Whether it's from everyday toxins, or compounded from too many holiday parties, many people head into January feeling frumpy and fatigued. Not to mention that the large number of pollutants we encounter every day complicate the body's detoxification efforts, which in turn leaves us more vulnerable to illnesses, disease, and hormonal imbalances. While you may have the perfect detox diet and supplements already lined up, by integrating these four steps you will ensure that your New Year's resolutions are well within reach.
Clear out your bathroom: Believe it or not, a good detox should start with your environment since that is where your toxins are and the bathroom is the biggest culprit. Think of all the products we put on our skin, and imagine how the daily absorption of these chemicals adds up over a lifetime.
This long-term exposure is a definite hormonal and health concern. Your cleansing products should be free of sodium lauryl sulphate, a harsh detergent present in shampoos and cleansers. The products you use on your body or face should be free of methylparabens, propylparabens, formaldehyde, imidazolidinyl urea, methylisothiazolinone, propylene glycol, paraffin, isopropyl alcohol, and sodium lauryl sulphate.
You should know that most perfumed products contain many of these harmful chemicals, but the ingredients are not identified on the label. Therefore, look for products that contain natural oils and fragrances. Take a look through your cosmetics from shampoo to hair gel to eye make-up remover -- you may be surprised to find many of these not-so-friendly ingredients.
Raid your kitchen: Lurking in your kitchen are foods that can inhibit the success of your detox in a big way. The list below covers foods you should never eat. In fact, I recommend you remove them from your kitchen immediately to prevent further hormonal disruption.
• Products containing artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, etc.).
• Products containing high-fructose corn syrup.
• Vegetable oil, shortening, margarine, cottonseed oil; anything containing partially hydrogenated oils; products containing trans fats.
• Processed and packaged foods that contain lots of preservatives, loads of sodium and few nutrients, e.g., prepared pasta side dishes.
The next step to get rid of your plastic food storage containers, plastic water bottles and replace all of them with glass. Use paper wraps instead of plastic whenever possible; if you do use plastic wraps, make sure those you put in contact with food do not contain phthalates (if you're not sure, ask the manufacturer).
Never microwave foods in plastic containers or polystyrene foam, which may leach harmful compounds (in fact, you may want to reduce your use of the microwave as much as possible). Potentially harmful or cancer-causing, estrogen-like chemicals called dioxins can leech into your foods and drinks, especially when heated or frozen.
Always choose metal, glass or wood instead of plastic for storing, reheating and serving foods. Your household cleaning products are no exception. Look for cleaning and laundry alternatives that are less toxic from your grocery store or health food store. With a little creative Googling you may even be able to find a good recipe to make your own (if so, please share it in the comments section below).
Take out the trash daily: If your bowels are not moving, waste will create toxicity and impede health, especially estrogen by-products since estrogen is metabolized in the liver and excreted into the digestive system in the bile.
The bacteria in the large bowel further the breakdown of estrogen. Liver function, bile secretion, bacterial balance and frequency of bowel movements are essential processes for ridding the body of excess estrogen which has been known to increase cancer risks.
A bowel movement after each meal is perfect bowel function. Cleansing your digestive system will clear your complexion and improve your energy levels as you gain a sense of well-being. Improving intestinal wall competency will also aid absorption of nutrients and water, while preventing absorption of unhealthy bacteria and incompletely digested food or toxins.
For optimal bowel health I recommend adding in a probiotic twice daily, ground flax seeds or a non-psyllium fiber source, magnesium glycinate to bowel tolerance. If you are prone to constipation you can also consider adding in the herb Triphala, an Ayurvedic herbal blend commonly used for supporting intestinal detoxification, occasional constipation and overall colon health.
Fill up (and empty) your bladder more: If your urine is bright yellow it's an easy sign that you need to boost your water intake. Your kidneys flush waste from the blood and without enough water they can't do their job very well.
The human body is also extremely good at preserving water if you don't drink enough (and in turn, your rings may not fit at the end of the day). Herbal teas that have a blend of goldenrod, dandelion leaf and parsley will help get your bladder going.
In turn, some veggies such as celery stalks and cucumbers are great natural diuretics. I enjoy having a glass of warm water with lemon at least twice daily for digestion and the alkalizing effects. In addition to that, if you drink one to two cups of water before each meal and snack you will most likely meet your water goal, and you may be surprised to find that you look and feel slimmer when fully hydrated.
Sorry guys, but you need to put down the frozen burrito. In sad news for boob-tubers everywhere, it's important to know that your beloved TV dinner can have distressingly high sodium levels. Why so dangerous? Because the average American should only intake up to 1500-2300 mg of salt daily (depending on age and health profile), and some nuke-able meals hit that mark in just one sitting. That means increased risk for high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, even kidney failure -- all reasons to skip the salt lick and opt for fresh meals or leftovers instead. Trust us, "The Bachelor" can wait the extra 10 or 15 minutes it takes to cook up a healthier meal choice. Here's lookin' at you, DVR! More From YouBeauty.com: QUIZ: What's Your Eating Style? Are Low-Fat Foods Making You Fat? QUIZ: How Healthy is Your Skin?
Well, it depends. All fruit is not created equal, so the type you're eating makes a difference. Eating organic is clearly the best way to avoid icky pesticides and chemicals, but some fruits are pretty clean anyway, so a non-organic version is probably okay. Wondering which fruits you should pick? To make things easier, The Environmental Working Group puts out a "Dirty Dozen" list each year -- a list of the fruits and veggies with the highest pesticide residue that year -- so you can take a cheat-sheet to the grocery store. The big offenders as of late: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes. So if you're eating any of those, go organic or at least give them a good scrub-down with a vegetable brush first.
