Your liver filters everything that travels through your bloodstream. This includes toxins from your food, skincare, the air you breathe, and anti-nutrient chemicals such as caffeine or alcohol. It also regulates the immune system by destroying old red and white blood cells, allergic compounds and bacteria that may have escaped into the blood. But perhaps the most significant major function of the liver for women is the removal of used hormones from the blood. It does this by filtering the blood, breaking down the used hormones, packaging them up and sending them to the gut and kidneys ready for excretion.
If the liver is too overworked by other functions such as high environmental toxin intake, stress, high dietary toxins such as cigarettes, sugar or alcohol and a diet low in nutrients, it can fail to keep up with demand. This means that toxins that would otherwise be removed by the body are free to roam around the body once again, often in a more toxic state than when we ingested them.
Often we will not notice this process happening straight away and a healthy, external appearance can hide a toxic burden for a long time. Symptoms of toxic overload include hormonal disruption and progression of hormonal disease, fatigue, poor skin or hormonal fluctuations that bring about increased cramps or PMS – you become, like so many, the walking or vertical ‘unwell’. Plenty of us have just learnt to ‘accept’ it.
The difference between a ‘Cleanse’ and a ‘Detox’
It's simply semantics but the term ‘detox’ has been mightily over-used and can include anything from a few days on fruit to a month of fasting under medical supervision. It is the latter that deserves the term detox and it is imperative that anyone considering a proper ‘detox’ does so once a comprehensive consultation has taken place with a qualified nutritionist.
A cleansing diet however is a good thing for many of us and in general works a lot more synergistically with the body's natural rhythms. For the majority, a regular gentle cleanse is both preferable and supportive for our health.
Working in women’s nutrition for over 10 years now I have become increasingly frustrated with the ‘quick fix' detoxes many women try. Hepatic cells (liver cells) take a total of 28 days to regenerate and therefore these short fix approaches simply cannot work on a deeper, sustainable level and can in fact be counterproductive.
I formulated Wild Nutrition’s Total Cleanse Programme in response to this clinical need for a cleansing programme that looked beyond the faddy detox or weekend juice fasts and instead worked from the root up. Penetrating health at a cellular level and specifically formulated to support women, supporting my clients with the programme has been such a rewarding experience.
Why should I do a ‘Cleanse’?
Too often a detox or cleanse is only considered after a ‘retox’ or ‘indulgent’ period, suggesting that toxins are simply the result of over-indulgence in alcohol or unhealthy foods. Whilst this is true to a degree, it is far from the complete picture. There is no system in the body that does not rely to some extent on your liver. It plays a central role in the production of hormones, immune modulators, nutrients, the removal of unhealthy cholesterol, allergens, and used hormones. Your liver filters all that goes through your blood stream, from those that we ingest (toxicants) to those that we produce naturally (toxins) from stress for example. It runs in parallel importance with the digestive tract; together they are the powerhouses of our health.
When this finely tuned detoxification system is compromised ill health can develop. This can range from chronic diseases such as allergies, hormonal imbalance, subfertility, skin conditions and weight gain, to more severe conditions such as degenerative diseases.
Whether you want to maintain healthy skin or experience greater energy, the Wild Nutrition Total Cleanse can play a fundamental role in sustaining health.
It can also be a opportunity to cleanse the mind of emotional toxicity. Your physical health is synonymous with your emotional health. If you feel anxious you may experience ‘butterflies in the tummy’ for example. It has been suggested that our cells hold emotional cellular memory and, as a result, cleansing the body on a cellular level may also clear stored emotional memory. If you feel particularly emotional during the cleanse go easy on yourself, use it as a time to process these and adopt nurturing habits that support your emotional and physical wellbeing.
Any cleansing programme is not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women and if you are on medication or medical supervision we always advise checking with your consultation before commencing.
Where do toxins come from?
In this age of chemically polluted air, water, food and nutrient poor diets, the liver works much harder and is in even greater need of nutritional support. Consciously or unconsciously we are putting a chemical load into our body everyday; it is a symptom of the modern world. Sometimes the toxins are generated as a result of fumes in the air from cars, buses, or airplanes or washing detergents or pesticides on tropical fruit that allow them to ripen at just the right time on the supermarket shelf. It is how we protect our body from the negative return of these lifestyle choices that is critically important for health.
When to ‘cleanse’
Cleansing regularly throughout the year is both gentle and more effective for long term health. Cleansing with the seasons is a system long established by traditional practices such as ayurveda and traditional chinese medicine. We recommend undertaking the Total Cleanse three times a year. September (to prepare for the repair and restoration of the winter months), February/March (the spring clean) and May/June (maximizing energy). By choosing seasonal foods you will also be providing your body with the nutrients it has evolved to need at that time of year. We evolved in tune with the seasons so to us this makes perfect sense.
If you do choose the popular month of January to cleanse, make sure you are using warming broths, soups and stews to support the digestive warmth and energy that is needed in this month.
With any cleanse programme, let it encourage you to rest, listen to your body’s own healing capacity and adopt nurturing habits that cherish hormonal wellbeing.
For more on supporting female hormones, you may also wish to read our blog article: 'Balancing female hormones'