For many of us, it’s been a time to forget work and let off steam – even if that’s meant putting our bodies through the wringer! All those mince pies and Christmas pudding, all those delicious chocolates, all that eating to excess. And that’s before you even start on the alcohol consumption.
If you’ve been on a merry-go-round of office parties, business lunches and pigging out with family and friends, then what’s wrong with having fun and being sociable? Nothing at all – it’s just that when January comes around, many of us are left feeling bloated, unfit and decidedly lacking in energy.
Quite understandably, the natural reaction is to seek immediate solutions to repair our pulverised bodies. There’s an almost collective feeling of guilt. We give up alcohol for the month, pack in smoking or join the gym. Detox programmes have become almost as fashionable as the hot Christmas dinner itself!
The temptation can be to put ourselves through purgatory to repair “the damage” we’ve done during the festive period - even if this is, for the large majority, just a seasonal blip.
Let’s be clear, if your lifestyle is dominated throughout the year by an unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity, then this can pose a great risk to health and wellbeing, leading to chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, strokes and cancer.
But don’t think you need to go on a radical detox just because of your Christmas-in- isolation excess.
Whatever your reasons for cleansing the system, there are any number of products and diets out there “claiming” to detoxify the entire body, so be careful you don’t overdo it! One of the most popular is the Master Cleanse diet, which is designed to restore energy, help you lose weight and even alleviate certain chronic conditions, like arthritis. However, there is no evidence or data to support this.
According to Health publications published by the Harvard Medical School, the Master Cleanse diet lacks protein, fatty acids and other essential nutrients. In addition, the daily laxative regimen can result in dehydration, deplete much needed electrolytes and impair normal bowel function.
Research suggests that if a person continues to detox in this manner, they run the risk of developing metabolic acidosis, which simply means a disruption of the body’s acid-base balance, resulting in excessive acidity in the blood. In extreme cases, severe metabolic acidosis can lead to coma and death.
The fact is that our bodies are wonderful things, quite capable of performing detoxification functions - if we simply allow them to do so.
Let’s look at our composition, starting with the skin, the largest organ of the body which serves to protect and act as a barrier against harmful substances.
Then there is our immune system which is there to recognise foreign substances and eliminate them from the body.
The respiratory system, meanwhile, includes fine hairs in our nose that trap dirt and particles which may be inhaled. Smaller particles that do get past this first line of defence and make it to the lungs are then expelled from the airways in mucus.
And let’s not forget the liver- the organ which acts as the body’s principal filter. Liver cells produce groups of enzymes that regulate the metabolism of drugs and are an important part of the body’s defence against harmful chemicals and other toxins.
The kidneys are also incredibly efficient at filtering and ridding the body of waste substances.
Our God-given human body is more than capable of defending itself against most environmental irritants and, yes, this includes the festive or other occasional indulgences to which we subject ourselves!
The point is this. Rather than going overboard on some super-duper detox programme which promises to flush out your entire system, revitalise your body and make you a whole new person, as long as you maintain healthy practices, then you are really doing all that’s required to maintain good health and wellbeing.
We will return to this subject in greater detail in future blogs but, for the meantime, let’s focus on the basics, the essentials. By concentrating on these, then you won’t go far wrong.
First and foremost, resolve to eat a healthy diet, one that consists of fresh fruit and fibre. And maintain an adequate fluid intake of two litres of water per day. Your body is made up of about 60% water, so it’s important to stay properly hydrated. Drinking water is beneficial in so many ways, including aiding weight loss, enhancing your brain function, improving your physical performance and helping maintain a healthy, glowing complexion!
Step two – take regular exercise. The British Heart Foundation recommends 30 minutes of brisk walking per day and between six to eight hours of sleep each night. Easier said than done, we appreciate, but determine to keep active on a daily basis and rest up accordingly.
As for alcohol consumption, the UK Chief Medical Officer’s recommended guideline for both men and women is to drink no more than 14 units a week on a regular basis. Better still, give yourself three or four days a week clear of booze altogether and don’t binge drink.
Despite the fact we run busy lives and going to the doctor or even getting an appointment can be a chore, we also recommend frequent health checks. That’s where Health In Check can provide practical, easily accessible help by coming to your place of work to make sure you stay fit and well.
By taking these simple to follow instructions, you are acting responsibly, allowing your body to function naturally and to stay healthy.
So if you are feeling ever so slightly guilty about having overdone things at Christmas – then don’t. We’re all entitled to a party once in a while.
But, equally, you don’t need to become obsessive about how you allow your body to find its natural equilibrium. Detox isn’t a dirty word – but there’s no need to take drastic steps to find a “cure” this January.
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Abigail Morakinyo has also been shortlisted for the 'Mum and Working' Award and has reached the final.
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