Even the word ‘detox’ means different things to different people. Ask a liver specialist about it and they will definitely say it’s all nonsense, the body has its own perfectly good detoxification systems, the liver, and also the bowels, the kidneys, and the skin.
However, for complementary therapists doing a ‘detox’ is a commonly used protocol for just giving all these systems a bit of a break. But therein lies the problem; there are so many different ways of ‘detoxing’, from just giving up alcohol and coffee to full on liquid juice fasting to colonic irrigation and taking loads of ‘detox’ supplements.
If you are experiencing infertility and trying everything you can to conceive or have a successful IVF you probably feel bombarded by all the information, and this just brings even more stress on board if you think you are not doing your best and getting rid of all the toxins you are being told may be stopping you conceiving. And then how do you do it, especially if you have to work, or travel, or both, and have a partner who thinks you’re mad already anyway, and sure as hell isn’t going to detox with you!
Whilst I agree that we humans have very sophisticated detoxification systems, I do think that modern life, especially if you live in a polluted city, puts a lot of stress on these systems.
We are bombarded with chemicals all around us, in our air, our water, our toiletries, our cleaning products, our food and drink and even the packaging it comes in. If you have had IVF already you know how bloated and full of drugs you feel too; the need to purge yourself is huge, to get rid of it all is just as much an emotional need as a physical one; you just want to purify yourself.
Many cultures and religions use fasting as a form of purification, a way of resting the body.
And certainly all the evidence points to fasting or caloric restriction being highly beneficial for health; over eating and high blood sugar levels are associated with many degenerative diseases including diabetes, cancer and even dementia, and it appears that DNA repairing mechanisms kick in when you fast, you have to go and find food fast so everything sharpens up!
But, whilst it would be wonderful to go to a lovely spa and drink specially prepared juices and herbal teas, and be monitored, for most people that simply isn’t possible. If you are close to starting your IVF treatment, then fasting detoxes are not the best idea as you are going to go short of the protein you need to build up your eggs. So, I suggest doing a gentler kind of ‘cleanse’ when I see my clients. I do love a one day a week vegetable day, almost a fast (Mondays are good post weekend and a good start to the week) with a green juice that is a fantastic diuretic and de-puffer, a hot vegetable soup for lunch and steamed vegetables for dinner. Then we just remove some of the foods that are harder work for our detoxification systems to process like caffeine, alcohol, red meat, wheat and sometimes gluten, and dairy foods, for a limited amount of time.
Eating three modest meals a day with no snacking is really important.
Apart from spiking our blood sugar too much, recent research on our gut bacteria has shown that it doesn’t like being bombarded all day! And that bacteria plays an enormous role in human health, from enhancing immunity, helping the gut work to work properly to secreting masses of anti-inflammatory chemicals that protect all our cells, including sperm and oocytes. Pulses like lentils, beans and chickpeas, steamed white fish and eggs provide essential protein and within those three meals are masses of vegetables, always several cruciferous ones (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, rocket and watercress) and alliums – the onion family – leeks, chives, onions and garlic. These are rich in sulphur compounds, vital for the liver detoxification pathways. And the cruciferous vegetables contain oestrogen metabolising compounds as well. And then you need fibre like flax seed powder to help the bowels get rid of everything. And of course, water, lots of it. And a good drizzle of the best organic extra virgin olive oil, with loads of herbs and spices like turmeric to top it all off.
I like to add a milk thistle tea or drops to help the liver, but no supplements at all just for a few days.
After all they are hard work to process too. And a liquid probiotic to give that valuable gut bacteria a bit of a boost, and the foods they like to live on; they love the aforementioned alliums, chicory/endive salad leaves and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha and apple cider vinegar with the ‘mother’ (the original fermentation).
Finally, I am a bit obsessive about environmental chemicals, no plastic food or drink containers, no tinned foods, organic food and drink as much as possible, natural cleaning products, chemical free skin care and even toothpaste. A ‘clean’ environment at home really does reduce the chemical load.
For extras, I am a big fan of dry skin brushing too which encourages lymphatic drainage.
And a walk in a park with some music that makes you feel good.
Or just listen to the birds. And before bed take a long hot bath with magnesium flakes or Epsom salts with some calming essential oils like lavender or ylang ylang, all relax your muscles and your mind.
And finally, talking of your mind, that needs a bit of a detox too so cut down on internet time, read a magazine, something lovely and indulgent (I switch off with Grazia or Living Magazine – either will do, I just love looking at the pictures!) or watch a Scandi drama, anything that switches you off from your worries, keep your phone/laptop/iPad out of your bedroom and go to sleep by 10.30. 5-10 days of this will be all you need to feel up and running again.
Thank you to the wonderful Mel Brown, leading nutritionist.