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To detox or not, a timely question

January 16, 2010

Do we or don’t we do a major detox at this time of year?

Imagine you’d had a huge party – the rubbish bins are full to overflowing, counters are piled with party food, dirty dishes are in the sink. Would you start by throwing a bucket of cold water over this mess and use a scouring brush. Wouldn’t you want to empty the rubbish, put things away, do the dishes and clear space, first- then you’d be able to get to the areas that need scouring?

What is going on in our bodies after all the indulgences last month when more alcohol, sweets and party food than normal passed our lips. For many- much less veg and fruit, fewer whole grains, more white flour, less fibre – more salt and sugar, fewer minerals, vitamins, anti-oxidants, less essential fats and more dehydration. Normal routines and typical diets went out the window long before the new year and with it, all the nutritional support that helps the body to detoxify more efficiently. It’s not just unavailable –we’ve overloaded our bodies and gone into overdraft, overdrive and generally less efficient elimination.

Chinese medicine offers ancient wisdom about the workings of the body according to the seasons and teaches that our bodies mimic nature. What happens in the winter? The life force goes into a dormant state, animals hibernate, plant life rests, everything slows down, preparing and waiting for the spring. Though we ignore these callings of nature, we tend to sleep later and longer if given the opportunity and like to stay warm and cosy.

It makes sense than that the main organs of detoxification, the liver and kidneys are also slowing down and having a rest. We can actually make ourselves feel worse by putting  unnecessary stress on ourselves and these elimination organs by consuming  lots of cold, raw foods, fruit juices, fruit and little else, in the midst of one of the coldest, dampest winters on record. How would doing this affect us? Well we would certainly feel the cold even more and possibly catch a cold or flu. Our digestive and elimination systems won’t know what’s hit them. We’d be more tired, and possibly feel down, maybe anxious and irritable. Not a great way to start the year, esp. when it might very well be self-induced! (Of course, if you are fortunate enough to be able to go to a tropical island spa where detoxification is a specialty, and the food and treatments are expertly supervised- well that’s a different story!)

Better to start with a healthy and healthful attitude toward this whole process.

Preparation, alteration, moderation and determination

Prepare the ground, or in this case your body and be tune with nature -ready for the spring when cleansing and detox are more appropriate. Spring is a time of energy, growth and new beginnings- when our liver is in its element, raring to go.

The best foods for winter are ideally suited to be cooked, warming and nourishing like porridge, soups, stews, casseroles, roasted meats and vegetables.

Here is a gentle nourishing recipe that you can begin eating now to help cleanse and prepare your body for the spring. Taken from ‘Recipes for Self Healing’ by Daverick Leggett  who describes it as ’one of those perfectly balanced meals that will feel right for almost everyone.’


10 minutes preparation, cooking time 45 minutes

Serves 4

2 cups mung beans, pre-soaked
2 cups rice
1 onion
small piece fresh ginger
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon coriander
4 tablespoons olive oil (use less if desired)

Soak mung beans overnight. Rinse and cook together with rice in 8 cups of water until both soft. While they are cooking, chop the onion and cook in olive oil until soft. Add spices and stir for a few minutes. Just before rice and beans are cooked, turn onions with spices into pot and stir well. Cook until water is fully absorbed. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve this with seasonal green vegetables like kale, savoy cabbage or watercress.

Begin to increase your vegetable portions each day until this becomes a habit that you just don’t want to break!

Alter  your environment  – find a creative way to clear out the cupboards eliminating the  processed foods, biscuits, chocolates, sweets and all the temptations from Christmas.  Fill it and the refrigerator with staples: olive oil, wholegrains, tinned or dried beans, nuts, seeds, tinned oily fish, oat cakes, fresh vegetables, fruit, herbs, green tea, herbal teas.

Make the majority of your food authenic, real food – as close to its natural state and as in season as possible.

Moderate your consumption of sugar, starch, carbohydrates, fats, alcohol. Get moderate amounts of exercise and adequate amounts of sleep. Balance in everything.

Be determined to eat well 80% of the time, exercise regularly, take time to relax, and keep this up all year.

Follow this and there won’t be a need to resolve to embark on a major diet next New Year- you’ll already be there.

People are so worried about what they eat between Christmas and the New Year, but they really should be worried about what they eat between the New Year and Christmas”

Author Unknown

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