Many patients have asked me recently about how our wellness services can help them “detox” in the New Year. Detoxing is a common wellness practice. In most general terms, it means removing toxins from the body.
The New Year is a good time to detox, for many reasons: 1) usually we have put a lot of crap into our systems over the holidays and detoxing allows us to clear that out; 2) New Years symbolically offers a new beginning, and detoxing allows us to clear the slate, so to speak, for our next year; and 3) in the deepest winter months, we are in the most Yin (passive, cold) time of the year, when things move the slowest. Detoxing gives us a pick-me-up during these slow, deep, cold winter months.
However, I would strongly advise being wary of internet detox programs with obscure diets, high supplementation, or cure-all-claims with the addition of certain super foods. If you are inclined to do one of these more severe cleanses, you should always do so under the guidance of a nutritionist, physician, or nutritional coach.
However, there are many ways that you can help your body to naturally and gently detox during the month of January. My suggestion it to do a “Detox Lifestyle Overhaul”, which involves making a number of small health choices that you can then choose to continue or stop, after you see how they serve you for one month.
Here are 8 ways to gently detox your body this January:
1. Eat as cleanly as possible. Cut out—for the month—as much processed foods as you can. Eat a diet of mainly hearty vegetables, a small amount of complex grains, lean meat and fish, and healthy fats like those from coconut, avocado, and nuts.
2. Reduce inflammation. Cut out common culprits of inflammation and the stress response in the body: sugar, alcohol, gluten, dairy, and coffee. You can choose to cut out all 5 of these, for the month, or just choose 1 to start with. Make the promise to yourself to do this for the month of January and then you can start reintroducing the food (or foods) slowly in February. Your body may tolerate it just fine, and that is good information for you to have. However, if you cut out sugar for the month, feel great, and then reintroduce it in February and feel lousy, it may be time to re-examine whether or not you want to include sugar in your diet moving forward. Either way, this modified “elimination diet” can help clear out some of the residual inflammation and crap in your body from last year, and give you a better start for 2014.
3. Drink all the water. Drink at least 64 fluid oz of water each day. Water is a life-giving force, and is at its core clean, cleansing, and pure. Making sure you get enough water each day is a great way to help flush out your tissues, remove toxins, bring new life into your cells, and help your inner tissues be healthier, cleaner, and less weighed down with toxins. If you get bored easily drinking plain water, try this delicious and "middle burner" friendly detox water recipe!
4. Get regular cupping treatments. Cupping is a modality used by acupuncturists and practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine. One of its main functions is to remove toxins from the energy systems, acupuncture meridians, and local tissues. A trained practitioner can tailor a cupping treatment to your unique condition and presentation to remove toxins from whichever systems you seem to most readily store them in. At Stepping Stone Acupuncture & Wellness, we offer cupping treatments as part of a regular acupuncture treatment (just mention that you want to try cupping at the start of your treatment), and we also offer cupping-only sessions, to really focus on the detoxification power of this healing modality.
5. Get a massage. Massage helps to move blood and lymph, which carry important nutrients to our tissues (and toxins OUT of the tissues). It also can help to remove the lactic acid that builds up in our muscle tissues, to make us more limber, less stuck, and less toxic.
6. Exercise at least 4 days each week. If this seems like too lofty of a goal, remember, it is just for this month. Then you can choose whether you’d like to continue with your routine going forward. Whatever exercise you choose to do, remember that to help you detox, you want to get your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes (to get an aerobic workout), and you want to break a sweat. Be sure to replenish your body’s fluid and electrolyte stores after a hard workout (when you sweat a lot) by drinking plenty of water, coconut water (nature’s Gatorade!), and eating water-rich fruits and vegetables.
7. Pay attention to the toxins you put ON your body, not just what you put IN your body. Sadly, most of the beauty products (skin care, hair care, make-up, etc) that we use contain very toxic chemicals that slowly absorb through our skin and work their way into our bloodstream and tissues. Additionally, home cleaning products (including dish soap, laundry detergent, and surface cleaners) contain products that are incredibly toxic to us, our clothes, and our plates. Try substituting non-toxic alternatives for your everyday products—you will be amazed that they work just as well.
8. Sweat it out. Sweating is our body’s natural way of cooling us down, and eliminating toxins from our tissues. Achieving a healthy sweat is a great way to aid the body in detoxing. You can do this through exercise or using a clean herbal sauna. However, notice that I say “healthy sweat”—sweating is NOT helpful if you do it too much, too often, or feel tired, dehydrated, or depleted afterwards. Anytime you allow your body to sweat, be sure you replenish the lost fluids with electrolytes, water, and protein.
As always, it is important to do things to take care of yourself and keep your body in balance during this detox period. Regular acupuncture treatments—or maintenance acupuncture care—can treat the underlying imbalances that are causing health issues, and can help you be at your best as you use these other modalities to effectively detox in a sustainable way.