Do you need a 'detox' after the winter?

Do you need a 'detox' after the winter?

As a Registered Dietitian / Nutritionist, a lot of my clients ask me about following a quick detox for a week before they start making changes to their lifestyle. But there isn't something like a 'quick detox' to fix your bad choices of the past. It doesn't hurt to say it again: our bodies already detox and don't get miraculously "cleaned out" in a week.


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Detoxification is an important metabolic process that naturally occurs in our body daily, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All we can do is support our bodies in doing what it already does so well every single day - through our liver, lungs, kidneys, digestive system, blood, and just about every cell in our body.
You can support your body's natural detoxification through eating whole foods, increasing your fibre intake, eating more fruit and vegetables, managing stress, sleeping, moving/exercising, limiting alcohol, healthy bathroom breaks (bowel movements, urination), deep breathing, dry brushing your skin, putting natural products on your skin, sweating, drinking enough clean, safe water etc. It's your DAILY habits in the larger picture of your lifestyle that matter most than a 5-day juice cleanse.
Especially during this time of the year, people want to try 'detox diets' to get their body's in shape for summer. But this just lead to an unhealthy cycle of restrictive eating, followed by indulgent binges. You owe yourself better care than that!

You can give your body a simple whole food reset just by going back to basics and eating more whole (unprocessed) foods and challenging yourself to change lifestyle habits that will have a lasting effect. Don't focus on single foods or supplements, but rather look at the quality of your entire diet.


Here is how your body detoxes:

1. Your digestive system

Our digestive systems are incredible and play a crucial role in food digestion, immune function and delivering nutrients to the bloodstream. New research shows that our gut microbe (bacteria in the GI tract) impacts our immune system, moods/behaviours, food intolerances, and inflammation can lead to certain chronic diseases. Dietary fibre from whole foods helps our body eliminate heavy metals, chemicals, excess hormones, etc. and helps our body maintain a healthy inner 'good bacteria' balance that keeps us regular and reduces bad bacteria (which are naturally present in the GI tract). If you're drinking sugary juice cleanses for 7 days, you're missing out on this crucial component - fibre!

2. Your skin

Our skin prevents bacteria, viruses and toxins from entering our bodies. Our body also gets rid of toxins through sweating through our skin, for example excreting excess salt through sweat.

3. Your immune system

Our blood, lymphatic system, and all cells are involved in our immune system, which makes it vital for us to have nutrients in our diet that support our immunes system like zinc, vitamin C, A, and antioxidants.

4. Your kidneys

Our kidneys filter out waste and toxins. They're also responsible for balancing electrolytes like sodium when we need them and getting rid of them when we have excess. Drinking enough water helps the kidneys function properly.

5. Your liver

Think of the liver as a filter, it helps our body metabolize nutrients, eliminate harmful chemicals, heavy metals, alcohol, and drugs. It also helps to break down fats and filter blood. Our liver plays a vital role in carbohydrate, fat metabolism, and converting metabolites into "safe" by-products that can then be filtered out through our kidneys. Antioxidants, vitamins and minerals from healthy food boosts liver function.

6. Your lungs and respiratory system

The hairs in the nose and the mucus in our respiratory system helps protect our lungs by capturing those particles and preventing them from getting in our lungs. Deep breathing is also incredibly relaxing and can help us "reset" emotionally and mentally too since our body needs adequate oxygen to function at its best.

7. Your lymphatic system

Lymph is fluid that circulates through the entire body. Here, the spleen, thymus, adenoids, and tonsils come into play. The lymphatic system is a big part of our detoxification, defence, and immune response since its main job is to transport white blood cells. Dry brushing, massage, rebounding (i.e. jumping up and down), yoga, and general exercise are great for moving lymph.

8. Your heart and mind

Positivity, mindfulness, love, laughter and good vibes make us feel better and improve the quality of our life! Your emotional well-being is also an important part of you detox system.


Which substances should be detoxed / eliminated by the body?

- Pesticides, GMOs, and food additives in our food
- Heavy metals in our seafood
- Heavy metals and other pollutants in our air and water
- Chemicals in cosmetics, cleaning products, or even sunscreen
- By-products of plastics
- Medications (prescription or over-the-counter)
- Alcohol
- Cigarette Smoke

Our body does a pretty good job of managing all this, but the toxic load can build-up and if we're not supporting our body with the nutrients and lifestyle factors that are going to support detoxification, these pathways will get sluggish and not work as efficiently.

Here's what you can do:

Avoid or limit:

- Added Sugars
- Processed Foods (unhealthy packaged foods)
- Alcohol
- Cigarettes or drugs
- Caffeine
- Chemically laden cosmetics and cleaning products
- Mental and emotional toxins e.g. negative news, social media, toxic relationships, etc.

Do include:

- Whole, unprocessed foods for example snacking on a fresh fruit instead of a protein bar or freshly made vegetable soup instead of a Cup-a-Soup
- Consume a wide variety of fresh and colourful vegetables and fruit daily
- Drink a minimum of 6 glasses of water per day
- Ensure optimal gut function by consuming high-fibre foods such as whole grains (barley, quinoa, corn, rolled oats and wild/brown rice).
- Liver supporting foods (cruciferous veggies, sulphur-rich veggies, milk thistle, ginger, grapefruit, beets, lemon/lime, apple, turmeric, dandelion
- Move on a regular basis - enough to build up a sweat
- Learn more about nutrition, portion sizes and how to eat for your body
- Establish a regular eating routine that suits your lifestyle and your needs
- Use natural cleaning products & cosmetics
- Use glass, ceramic, or stainless-steel containers instead of plastic
- Wash fruit and vegetables properly before eating using a 2% saltwater solution
- Rest and sleep enough
- Meditation / journaling to relax


Contact the practice if you want personalized information regarding your own diet to optimize your body's detoxification processes.

Claudine Ryan, Registered Dietitian, RD (SA)

Written by : Claudine Ryan, Registered Dietitian, RD (SA)

Claudine Ryan holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics and is registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa. Claudine is passionate about people and their health, and enjoys helping others to optimise their health and manage their chronic lifestyle related diseases through sound nutritional therapy and practical advice.