Ask A Practitioner: How Should I Detox?

Join every week for a Q&A session with one of Basmati’s practitioners, Melissa Hill (FDN-P)! We know that there is a lot of confusing information out there, which can make applying health advice overwhelming.  Sometimes, it’s best to ask a practitioner directly, so each week we’ll cover a common health question!

Do you have a health question you’d like to ask? Write to us at editors [at] basmati [dot] com and your question could be chosen and featured in a future column!

Do I need to do a juice fast to detox?

While ‘juicing’ may be a popular way, and an effective way in some cases, for people to ‘detox,’ it is by no means the only way or necessarily the best way. The first thing to consider is: what is the goal or purpose for your desire to detox? Is it because you heard it’s the thing to do? Or do you feel a bit toxic inside? Do you feel like you need some cleansing, that part of you is begging for relief from the day-to-day bombardment it is coping with? Because if the latter is the case, your body and your whole self could likely benefit not just from a cleanse, but from some nourishment, regeneration, and restoration as well.

So, what do we mean by ‘detox’ or cleanse? Detox implies getting rid of toxins, or cleaning the body of the old muck that is weighing you down and holding you back. Did you know our bodies are detoxing on a daily basis, that there are processes of detoxification going on all the time even without our conscious doing? Our liver, kidneys, lymph, colon, and skin all help in neutralizing, filtering, and excreting toxins from our body. Knowing this, I think about how then could I better support my body to carry out these processes? What conditions can I create in my body and in my immediate environment to set up the best chances for detoxification to happen most efficiently? The obvious thing, and most common tactic, is to remove known toxicants from your intake. Essentially, stop consuming known toxic substances, foods, thoughts, etc., things that will cause a burden on your detoxification systems. This is one reason juice fasts are commonly used. By consuming only juice, you are essentially cutting out or avoiding all the other things that were challenging your system -- which is great, but it is just one aspect.

The three main aspects necessary for a good effective detox are:

  1. Removing or eliminating toxic foods and substances
  2. Including more nutrient dense foods/liquids
  3. Supporting your body’s detox, from detoxification supporting foods, herbs, practices, and a supportive environment.

At the basic level of detoxing, you are eliminating foods that are contributing to inflammation in your body – inflammation that feels like achy joints, bloated belly, sluggish energy, slow metabolism, brain fog, headaches, moodiness, hormone imbalances, stubborn weight gain. In taking those out, you make room for more nutrient dense foods that promote health and healing in your body. Not starving yourself, but nourishing yourself with high quantities of nutrients that your body can use to energize all processes in the body – which means things work better in your body and you feel better, lighter, more alive!  

If during your time of planned detoxification or cleansing you not only stay away from the things you know are harmful but also add-in things that can help your body detoxify better, it is a win- win! There are many foods and herbs that can do this. Additionally, if you have been under a lot of stress, the last thing your body/mind needs is to feel deprived, and for some people, drinking only juice can exasperate this feeling. For instance, if you have the tendency to be spacy, light-headed, anxious, overwhelmed, or have Vata type characteristics, you likely would do better with eating nutrient dense foods/soups for your detox rather than drinking cold juices. If your body is really craving nourishment and support, using whole foods can be a better choice. The act of eating food can help you be more successful too because you don’t feel deprived; you feel more nourished and supported which is what is called for in order for you to bring yourself into balance and feel in harmony with your body.

If you already eat plenty of real, whole, nutrient dense foods on a regular basis, then your next level of detoxification is to focus more on liquid/semi-liquid food intake through more juices, smoothies, broths, soups, stews, or kitchari. Additionally, including detoxification practices like oil pulling, saunas, and other techniques can help you get a deeper cleanse. Having a supportive environment will also set you up for success. If you can’t get your family, friends, or household to do the detox with you, at least let them know what you are doing so they can be supportive and not un-intentionally sabotage you.

In Ayurveda, a kitchari cleanse fulfills all these aspects. With a kitchari cleanse, you are eating 3 nourishing, grounding meals a day for 1-5 days. A simple blend of rice, mung beans, and spices cooked to a porridge like consistency that is designed to take the stress off your digestive and detoxification systems. A balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber that stabilizes your blood sugar, helping you feel satisfied, sustained, and nourished. From this state, it is much easier for your body to release excess fat and unwanted substances. The ingredients in kitchari all aid in detoxification: the mung beans naturally help the health of your intestines and are high in magnesium, and all the spices are liver supportive and digestive aids. Eating a simplified diet of kitchari can be a great break for your digestion and your mind.

So, if you are considering doing a detox, look at your options and take some time to ask yourself what you really need. There are many ways to go about it -- just make sure it includes eliminating toxins; consuming extra nutrients, vitamins, and minerals; and getting support from at least one if not all areas (physical, emotional, environmental).