How important is detoxification for our health?
There are several detoxification pathways, and each person has unique vulnerabilities. Identifying this is critical. Detoxification is impactful in disease and symptoms, and should be addressed before protocols. There is a beautiful saying in ayurveda that says when diet is wrong, medicine is of no use, and when diet is correct, there is no need for medicine.
The reason we must take care of the digestive fire is that food is properly digested and utilised. Food that is not digested causes indigestion and accumulation of ama or toxins. Ama or toxins are the main source of dosha imbalance and disease when it reaches the deeper tissues in ayurveda.
In functional medicine, the optimal detoxification relates to how other systems work. The liver is the primary organ of detoxification. Many health challenges have roots in poor liver health.
Symptoms of toxic overload
Ama in ayurveda refers to metabolic toxins. It has the qualities of being cold, thick, heavy, damp, and sticky, contributing to being a breeding ground for pathogenic bacterial overgrowth and disease. When digestion is suboptimal, it leads to indigestion and poor utilisation of nutrients. This creates metabolic waste or ama. This metabolic waste in the digestive tract gets carried to deeper tissues. It is sticky so it remains there and clogs channels that carries nutrients to the tissues and waste away from the detoxification systems. Ideally if digestion is strong, all metabolic waste should get carried back to the digestive tract twice a day to be eliminated. When the toxins are sticky, they are unable to be transported back for elimination. The contribute to symptoms and disease.
The biggest reason that disease progresses is when toxins increase. The reason toxins are created are because digestive function is weak. It is also created by poor food combinations, eating too frequently, overeating, eating fried foods, consuming alcohol and caffeine, daytime napping, cold foods, excess raw foods, and eating without chewing.
There are several symptoms that indicate there is build-up of metabolic waste in the body. These including sticky stool, bad breath, thick coating on the tongue, indigestion, gas, bloating, heartburn, loss of subtle tastes, sinus congestions, lymph congestion, fatigue, mental confusion, brain fog, soreness at the roots of your hair, aches, pains, insomnia, constipation, anxiety, stiff muscles, sore joints, body odour, vertigo, and hormone challenges.
How to remove toxins naturally?
One key point to always consider is not to oscillate between excess indulgences and detox dieting. Having a detox green smoothie after a night of excess alcohol, and doing this often, is detrimental to all detoxification systems within the body. Following gentle practices daily helps you to maintain optimal detoxification and prevent buildup of metabolic waste.
1) Remember that it is indigestion that creates metabolic waste. Supporting optimal digestion is step one to preventing toxic overload.
There are two things to consider. The first is the reduction of processed foods, fried foods, alcohol, and caffeine, to keep the load on the digestive system in check. The second is supporting digestion itself.
2) The best aid to support digestion daily is the use of the spices in the right way. This includes the use of the right spices based on constitution and season, and the using them the right way to fire up digestion. Spices are those that increase the digestive fire and those that metabolise toxins. Before adding any ingredients, spices must be simmered in ghee to awaken them. The spices are awake when there is an aroma. If you prefer not to use ghee, use coconut oil or sesame oil. Adding spices much later after vegetables, grains, or lentils have been cooked does not fire up digestion in the same way. Turmeric, salt, coriander and ginger are a great combination.
3) Understand that daily elimination is not the sign of perfect digestion and detoxification. Eating frequently is a reason for the build-up of metabolic waste. Eating frequently or snacking causes different stages of digestion to happen in the same environment. This causes weak digestion, and accumulation of toxins. It is best to eat only three meals at a regular time daily.
4) Avoid daytime napping. Daytime napping, especially after digestion, is an immediate reason for tamas to set in. This weakens agni, causing havoc. Common recommendations might be that everyone should take a nap, but this is detrimental to digestion and detoxification. It causes sluggishness in the liver and can lead to constipation, further increasing toxic overload.
5) Drink warm water throughout the day. Cold water causes constriction in blood vessels of the gut, weakening the production of stomach acid. Having some hot ginger tea once a day can help digest the metabolic waste, but only if it is not in the summer. If your body type is one that tends to raise temperature, which can be noticed if you have predisposition towards acne, you may react adversely to this in the beginning. Introduce it later, after you have other lifestyle habits in the right place.
6) Avoid eating raw foods for some time. Raw foods might seem the detoxification star, but in fact they weaken the digestive fire. The best way to allow the body to improve digestion and detoxification on its own, is to eat warm cooked foods. The reason ayurveda places khichadi so high on the list of therapeutic foods is not because it is a detox food, but because it reduces the burden on digestion so that the body can improve detoxification on its own. These gentle approaches are always much better when trying to restore balance by yourself.
Ignoring metabolic waste is not advisable. You might hear people scoff at the concept of detoxification. While detox diets and drinks might not be the right approach, we must support the body in reducing metabolic waste. Accumulation of waste is a breeding ground for pathogens and contributes to weakening of body system and organs.
Never start detoxification with vague detox diets. Begin with the basics of including the right frameworks of diet and lifestyle to support optimal digestion, nutrient utilisation, and detoxification.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)