If your body feels like it needs a spring-clean and you’re considering a detox or cleanse it’s important that you know the difference between the two – and when each option works best.
What is a detox?
Detox refers to the liver and kidneys, and their primary function to remove harmful toxins and chemicals from the body. The goal of a detox is to enhance the body’s own detoxification pathways, while eliminating any negative effects on the body from pesticides and additives in our food.
A detox also helps remove environmental pollutants such as the industrial chemicals found in cleaning and beauty products, and excess cortisol and oestrogen – hormones that our bodies naturally make but that are detrimental to our health if not kept in balance.
Of course, our liver and kidneys are constantly working, so in a sense we are already “detoxing” several times per day. With that in mind, the best way to detox is to support these essential organs to work at their optimal level. This can be done by taking herbs that speed up the function and elimination process, such as milk thistle or dandelion root. We can strengthen the function of these organs by making more permanent dietary and lifestyle changes – upping fruits and vegetables in our diets, especially sour or bitter foods, and increasing our intake of healthy fats such as avocado and olive oil which support the liver in detoxing. Regular exercise will also help release toxins from the body.
What is a cleanse?
The main purpose of a cleanse is to clean out the digestive tract, including the colon, from undigested food particles, toxins and parasites. A cleanse is often a gentler way of releasing toxins, often by adopting a simpler diet for a period of time.
A true cleanse will aim to provide nourishment for the body. By providing food in the form of a complete protein, we can stabilize our blood-sugar levels and allow ourselves to enter a state of deep cleansing and healing.
The ancient Ayervedic cleanse known as Kitchari is a good example of a traditional cleanse. This cleanse aims to re-set the digestive system through the adoption of a “mono-diet”. By eating the same meal three times a day over three consecutive days we allow our digestive systems a chance to heal, while simultaneously soothing and repairing the gut lining and intestinal walls.
The right time to detox or cleanse
When it comes to the right time, traditionally, spring and fall/autumn are considered the optimum seasons. Spring is a time of renewal and, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this makes it the best time to detox the liver. According to TCM, during spring our liver energy, or Qi, is naturally rising, and this helps the detoxification process.
Autumn, on the other hand, is a great time to do a cleanse, as this season is associated with the large intestine, being the major organ of elimination.
Stress is another factor to consider when planning a detox or cleanse. Whenever stress is present, be it from environmental, physical, emotional or diet-related causes, the body will typically hold onto the very toxins you are trying so hard to eliminate.
Lower your stress levels, and the body has an extraordinary ability to heal itself – releasing those stored toxins and waste you know you will feel infinitely better without.
In the end though, the best time to detox or cleanse is when you intuitively feel the need to do so. Likewise with frequency. Our bodies are very clever at telling us what they need – all we need to do is take the time to stop and listen.
Angela Merrie is the founder of Pretty Damn Good For You, inspiring people to live better through nutritionally balanced, whole food, plant-based recipes. Angela is on the board of several companies that invest in environmental projects globally. She holds a degree in Fine Art, and recently graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) in New York as a Health Coach and Holistic Nutritionist. Find out more at @prettydamngoodforyouand follow @angela_merrie on Instagram.
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