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A clean sweep

Nutritionist Sara Bertoli offers some tips for a New Year detox

Our body has the ability to detoxify toxins that come from our food, the environment, medicines and stress, in particular via the liver and the kidneys. But, at certain times of the year, it is good to give our bodies an extra boost to speed up the detoxification processes. This support can come from food, nutritional supplementation or herbs.

The liver is the master organ that deals with toxins and it does this through two phases. It transforms fat-soluble molecules (which tend to deposit in the body) into water-soluble molecules, which are easily excreted via the urine.

Nutrient-rich food

A key point for an effective detox is to drink plenty of water (at least three litres per day, partly in the form of herbal tea such as dandelion or nettle tea). Decreasing sugar intake is also very important, as well as reducing highly processed foods and alcohol.

The best thing for you and your detox plan would be to start with high quality raw food and prepare your meals yourself. This is a very efficient way to control what you eat, ingredients and quality-wise, and to have fresh and nutrient-rich food, which is what we want during detox time. Be mindful that some nutrients are inactivated by the heat or lost in the hot water (like B vitamins, so reuse the cooking water!) Having at least a third of your food raw will give more power to your plan!

Key nutrients

During a detox, certain key nutrients can help to support the liver during the two phases of its detoxification process. During phase 1, these key nutrients include B vitamins, glutathione, BCAA and a wide spectrum antioxidant blend. Food also has the ability to increase liver activity, especially cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower, watercress, horseradish and cabbage; plus foods that are rich in B vitamins, such as root vegetables, grass-feed beef, eggs and wild salmon; and folate-rich food such as green, leafy vegetables, asparagus and lentils. Other nutrients come from antioxidant-rich foods such as all the purple, orange, yellow and red fruit and vegetables, and glutathione-promoting food such as grapefruit spinach, and garlic.

Helpful herbs

Phase 2 requires slightly different nutrients: amino acids become very important as they are used to bind the toxins (for example L-Glycine, L-Taurine, L-Glutamine and L-Lysine), sulphur-containing compounds like MSM, glutathione and methylated B12. Good foods for increasing phase 2 activity are again cruciferous vegetables, garlic and onion, eggs, and high quality animal proteins.

Herbs play a very important role in liver detox. Milk thistle is effective for liver protection, while artichoke and all the bitters stimulate bile production and flow, which is essential for fat digestion and absorption. Dandelion also promotes liver activity and reduces water retention by acting on the kidneys.

The kidneys clean our blood from the toxins and from excess nutrients and water, by filtering it through a highly selective membrane and later reabsorbing what is necessary for our body. These organs regulate water and mineral balance, and secondary blood pressure. To support kidney function some good diuretics are hawthorn, juniper, dandelion, horsetail and green tea.

Total body detox

A very good supplement for total body detoxification that can also work as a complete spectrum multivitamin and protein source is chlorella. This very powerful seaweed is the food with the highest concentration of chlorophyll on earth: chlorophyll has the ability to bind with toxins and pull them out from our cells directly, without overloading or over stimulating the liver. It also contains a growth factor which stimulates cell replication and promotes gut healing, B vitamins, iron and essential amino acids which keep blood glucose levels stable.

Balanced blood sugar

If you want to balance your blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol and lose a bit of weight gained during Christmas time, Japanese medicinal mushrooms can be very helpful. They are rich in fibre such as glucomannan, which suppresses appetite and stimulates gut motility. Plus, their active molecules work on the insulin-releasing cells in the pancreas and also on the glucose uptake from cells, which consequently keep blood sugar levels balanced. Mushrooms have the ability to increase the healthy HDL cholesterol, helping to clean the arteries from the dangerous LDL cholesterol deposits that can cause cardiovascular problems. Medicinal mushrooms are also great immune system modulators, so they can also be taken by people with autoimmune conditions. Reishi, shiitake and maiitake are the three mushrooms with the activity and benefits we need for a good detox. Lastly, it is recommended that you consult with your doctor before embarking on any detox programme.

Sara Bertoli is a nutritionist with John Bell & Croyden. Visit

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