I take pride in being a reasonably healthy person – a label I have embraced over the last seven years. In my early twenties, I looked the part of a healthy person. My body weight hovered around average, I went to the gym multiple times a week and I had a healthy flush to my skin from hours outside in the sun. For at least one day every week, I would participate in recreational sports – I wasn’t very good but it got me moving.
However, appearing healthy is a slippery, deceptive slope. While there are many physical characteristics that indicate that a person is healthy like muscle tone, body weight or alertness, these physical indicators are not always representative of a person’s health.
A few winters ago, in the midst of the anxious time of my university graduation and finding my first full-time job, my apparently healthy body gave out. In a span of two months, I caught a sickness four times, at times my stomach cramping so badly that I stayed in bed instead of enjoying the final days of academia that I would miss in the years that came after. One week I would be blocked up with constipation and the next I would have diarrhea so bad that I would be in the washroom for hours. At the end of the two months, my body felt like it had survived a war but I could not figure out why I had felt so bad.
My doctor had me on a number of medications – some for constipation that may have caused diarrhea, and enough antibiotics that would have crippled my immune system for a short period of time. However, I got past the two months and I soon forgot about the period of bad health, attributing the sicknesses to the effect of stress on my body – an apt catch-all generalization that truly solved nothing.
It was years later, during a conversation with Heather Johnston, a nutritionist at YesWellness, my local health supplement store, that I realized that stress was not the factor that caused sudden spurt of bad health, but inattention to my diet.
“Your body has a tendency to tell you that something is wrong with the way you are acting. Eat something expired, you will throw up. Hold your hand too close to a hot object, yelp in pain. But how can your body help you understand that it’s not one thing that makes you sick, but multiple?” she explained to me during an impromptu discussion in the store. In relaying my fears of repeating the same spell of sickness, I was reviewing my brief account of the two months to understand why I suddenly became ill.
She suggested an annual detoxification as a solution to my worries and my skepticism was written all over my face.
“I know that look,” she said. “Every time I mention detoxification, I get the same disbelief.”
It wasn’t that I was eating unhealthy – most of the time I cooked with fresh meat and vegetables and was cognizant to consume all four food groups. But my major issues were the “cheat meals” that came in quick succession over holidays and repetitive consumption of the same foods.
That’s where detoxification comes into play. Like many others, I didn’t understand the benefits of detoxification or what it entailed.
Simply put, detoxification is the removal of toxins from your body, normally harmful substances from your environment. Aside from talking to a nutritionist, here are a few tips to try:
Choose a variety of healthy foods
My major concern should have been the mercury content in fish and other seafood. I normally prefer seafood to other proteins because it is much lighter and I thought it was healthier than fatty meats. Too much seafood can lead to muscle weakness and headaches.
Even when you feel a sickness coming, don’t abandon exercise. Sweating helps release toxins through your skin and may be a reason why prolonged illnesses do not happen to me as often.
Drink lots of water
One of the most basic detoxification tips is to drink plain water, as it helps flush the toxins out of your body. Water helps with producing saliva, sweat and urine.
Don’t forget about vitamin C
Fruits, especially those rich in vitamin C, may be forgotten in times of high stress, but vitamin C is essential to producing glutathione, which helps drive away toxins.
Avoid heavy metals as much as possible
Heavy metals, like mercury, lead or arsenic, are ones that accumulate in your body that have dangerous side effects. Sources can include pollution, cigarette fumes and minerals in tap water. Installing a filter is a great way to sieve out some of the dangerous substances.