Detoxing is something that we should do regularly to ensure not only healthy skin, but also the overall wellness of our bodies. We are constantly exposed to toxins from within and without, which can potentially cause us harm. These toxins can come from the air we breathe and the foods we eat, and even our cells can produce autogenous toxins such as ammonia and lactic acid. A detox diet removes these toxins and takes the load off organs such as the kidneys, bowel and liver. This improves their performance by refreshing them and giving them a break. But the ultimate aim of a detox diet is to encourage you to permanently shift to a healthier diet.
The skin is the largest organ in the body, and the buildup of toxins can result in problems such as blackheads, breakouts like acne, dark circles around the eyes, and sallowness. Of course, toxins are not the only thing that can cause these issues and a detox diet are not guaranteed to cure them. But switching to a healthier diet can at the minimum alleviate these symptoms and give you clearer skin.
Getting Started with Your Detox Diet
Since detoxing means moving to a highly restricted diet, it is best that you schedule it for a time when you do not have any social activities that you have to attend. During the initial period of detoxing, some people may experience symptoms such as loose bowel movement and headaches, as the body adjusts to the removal of certain foods from the regular diet. You may also experience skin flare-ups such as eczema and blemishes, but these will clear up in a few days.
You should always consult with your health professional before undertaking a detox diet to avoid any adverse complications. In addition, pregnant or breastfeeding women, those with high blood pressure, the underweight, and the elderly, should not detox.
The following are foods that you have to remove or avoid during your detox:
- Cigarettes and alcohol
- All milk products (except unsweetened yoghurt)
- Natural and artificial sweeteners such as maple syrup and honey
- Dried fruit
- Grain-based foods such as rice, wheat bread, barley, pasta and oats.
Allowable foods include:
- Eggs (organic is preferred)
- Raw, unsalted nuts such as cashews, macadamia, almonds and walnuts
- All fresh fruits and vegetables
- Fresh fish (canned fish are acceptable if in olive oil or water)
- Chicken without the skin and lean red meat
- Dried or canned legumes (chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans)
- Unprocessed coconut oil and extra-virgin olive oil
- Unsalted raw sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds
- Green tea or decaffeinated black tea
- One to three liters of water
As much as possible you should eat food raw or as unprocessed as possible (i.e. steamed instead of fried). Raw and unprocessed food is rich in nutrients and enzymes that would be removed by heating or processing. In addition, you should consciously chew your food at least ten to twelve times before you swallow; this will not only help you feel fuller but also help you digest the food better.
You should also reduce the amount of sugar in your diet. Refined sugar can attach to lipid or protein molecules to create advanced glycation-end products (AGEs). When AGEs accumulate in your system, it can damage elastin and collagen, substances that are responsible for keeping your skin supple. Your sugar intake should be no more than 10% of your total calories, or ten teaspoons, which is approximately the amount of sugar in a 12-oz Coke can. One rule of thumb to follow is that 4 grams of sugar is equal to around a teaspoon.
In particular, you should avoid foods that contain high fructose corn syrup, which is commonly found in snack foods such as crackers, packaged bread, sodas and other flavored drinks. Also watch out for hidden sources of sugar by reading labels and looking for molasses, dextrose, barley malt, maltose, corn syrup, turbinado, maple syrup and fruit juice concentrate.
Here are some of the other things you should add to your detox diet:
Regular vigorous exercise. Any low-impact exercise such as brisk walking, spinning, boxing or hot yoga, should be done for at least one hour a day. What is important is that the exertion of the exercise makes you sweat, since sweating removes toxins from your body.
Start the morning with lemon juice. Take half a lemon and squeeze the juice in a cup of hot water, and drink first thing, before you consume any food. This will not only help to cleanse your system but also improve your digestion.
Drink more fluid. You should aim to drink three liters of fluid a day. Although you should emphasize water, you can also take herbal teas or fresh vegetable juice. You can also create your own herbal tea by taking one of the following herbs, or combining them: Dandelion root, calendula, nettles, red clover and burdock. Add one teaspoon of your chosen dried herbs to a cup of boiling water, then allow to steep for five minutes. Strain before drinking.
Dry brush your skin. Use a body brush or loofah to brush your skin, preferably before you shower in the morning. Use firm but gentle circular motions starting from the soles of the feet and moving upwards towards the arms. Finish by brushing your back and stomach, which should be brushed counterclockwise. Avoid the face and throat as well as any areas where you are experiencing skin rash or soreness.