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New Year time to jump start healthy lifestyle

by Doris Penner

            The beginning of a new year is a good time to evaluate how you might improve your health—and take positive steps to make it happen. If you think about it, good health is imperative for the enjoyment of all facets of life. After a holiday season when most people indulge in rich food and drink which are part of festive events, and regular exercise regimes fall by the wayside, the body feels heavier and a little sluggish and it's time to get back on track. To jump-start a change—to recharge and rejuvenate the body and pave the way for a return to an active healthy lifestyle—some professionals recommend detoxification of the body (detox) or a body cleanse. We should also be aware that there are toxins in the environment from various chemically-based pesticides and food preservatives which may work their way into the body and settle in fatty tissue. So should everyone engage in a detox program and what does it involve?

 

            First it should be noted that if one consistently followed a healthy lifestyle which includes a balanced wholesome diet and plenty of exercise with periods of sleep and relaxation, there would be little need to talk about detoxification. But who doesn't fall off the wagon sometimes? Secondly, we should be aware that the body is created to deal with waste and toxic matter that enter the body through the air we breathe and the food we eat. These are sometimes called the “channels of elimination,” one being the liver which not only metabolizes food and stores nutrients until needed, but also breaks down harmful substances such as alcohol and toxic chemicals, and removes waste products from the blood.

Excrete waste materials

            Other organs that work to eliminate toxic elements are the colon and kidneys which excrete waste materials from the body's metabolism of foods, the skin (the largest organ) which cleanses wastes with sweat through pores, and lungs which expel carbon dioxide. The lymphatic system filters out bacteria and other foreign particles, and while the blood transfers nutrients throughout the body to keep it healthy, it also helps with transporting toxins out of the body.

            Thus our first course of action for removal of toxins and pursuit of excellent health is to keep these channels of elimination in top working order. When any of the systems are compromised, impurities aren't properly filtered and every cell in the body is adversely affected.

            So here's the plan. Begin by lightening the load of known toxins. For example, it is a well-established fact that cigarette smoke is harmful to the body—it affects the amount of oxygen and nutrients the blood has the capacity to carry and damages the lungs, lowering the amount of oxygen they can take in. You should also minimize the intake of processed or refined foods (sugar is a culprit), saturated fats, alcohol and caffeine, and while you're at it, go easy on the use of chemical-based household cleaners and personal care products.

            A diet high in fibre (including whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables) will assist the colon with elimination of waste in the form of feces while a diet high in vitamin C (e.g citrus fruits and green vegetables) will help the body provide the antioxidant glutathione, a liver compound that helps drive away toxins. It's important to drink plenty of water daily which aids not only digestion but also elimination through kidneys, colon and pores in the skin.

Crucial for blood flow

            You might not have thought about exercise as important for detoxification, but it is crucial for blood flow which affects all organs. As well, physical activity produces perspiration which allows toxins to exit the body—and yes, the occasional sauna will have the same effect. Another deterrent to good health is stress, which triggers the body to release hormones which create toxins and slow down detoxification enzymes in the liver. To mitigate stress in our lives is easier said than done, but it is important to plan for relaxation times and graciously decline the invitation to serve on yet another committee, for example. Breath deeply a few times a day to allow oxygen to circulate more completely through the system and to expel carbon dioxide more effectively.

            Fasting for a day or even several days has sometimes been suggested as a way to cleanse the system before beginning a more healthy way of eating, but this should be attempted only if cleared with your physician. Another “detox diet” recommends juices for several days which supplies some vitamins and minerals, but deprives the body of protein and fibre and thus should be undertaken with care.

            There are, however, whole body or comprehensive detox kits on the market which have careful instructions on entering a cleansing process. They outline an eating plan—which may include herbal solutions and supplements including vitamins—and offer tips for a regime of eliminating toxins. Suggestions may include exercise and ways to stimulate digestion and restore energy. The programs can run anywhere from three days to several months.