Article of the month:

Do you need to detox?

Do you suffer chronic headaches, have difficulty concentrating, always feel tired[1], have sluggish digestion, chronic constipation, seem to be hyper sensitive to certain foods and things like perfume[2] or maybe you have regular sleep disturbances like always waking around 3am?  If you answered yes to any one of these, then chances are you could likely benefit from a detox.


Now a lot of people believe that detoxing is not necessary, the body has natural, robust processes in place to cleanse itself.  I would tend to agree…if we were living in a perfect world with a balanced diet and lifestyle; but that isn’t the reality for most of us, particularly at this time of year in the busy summer party season.  Now I don’t know about you, but I certainly kicked up my heels and over-indulged in too much sugary food, processed food (hello kiwi dip and ready salted chips!) and of course, booze.  While my body hasn’t curled up and expired from the increase load of toxins (a sign my elimination organs are still functioning), I certainly have felt a little sluggish in the energy department, not to mention my work pants are altogether feeling a bit too snug for my liking.


And so like many people I have gravitated towards a shift in diet and lifestyle that will naturally support detoxification.  I’ve done and recommended many supplement based detoxes before and some have worked really well, there are a number of fabulous herbs that when prescribed correctly can be of great benefit.  But I think there is a lot that you can do for yourself by simply living a cleaner lifestyle, without having to invest heavily in an expensive detox programme. 


The main organ systems of elimination that need to function well for efficient clearance of toxins from the body are:


  • Gastro-intestinal system – bowel, gut & liver

  • Skin

  • Lymphatic system

  • Kidneys

  • Lungs

  • Nervous system (mental and emotional detoxification)[3]


For a complete detox, you need to address all of these systems, but don’t fret, it’s not as difficult as it seems.  Here are my top natural, simple daily (and therefore sustainable) detox tips.


1.   Start drinking…

  • Lemon water – even though it’s acidic it has an alkalising effect in the body, stimulates liver function and digestion.  It’s especially beneficial to drink this in the morning about 30 minutes before breakfast.


  • Kombucha – a powerhouse of good bacteria and enzymes to support your gastro-intestinal system, get my low sugar recipe here.


  • Lots of water – flush out toxins through sweat (skin), urine (kidneys) and even the bowel, make sure you’re drinking at least 2 litres of water every day, ideally filtered.


2.   Stop drinking…

  • Coffee (caffeine in general).  Not only is it a nervous system stimulant but much like alcohol coffee has a three-fold detrimental effect on nutrient loss.  Firstly is reduces the absorption of iron and calcium if it is consumed at the same time.  Secondly it is a diuretic and increases urinary loss of nutrients, especially potassium, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins and vitamin C.  Lastly, coffee does not contain the nutrients that are required by the liver in order to sustain the increased activity that its consumption causes.[4]  Sigh. Maybe just don’t have it every day, try to only have organic (and fair trade if you can) and lay off the sugar.


  • Alcohol.  Not only does it contain no nutrients, but it depletes the body of nutrients as the body attempts to process something that is essentially useless and potentially dangerous


  • Sugary sodas, energy drinks, sugary drinks of any sort.  Pretty much a combination of the above 2 points.  They do nothing good for you and are typically a chemical cocktail of nasty.


3.   Reduce chemical load

  • Try buying organic - especially of these ‘dirty dozen’ foods – apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, capsicum, nectarines, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, potatoes, chillies and kale.  You can read more about these and the top clean foods that are grown with less pesticides here. If you can’t buy organic wash your fruit and veges with a bit of natural detergent and white vinegar, rinse with water.


  • Ever thought about how many chemicals you apply to your body each day?  Shampoo, soap, moisturisers, make-up, sunscreen….the list goes on.  Try buying some brands with less harmful chemicals, this is one of my favourite databases for gauging brands and specific ingredients or you can try making some yourself, check out my recipes here


  • Same deal for household cleaners.  You can clean a LOT with baking soda and white vinegar, plus, it’s cheap and environmentally friendly :)


4.   Improve lymphatic drainage

  • Exercise in general helps with this (and so much more), and there are some key yoga poses too (keep reading)


  • Dry skin brushing – if you’ve never heard of this here’s a great little ‘how to’ basically try to do it every day before you hop in the shower.  It’s great for the supporting healthy elimination through the skin as well as the lymphatic system


  • Reduce nervous system overload


  • Eliminate stimulants (yes, I’m talking about coffee again)


  • Take time out for yourself


  • Get your yoga on


My top 5 yoga poses for lymphatic drainage and detoxification (I had to stop at five, otherwise we would have been here a while!).


  • Legs up the wall

  • Shoulder stand

  • Headstand

  • Prayer twist

  • Seated twist (marichyasana)


Inversions are great because being upside down assists in the return of the lymph from the lower body to the heart.  Twists encourage compression and squeezing of the abdominal region which essentially provides our internal organs a gentle massage, stimulating digestion and elimination, especially from the liver, kidneys, spleen and colon.


So before you buy into any detox programmes give the above changes a go first.  If you still need a bit of extra help then add in the detox supplements – you’ll need to stick to similar diet and lifestyle habits while you’re on the programme anyway, so by making these changes you’ll just have a bit of a head start.


Group Well Woman classes will have a bit of a detox flavour to them during the month of February, so make sure you get along to class and show you’re internal organs some love.


Click here for the class timetable.



[1] Murray, M & Pizzorno, J (1998), Encyclopaedia of Natural Medicine, Little Brown, Great Britain

[2] Bone, K & Mills, S (2000), Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy, Churchill Livingstone

[3] Porth, C (2005), Pathophysiology: Concepts of Altered Health States, 7th ed, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Philadelphia

[4] Haas, E (1992), Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet & Nutritional Medicine, Celestial Arts, Berkeley

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