Chemical chaos abounds in our environment these days.With noxious toxins and gases continually contaminating the air we breathe, some naturally find a way into the body. Detoxification is a process by which the body metabolizes and reduces hazardous chemicals to harmless substances. When chemical toxins are not removed from the body in a timely manner, they tax the liver and detoxification pathways, making it difficult for the body to stay healthy.
The detox debate
Detox programmes are often associated with the serenity of a spa getaway, promising wellness, cleansing and a relaxing reprieve from typical calorie-centric diet charts. While scientists rubbish detox diets as yet another fly-by-night marketing gimmick, naturopaths promote it as the only antidote for these stressful times.
Scientists say there is chemistry in everything. Even a docile cup of tea is a cocktail of several harsh-sounding chemicals such as butanol, isoamyl and benzyl alcohols as well as phenyl ethanol, among others—all of which the body can easily detoxify. Also, they say, goitrogens—toxins which can cause thyroid problems when consumed in large amounts—are present in everyday foods such as raw cabbage, beetroot, millets, chowli (black-eyed peas) and soyabean. Thankfully, cooking is the everyday chemical process that detoxifies goitrogens in these foods. The science of everyday living, they argue, is therefore protection and purification enough.
Edible spa: Steam-fried vegetables deliver easily digested nutrition.
For naturopaths, however, detoxifying is indispensable. Detoxification, according to them, could mean a water- or juice-only fast; or fasts that include herbal infusions such as chamomile and lavender, or organic foods such as brown rice; or single-nutrition diets, such as only cabbage one day, proteins the next, and so on.
Is your body up for a clear-out?
Clearly, chemical toxins can stress the body and cause untimely headaches, migraines, unexplained nausea, muscle fatigue, premature greying or a reduced sense of smell and taste. Similarly, exposure to deep-fried food increases the formation of the carcinogenic chemical nitrosamine, and repeated exposure could eventually lead to colon cancer. Acute exposures also trigger cancer and crippling autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and hypothyroidism.
Only a healthy body has what it takes, an efficient liver, to quickly break down and distil poisonous toxins out of circulation, just as it metabolizes a dose of alcohol in just 36 hours without any assistance.
For an unhealthy body, though, detoxification becomes a struggle (as does every other metabolic process). It can use some help, and a break. Typical detox diets of juice- or water-only fasts or single-nutrition diets are difficult to adhere to, can weaken immunity, and trigger rebound weight gain afterwards. A better way is a one-weekend-a-month programme, where you:
Avoid all processed and refined foods, alcohol, chocolates and desserts
Eat lightly cooked wholegrain foods, such as brown rice, millet, oats and amaranth
Enjoy root vegetables such as sweet potato, turnip and yam. These are rich sources of vitamin B complex
Have lots of leafy greens such as spinach and dill (suwa). Avoid overcooking the vegetables, though, as that destroys the vitamin C in them. Leafy greens retain their nutrients only if cooked for 3 minutes or less
Cook using the steam-frying method. Take 4 tbsp of water in a pan, put in ½ kg chopped veggies, herbs and spices, and onions. Heat through for 5 minutes. Cover and cook for another 3 minutes, and turn off the flame. While still hot, toss the veggies thoroughly with 1-2 teaspoons of cold-pressed oils such as virgin olive, sesame or sunflower oil. Avoid reheating
Drink rice milk smoothies. To make rice milk, add four cups of warm mineral water to one cup of cooked brown rice, blend in a liquidizer and strain liquid. Add the fruits of the season, a few almonds, and sip slowly as you listen to some calming music
Sleep early; exercise twice a day; use the cellphone for no more than 2 hours in the day. Lock away the laptop. Play Scrabble and solve Sudoku instead of watching TV or catch up on your reading. That way your central nervous system and adrenal glands get to rest and recuperate from everyday stresses
Drink flavoured water. Add a sprig of mint or a few slices of lime to water. Chill and drink through the day.
Madhuri Ruia is a nutritionist and Pilates expert. She runs InteGym in Mumbai, which advocates workouts with healthy diets.
Write to Madhuri at email@example.com