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To detox...or not to detox?

I'm being inundated right now with emails promoting detox programmes.

A liver that's sluggish and stagnant, struggling to process the multitude of incoming (or internally-derived) toxins, is at the root of almost every symptom or condition experienced today, so making sure this organ is functioning optimally is absolutely critical, but personally, I don’t encourage a FULL-ON CLEANSE in the depth of winter.

The liver doesn't want to be pushed excessively at this time of year. It's a period for nourishment and restoration, not intense juice cleanses. It's appropriate to hibernate and rest (get a lot of good quality sleep, which promotes tissue regeneration and gentle cleansing); wrap up warm and take daily moderate exercise in nature (which releases 'feel good' endorphins and promotes blood & lymph flow, gently eliminating waste and toxins out the body); and eat hot healthy meals (such as home-cooked soups and stews), combined with some raw foods (with the addition of warming herbs, roots and spices such as ginger, chilli and garlic). Spring (March/April) and Autumn (September/October) are ideal seasons when you can press your foot down on the accelerator in terms of a full-body purifying protocol.

Having said that, now is a great time (especially after the indulgences of the festive period), to begin to implement one or two positive dietary habits each week to help support the liver in preparation for a full spring detox. Going vegan or having a ‘dry January’ will certainly make your liver breathe a sign of relief, but if these measures feel too extreme, you can get started with these two simple changes - drinking hot water with lemon slices first thing upon rising, and eating one or two (organic) apples a day . These two actions can work wonders for enhancing the activity of the elimination organs - the gut, kidneys, skin, lymphatic system, bloodstream and liver. The first step in any detox programme is to first ensure the elimination routes are open and working correctly - otherwise toxins that have been liberated from the liver, will just re-deposited in other tissues within the body (making someone feel even worse than before a 'cleanse').

Lemon water, containing limonene flavonoids and vitamin C, is highly effective at gently triggering the release of toxins from the liver into the small intestines (to be excreted in the stool). Apples have been recommended because they contain an abundance of phytonutrients that make them a particularly powerful tool for activating liver detoxification. If your interested in understanding why this humble, yet amazing fruit, should be eaten daily, here's a list of the compounds they contain:-

MALIC ACID - this natural chemical helps to open the ducts that run through the liver, allowing the liver to easily flush out bile, fats and neutralised toxins.

RUTIN - this phytochemical is able to bind to heavy metals and radiation, and detoxify these damaging molecules from the body (instead of these fat-soluble toxins being stored in fat cells and the central nervous system)

GLUTAMINE AND SERINE - these amino acids (basic protein molecules) are incredible for detoxifying monosodium glutamate (MSG) out of the brain & nerves. MSG is a 'neurotoxin' that excites, inflames and kills brain cells & neurons. It's also a harmful compound the liver needs to detoxify. These days we don't just get exposed to MSG when we eat Chinese food. Sadly, it's hidden in an unbelievably wide range of foods and drinks, using terms such as: 'natural flavouring', 'nutritional yeast' or 'carageenan' (to name just a few).

SOLUBLE AND INSOLUBLE FIBRE - fibre binds waste material and toxins in the bowel and provides bulk to the stool, improving elimination of harmful compounds out of the gut, preventing them from being reabsorbed from the colon back up to the liver (making them twice as toxic). An apples soluble fibre content is also excellent for nourishing 'beneficial' gut bacteria, which also play a role in the whole detoxification processes.

PECTIN - Apples are the ultimate colon-cleansers. Pectin moves through the gut and collects and rids the body of pathogens such as; mould, bacteria, viruses, yeast and fungi. It also gathers and expels putrefied, impacted protein, fats and debris that have been hiding in intestinal pockets (feeding ‘bad’ pathogens such as E. Coli, Clostridium and Staphylococcus). It’s for this reason that apples are wonderful for all digestive complaints, especially IBS/Irritable Bowel Syndrome and SIBO/Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. NB: If you have severe digestive issues, you may need to start with small amounts of apple (i.e. 1/2 apple) and then build up your intake to avoid excessive gas and bloating (caused by the antimicrobial compounds in apples killing off unwanted 'bad' gut bacteria, yeasts and parasites that release toxic gases as they die-off).

QUERCETIN - this is a polyphenolic flavonoid has been shown to increase levels of reduced glutathione and the enzyme glutathione s-transferase which protect the liver and lungs from the carcinogenic effect of chemicals entering these organs through the detoxification process. Quercetin is also able to limit histamine liberation and reduce inflammation, preventing allergic-symptoms such as: difficulty breathing/chest tightness, itching, rashes, hives, and asthma.

VITAMIN C - vitamin C is another natural anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine, but it's also an antioxidant that helps protect liver tissues from damaging free oxidative radicals, and it safeguards liver detoxification enzymes, created in phase I and phase II liver detoxification pathways, from oxidative damage. The highly bioavailable vitamin C and polyphenol antioxidant content in red & pink apples, supports collagen skin-cell production & fights damaging free-oxidative radicals created by toxins, making them potent anti-aging / anti-wrinkle foods. Vitamin C is also a co-factor in metabolism, so apples can help to enhance energy levels and promote weight loss.

TRACE MINERALS - apples contain molybdenum, manganese, electrolytes, and critical mineral salts, that help the body rehydrate after exercise or periods of stress. Their electrolyte content means apples hydrate the body at a deeper, cellular levels, providing much needed water for metabolic reactions (energy production and weight loss).

FLAVONOIDS - flavonoids found in the skin of red and pink apples, have been shown to reduce blood vessel inflammation and lower LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol plasma levels. Their antioxidant content also helps to reduce the oxidation of fats, preventing the build-up of plaque in artery linings, reducing the risk of high blood pressure. NB: The more pigment (colour) a fruit or vegetable contains, the greater its anti-oxidant content, for example, red or pink apples contain a higher antioxidant content than green apples.

POLYPHENOLS - studies have shown that the phenolic compound in apple skins helps reduce the incidence of tooth decay and gum disease. Polyphenols have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties to destroy problematic bacteria in the mouth and dampen gum inflammation. Apples, with their fibre-rich content, also help to stimulate saliva production, cleansing the teeth and providing lysozymes to destroy bacteria in the mouth.

The polyphenols in apples (particularly the skins), stimulate your pancreas to release insulin and help your cells take up glucose. Those who eat at least one apple a day are 28 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who never eat apples. Add a sprinkle (1/2tsp) of cinnamon to your apple, and the risk of insulin resistance can be further reduced.

ANTHOCYANINS & MALVIDIN - these compounds are partially responsible for an apple's red colour. These pigments have anti-obesity properties and compounds that increase digestive strength, encouraging weight loss through enhanced digestion, absorption and assimilation of nutrients required for metabolism. Apples also contain 'Ursolic acid', which has been shown to increase muscle mass and ‘brown fat’, enhancing metabolic rate.

I hope this has given you plenty of incentive to arm yourself with an apple cutter and enjoy this truly under-valued fruit. An apple a day can really can help keep the doctor AND DENTIST away!

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