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Step-by-Step Healthy Detox

A ten-point plan for gentle detoxification as part of a healthy lifestyle

We all experience the need to cleanse and detoxify our bodies and minds, to rid ourselves from toxic thoughts, as well as toxins and accumulated waste products inside our cells, organs and systems. This instinctive urge is as old as humankind. Throughout history, people from different cultures, races and religious backgrounds, followed certain cleansing rituals to purify and cleanse body and mind.

Warm baths, steam baths, saunas and fasts, assist the body in ridding itself of toxins. To these one can add herbs, food supplements, detox smoothies or juices, a wholesome, nutritious diet, gentle exercise and regular massage, combined with thought clearing and relaxation practice. Following a healthy lifestyle with regular detox included in your daily routine, will prevent the need for drastic detoxification periods, which can be harmful if not done in a supervised and well informed manner.

Almost anyone can follow a simple 1-3 day detox to cleanse and balance body and mind, while giving the liver, immune and digestive systems a well deserved break. Longer detox programs should be undertaken under supervision of a medical doctor who understands natural medicine and the detox process.

I recommend taking a few days off, or doing a detox over the weekend, due to the symptoms that might be experienced, especially the first day or two. Symptoms include tiredness, irritability, fatigue, indigestion, slight diarrhea, cough, muscle pain, some weight loss, acne and restless sleep. All are often signs of the accumulated toxins being released. One of the most common side effects is headache within the first day of starting the detox diet, often due to caffeine withdrawal. For this reason, I suggest gradually decreasing the amount of caffeine prior to starting a detox diet. Sometimes excessive diarrhea can occur, which can lead to dehydration and electrolyte loss, but enough fluid intake (as per our detox program instructions) will prevent this. If you experience any symptoms and feel some concern, our support team are there to take your hand.

A gentle detox can assist in preventing and restoring optimal function when you’ve been experiencing symptoms such as hormonal imbalance, indigestion, poor concentration, headaches, bad breath, unpleasant body odor, fatigue, impaired immune function, nutritional deficiencies, dull skin or break outs, and an inefficient, sluggish metabolism.

Detox can be a wonderful kick start for a healthier body and mind, a brilliant idea before you begin any healthy diet or lifestyle change.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women and young children should rather not detox. People with health challenges such as diabetes, heart, liver or kidney disease, should only follow a gentle detox program if under supervision of a medical doctor who understands natural medicine and the detox process.

Our 10-point plan for gentle detoxification

1. Drink at least 8 glasses of water every day and 3 cups of purifying herbal remedies to purify and enhance kidney function. Steep 1 teaspoon dried or 2 teaspoon fresh herbs in boiling water. Any of the following can be used either separate or in combinations: Dandelion, fennel seeds, rosemary, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric and milk thistle (Taraxicum officinale). Herbs assist the liver, lymphatic system, urinary tract, skin and digestive system in ridding itself of toxins while improving the function of these systems. Add 1 teaspoon of honey if you prefer. As an effective liver detoxifying and supporting agent, milk thistle taken as a food supplement, has been well researched. Follow dosage instructions on reputable brand containers. 

2. Relax every day for at least 20 minutes. Sit in your special, sacred space in your garden or home, breathe deeply and meditate. Our minds need a detox as much as, if not more than, our bodies. Practice emptying your mind from toxic thoughts, repetitive behavior patterns that don’t serve you, and try to connect with your real, inner self. Allow the sense of peace and love to infiltrate and infuse your whole being, every organ and cell of your body-mind.

3. The intake of healthy food, rich in antioxidants, choline, zinc and selenium, encourages the removal of harmful toxins and chemicals from our bodies, while neutralising harmful free radicals. This retards ageing, improves immune and heart function and encourage all over health and wellness.

4. Try to fast 1 day per week. A Monday can be symbolically the best, being the first day of a new week, after a week-end of possibly unhealthy habits, but any day will do just as well. Drink at least 12 glasses of water and fruit juice like apple and grape juice. If you get extremely hungry, eat an apple or a few grapes. A weekly day of fast achieves wonders for your health, mind-set and it will slow down the ageing process. People with diabetes mellitus, and other chronic illnesses or someone who is pregnant, should first talk to their doctor. Most people, however, can give their digestive system and metabolism a break, one day of the week.

5. Try to exercise 10-15 minutes per day or 20-30 minutes 3-4 times a week. There is no need to out-do yourself. A brisk walk in nature, doing dance routines on the living room carpet, swimming a few laps in the swimming pool will be more than enough. As long as you do something you enjoy. Complete your exercise sessions with relaxation exercises. Hatha yoga, dancing to mood music, Tai chi or aikido and Nia will renew your body, provide you with lots of energy, vitality, verve and strength, and above all that, will also relax and calm your mind.

6. Soak your tired body and muscles in a hot bath once a week. Add 5 cups of Epsom or course sea salt to water as hot as you possibly can handle, without burning your skin, or go to your nearest gym and use their steam room facilities. Drink lots of water or herbal tea while you rest and sweat. Be careful when you get up, to do it slowly. A cold shower afterwards will revive and energise you. People with high or low blood pressure can dissolve the salts in boiling water, and add it to a bath with warm water, rather than hot water.

