There are six common mistakes I see people people make when it comes to moving towards a healthier lifestyle that result in brain fog, swollen glands, headaches, fatigue, anxiety and mood swings, or what I call the "Detox Drag." I'm all for detoxing safely, but consider these factors before you undertake one to make sure you have the rewarding, nourishing and healing experience a detox is meant to be.
1. Don't overdo the cardio.
Most detox programs include a new exercise regimen and many people tend to overdo it: suddenly doing five high-power cardio classes a week when, for the past three months, they maybe went to a total of three or four classes. It's great to get in more exercise, but mix it up with different types of movement like yoga, dance, qi gong or another gentler practices that send important signals to your lymphatic system to let go of toxins. It'll also give you the chance to recover, restore and rebuild between intense workouts.
2. Make sure you eat enough protein.
The protein requirement for a highly active person is one gram per pound of body weight per day, while for a moderately or less active person it's around 60-70 grams per day. I find that most detox programs focus on salads and smoothies, resulting in people often eating even less protein than they were before. This leads to fatigue and burnout rather than lasting results.
Your protein intake might have been fine pre-detox, but now that you're working out more, it pays to increase it. You'll have more energy and build more lean muscle.
3. Don't go cold turkey on coffee.
Quitting coffee can be a great for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the long-term health of your adrenals and your bones. But if you're following a detox program where you start a new workout routine and cut out foods your body was used to (sugar, dairy, etc.), while also planning to not skip anything in your work or social life, suddenly quitting coffee can send your nervous system into overdrive, resulting in migraines, digestive issues and intense brain fog.
My advice is to take it easy on the coffee and follow my "rule of halves": if you usually have six cups a day, cut back to three. If you usually have two cups, have one.
4. Supplement appropriately so you don't burn out.
While people often detox because of what they want to shed, many people living busy, modern lives are actually nutritionally depleted. A detox can exacerbate this if you're not supplementing appropriately. The following are the most important nutrients to have on hand to have a healthier detox.
- Magnesium: Many prescription and over the counter drugs like acid blockers and blood pressure medications deplete the body's magnesium levels. Stress also depletes magnesium.
- Vitamin D: Many people are also chronically low on Vitamin D, an important pro-hormone that impacts how well you absorb calcium and regulates inflammation and the immune system.
- Glutathione: Glutathione, or GSH, is the body's most important natural antioxidant and is often depleted by high usage. Eating lots of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower) and supplementing with N-Acetyl-Cysteine, a building block for GSH, can help.
- B vitamins: I find many patients are low on B12 and folic acid, both of which are core to phase one liver detoxification. These vitamins also support energy balance.
- Homeopathics: Some people also find that taking homeopathic remedies to open the liver, kidney and lympathic pathways before and during their detox helps them feel much better through the process.
5. Don't ignore constipation.
Pooping is one of the most important ways you detoxify. When you don't go regularly, toxins and hormones can be recirculated through the liver again and again. So make sure you have a bowel movement every day. If you don't, try magnesium oxide or magnesium citrate at bedtime to help you go in the morning.
6. Don't forget about the brain.
Between withdrawal from sugar, booze and caffeine, a detox can be a shock to the central nervous system. Add in a high intensity workout regimen and life suddenly seems more hectic than before. Anxiety, irritability and mood swings emerge because people have forgotten to detox mentally as well as physically.
It's impossible to clear the cobwebs in the body if you don't do the same with the mind. I recommend meditating daily and cutting back on social obligations while detoxing to really give yourself a chance to listen, reflect and experience what is happening.
If you don't, your mind might hit a wall before your body does and suddenly, you're in tears or reaching for the ice cream. If you skip these steps, a detox can be depleting instead of nourishing; unnerving instead of clarifying. But if you follow them, you're much more likely to love the experience and avoid the drag.
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