Spring is traditionally the time to think about detoxing or fasting. Just as the energy is moving from the roots to the new shoots in spring, so to is the energy inside our bodies. Winter is a time to conserve and store our energy, while Spring on the other hand, is a time when our energy moves upwards and outwards. We can take advantage of this natural energy flow and use it to promote an internal clean. Spring is also the time when allergies worsen. As the weather warms up (I hope!) I would like to discuss simple and effective detoxification techniques and the conditions that will benefit.
Who needs to detox?
Anyone who is not pregnant, breastfeeding or under 16 and lives in the 21st century can benefit from a detoxification programme. Anyone who suffers from any chronic disease will benefit from an internal spring-clean. Sufferers of atopic diseases such as asthma, eczema, hayfever, where there is a component of food allergy will benefit as well as those with general symptoms of unwellness such as sore joints, aching muscles, fatigue, headaches, acne and constipation.
Level 1 Toxicity
This is associated with incomplete digestion, poor absorption of nutrients and inadequate elimination. Symptoms relate to food and environmental sensitivities. This leads to an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria in the intestines leading to headaches, flatulence, fatigue, indigestion, sinus, muscle aches and pains, cold hands and feet, insomnia and menstrual dysfunction.
Level 2 Toxicity
This is an expression of genetic weakness due to ongoing inflammatory and free radical damage. This leads to a dysfunction of the intestinal and liver protective mechanisms and is associated with chronic inflammatory disease and severe behavioural changes. Examples of Level 2 toxicity include autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythromatous SLE etc, eczema, psoriasis, asthma, hayfever, addictions and cancer.
Certain conditions can really benefit from a detoxification programme. Food allergy is associated with asthma, eczema and hayfever. The only real way to test for food allergy is to go on a low reactive diet for two weeks and then do what is called an oral food challenge. I am an old school naturopath and as such I don’t believe in machines and skin scratch tests to test for allergy. The only way to find out if you are sensitive to a food is to take it out of the diet for two weeks then have it three times in one day. If you have a problem with this food, your body will soon tell you. Please listen to you body. It doesn’t mean you have to eliminate this food completely. In fact complete elimination leads to increased sensitivity. The idea is to reduce and rotate rather than eliminate. Read on to find out what to rotate with.
Please read also Food Allergy and Food Intolerance Explained
What to expect from a detox
Of course symptoms vary depending on the level of toxicity. Some people may find that there are no aggravations and may start to feel improvements immediately. Common symptoms of detoxification include headaches, dizziness, mood swings, muscle aches and pains, stiff joints, difficulty concentrating, gastrointestinal upsets and skin breakouts. Please be patient though, as these aggravations of symptoms are short lived and soon you will be feeling better than ever.
Unfortunately some practitioners seem promote strict regimes and the use coffee enemas to detox. Whilst coffee enemas do have their place in detoxification programmes some people develop an unhealthy obsession with them. Some patients end up losing weight after being placed on extended detoxification programmes. It is important not to use these more powerful techniques unless the patients constitution is up to it. Meanwhile, detoxification can be achieved without enemas or starving. The food we eat can actually assist the removal of toxins from our bodies. Sulphur rich onions and garlic assist liver detoxification pathways, fibre grabs heavy metals and assists elimination from our bodies, mineral rich nuts and seeds oppose heavy metals. See also Liver Flush
There are Two Ways to Detox;
1. Low Reactive Diet and Oral Food Challenge
Low reactive diet and oral food challenge
Some foods are high reactive
This means that they are more likely to cause allergic conditions in the body. Other foods are low reactive. This means that they are naturllay low in potential allergens such as histamine and salycilates. These are more suitable for people suffering from allergic disorders such as asthma, eczema and hayfever. The object is to remove all food and chemical allergens from the diet for 12-16 days, then challenge the body by reintroducing suspect foods whilst monitoring the body’s reaction. This diet basically consists of rice or another gluten free grain and vegetables.
