present too tough a task for these built-in detoxification systems. Some of these un-tackled toxins start building up in our bodies causing a host of health problems like loss of vitality, dull skin and hair, weight gain, abdominal bloating, indigestion and a general feeling of ill-health.

Detoxification therefore becomes essential to make our body jumpstart itself out of the rut of toxin build-up towards a life filled with vitality. The complete detox process includes cleansing of the liver, colon, kidneys and the diet is vital to overall cleansing. A high fibre diet helps in eliminating residual waste from your intestines, the vitamins and nutrition made available by eating fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts provides all the vital enzymes for cleansing the liver and kidneys. Taking a steam bath or a sauna and performing exercise, helps sweat out the toxins accumulated in the skin.

Essentials of a Detox diet

In a detox diet, you avoid certain foods that overload the system and eat other nutrition-rich foods that speed up mopping of old toxins and waste.

This diet will exclude allergenic foods, which may cause problems with digestion and elimination. Foods like wheat (glutens) and dairy (milk, cheese) are often the cause of many unknown allergies where the person may just be feeling poorly or a sense of bloating and discomfort. Refined sugar is eliminated because of its zero nutritional value and therefore empty calories. Meats are excluded because they may contain added hormones and/or antibiotics and are very difficult to process, taking a long time to be cleared by the digestive system. Tea, coffee and fizzy drinks are also out because they slow down the process of cleansing. Herbal teas are allowed though. Refined, processed and refined, fried or junk foods are also a no-no for any detox program to work.

Eating grains, vegetables and fruits closest to it's natural form are best while following such a plan. Over cooking destroys the nutritional value of these high nutrition foods. Eating raw, juicing or steaming for 3-4 minutes would be the best options.

The Ayurvedic Angle - According to Ayurveda, the best time to go through a detox routine is the time after winter. A complete ayurvedic cleansing program includes 15 days of preparation and 45 days of actual cleansing.

Ama is the residual matter of incomplete digestion-- sticky toxic substance that clogs the channels that carry nutrients to the cells and waste out of the body. Cleansing is done to eliminate ama out of the body. It is essential for this purpose that a person wanting to clear ama shouldn't eat any ama producing foods during this period and eat more of ama reducing foods.

Ama increasing foods*

Ama reducing foods*

Food grown with high level pesticides, chemicals

Lightly cooked vegetables

Deep fried food

Mung bean soup

Dairy products – Cheese, Yogurt, whole milk

Sweet juicy fruits – apple, pears, prunes

Sugar / fat laden sweets

Cooked leafy greens

Breads and biscuits

Light whole grains such as quinoa, barley, amaranth and small helpings of rice

Spices like ginger, turmeric, coriander, fennel to be used with all the above

    *Source- Maharishi Ayurveda

Along with the above principles, it is recommended to drink warm water throughout the day to help flush out toxins through urine. A herbal tea made by boiling ginger and fennel is also a good detoxifying agent.

Certain rasayanas (Ayurvedic formulations) are prescribed along with the above diet for maximum effect. These should be taken under the guidance of a qualified Ayurvedic Practitioner.

8 detox ideas for life

  1. Water – Keep sipping water throughout the day consuming upto 2 litres. Don't gulp glasses of water hastily as you may swallow a lot of air which in turn causes bloating.

  2. Air – Make sure you take a brisk walk in a natural setting preferably. This revs up your circulation and flushes out toxins to the kidneys and liver.

  3. Go gradual – Reduce the frequency with which you eat refined foods, red meats, sugar. Go for cereals with half the sugar content of your current sugary cereal, or mix a no-sugar cereal with your sugary cereal. Slow changes make it easier for you to stick by them for life and not just be a follower of fads.

  4. Keep up the taste – Good food can be tasty too. Ginger, garlic, lemon rind, freshly sqeezed orange, cayenne pepper, black pepper, fennel are some of the spices and flavourings you can add to food to give it a zing and tantalise your taste buds.

  5. Fibre – For any meal, choose ingredients with high fibre content. Fibre is the best natural detoxifying agent, sweeping down all the collected debris in the intestines. Choose whole wheat bread over white bread. Play with interesting grains like cracked wheat, red unpolished rice, millets for creating a variety in your meals.

  6. Chew – Age-old granny wisdom but completely true. Ever since we started having TV dinners, we have forgotten to chew food. Mixing food well with saliva makes it alkaline and therefore less harmful than unchwed food. Not chewing your food properly also means that it stays longer in your gut, fermenting in your intestine causing indigestion and bloating.

  7. Organic food – Food that has been not been treated with harsh chemicals and has grown naturally will be naturally good for you. If you have access to organically grown produce, by all means go for it or if you have the means to growing it yourself, nothing like it!

  8. Skin brushing - Brushing your body with a soft skin brush rushes blood to the surface capillaries and toxins are eliminated from the pores. Use long sweeps, start at the feet and work up towards the heart. It is a good practice to follow each day for 5 minutes before a shower.