7. You should use your micronutrients every day:Support bowel detoxification by increasing the fibre content of your diet. Consume some of the following on a daily basis: all bran, linseed or digestive bran over your cereal, in salads or added to food. Eat oats and oat bran regularly. Eat hands full of poppy, sesame, linseed, pumpkin seeds, nuts and sprouts.

  • an anti-oxidant and multi-vitamin, that includes vitamins A, C, E, B complex, co-enzyme Q10, minerals zinc, selenium and copper, with grapeseed extract, bioflavonoids, spirulina, blue green algae and barley, to detox the immune system and neutralise free radicals form your system
  • a calcium and magnesium supplement (in food state form or amino acid chelates)
  • an essential fatty acid combination containing omega 3 (e.g. cold water salmon oil) and omega 6 (e.g. starflower or evening primrose oil). Omega 9 fatty acids are found in extra virgin olive, canola and grapeseed oils.

8. Eat fresh unflavoured yogurt with live cultures to increase the population of friendly bacteria in your gut. You can also take it as a food supplement: Saccharomyces boulardii, Lactobacillus acidophilus or Bifidobacterium bifidus are wellknown probiotics. Digestive enzymes are also very helpful in restoring balance to the intestinal flora population. These can be found in supplement combinations containing pancreatic enzymes (amylase, protease, sucrase, malt diastase, lipase, cellulose, lactase), papain form paw-paw, bromelain from pineapple stem and cultured moulds from Aspergillus species. The major benefits of adding probiotic organisms to the diet:Regular detox massages encourage the removal of harmful toxins and chemicals from our bodies. Massage stimulates the immune system, improves lymphatic drainage, blood circualtion and removal of waste products through the skin. Essential oils of lavender, grapefruit and lemon grass are some that can be used, diluted in a carrier oil, or as part of a aromeopathic massage oil complex, that uses oils in homeopathic dilutions.

  • Support of the immune system
  • Improved resistance to allergies
  • Reduction in yeast and other infections
  • Inhibition of disease causing organisms
  • Improved digestion, increased nutrient absorption and vitamin synthesis
  • Detoxification and protection from toxins
  • Prevention of diarrhea from various causes
  • Reduction in the risk of irritable bowel syndromes
  • Cancer-protective effects

9. Laugh every day to detox body, mind and soul. Say thank you for at least five good things in your life to create a detox sense of abundance and joy.

10. Practice relaxation techniques which include meditation, praying and silent sessions. It calms the soul and nourishes the body. Practice thought clearing techniques and letting go of harmful and old belief patterns, toxic thoughts and feelings that do not serve you any longer.

Our ability to rid our bodies of accumulated waste and toxins, depend upon the stability and optimal function of seven different bio-physiological components:

  • Liver
  • Kidneys
  • Bowels
  • Skin
  • Lymphatic system
  • Lungs
  • Immune system

Support these through a healthy lifestyle and regular detox and you will notice a difference in your sense of wellbeing and vitality.

Positive personal power meditation for clearing toxic thoughts: Find a quiet spot where you can be alone for a while. Sit comfortably, feet on the floor, hands relaxed in your lap. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, relaxing more and more with each breath. Release all tensions, negative thoughts and discomfort from your body and your mind. Breathe quietly and evenly. Focus on your breath for one or two minutes. Imagine yourself in your favourite spot: a high mountain top, the ocean at sunset, a quiet spot in your garden. Use your senses: smell the air, listen to the birds, taste the freshness of the air on your tongue, the salt tang of the sea, feel the earth beneath you. Now tune into your emotions and your physical body. Feel yourself filled with wellbeing and joy, alert yet with a sense of deep inner peace. Imagine yourself feeling very powerful and strong, in command and in charge of your own company, the conductor of your own orchestra. Get a strong sense of the personal power and authority you contain inside yourself. Visualise using this power in your everyday life. After all, you are the president and conductor of your body, thoughts, feelings, emotions, behaviour and environment. Know that you don’t have to be afraid of your personal power, because you’re using it in a kind, loving, spiritual manner. How does it feel to have this power and authority over yourself and your life, rather than allowing your own thoughts, as well as everything and everybody to be your master? Feel this benevolent power rushing through you, reprogramming your thoughts and emotions. Maybe a symbolic image comes to mind, an image that you can use whenever you need to reassert your sense of personal power. Pay attention to this image and remember it: a lion, a sword, a crystal, jewellery, or something completely personal and meaningful to you. Become aware of your body in the chair, your breath and your deep inner calm. Wriggle your fingers and toes and come back to normal awareness. Carry on with your life, knowing you carry your personal power inside you wherever you are and whever you go.

Dr Arien van der Merwe is a medical doctor with extensive experience in natural and complementary medicine, wellness and health promotion. She has been elected Fellow of the Royal Institute of Public Health (FRIPH) in the UK for the work she does in South Africa to promote public health and wellness through education, training and communication. She also qualified as Fellow of the Royal College of Alternative Medicine (FRCAM). Arien is the appointed Stress Expert to Discovery Health and Business Owner of the Stress Centre on Discovery World, www.discovery.co.za. As director and CEO of Health Stress Management (Pty) Ltd, Arien acts as wellness advisor and consultant, stress expert and programme developer to the health care industry, companies, interest groups, websites and the media. Arien is an accomplished author of 19 books, the latest being Stress Solutions (Tafelberg Publishers, 2004). She presents regular stress-management and natural-wellness workshops in South Africa and abroad.

* Each person is different and results will vary.

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