Detox: Your Internal Spring Cleaning
Updated: Apr 16, 2021
April is here - and signs of spring are arriving - with birdsong and hints of green. April is a month of change: it starts as winter and ends with green grass and leaves budding on the trees. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the liver and the gallbladder are associated with this season. The liver plays a crucial detoxification role in our bodies, helping to reduce free radicals and turn potentially harmful toxins into waste products to eliminate. The liver also produces bile (which the gallbladder stores) which helps us to digest fats in our foods.
We are exposed to many toxins in our environment on a daily basis – many of which have direct effects on our hormones. We are more susceptible to toxins in our bodies if our body’s detox organs (including liver, intestines, lymph and kidneys) aren’t eliminating waste efficiently.
Do you have signs of toxicity?
Signs of too high a toxic burden can include:
Brain fog, memory issues
Fatigue, especially waking unrested after a full night’s sleep
Skin issues - including acne, rosacea, eczema
Heavy or painful periods
Are eliminating efficiently? Or are you susceptible to toxic overload?
You may be susceptible to toxicity if you are:
In a state of chronic stress - or are frequently in high stress situations
Sleeping less than 6 hours per night
Constipated or have sluggish bowels (not having at least one bowel movement daily, or needing your coffee to keep you ‘regular’)
Dealing with chronic health conditions or chronic inflammation
A regular alcohol consumer or have liver damage/fatty liver
A diabetic, have high blood sugar or kidney damage
Eating less than half your plate full of brightly coloured vegetables at most meals
Naturopathic medicine can support the liver to detoxify harmful chemicals and daily toxins that accumulate in our bodies. Before considering any detox diets, protocols or supplements, there are a few key pieces to ensure are in place.
How is your detox machine?
I like to work backwards when I evaluate detoxification:
Elimination (your bowels and kidneys work to give you consistent, daily, easy-to-pass bowel movements) - this is essential to achieve before any further detox - note: many 'detox' protocols use strong laxatives for this - but you may be able to simply increase your fiber (and magnesium - read below)!
Liver Conjugation (phase 2 of liver detox, which prevents free radicals from building up) - if you push phase 1 too much (ie. with alcohol, nicotine, environmental toxins and stress) you can have a buildup of free radicals that are not being processed quickly enough for elimination - sulphur-containing vegetables are great at supporting both phases of liver detox, and you can support this by avoiding alcohol/nicotine during your detox and adding in some daily stress-relievers like meditation, yoga or deep breathing.
Liver Oxidation-reduction (phase 1 of liver detox, creating free radicals for phase 2 clearance) - some people are genetically faster at this step than average - this step is slowed by caffeine consumption, so for those of you without anxiety who are attached to your daily coffee - it may be helpful! It is often difficult to know this - and many people with anxiety aren't aware of the effect their coffee has on amplifying their symptoms. Testing your genetics (ie. through 23andme) is a good way to discover this - I cannot requisition these tests, but I can help with analysis! Ask me if curious! We can also asses glutathione levels - your body's master antioxidant - in a variety of ways! Focus on antioxidant foods to add a little balance here!
Lymphatic flow - if your issues are primarily skin, and not resolved by addressing the above areas, or you have the above areas supported, consider adding support specific to your lymph - this could be in the form of dry skin brushing (done in evenings is the best time to clear toxins to be processed by the liver), alternating hot/cold showers (always end your shower on cold) or herbal medicine.
Elimination is key to detoxification: What can you do to help this crucial detox step?
I think the elimination stage of detox is often overlooked in its importance. In order to get your body eliminating well, you need to consider whether it is being burdened by things like food sensitivities (which cause inflammation in your gut and prevent proper elimination of toxins), dysbiosis of your gut (which has many causes, including antibiotic use, foreign travel, food poisoning, parasites, and even chronic stress!), or constipation/sluggish stools (which may be due to the factors above, or simply not getting enough fiber, vitamin C and magnesium in your diet). To support your elimination step:
Eat a variety of colourful veggies at most meals (aim for at least half your plate full)
Instead of relying on wheat bran fiber (or coffee), eat more fibrous veggies instead! You can also try adding 1 Tbsp psyllium flakes to water or food and follow with a large glass of water (or speak to me about other prebiotic fibre options that are gentle on sensitive bellies and known to support mood!)
Eat foods naturally high in magnesium – make sure you are at least meeting the 'recommended daily allowance' (RDA) which is between 310-420mg daily for adults, though if you're deficient, you may need much more! Eating more magnesium through food sources is safe - but supplementing at high doses may not me. See the list of magnesium-containing foods below.
Support your body's detoxification today!
Rich food sources of magnesium include:
Veg: dark green leafies (spinach, kale, chard, collard greens, mustard greens, beet greens) Green leafies: 1 cup (cooked) = ~160mg
Fish (fatty ones): salmon, halibut, mackerel Salmon: 3 oz = 110mg
Whole grains (only if tolerated – quinoa is my preferred pseudo-grain!) Quinoa: 1 cup = 126mg
Nuts & seeds (a small handful – caution if you are susceptible to gallstones): cashews, almonds, Brazil nuts, flaxseed, pumpkin seed, chia seed Pumkin seeds: ¼ cup = 317mg Flax seeds: 2 Tbsp (ground) = 111mg Sunflower seed butter: 2 Tbsp = 100mg
Dark chocolate (at least 70%): 1 oz square = ~100mg
Legumes (well-cooked or fermented, if tolerated): peas/lentils/beans; soy if organic and fermented
Other (lower magnesium content): avocado, banana, dates
A sample day of magnesium-rich foods:
160mg x 3 (green leafy veg - 3-4 cups of cooked leafy greens daily is a healthy dose of fibre and other minerals too) + 110mg (fish) + 126mg (quinoa) + ~100mg (handful of seeds or a dark chocolate square) = 816mg of magnesium!!
If you want help with supporting your body's innate detoxification pathways, I'm happy to help! Get that spring cleaning going on the inside too! Book an appointment with Dr. Natalie Senst, ND!
*If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, detox can be dangerous. Please book an appointment to see me and discuss your options for supporting your body in a safe way for your baby!