If you’re anything like me, you go into a holiday - Christmas, Memorial Day, International Nude Day (yup, that's a thing) - with the best intentions: eat, drink and be merry!
And that I do, generally with wine and cheese consumption that borderline obscene. But when you’ve got nothing to do all day but enjoy the company of family and friends, who could pass up a breakfast wine?
Needless to say, after a couple days of shameless behavior my body is usually in need of a little “cleansing.”
Personally, after any particularly egregious bender, I like to do my four-day detox - which has NOTHING to do with juicing or starvation. (Read my Four-Day Detox Meal Plan here)
But I tend to do things to the extreme. You definitely don’t have to turn your kitchen and life upside down to recover after a period of a little too much fun.
You can support your body’s natural detoxification processes just by adding a few helpful foods in and pulling some not-so-helpful foods out.
WHAT TO EAT
This might not come as a shocker, but many people don’t realize how little water they drink and we need water to help our body flush out toxins and eliminate waste. You don’t need to drown yourself, but make water your primary, if not only beverage. If you find yourself having to pee every five minutes try adding a pinch of sea salt, this will help you retain what you’re drinking.
2. Cruciferous vegetables
These include vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and mustard greens. This family of vegetables is unique because they are rich sources of glucosinolates, sulfur-containing compounds that have been proven to protect against cancer and here’s a tip: chopping them makes these compounds even more active.
Cruciferous vegetables also have the unique ability to speed our body’s phase II detoxification process - the most important phase in terms of getting those alcohol toxins out of the body. Ideally, we want both phase I and II to run at the same speed, but usually our phase I is in overdrive while our phase II lags behind, so cruciferous vegetables help get those processes in balance.
Finally they are higher than citrus fruits in vitamin C – kale contains more than double the vitamin C as oranges – and this antioxidant is required in large amounts during the detox process.
When preparing these veggies I recommend chopping them, letting them rest, lightly cooking and then eating with a large dose of grass-fed butter and sea salt. 1.) The fat in the butter stimulates your gall bladder to release bile, which helps carry the toxins converted in your liver to your large intestine, and 2.) You should always be eating vegetables with fat anyway, because without fat you won’t be able to absorb their fat-soluble vitamins and antioxidants.
2. Pastured eggs
Egg yolks are high in sulfur which is required for phase II detoxification, and they have the added benefit of protein which is needed to bind to the toxic byproducts created in phase II and carry them out of our body.
Either you love it or hate it. If you can’t stand it then you can skip this one, but if you’re a fan, cilantro is one of my favorite foods – it is literally in my bag every time I go to the grocery store and I try and add it everything I can. This is because cilantro is an excellent detoxifier of heavy metals and unfortunately I have a lot of mercury amalgam fillings, so I’m always trying to triage that until I can have them safely removed. You can try up to 1/4 cup of fresh cilantro stems and leaves per day during a cleanse or detox.
This spice both slows phase I of our body’s detox process and speeds phase II. You can take it in the supplement form as curcumin – the active ingredient in turmeric – or use it as a spice in cooking. I regularly add it to pretty much everything I can, including my drinks. You can start the day by adding a little to an herbal tea with some coconut oil and cinnamon.
5. Lemon juice
Lemon juice promotes healthy bile flow, which, again, we need to carry toxins from our liver to our large intestine. I recommend starting each morning with a glass of warm water and lemon juice, adding it to smoothies and using it in place of vinegar on salads.
6. Broccoli sprouts
As we said before broccoli is a cruceriferous vegetable and super good for detoxing, but sprouted broccoli seeds are an even better source of the compound glucoraphanin, which creates sulforaphane when chewed or swallowed. In fact, researchers from Johns Hopkins found that broccoli sprouts actually helped cleanse Chinese citizens who live in one of the most polluted cities in the world of carcinogens and toxic pollutants.
Since you’re helping your body get rid of all that toxic build up, you need to make sure you actually get it out with regular bowel movements. Feeding your colon good, healthy bacteria, or probiotics, help it to function properly and move out the waste. You can get probiotics through food, supplements, or both. When doing some extra detox work I recommend a combination of both.
Some good probiotic foods to incorporate into your daily diet would be: raw sauerkraut (make sure it’s not pasteurized) and plain kefir, I like Redwood Hill and Lifeway brands. You can also go with yogurt but make sure the label reads ‘contains live active cultures’ and best to stick with plain flavor. Fruity or flavored yogurts can have a lot of sugar, which depletes us of minerals needed for the detox process, taxes the liver and feeds bad gut bacteria. If you need to sweeten it up add some berries and a SMALL amount of raw honey or stevia.
Probiotic supplement brands I like are Prescript Assist, Nutritional Frontiers, Bio-Kault, and Garden of Life Primal Defense. Start with one capsule a day, before bed, and work your way up to three capsules spaced throughout the day. You know you’re at the right dose if you’ve got nice, solid, smooth bowel movements. You’ve done too much if you suddenly experience constipation, diarrhea or any other unpleasant digestive reactions. If this happens take a day or two off, then resume at a lower dose and build up slowly.
If you want to learn more about how our body’s detoxification process actually works, read my article here.
*Note: some of these recommendations, specifically the cilantro, turmeric and broccoli sprouts are no joke – they really work, which is great except if you overdo it and your body can’t get rid of the toxins fast enough. This is what’s called a “detox” reaction, which can cause you to experience symptoms like headaches, nausea, nervousness and fever. If this happens it’s not a sign to eat more and power through. Back down to a dose that doesn’t make you feel sick and slowly build back up.
WHAT NOT TO EAT
I know. I know. Terrible news. But unfortunately caffeine is a drug that your liver has to process, and we are trying to take work off the liver. It also jacks with your blood sugar, which, again, puts strain on the liver. So best to cut down if not quit entirely. If you’re totally addicted to caffeine, I’ve been there. See my post about how to quit. It is possible, I swear!
As I said before sugar jacks with your blood sugar, which puts strain on the liver, and it also feeds bad gut bacteria which will impair our ability to go to the bathroom (and thus remove waste), mess with our hormones, and a whole crap load of other things we don’t even have time for.
Possibly even worse news than the caffeine, but this one is kind of obvious. If you’re not doing a total detox, I’d recommend just cutting down. I love a drink, and it’s easy for me to get into the habit of having a glass of wine (or two) with dinner on a nightly basis, but generally I have a goal* of keeping my wino tendencies confined to the weekends and special occasions.
*No one’s perfect and at weddings all bets are off.
4. Other drugs
I’m not talking about medications you’ve been prescribed, but more heavy or regular use of things like NSAIDs (Aspirin, Ibuprofen), Tylenol, cold medications, and other over-the-counter drugs. These all must be processed by your liver. If you have a headache there are a ton natural remedies you can try, but I’d also advocate considering why you’re feeling bad – it could be a food allergy, intolerance, caffeine or sugar withdrawal, hormonal imbalance, or some other underlying condition you need to address, rather than just mask the symptoms.
So there you have it – no fasting, juicing or starving necessary. Just a few more foods to add into your routine that will get you cleaned out and feeling a little less like a dump.
If you know of anyone (ahem) who's been particularly naughty during this holiday weekend and might like some easy, real food ways to help their body bounce back - share this post with them.
What do you think of my suggestions? Have any new or different detox foods or supplements that you like? I'd love to hear! Please share them in the comments below!