Demystifying Detox with Dr. Meena MalhotraDec 30, 2020 ● By Carrie Jackson
With the holiday season behind us and New Year’s resolutions in full swing, many people choose January as a time to detoxify their body and mind from stress and overabundance. However, there are many misconceptions about what a healthy and balanced detoxification process includes. Dr. Meena Malhotra is the founder and medical director of Heal n Cure, an integrative facility in Glenview that specializes in functional medicine. Their team of physicians, nurses, nutritionists and aestheticians work with each patient to collaborate on a tailored plan that meets their health and vitality goals by looking at the body as a complete system.
Malhotra is double board certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine and American Board of Internal Medicine. She says that detoxification is a highly personalized process that should be adjusted to meet the needs of each patient, depending on their current state of health and lifestyle.
are the elements of a detox?
Many people associate detoxification with starvation, liquid diets or juice cleanses, but those methods don’t allow the body to heal and repair. A proper detoxification starts with establishing your baseline health and needs. In the clinic, we can do blood and urine tests for biomarkers that indicate areas of imbalance. People can also do a self-assessment to determine if they have a toxic overload. If they are experiencing symptoms such as fatigue, foggy brain, diarrhea or constipation, bloating, cravings, allergies and eczema, those are indications that the system isn’t in homeostasis. The degree of imbalance of your unique biochemistry helps us determine the blend in their Vital Dose, a customized combination of medicinal herbs, minerals, vitamins and fatty acids for good health. Eliminating triggers such as dairy, processed food, meat, chemicals and other toxins, and introducing a plant-based diet which promotes biotransformation helps to make toxins in the body more water-soluble and easier for the system to flush out.
What should be consumed during a detox?
A healthy detox gives you nourishment from eating whole foods in a systematic manner, including lentils, nuts, produce and whole grains. This supplies the macronutrients you need for energy and fiber to encourage regular digestion. Fruits and vegetables are nutrient-dense and contain the prebiotics, probiotics, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory nutrients and phytonutrients that help support the liver. Micronutrients such as fatty acids, minerals, vitamins and herbs in Vital Dose help support the body in detoxification. Giving the body proper nutrition is the best way for it to begin to repair and heal, as well as build up heathy gut bacteria. Exercise is important, but during a detox, be sure not to overdo it, because your body is going through complex changes. A brisk walk or yoga practice may be enough at first. Also, limit your exposure to toxins in the environment and in household cleaning or beauty products that throw off your hormonal balance. Swap out plastic for wooden utensils and glass containers in the kitchen. Make your space as innocuous as possible.
What holistic practices support a detox?
Stress management is an important part of an integrative detox. When we are stressed, our sympathetic nervous system creates cortisol, which keeps us in “fight-or-flight” mode and throws off our hormonal balance. Deep breathing and meditation can help stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows us to “rest-and-digest”. These tools should be used throughout the day in order to be most effective. Regular, restful sleep is also crucial for detoxification and promotes neurological transformation and cellular healing. I encourage patients to establish a sleep hygiene practice which includes staying away from phones and other screens before bed, and maybe taking a warm bath or reading a book before bed instead. Staying hydrated helps flush out the system, so be sure to maintain your liquid intake throughout the day.
How do you transition away from the detox?
The duration of the detox will vary depending on your baseline health and biomarkers and can vary from a few days to a few months. The healthier you are to begin with, the quicker the body will be able to reach homeostasis. When you start to notice symptoms going away, it is okay to slowly start to reintroduce other foods, such as organic animal products. Be mindful of the food choices you are making and pay attention to any symptoms that may return. There is a place for clean meat and fish in the diet, but make sure it is sustainably raised and caught. Put the practices of the detox into your daily life as much as possible by consuming nutrient-dense food, staying hydrated, exercising, and making sleep and stress management a priority. This will improve your biochemical individuality and allow your body to function more efficiently at baseline. Above all, be respectful of your body and give it the building blocks to heal.
Carrie Jackson is an Evanston-based writer and frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine. Connect at CarrieJacksonWrites.com.