Nutrition: Spring clean detox

By Lani Lopez

Photo / Getty
Photo / Getty

September brings spring, a time for renewal and rejuvenation, a well-timed and balanced detox will help you spring out of winter.

In winter we tend to eat heavier comfort foods and huddle indoors, quite understandably preferring warmth to our normal, more active lifestyle.

This can leave us feeling sluggish; in part because our diet changes and reduced exercise compound the slowing of our wintry metabolism, possibly leading to a build-up of toxins in the body.

A detox is a way of flushing out your system, restoring full, healthy function and improving body and mind. The benefits of a detox are long-lasting and can improve energy, digestion, muscle and joint comfort, sleep, immunity, eyesight, focus, memory, anxiety, stress response, mood, skin, nails and hair.

Work with your body.

The body has natural processes for detoxification. Working with them makes detoxing easier on your body and more likely to give long-lasting benefit.

While liquid fasting detoxes are popular, they are a significant interruption to your body's natural function. A liquid detox may stress the body, risks rapidly depleting your energy and ultimately may leave you vulnerable to illness. So I recommend you only do one under the supervision of a naturopath.

There are fewer concerns with a detoxification diet. Symptoms which can indicate the need for a detoxification diet include bad breath, allergies, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, digestive symptoms, joint pain, headaches, and skin symptoms including rashes, itching, or strong body odour.

Detox your diet

A detoxification diet lasts two to four weeks. It is a short, focused refinement of what goes into your body to help flush toxins out.

You will, for a limited time, restrict yourself to whole, unrefined, non-allergenic foods.

While my specific recommendations vary for each individual, here are some broad guidelines on what to eat. Update your shopping list and fill your pantry with:

• Leafy greens: Eat raw in salads (especially good) or lightly steamed, leaving them still green and crisp.

• Carrots, pumpkin, capsicums, in fact all yellow and orange vegetables.

• Berries by the bucketload, fresh if you can, but frozen is easier to find heading into spring.

• Rosehips, which can be eaten fresh or enjoyed as a tea.

• Eat only whole grains, no pasta or white rice.

• Make kumara your carb of choice.

• Dietary fibre is important to chelate (grab onto) toxins for evacuation and reduces toxic reabsorption. Fibre from flax seeds, psyllium, pectin or slippery elm helps to bind onto excess dietary cholesterol for excretion. Take 1 - 3 tsp of flax seed fibre, psyllium husk or other fibre products.

• Keep meat lean, fresh and organic.

• Eat fish fresh, not from cans.

• Look after your liver - the primary organ for detoxification. Foods that are especially beneficial for cleansing the liver include broccoli and cauliflower (all brassica vegetables), dandelion root, globe artichoke leaves, garlic and onions.

• Refined sugars, dairy, processed foods (basically anything that comes in a packet), coffee and alcohol are eliminated. This can lead to cravings, especially for sugar, so increase your intake of fresh fruit every day and keep fruit handy for snacking.

• Drink lots of water, some fruit juice is allowable each day and kiwifruit or prune juice will help clean you out.

Better out than in

Toxins do not feel good and flushing them out of the body can cause some uncomfortable side effects. These don't last, usually dropping away by day five.

Focus on light at the end of the tunnel and see the discomfort as a welcome release of poisons that were making you unwell and are better out than in. Focus on the end of the detox tunnel, on the warm light of a healthy spring.

Lani's liver detoxing herbs

Some studies suggest that short-term cleansing diets have limited detoxing effect. Adding herbal detoxes or supplements to your regime increases detox potency.

Liver cleansing and regenerating herbs are important for supporting the liver's enzymatic processes and bile flow:

• Dandelion: 3-5g of dried root daily.
• Yellow dock: 2-4ml daily.
• Milk thistle: enhances bile flow and detoxifies the liver. Take a standardised milk thistle product, 420mg of silymarin content daily.
• Globe artichoke: 1.5-4g of dried leaf daily to promote the flow and discharge of bile.
• Turmeric: 2-3g daily to act as a liver antioxidant.

Lani Lopez is a naturopath and clinical nutritionist, author of Natural Health and a specialist formulator of naturopathic supplements, and founder of Find her and talk wellbeing on

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