Congratulations. You’re almost through the most depressing month of the year. January is the apogee of awfulness, a month when a combination of Christmas debt, miserable weather and the prospect of having to get your tax returns sorted hits hardest. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s the weighty matter of all the extra pounds picked up over the festive period. But you’ve made it this far, so if you haven’t gotten your resolutions sorted yet or just fancy giving your health a seasonal boost, piggy back on your January survival success and help your body out with a little detox.
That doesn’t, however, mean having to shell out bucket loads of cash on supplements or follow a horribly restrictive regime. Indeed as Helen Gardiner, a medical herbalist at London’s Hale Clinic says, our bodies are in a constant state of detoxification. ‘Detoxification is the process whereby metabolic by-products, nonsense food such as preservatives and additives, recreational drugs and alcohol, free radicals, pharmaceutical drugs and environmental poisons and pollution are neutralised and excreted,’ she explains. A brisk walk or a bike ride are both good ways of using the great outdoors to shed weight and keeping tabs on a balanced diet with well-controlled portion sizes is key. But that’s not all you can do, so here’s our top 10 ways to rid your body of toxins naturally.
Excercise your whole body
David Petersen, Health and Fitness Manager at London’s Fitness First Baker Street says that exercises which work muscles across the body, such as spin classes on exercise bikes and boxercise, are great calorie-burners. As a useful rule of thumb, ‘the more muscles you get to work, the bigger the benefit.’ Boxercise involves working the upper- and lower-body muscles and torso, and many classes also include cardio exercises taken from boxing training, such as lunges and squats. David explains that it’s a good alternative to yoga for those who need a more fast-paced way to relax. ‘Some people are very good at using yoga to lose tension. Other people will go into that class and their minds are still running ten to the dozen - it can be a distraction. So for people like that, boxercise can have a calming effect; it’s really satisfying.’
For more information, go to: www.fitnessfirst.co.uk
Heat up your yoga class
Developed by yoga guru Bikram Choudhury from traditional hatha yoga, Bikram Yoga involves 26 sequenced postures and two breathing exercises and is practised in a room heated to almost 38 degrees celsius. Olga Allon, who runs the Hot Bikram Yoga Studios in London, explains: ‘The idea is that you’re recreating the hot, humid climate where yoga originated, which allows you to stretch in a more comfortable, safer way.’ Due to the heat, you’re advised to drink at least 1.5 litres of water per session, which means that ‘you’re cleaning out your system and sweating out toxins’. The benefits last beyond the class, too - as Olga says. ‘You come out of even one class feeling incredibly cleansed, and the last thing you want to do is put a load of unhealthy food inside you.’
For more information, go to: www.hotbikramyoga.co.uk
Add skin brushing to your routine
Key to helping your body rid itself of any toxins is making sure it’s in the best shape to do so. ‘Think about all the systems of elimination,’ explains Helen Gardiner. ‘The skin is one of these – it’s the largest organ in the body. Using loofahs and scrubbing the body, or brushing upwards towards the heart before showering stimulates the skin and the lymph system, and this assists elimination prior to strong detoxification.’
For more information, go to: www.highlandsoaps.com
Eat more antioxidants
These are molecules that help protect your body against free radicals, which damage cells and have been linked to cancer and heart disease. Green tea is rich in antioxidants, as are ‘superfoods’ like blueberries and goji berries. For a hearty winter recipe, heavy in these helpful detoxifying molecules, Helen recommends a chicken soup, made by poaching the chicken with ginger and chilli - both good for circulation - and adding antioxidants like just-cooked garlic and rosemary.
For more information, go to: www.abelandcole.co.uk
Drink dandelion tea
Drinking a couple of cups of dandelion tea, widely available from health-food shops, alongside dandelion coffee, can be particularly good for anyone whose Christmas was marked by a few liver-straining drinking sessions. As Helen explains, dandelion is one helpful little herb: ‘One of its main actions is detoxifying the liver, which is the first main organ of the gastro-intestinal system and [where] we store toxins, poisons and alcohols.’
For more information, go to: www.leafliving.com
Avoid celebrity diets
There’s plenty to choose from but very few are even remotely good for you. Extreme detoxes such as Beyonce’s favourite Maple Syrup Diet involve cutting certain food groups, which can have a serious impact on your intake of necessary nutrients. David Petersen asks: ‘Can you stick to that diet for the rest of your life? If you get breakfast in, eat good, natural foods, watch your portion size, that’s something you can do for life.’ What’s more, these diets are often used as quick fix options: good news for shedding weight over a short period, but, once they’re done, as David says, ‘you just tend to go back to your old habits and put it back on again.’
For more information, go to: www.nutrition.org.uk
Be kind to your gut
These can be a key aid to digestion, adding some friendly bacteria to a digestive system we may not have been so kind to in the last month. ‘Reintroducing some strains of microogranisms to the gut flora is going to reduce symptoms of poor digestion - bloating, flatulence and discomfort - and enable a balance and harmony of digestion,’ explains Helen. There are a number of supplements on the market, such as those from Nature’s Best, which contain Lactobacillus Acidophilus, helping the small intestine, and Bifidobacterium, for the large intestinal colon. Eating certain foods can help these bacteria function. ‘They proliferate when we give them fermented foods to be able to do so,’ says Helen, recommending yoghurt, sauerkraut and miso soup.
For more information, go to: www.naturesbest.co.uk
Go dairy free
Dairy products have been linked to a number of health problems, from simply feeling lethargic and sluggish to high cholesterol levels and obesity. Cutting dairy from your diet may reveal an unsuspected intolerance and could even have health benefits. Rice milk, for example, is easier for the body to digest than cows’ milk and contains none of the animal hormones that we struggle to process. Plus, you’d be doing the environment a favour: the dairy industry makes up about 23 per cent of UK food emissions. You might even try going gluten-free, as this would turn you away from wheat-heavy fried foods and desserts and onto healthier staples like rice and fruit. There’s a wide range of dairy- and gluten-free products out there, and a detox period is a good time to trial alternatives to your regular diet.
For more information, go to: www.wheatanddairyfree.com
By eating unheated vegetable and plant food, you retain the enzymes they contain that help digestion but which degrade when heated. In addition, the fresher the fruit and veg you consume, the higher its natural vitamin content. Aim to eat organic produce, and you’ll avoid putting toxins into your body through pesticides. The best uncooked foods to eat fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, pulses and seeds. You can even have chocolate: The Raw Chocolate Co offer a wide range of chocolates making the most of raw cacao, as well as some useful anti-oxidants, from bee pollen to chia seeds.
For more information, go to: www.therawchocolatecompany.com
Take it easy
While there are plenty of ways to help your body detoxify, don’t forget that the liver and kidneys form a very efficient detoxification system themselves. Katie Peck, BDA-approved dietician, explains: ‘A lot of these [detox diets] focus on forcing particular organs in the body to help the body detox. If the human body is healthy, they don’t actually require this at all.’ So, how can you help your body do its thing? ‘Plenty of sleep, getting exercise and having a high-fibre diet,’ says Katie. ‘These will enable the body to be healthy, to take care of getting rid of toxins naturally.’
For more information, go to: www.bda.uk.com
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