8 Detox Tips for the New Year
For many, the New Year marks a time to detoxify and rid the body of noxious
substances from too much holiday partying (and life in general).
Here’s how to get the most from this ancient health practice.
By Eric Schneider
Give Dairy a Rest
One of the best ways to help your body start the New Year right is by taking a break from dairy. “Even if you’ve been using organic dairy products, so many people have lactose intolerance—or even a dairy allergy that they’re not aware of—that just removing it for a week or so and seeing how you feel can often show a lot of improvement,” says Alexandra Jamieson, chef, certified health counselor and author of The Great American Detox Diet (Rodale). She recommends cutting out butter, cheese, milk, yogurt and related foods, if only temporarily. This allows the body to acclimate to life without dairy, which can lead to health benefits that include better elimination habits and reduced nasal congestion. Jamieson says many of her clients who’ve dropped dairy have found unexpected relief of conditions such as post-nasal drip and even severe eczema.
Eat More Fruits & Veggies
Although the USDA recommends covering half of your mealtime plate with fruits and vegetables, Jamieson encourages upping that ratio even more, particularly if you’re looking to detoxify. “Go to town!” she exclaims. Produce is packed with nutrients, and benefits can include maintaining digestive health, inhibiting fat deposition and preventing inflammation. As Jamieson puts it, “Eat more real fruits and vegetables, and your body will cleanse.” Elson Haas, MD, director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin in San Rafael, California, and author of The New Detox Diet (Celestial Arts), concurs. Haas believes the setting in which you eat is also important. “Chew your food very well and take enough time when you eat—relax a few minutes before and after your meal,” he says.
We naturally associate water with clarity and cleansing—think of the millions of showers taken every day. The same concept holds true for the inside of our bodies. Not drinking enough clean, pure water can impede organs from doing their jobs; that’s especially true of the kidneys, which remove waste from our bloodstream. “Your kidneys are your filters, so that’s why you want to drink, drink, drink throughout the day,” says Susana Belen, founder of We Care Spa in Desert Hot Springs, California, and author of Detox and Revitalize (Vital Health Publishing). “We are supposed to drink half of our body weight in ounces of liquid per day. That’s means if you weigh 100 pounds, you have to drink 50 ounces daily.” Regular filtered water applies to this goal, as do herbal teas and water served with lemon (coffee, soda and alcohol do not count). Countertop distillers provide an extra margin of water safety.
Although it’s an entirely instinctive part of our existence, breathing can also help us to detoxify. “The same way we chew food, we need to ‘chew’ the air,” Belen explains. This involves inhaling slowly until your lungs are full, and then retaining that big breath so all that oxygen from the air can pass from the lungs into the blood. With normal shallow breathing, we use only about 20% of our lung capacity, and this leaves stale gases lingering at the bottom of our lungs. Belen notes that by inhaling deeply, holding your breath for a few counts and then slowly exhaling, you can bolster your body’s natural detox process. She suggests that each time you remind yourself about deep breathing—particularly while doing mundane tasks—you should inhale and exhale slowly 10 times. Such “breathing breaks” will help you incorporate this beneficial practice into your daily life.
Care for the Skin You’re In
Along with the lungs, kidneys, bowels and lymphatic system, the skin is one of what Belen refers to as the “the five organs of elimination” essential for getting rid of toxins. Though many people regularly tend to their skin, the practices they use may not always aid detoxification. Belen cautions that many creams and lotions can clog the skin’s pores, hindering toxin release. She recommends brushing your skin with a natural fiber brush to remove dead cells, which opens the pores. Jamieson suggests hot towel scrubbing: Prepare a hot wet towel and a basin, then “gently rub in circles from your fingertips up and from your toes up, and that opens the pores. It’s a nice way to take a break and actually get in touch with your body a little bit,” Jamieson says.
Drip, drip, drip. That’s the sound of your pores eliminating toxins via a good sweat. In addition to engaging in moderate exercise such as bicycling or jogging, going to a steam room or sauna can help you perspire. “People want to avoid perspiring, but the reality is that perspiration is a good thing. That’s why living in the desert is healthy, because the minute the sun hits you, even in the wintertime, you’re perspiring,” says Belen. Jamieson adds, “It can be moistening and help improve your skin quality. It cleans out the pores and increases oil production a little bit, so your skin tends to be in better shape.” Some home saunas use infrared waves to gently heat the body, which encourages perspiration at lower temperatures than those found in traditional saunas.
When considering New Year’s resolutions, it’s easy to get ambitious and contemplate a big detox endeavor such as an extended juice fast. A moderate approach is much more advisable, however, particularly in wintertime. Both Haas and Jamieson acknowledge that excessive fasting in the colder months is not a good idea, in part because the body is accustomed to holding onto weight during chillier weather. If you do fast, “establish one day a week for cleansing,” Belen advises. “Drink juices and teas, fast, go for a walk, breathe deeply. It’s one day a week that you activate all of this so you begin to improve little by little, instead of going on your own and doing a 30-day fast and seeing what happens.”
Use Detox to Support Weight Loss
While extended fasting is not a good idea, especially in cold weather, a juice fast of no more than 48 hours can help prime your body to lose weight—far and away the most common New Year’s resolution. One way to simplify a short fast is to use whole-food juice concentrates, which often contain the so-called “superfruits”—such as açai, goji, mangosteen, noni and pomegranate—to take advantage of their high antioxidant levels. Be sure to maintain good hydration by drinking extra water; afterwards take advantage of your weight loss jump-start by adopting a high-nutrient, low-toxin diet of fresh (preferably organic) produce, lean protein and whole grains.