A word of caution

While it is good to follow a detox plan once in a while, or a natural foods diet for life, it is important not to go overboard with fruit juice diets or with fasting diets. They may sound very healthful and a fast-forward way to losing weight, but may do more good than harm by disturbing electrolyte balance and causing loss of muscle. Gettign into a detox regime with the knowledge and approval of your doctor or a qualified nutritionist is the best way to go about it. Moderation is the key to anything and so also to detoxification diets.

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Kalyn said...

What a great post. Thanks for all the good information.

Vani said...

Very good info there, Nandita. Thanks for sharing!

Sig said...

Awesome Post Doc! Very very informative... Spring cleaning for the body is a great idea, two questions:

Do I really have to do this for 45 days? Do you think a one/two week cleansing will do any good?

You mentioned cooked leafy greens. How about salads with fresh leaves? Someone told me the other day that eating too much salad is bad too... Any truth to it?

Thanks girl... U rock!

musical said...

Hey Nandita,

Lovely post. My only dessert is fresh fruit and it really helps.The burshing idea sounds good.
and you rightly said that healthy food need not be tasteless.


Nandita said...

Kalyn and Vani- thanks for your encouragement, it means a lot.

Sig - You need not do this for 45 days as it is not practical for people with hectic lifestyle. A weekend detox session is good to rev up the body. In my interview with a nutritionist, she has given a plan for a weekend detox plan which I shall post next. Cooked greens or salad greens are good. You can have any amount of salad. The only problem with eating TOO much of raw food would be taxing the digestive system. It is a good thing to start a meal with raw foods, then eat lightly cooked food (steamed) and then a little of cooked food. This is what traditional Kerala Ayurvedic therapy recommends too.

Musical - Thanks girl! I have read this in several places that your dinner / lunch must begin with fruit as fruit works best on an empty stomach, When eaten at end of meal, it ferments and leads to bloating. Besides absorption of the vital nutrients from fruit happens best on an empty stomach. While logically this sounds right, I am yet to ascertain whether it is physiologically true as well.

Sig said...

Thanks Nandita! Looking forward to the weekend detox session post, that sounds more like my kinda session. :)

Sandeepa said...

A very good and informative post nandita. Even I was thinking 45 days might be a tad bit long so looking forward to your next post

Paddukoti said...

hey nandita
superb post!! came out of hibernation and realised how much i have put on
Joined a health club and religiously working on a fit body and gearing to start a healthy life style.Very informative!!!

Richa said...

that was such an informative post, Nandita, thank you.

I'm very interested in finding out more about the effects of 'dairy/milk' in our bodies. As you mentioned it may be the cause of many unknown effects in the body. What do you think would be the right approach when it comes to dairy? Is 'dahi' better in terms of digestibility etc and also for the calcium?
thank you so much

Mythreyee said...

Thank you so much for posting about Detoxification. Its so wonderful and valuable info from a Doctor's mouth. I shall link this post in my cookforhealth blog. thanks.

Anil P said...

Just reading this is a kind of detox to the mind, to know there can be redemption for all the irregularity. If only there is any resolve left, it could still make a difference.

Good piece of information.

Anita said...

Okay, finally was able to read the whole thing with the mouse-over....my "blog reads like fiction?" It's all true, believe you me!! :-)

bee said...

chcocolate is my fav ama reducing food. it's not on your list :-(

shub said...

wow! looking forward to the weekend detox plan :)

Anjali said...

Nandita this one is really good! Doc I need your advice. Does going on a diet of pulses increase the protien level in the body?

I am planning to start a reduction diet that works for me. But I put on a lot more after getting back to my normal diet. This diet is based on dals and soaked boiled beans, sprouts.

Reena said...

nandita, that was a good write up and info. i am always on the look out for natural detoxifying elements. :)

Latha said...

Thanks for the good information Nandita. Sounds easy but I bet its pretty hard to follow in our fast paced world! I think the two things that i'm guilty of not doing most frequently (or mostly) is chew and skin brushing! I will work on these! Trying to be conscious in this month of the Earth day and do my little to save the planet!
Keep up the good posts!

Sharu said...

Hi Nandita,
This is my first comment :P, though i read ur blog regularly!.This detox plan is too gud at times when ur too tierd to cook after work.Yesterday night for dinner we had just a cup of home made tomato soup with corn and 2 slices of wheat bread. It was light relaxing.

Lisa said...

Hi Nandita!

Thanks for the info on detoxing. Usually, allopathic doctors do not believe in it. I think its incredible to have a doctor whose interest is in eating healthy, cooking and advising on the nutritional benefits of food.

Way to go girl!

1jonboy said...

Great blog with great information I hope you can visit my website that has links to Weight Loss Programs
best regards John

Nykemartyn said...

A detox diet can last anything from 48 hours to 21 days, and most involve drinking two litres or more of water a day, along with dandelion coffee and herb teas that are thought to help expel environmental nasties. Most also recommend additional fluids - carrot and apple juice are favourites because of their "digestion boosting" properties - and some allow unlimited consumption of raw fruit and vegetables.

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