Initial elimination phase
Eliminate wheat, milk, dairy, egg, gluten, salicylates, colourings and shellfish. Foods high in salicylates need to be avoided in certain allergic conditions such as asthma, eczema, hay fever and autoimmune disease. A full list of salicylate containing foods can be found at www.carahealth.ie. The following is a list of low reactive foods to take to the supermarket in preparation for your detox programme.
Alternatives to common problem foods
Soymilk is the most common alternative although is is one of the top 8 allergic foods itslef. People who are sensitive to the protein in cows’ milk may also have difficulty with the high protein content in soymilk. Soymilk can also be high in fat. Some are too high in oil and sugars. There are also rice milk, oat milk, sheeps’ milk or goats’ milk. Here is a recipe for nut milk. Take one handful of almonds, sunflower, pumpkin sesame or flax and blend until a powder. Gradually add about 500ml water until it is a consistency of milk
Soft cheeses are easier to digest than hard cheese. Try fetta, ricotta or cottage cheese. Most fetta in the supermarket is cows milk, some is goats, you must check the ingredients. Other alternatives are goats and sheeps’ milk cheeses and tofu. Tahina may be considered a good substitute and is also high in calcium if unhulled. Try avocado, tomato and tahina on toast under the grill. Lets face it though, there is no real substitute for grilled cheese
Wheat and gluten
Wheat, rye, barley and oats contain gluten. Certain people have a deficiency of glutase, the enzyme to digest gluten. Millet is good substitute as not only is it gluten free but it is also alkalising. Rice is a perfect low reactive food. Instead of a wheat base try this. Mix cooled cooked rice with eggs and press into a base for low fat quiches. Be sure to blind bake first. Polenta is corn meal, although, a true exclusion diet includes the elimination of corn. Use polenta as a base for pies or quiches. Cook as instructed then add some olive oil and press into a pie tin. Others good gluten free alternatives are lentils, quinoa, soy flour, (beware of genetically modified and soy protein isolates) potato flour, chickpeas, (chickpea flour or besan flour is traditionally used for japaties) buckwheat, (note that buckwheat pancakes are a mix of wheat and buckwheat flour as buckwheat on its own is too heavy) and tapioca and sago can be used although they are not particularly nutritional.
Breads and Pasta
Rice crackers, corn crackers and gluten free breads are suitable. Rice noodles are a good past substitute that are cheap from the Asian grocer. Others include corn noodles and buckwheat noodles (though some contain wheat) and gnocchi (check ingredients)
Soft Tofu from the Asian grocer can be shredded into food. Tahini will thicken soups. Seaweeds are also a great thickener. In Ireland we have carrageen to thicken stews and soups. We can use shredded nori or wakame from the Asian grocer. Real corn flour made from corn is good. Did you know most corn flours are made from wheat? Arrowroot powder is another wheat free product to thicken stews and gravies. Kudzu root powder is the latest healthy wheat free alternative thickener. It just happens to have the highest phytoestrogen content also and is brilliant for menopausal women.
Alternatives include honey, rice syrup, barley malt, molasses, apple/pear juice concentrate and dates, figs and prunes.
Low Reactive Diet
A traditional fast is not for the faint hearted. For those of us who are looking for an easier option, the low reactive diet is a good alternative. The following is an example of a low reactive diet. Simply eat these foods on the suggested days. Of course you can also follow the detox shopping list and design your own low reactive diet.
The elimination phase
Sample detox or low reactive diet
Eat only sweet potato, pears and lamb. Vegetarians substitute cooked dried beans or red lentils
Eat only white rice, pawpaw and organic chicken or turkey.
Eat only millet or white rice, peeled red delicious apples (low in salicylates) and whiting or bream.
Eat only brown rice, lamb, buckwheat and pear juice.
Allowed vegetables Sweet potato, broccoli, carrot, beetroot, spinach, onion, cauliflower, pumpkin and asparagus. All vegetables should be washed and peeled unless organic. Salt, garlic, parsley and cold pressed oils can be used to flavour on all days of the low reactive diet. Restrict the following to half a cup. Green beans, red cabbage, brussel sprouts, mung bean sprouts, green peas, leeks, shallots and chives. Healthy dressing Lemon juice and olive oil or flax seed oil with thyme, basil or oregano, crushed garlic and good salt. (good salt is moist and grey) Try the health food shop. Use this to flavour your salads, vegetables and grains.