In a word: Yes! Your mom wasn't lying -- breakfast really is the most important meal of the day (and sadly, Starbucks isn't a food group). Even when you're snuggled up asleep at night, your body is constantly working to keep things ticking, so you need to refuel as soon as you wake up. Think of your system like a car: Food is fuel, so when you run on an empty stomach, it's like trying to drive at 60 MPH with no gas. No bueno. Your body's automatic response is to lower your metabolism to conserve energy, which inevitably causes your waistline to suffer. So no, you shouldn't swing by iHop en route to work every day. But something small and nutritious -- say, an organic apple or a bowl of whole grain oatmeal -- will work wonders to keep you looking and feeling your best.
Like any health-conscious beauty, you know that it's all about reading the ingredient label. (See! You did listen in those undergrad nutrition classes.) What may surprise you, however, is that many of the claims and numbers -- "low-fat," "no fat," "sugar-free" -- can woo you towards products that aren't necessarily as healthy as they sound. Case in point: "Low-fat" usually means less than 30 percent of your daily calories from fat, however, the same product might be jam-packed with sugar and additives to make up for, you know, the cardboard taste. Same goes for most sugar-free foods: additive city. Sorry kids, but your best plan of attack is sticking to foods that are naturally low in fat or sugar -- for example, leafy greens -- so you won't get stuck with mystery ingredients you didn't expect.
Yes, yes, a million times yes. Basically, no matter how alluring that click of the tab opening sounds, the can of chemicals that we call diet soda has health risks literally pouring out of it. Some studies have shown that too much diet soda can increase your risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Plus, when you constantly fake-out your brain with artificial sugars, you never truly rid yourself of the dependence that's causing all the trouble in the first place. A good remedy: Gradually switch from cola to flavored waters and juices, or try adding a slice of fruit or cucumber to your water. Hey, there's a reason we aren't made up of 80 percent soda -- stick to what mama nature gave you.
Ah, the mantra of the over-indulger ... kidding, kidding. This is technically a trick question. What's "everything?" An ice cream sundae every day? Or just once a month? The problem with the "everything in moderation" myth is that thanks to out-of-control portion sizes and the implied free pass to "treat ourselves" a few times a week, this guideline has spiraled out of control into a feeding frenzy. Now, some studies do show that people who successfully maintain weight loss are those who reward themselves occasionally along the way, so there's no need to pass up a slice of cake on your birthday, or grab some pizza at the Superbowl party. But if you're eating cake for everyone's birthday and eating pizza for every football game, then the mantra becomes more like a delusion.
Poor carbs -- they keep getting heckled on the food pyramid, then welcomed back, just to be heckled again. Now that's a food fight. The truth is, our fascination with fad diets and extreme low-carb and no-carb diets has left everyone a little confused. "Carb" has become a scary word when it shouldn't be. The type of carbohydrate you're eating is what really matters -- complex vs. simple. Complex carbs like 100 percent whole grains, legumes and veggies are a healthy choice, whereas simple carbs like refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup are the real no-nos. But the real issue at hand? Fad diets that take your carb intake to one extreme or the other are usually smoke-and-mirrors in the first place. They tend to be unrealistic as a long-term health plan, and when you do stop them, you just repack on the pounds you dropped so quickly. (Hello, wasted time and expense.) Instead, opt for fruits, vegetables, whole grains and a little protein. As always, the combination of a balanced diet and consistent exercise are the only scientifically-proven, long-term weight loss solutions.
Water streaming out of the tap, bottled water at every corner deli ... as Americans, we're luckier than we know to have so much access to clean drinking water. And sometimes we even take for granted the fact that hydration is vital for everything from your digestive system to your immune system and cell health -- all the things that keep you happy and glowing. So how much should you really be drinking each day? Well, it depends on how hydrating your foods are. Water-packed fruits and vegetables deliver hydration to your cells and skin better than plain ol' water ever will, so rather than force-feeding yourself gallons of water each day, try upping your intake of cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelon and oranges.
The cause of your acne? Probably not. (It's often hormonal.) But it's true that the foods you eat can influence your complexion in some ways. High-glycemic foods (i.e., sugary foods and basically every cupcake and cookie you know and love) are some of the worst offenders. They spike your blood sugar and jump start oil production in your body, which in turn can cause your pores to clog up like an old sink drain. Yuck. And consider the power of zinc, a mineral said to battle breakouts caused by inflammation and bacteria. Oysters are a great source, or if you're vegetarian or vegan, try pumpkin seeds, lentils or kidney beans. Your clear skin will thank you!
Brittle-nailed beauties, this one's for you: A great way to combat weak nails (and thinning hair and lackluster skin for that matter), is by increasing your biotin intake. One of the beloved B-complex vitamins, it's an essential chemical for fat and carbohydrate metabolism that -- manicure gods smiling here -- has been linked to longer, stronger nails. Legumes, avocados, egg yolks and even soybeans are great natural sources. More From YouBeauty.com: QUIZ: What's Your Eating Style? Are Low-Fat Foods Making You Fat? QUIZ: How Healthy is Your Skin?
Follow Natasha Turner, ND on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drnatasha