WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT A FAMILY DETOX
BY DR. TARA DUNNE, BS, MA, ND
Many of us seek out ways to lead healthier lifestyles, and for some of us this will include working on creating healthier lifestyles for everyone in our families. A question I hear often is, “How can I safely and effectively do a family detox, including a detox with the kids?”.
“Detox” is a word that starts to float around in January after a few weeks of heavily “toxing” with holiday treats. I’m not personally a fan of rapid, intense detoxes. They tend to be too physically exhausting with low evidence of long-term benefit. Toxins are largely stored in your fat cells, and most 24-72 hour intense detoxes do enough to get the fat cells to release those toxins, but then the detox stops too early for the body to get a chance to clear the toxins out completely (especially if you start a detox with a liver that is not optimally functioning). So what happens? Those toxins get to float around in your bloodstream. As a result, now you actually feel worse than you did before the detox because the toxins are free from their fat cell prisons, free to wreak havoc on your body! You feel like trash because there’s trash floating around your body. Need I explain any more of why I’m not a fan of rapid, intense detoxes? I don’t like them for adults and I really don’t like them for kids. Let’s think of a better approach for getting the whole family back on track.
My preference then is for a gentler approach. One that helps to fortify the liver and other detox pathways in your body while working to gently and safely remove toxins completely. This kind of approach takes more time, but in the long run it's far more beneficial to your system as a whole.
Basic steps and helpful tips to help you and your whole family attain better health:
Start with the GUT
If you and your family are eating unhealthy fats and foods that ultimately destroy your primary defense against toxins (your gut microbiome), then you can cleanse and detox and take as many supplements as you want, but not much will come of it. Having a diet low in sugar and refined carbohydrates and filled instead with organic fruits, vegetables, grass fed meats and organic fats will make the biggest impact for each of you. A largely plant based diet can help to clean out your vessels – literally reversing build up damage and restoring full flow and flexibility to the blood vessels, the lymph vessels and the gut lining. Science keeps looking for new ways to help these things function optimally, but we’ve had the answer all along - organic fruits and veggies! Getting those fluids moving properly through your system will help get rid of any toxins built up faster and more efficiently. Changing your gut microbiome can literally change the health of your entire body!
HELP! How do I get my kids to eat more fruits and veggies and less sugar??
It can be tricky to convince a kid that veggies are better than cookies (or an adult for that matter)! But here are a few tips to help them increase their veggie intake:
- Involve them in preparation
Have your child involved in the cooking process. Having a child help you prepare the salad or the roasted vegetable dish can impact how they feel about eating it. If they helped create it, they are far more likely to eat it during meal time.
- Make it a game
Kids love games, including at meal time. One of my favourites is the Colours of the Rainbow game. Print off a picture of a rainbow and put it on the refrigerator. At meal time, have your child or children each choose one fruit or vegetable for each of the colours of the rainbow to add to meals that day. Fruits and vegetables are packed with health promoting phytonutrients that are rich in colour. Eating 1-2 things from each colour of the rainbow daily is a fun way to engage kids and promote healthy eating. Some examples:
Red – Red pepper, Strawberries
Orange – Tangerines, Carrots
Yellow – Yellow squash, Pineapple
Green – Romaine Lettuce, Cucumber
Blue – Blueberries, Blackberries
Purple – Purple Cabbage, Eggplant
- Reducing Sugar by “Titrating”
Titrating is a fancy word we use that means gradually increasing or decreasing an amount. With adults, I usually advise giving up sugar cold turkey. With kids, I like to make a few modifications to that rule to make their transition a little easier. For example, if your child loves juice, I recommend cutting the juice with water. It can be a subtle change at first, say cutting a full cup of juice down to 7/8 juice and 1/8 water. Gradually increase the amount of water and decrease the amount of juice over the coming days and weeks. This will help you child transition away from drinking sugary juices while also gradually increasing their water intake. The same reductions can happen with other sugary treats. If you are accustomed to having dessert each night, serve only a half serving of the dessert and replace the other half with fruit. Over time you can enjoy fruits alone for dessert. Swapping refined sugars in baked goods for coconut sugar or honey or maple syrup can also help to shift the toxin load on the body. Keep steadily decreasing the amount of sugar you use in your recipes and over time you will enjoy them just as much only with significantly less sugar.
Contrast showers are an amazing tool to help the whole family detox. These consist of alternating warm/hot water with cold water while you shower. Cold water shower?!? Indeed! Not only will these give you more energy, they can help your blood vessels, lymph vessels and your nervous system all start to function optimally. Like the mostly plant based diet, we are working towards making sure you have good flow through your body to properly eliminate any toxins in the first place. With respect to the nervous system, contrast showers have been used for centuries to treat anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, and other nervous system related problems. Start with warm/hot (depending on what you can handle) water. After 4 minutes, switch quickly to cold water for 30 seconds. It’s a challenge, but you can do it! Then go back to warm/hot water for another 4 minutes and keep this hot/cold cycling going until you reach 20 minutes. Always end on a cold cycle. Give it a try. You’ll soon be hooked! And well on your way to better health.
I mentioned your gut microbiome as the best place to start when it comes to cleansing/detoxing/optimizing your health. Probiotics are an excellent way to enhance the impact of a healthy diet. There are many options out there, so do some research and see which description seems to fit you and your families needs best. I always recommend finding a clean source (no glutens, soy, wheat, GMO etc) and finding one that is kept in the refrigerator. Some shelf stable products are fine for travel, but if you can find one that is better kept in the fridge, it usually means there are limited preservatives in the product. The probiotics found here are all great quality. As a side note, whenever you start a probiotic, I recommend starting at a lower dose than recommended and working the dose up over a few weeks to the recommended dose. This allows the body time to adjust to the new supplement. You’ll normally experience some “die off”, which means the bad bacteria are being pushed out by the new good bacteria (there’s only so much room down there!). This can cause an increase in bowel movement frequency, cause runnier stool or make stool seem mucousy. This effect is normal and should last long. If the change is intense, back off the dose you are taking and see if there is a shift in intensity. As always, consult your health care practitioner if things need medical attention.
Clean water consumption is another key to detoxing. You’ve changed up your diet so fat cells are gently starting to release toxins, and now we want to get those toxins moving out of your system with the help of your liver and kidneys. These amazing organs need ample clean water supply to work, and chlorinated water from your tap or water from plastic bottles is not the best option. Look into installing a Reverse Osmosis system with a remineralizer on your kitchen tap. This system will remove chemicals from your water and add back essential minerals that help your body to thrive. Also consider filtering the water system for your entire home if possible. If you drink clean water but shower or brush your teeth in chemical laden water, that's not so great, so try to filter the main water supply to your home so that all the water is as clean as it can be!
Dr. Tara Dunne is a licensed naturopathic doctor who received her degree from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. She also holds a master’s degree in Health and Wellness and a bachelor’s degree in Biology. She is passionate about natural wellness and helping people achieve optimal health.
Her special medical interests include atypical neurodevelopment, pediatrics and biochemistry. Tara spent several years training under some of the world leaders in these specific topics, and she now uses that training coupled with natural therapies to help people overcome illness and achieve optimal health. She is dedicated to making sure the best possible care, outcomes and information is available to everyone. In a world of health information overload, she's committed to helping people navigate their own personal health journeys. Her other interests include caring for her family, triathlon training and fitness, volunteering for people living with special needs, major league baseball, and cooking.