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The dietary excesses of the festive season can leave us feeling somewhat blurred around the edges and in need of a serious overhaul. Many natural health practitioners see the build-up of internal ‘toxicity’ from the diet and elsewhere as a common feature in a wide range of undesirable symptoms and conditions including weight gain, lethargy, headache, spots, bad breath and cellulite. Purging the system of impurities is an ideal New Year activity, and is very likely to bring a welcome lift to our sense of well-being and vitality. Here’s how:

1. Fill Up on Fruit and Veg

The cornerstone of any good ‘detox’ regime is a diet loaded with fresh fruit and vegetables. Not only do these make light work for the liver (the body’s primary organ of detoxification), they also contain an abundance of nutrients such as vitamin C and beta-carotene which can actually support this organ’s function. Some of the best liver-supporting foods are beetroot, carrots, onions, garlic, green leafy vegetables, artichokes and lemons. Think about making about two thirds of the total food consumed in the day fruit and veg. Fresh fruit or a fruit smoothie is an ideal way to start the day, followed by a salad for lunch, and fish with steamed veg for supper.

2. Eat Light

Some foods have an innate ability to induce toxicity in the body. Foods which are most likely to cause problems are those laden with additives such as colourings, flavourings, preservatives and artificial sweeteners. Other foods to avoid are those which contain processed fats known as ‘partially hydrogenated’ or ‘trans’ fats such as many processed foods, baked goods, fast food and margarine. Giving these foods a wide berth helps to cut down the toxic load on the system.

3. Go Organic

This is not something to get neurotic about, but eating organic foods whenever possible can only help to keep the body clean and toxin free. Detractors of organic food often claim that the food we eat contains natural toxins in far greater amount than those added by man. This may be true, but the critical difference is that toxins found naturally in food have been in the human diet for hundreds of thousands of years, and so it stands to reason the body has worked out ways to deal with them. The same is not likely to be true of chemically synthesised herbicides, pesticides and fungicides which have only been in the human food chain for a few decades.

4. Water, water everywhere

Keeping the body topped up with water is essential for proper detoxification of the body. First of all, water simply dilutes whatever toxins happen to be polluting the system. Plus, water can help speed the elimination of toxins via the urine and sweat. And lastly, water is essential for maintaining bowel regularity. Without it, waste matter in the colon can tend to get dry and stuck, a bit like cork in the neck of a wine bottle. About 2 litres of filtered or still mineral water should be drunk each day. The goal is to keep the urine pale yellow and relatively odour-free all day. If your urine strays into darker tones, or tends to whiff a bit, it’s a sign you need to up your water intake.

5. Feed Your Liver

Whether a toxin starts out life within the body (e.g. a breakdown product of metabolism) or comes from the outside (e.g. a pollutant in the air we breathe), it’s the liver that is essentially responsible for neutralising it and making it safe. Supporting liver function with herbs and nutrients is one sure way to reduce internal pollution. The daddy of liver-supporting agents is the herb Milk Thistle. Anyone interested in enhancing the cleansing capacity of the liver may do well to take Hepranol, a supplement which contains Milk Thistle complexed with other natural liver-supporting agents such as choline, methionine and green tea extract. This supplement is available from VitaTech on 0121 433 8729. The normal dose is one capsule, twice a day.

6. Bye Bye to Booze

We all know that alcohol can be toxic for the liver. In addition, though, many forms of alcohol contain additives known as ‘congeners’ which have their own role to play in the thick head and general foulness a big night out can induce. Probably the ‘cleanest’ form of alcohol is vodka. So, a Bloody Mary or Sea Breeze every now and again on a detox regime should be OK. Whatever happens, matching alcoholic drinks glass for glass with water will help undo any damage.

7. Cut Back on Caffeine

Caffeine stresses the liver, and also tends to dehydrate the body by stimulating urine production. So, caffeine tends to increase toxicity, but also reduces the body’s ability to deal with that toxicity. Cutting out caffeine often does wonders for general well-being within a week or two. A word of warning though: coming cold turkey off caffeine often induces a whopping headache which can last for a day or two. Drink plenty of water and ride the storm, you’ll almost certainly be glad you did.

8. Keep Regular

Not surprisingly, faeces is full of toxins. The longer this stuff sticks around in the large bowel, the greater the chance that some of those toxins being absorbed through the gut wall back into the body. In addition to drinking plenty of water, it pays to eat a diet rich in high-fibre foods such as oats, fresh fruits and vegetables and beans and pulses. If you’re looking for a short-cut, try adding linseeds to your diet. These small golden seeds bulk out the stool and help to keep things moving. Take 1 – 2 dessertspoonfuls of linseeds each day, either with water, or sprinkled over cereal, salad or soup.

9. Steam Clean

One way the body can eliminate toxins is via the skin through sweating. Exercise is one way to work up a sweat and promote detoxification from the body. However, if this seems a bit too much like hard work, why not try a steam bath or sauna? 20 minutes of heat treatment, two or three times a week can help to keep the system clean.

10. Skin brush flush

The lymphatic system is a network of vessels which carry waste products and fluids away from tissues and organs. Fluid in the lymph vessels can become sluggish, which can cause toxins to accumulate. Skin brushing can help shift lymph fluid under the skin, and promotes the removal of toxins from the body. Ideally, skin brushing should be performed on dry skin, for about five minutes, twice a day. The direction of brushing should always be towards the heart. Skin brushes made of natural fibre can usually be found in health food stores.

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