If your Christmas holidays were anything like mine, your eating patterns may have changed a little (or a lot!) with all the socialising and festivities. And while I always remain conscious of what I am putting in my body, I must admit I did drop my guard a little over the Christmas period and indulged in a few glasses of wine, nibbled on some cheese and crackers and had the odd dessert that had too much sugar. While the naturopath in me knows that this is not ideal, I also know that this sort of food consumption is far more my exception rather than the rule so I also don’t make myself feel guilty about it. That being said, Christmas (and the associated catch-ups) is now over so it’s time to get back on track! It’s also around this time of year where you can’t pick up a magazine or turn on the TV or radio without some sort of advertisement for a ‘detox’ being bantered about. So with that in mind, this blog post is dedicated to answering the question – do you really need a detox?

What exactly is a detox?

I guess we should clarify this before moving forward. A naturopath’s definition and experience of a detox program is often vastly different to the definitions that are splashed about in glossy magazine or marketing campaigns. According to Google, ‘detox’ is defined as ‘a process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances.’ For what I would consider a non-scientific reference, I actually quite like this definition.

It is however quite open to interpretation. For example, what does it mean by ‘period of time’ and ‘unhealthy substances’? What I also think Google has left off (and what most people get wrong) is how to go about detoxing in a safe, effective and non-fad kind of way. Adding my two cents to this definition, I would also include supporting the function of your body’s organ’s of elimination (think:  liver, bowel and kidneys) and providing additional nourishment through quality, unprocessed foods and supplements where (and if) required.

The process of ‘detoxing’ takes place in our body all the time!

Every single second in fact! We don’t usually realise how amazing our bodies are until suddenly, things stop working like they should. After you’ve been off your normal healthy eating plan (or perhaps just prolonging a less-than-optimal one), you may notice that you’re feeling a little sluggish or you’re not sleeping well; perhaps you’re getting bloated, have regular headaches or have noticed a skin condition flair up. These changes in your body as a result of ‘over-doing it’ may indicate that your natural and inbuilt modes of detoxification have stopped working as well they should. A comprehensive detox could benefit you – you just need to go about it the right way (which for the record doesn’t involve drinking gallons of juice, popping hundreds of supplements or only consuming lemon and water).

So, do I believe in detoxing?

In a nutshell, yes I do. An integrative and wholistic detoxification program can be really effective for improving energy, vibrancy and giving general health an overall boost. When I talk detox to my patients, I have them think about it like a spring clean. So often when I’m listening to a patient’s story, I find myself looking at their health through dirty windows. There is so much ‘stuff’ going on, it can sometimes be a little confusing as to determine what is causing what.

A detox helps us to clean things up, allowing me to get more of a sense of how the body is coping and if more specialised treatments are needed. Effective detoxing isn’t just about cutting things out (alcohol, sugar, processed foods); you need to make sure you are putting the good stuff in! If you are looking to do a detox program to commence the New Year, I suggest seeing a professional who can tailor a program specific for you. We all have different needs and our bodies all have little quirks. Having someone write an individualized program will not only mean you get the most out of the experience, but also make sure you are not unnecessarily cutting out foods.

Not sure if you need to detox? Take my quiz to find out!