The holiday season is a fun and joyous time of year. Unfortunately, it is also probably one of the most stressful. There are presents to be bought, parties to be planned, and decorations to be brought down from and put back into the attic on an almost weekly basis. On top of the seasonal demands the holidays present, everyday work and family obligations may encourage us to neglect our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Often evidenced by our tendency to overeat, under sleep and haphazardly scurry around town in pursuit of the latest-and-greatest new gizmo, holiday stress can greatly interfere with our health and ability to live a long and happy life.
However, there are a few things that we can do prevent any harm that holiday stress may cause. Reducing stress and participating in light exercises will help the body relax. But nourishing the body with specific foods to improve the body’s natural organ pathways is one of the most important ways to prepare for holiday stress. Combining all three of these actions into a mindful detoxification protocol will ensure that the holiday season is fun, loving and truly inspired.
A holistic approach to detoxification helps the body shed toxins that can accumulate in our cells and tissue as a result of exposure to toxic chemical, environmental pollutants, certain lifestyle choices and food. When done properly, a mindful detoxification that includes stress reduction, exercise and dietary modification can improve vital organ function, stop and reverse physical and psychiatric disease, and help us overcome any emotional obstacles that may be blocking spiritual growth.
For those unfamiliar to the processes of detoxification, the process absolutely does NOT require prolonged fasts, cayenne and lemon concoctions, or “specialized” therapies that explore the crevices of the body which shall go unmentioned here today! Although these methods can be helpful within the context of a holistic program, they can cause a tremendous amount of damage to the body and brain when not implemented under the guidance of an experienced practitioner.
Stress Reduction and Exercise
The first two factors that must be implemented in a pre-holiday detoxification – exercise and stress reduction – play an important role in detoxification and will help set the body up for success no matter what happens during these busy months. Mental, emotional and physical strain can tax hormone-producing glands like the thyroid and adrenals, which produce hormones important in physical and emotional wellbeing. According to the fine folks at the Mayo Clinic, stress can encourage the body to release an excessive amount of cortisol that can put us at an increased risk of anxiety, depression, digestive problems, heart disease, sleep disturbances, weight gain and memory impairment. Unfortunately, this effect is exacerbated by exposure to chemical, environmental and lifestyle toxins, which together can further influence the way we think and feel.
In order to remain healthy throughout the holiday season, it is important to develop strategies for stress management and for maintaining a positive attitude in times of uncertainty with tools like mindfulness meditation, yoga and a modest amount of exercise.
In conjunction with stress reduction and exercise, getting an adequate amount of sleep is important in helping the body stay well. A recent study found that toxic metabolites that accumulate in the brain throughout the day are processed and eliminated during sleep. If sleep is not prioritized during the detoxification process, toxins can remain lodged in the recesses of the body, which may increase feelings of anxiety and physical discomfort.
A mindful detoxification program and happy holiday season requires the ample consumption of vitamin and mineral rich fruits and vegetables. More specifically, cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, in addition to herbs like parsley and cilantro aide Phase I and Phase II liver detoxification and help filter toxins out of the blood. Animal foods should be of the lean variety and should only be consumed once every couple of days or avoided entirely. The proteins and fats found in animal foods are a little harder to digest than those found in plant foods, which can burden the digestive system and interfere with the body’s ability to efficiently and effectively eliminate toxins from various places around the body. Carbohydrates consumed during the detoxification process should be of the unrefined variety – rice, potatoes and a little quinoa or millet for variety are recommended over wheat products like pasta and breads. Valuable nutrients and fiber are often stripped during the refining process and processed foods often cause wild surges in blood glucose and insulin, which can confuse the body and interfere with overall health. Food quality is also an important consideration to be made during a mindful pre-holiday detox protocol because consuming any amount of pesticides found on produce or antibiotics or hormones found in animal foods can place an inordinate amount of stress the organs of detoxification.
Here is my absolute favorite raw detox salad that utilizes broccoli, cauliflower, and parsley to aid Phase I and Phase II liver detoxification.
In addition to incorporating more whole foods, we must also reduce or completely eliminate “traditional” and processed foods from the diet as these things often contain excessive amounts of fat, sugar, and artificial flavor enhancers and preservatives. Doing so will help stem the flow of toxins into the body and will better allow the body to remove the bad things that may be hiding in and around the cells of our vital organs and tissue. Similarly, we should also do our best to avoid foods that contain common irritants like wheat, soy, dairy, corn and peanuts so that the immune system can focus on addressing existing inflammation and free radicals in the system. Doing so will also save a tremendous amount of energy so that any damage done to the mucosal lining of the GI tract can heal and grow stronger while simultaneously preparing the body for stressful months.
Supplements to Aide Detoxification
Stress, poor diet and chemical exposure can poison the body and may, in certain circumstances, necessitate the use of nutrient supplements to help the body release the chemicals stored in the body and restore health. A high potency multivitamin and an antioxidant complex will attack free radicals and inflammation while milk thistle, or silymarin, will boost the liver’s detoxification functions. Also, a high quality probiotic will aid the digestion and absorption of food nutrients, reducing the stress placed upon the GI tract so that more energy can be reserved for the removal of stored toxins. Finally, I know this isn’t typically considered a supplement in the traditional sense, but consuming an adequate amount of water during detoxification is of paramount importance in easing the release and removal of toxins. Of course, any supplementation should be discussed with the appropriate medical professional, naturopath or nutritionist before implementation so that they don’t interfere or complicate any preexisting conditions.
Life can get stressful, especially around the holidays. If we prepare ourselves with a mindful stress reduction, exercise and dietary regiment that aids detoxification and health, we will be able to improve our health and wellness in order to take full advantage of this joyous season. Happy holidays to you and yours!