Drink only pure spring water or filtered water. The Carahealth Gravity Fed Water Filter is recommended. Plastics water bottles contain bispenol A a hormone mimicker, and should be avoided. Reverse osmosis is dead water with no nutritional benefit. Recommended herbal teas include Carahealth YEP tea, which contains yarrow, elder and peppermint, to promotes sweating and detox, or Carahealth PARTEA a blend of liquorice root, chamomile flowers, rose petals, lemongrass, calendula flowers which not only assists detoxification but is good to clam any “liverish” disposition.
Start reintroducing suspect foods on day 14. Reintroduce one food at a time while maintaining the low reactive diet. Keep a symptom diary. Monitor symptoms in any body system. Symptoms may include fatigue, nausea, pain, diarrhoea, constipation, eczema, asthma etc. Use Vitamin C powder or bicarbonates of soda to buffer the symptoms if they are bad. Test wheat, dairy and salicylates first.
Below are instructions on testing foods. If you react to a food, halt the reintroduction of that food and return to the diet prior to reintroduction of that food until symptoms completely disappear. Retest this food, if you still experience symptoms, you may need to completely avoid this food or seriously restrict it as you now understand your body has a problem with it.
Have 2-3 glasses of milk daily for up to three days. If symptoms appear stop. Test soft cheeses first then test hard cheeses.
Wheat and grains
Test bread with a yeast free, whole wheat bread like pita bread.
Have three glasses of orange or tomato juice. For further advice on salicylates book an appointment.
Eat some shellfish and watch out for symptoms. Of course if you know you have a violent reaction to anything don’t keep testing it!
Detox shopping list
Apples, apricots, bananas, blueberries, cherries, figs, grapes, kiwi fruit, loganberries, mulberries, mango, nectarines, pawpaw, peach, pear, prunes, kumquat, lemons.
Asparagus, artichoke, beetroot, broccoli, brussel sprouts, bok-choi and other Asian greens, bamboo shoots, cauliflower, red, green and yellow peppers, cabbage, chives, celery, dandelion leaves, green beans, kohlrabi, onions, sweet potato, mange touts, spinach, okra, endive, watercress, kale, leeks, parsley, courgette, sea vegetables i.e. nori, hajiki.
Brown rice, basmati rice, jasmine rice, wild rice, amaranth, quinoa, millet, polenta/corn meal. Legumes Tofu, chickpeas and lentils. Proteins Fresh ocean fish, free range chicken and turkey and lamb.
Herbs and spices
Aniseed bay leaves, basil, cardamom, cayenne, celery, cinnamon, cumin, dry mustard, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, saffron, sea salt, tarragon, thyme, turmeric and others. Oils Flax seed, sesame, olive and canola or hemp. All oils should be cold pressed virgin oils.
Nuts and seeds
Choose sesame, sunflower pumpkin seeds, raw almonds and cashew nuts.
Fasting is the voluntary abstinence of all food and drink. Lasting from 12 hours – 90 days, usually due to religious or therapeutic reasons. I am only suggesting a short fast, even Jesus only managed 40 days.
Aim of therapeutic fast
1. Provides physiological rest for the gastrointestinal tract. Remember that the hardest thing our body does is to digest food.
2. Mobilization of detoxifying defence mechanisms.
3. Promotes recuperation in chronic illness.
Physiological changes Fasting can cause certain changes to occur. There is weight loss initially, lowered blood pressure, heart rhythm changes, a decrease in triglycerides and cholesterol as the fats are mobilised from the liver, an increase in uric acid (therefore is contraindicated in gout) and a decrease in blood sugar. Fasting also enhances immune function and decreases inflammation.
Herbal Medicine to assist a cleanse
See also The Liver Flush
Carahealth Combining Acupuncture, Nutrition, Herbal Medicine & Classical Homeopathy
Carina Harkin BHSc.Acu.BHSc.Hom.BHSc.Nat.
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