BY DR. BRIANA BOTSFORD
If you're keen to start a 7, 10 or 15 day Detox Program this New Year, put the brakes on for just a minute. While it might seem like a good idea to follow a restrictive diet and take some highdose herbs or supplements for a short-term quick-fix to get you ‘back on track’ after the holidays it’s probably not necessary. Your body has built-in detoxification functions and organs that work hard every day to help you get rid of toxins you’re exposed to and wastes your body naturally creates. If you choose to do a short-term detox program, you’ll likely return to many of your old habits such as drinking coffee, eating high-sugar foods and having a glass of wine on the weekend. All of these habits are fine in moderation when your body is detoxing itself daily. Learning how to optimize your body’s natural ability to detoxify itself each day will be more beneficial to you in the long term than a quick fix. Your detoxification organs include your bowels, liver, kidneys, skin and lungs. Your bowels are responsible for the majority of waste excretion. This includes getting rid of cholesterol ad hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, etc.). Proper bowel function (at least one bowel movement daily) is essential to detoxification. Your liver is the true master of detoxification as it can turn potentially harmful substances such as alcohol or drugs into less harmful breakdown products or ‘metabolites’. Once these metabolites are out of your liver and back in your blood stream, they need to exit the body by way of your stool, urine and sometimes in your sweat. Your kidneys help your body to get rid of water-soluble waste products. These include normal cell breakdown products and wastes that your body creates during exercise, minerals or vitamins that are in excess and sometimes more toxic elements or heavy metals. Your skin and lungs are secondary detoxification organs. Your lungs are constantly being used to get rid of carbon dioxide while your skin excretes some water-soluble wastes when you sweat. Occasionally, various skin reactions such as acne or eczema can be an expression of internal detoxification systems not functioning well. Now, how can you make sure each of these organs is detoxifying you daily? Good news, they’re probably already functioning because you’re alive! Since we want to thrive and perform at our healthiest, here are some tips to keep your detox processes working at their best. HEALTHY BOWEL MOVEMENTS Technically you should have a bowel movement every time you have a full meal. Now that
might not be convenient or desired for many people, but it is a physiologic, bodily reflex for you to go to the washroom every time you eat. This is because of smooth muscle contraction within the upper parts of your digestive tract after a meal helps to stimulate action further down the line. If you’re already having a daily bowel movement, keep up to good work. If you’re a little ‘slower’ in the bowel department, here are some tips to keep things moving. 1. Consume a tablespoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar in a small amount of warm water first thing in the morning. The bitterness of the lemon or vinegar causes smooth muscle contraction and can stimulate a bowel movement. 2. Increase your dietary fiber by eating 7-10 servings of vegetables and high-fiber fruits such as apples, berries, plums or prunes. Alternatively, you can add in a ground flaxseed or psyllium fiber supplement. 3. Be sure to drink adequate water throughout the day especially if you’re increasing your fiber intake. Fiber needs water to help it move through your system. Drink when you are thirsty and try to have 1 cup of water first thing in the morning and one cup of water before bed. LOVE YOUR LIVER While it’s essentially impossible to feel your liver functioning, there are blood tests to ensure your liver is not diseased. Your liver function blood tests tell us if you have fatty liver, alcoholic liver, or any kind of hepatitis (inflammation and/or infection of the liver). In most healthy individuals the liver function tests will be normal, but you may still have symptoms of a sluggish or sub-optimal liver. These can include severe reactions to alcohol, scents or smoke, menstrual difficulty and even blood sugar control issues. Here are some tips to be kind to your liver and be sure it’s functioning well: 1. Decrease your alcohol and sugar intake. Both alcohol and sugar consumption in high amounts can lead to fat accumulation in the liver. When fat builds up, the function of the liver slows down and in advanced stages, scarring can occur. While the holidays are a time of indulgences for many people and it’s unlikely that a couple weeks of sweets and treats did you significant damage, it’s important to break the cycle and not carry bad habits forward after celebration season comes to a close. Swap your nightly glass of wine or whiskey for a cup of herbal tea, and switch
the mid-afternoon sugar rush to a protein and fiber-rich snack. 2. Consider your supplements and over the counter medication use. If you’re regularly using supplements without the guidance of a health care provider, you can cause harm to your liver and other detoxification organs. Consider visiting a Naturopathic Doctor to review your current supplement use based on your health goals. Using high amounts of acetaminophen or Tylenol for pain management can be harmful for your liver. If you’re in chronic pain, find a chiropractor, physiotherapist or acupuncturist that can help reduce your need for medication. 3. Swap one of your daily coffees for a dandelion or milk thistle tea or dandelion coffee substitute. Dandelion and milk thistle are very safe herbs when used in tea form. People using blood thinners and other medications should not use these herbs without contacting a health care provider first. Drinking herbal tea made with liver-loving herbs not only reduces your caffeine intake by taking the place of coffee, but it can also help stimulate both your bowels and your liver.
support to get your natural detox functions working well, seek the advice of a Naturopathic Doctor or health care provider. Knowing that your body copes well when challenged with toxins such as sugar or alcohol doesn’t mean you should indulge in these items all the time. Keeping your treats, sweets and boozy drinks in moderation while ensuring your bowels and other detox organs are working well, will keep you healthy longterm.
The kidneys are a very specific organ to treat. Little additional support is needed for your kidneys to function well beyond ensuring you’re drinking enough water. There is no scientific study that tells us how much water is enough to drink in a day. I recommend that you drink when you are thirsty, and consume an extra cup of water first thing in the morning and when you get home at night or before bed. Water and hydration requirements can be different for athletes based on activity level and sport. Adequate water helps your kidneys to detoxify and can also improve your bowel function. To keep your skin functioning well as a detoxification organ, consider dry brushing three times a week before your shower. Using a natural bristled brush, gently exfoliate your skin, beginning at the bottom of your legs up toward your chest using small circular motions. Repeat the process on your arms beginning near your hands and working your way in toward your chest. Dry brushing helps rid your skin of dead skin cells, and also stimulates your lymphatic system which carries wastes from your blood out of your body. By ensuring that your bowels, liver, kidneys, skin and lungs are working well each day, your body will naturally get rid of wastes and toxins without any quick-fix or seven-day program. If you feel you need additional
Dr. Briana Botsford is a naturopathic doctor and family health care provider. Dr. Botsford treats everything from high blood pressure and the common cold, to digestive complaints, low energy and anxiety. She works with people of all ages to help them feel and function at their best. Dr. Botsford is passionate about treating the root cause of disease and dysfunction rather than simply masking the symptoms. As an Ironman Triathlete, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Yoga Teacher, she integrates her in-depth understanding of movement, exercise and the mind-body connection into her writing and patient care. You can visit Dr. Botsford at Green Apple Health Care to get started on achieving your health goals