A winter detox can help you boost your mood and reset your health. Learn what to do, what not to do, and what to expect to experience the best results during a seasonal detox.
The shorter, darker days of winter are here, a time when many of us experience more irritability, sadness, lack of motivation, anxiety, fatigue, and a general case of the blahs. Moodiness and low energy are often a hangover from all of the things we’ve put our bodies through beginning in the fall season.
From Halloween to New Year’s Day, life is typically overflowing with an abundance of family and school activities, stressful work commitments, travel, rich foods and a lack of sleep. With the holidays in the rear view mirror, January is an ideal time to “winter” by embracing the quiet, reflective nature of the season and detoxing from everything life has thrown at us. You’ll not only reset your mood, but you’ll also boost your health.
Some of the practices you incorporate during your detox may even turn into longer lifestyle changes, helping you achieve greater mental clarity, improved health, more energy, and an increased sense of calm in the long term.
Of course, not all detoxes are created equal and some can do more harm than good. Read on to learn the best practices to plan for and experience a detox that’s supportive and healthy for your mind, body and spirit.
What is a detox?
Detoxification is the process of removing “toxins” or poisonous substances and metabolic waste products from the body. The body naturally detoxes throughout the gut, liver and at the cellular level. A carefully planned and executed detox can help support the body’s natural detoxification process.
To get the most out of your detox, a cleanse should not be strictly about diet. This is an ideal time to re-evaluate the chemicals you’re putting on your skin and the types of cleaning products you’re using in your household. Many skincare products, fragrances, cleaning solutions and plastics contain BPA and phthalates, which are synthetic chemicals linked to hormone disruption. Choose products containing all-natural ingredients and begin replacing plastic containers with glass.
A detox also presents the perfect opportunity to implement a mindfulness practice, take a break from technology and clean up cluttered spaces that contribute to stress and anxiety. Just as clearing physical clutter helps us feel more energized, clearing mental clutter frees space to process deeper emotions and feelings. When we take time to sit in the present moment through meditation or breathwork, we soothe the nervous system, helping to rest and restore the mind and the body.
Three phases of detoxification. While the gut is our first line of defense, letting good things in and keeping the bad things out, the liver and kidneys also play a vital role. The liver metabolizes carbs, fats, and proteins, aids in the digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins, produces bile and metabolizes and breaks down hormones. The kidneys help filter chemical substances from the blood and create urine to purify the blood from chemical substances
The body is constantly detoxing itself, but there are things we can do to support the natural process and those things can vary depending on the time of the year and the type of climate you live in.
Detox for the winter season. In many parts of the country, winter is cold and dry, which is why you wouldn’t follow the same detox that you might during the spring or summer months.
With the holidays behind us, January is an ideal time to do a detox, especially if you’re already planning to participate in Dry January, a global challenge to give up beer, wine or spirits for one month. And since a detox is more fun with supportive friends and knowledgeable experts who can provide guidance along the way, Sarrah Chapman and I are once again offering our January Vibrant Health Reset. Check out the dates and details HERE!
What not to do during a winter detox.
Three detox approaches that will set you up for failure include:
1️⃣. Juice fasting. A juice fast can be useful during certain times of the year when implemented appropriately. During the colder months, however, cold juices will imbalance the body, which needs warming foods.
- Out-of-season and tropical fruits can contribute to too much cold or dampness in the body.
- Juices contain high levels of sugar can further dysregulate blood sugar, especially if you consumed more sugar over the holidays.
- Juice fasts are missing essential amino acids and other nutrients needed for the different phases of a detox.
2️⃣. Eating salads. From an Ayurvedic perspective, salads are “Vata” and winter is a cold, dry Vata season. It’s no wonder our natural inclination is to eat warming, moisturizing foods and beverages like soups, healthy fats and hot teas.
- Most salad ingredients are out-of-season and not supportive to the body during the winter months.
- Consuming out-of-season, cold foods during the winter creates an imbalance in the body and makes us more susceptible to colds, flus and other illnesses.
- Cold, raw foods cause your body to work extra hard to warm itself, making it less efficient at absorbing the nutrients in your food.
3️⃣. Not getting necessary nutrients. The winter detox I guide my clients through has three phases. Each phase requires a different set of nutrients to best support the liver. For example:
- Phase 1: B Vitamins, glutathione, and folate
- Phase 2: Amino acids, Taurine and Arginine
- Phase: Salvia root, ginkgo and St. John’s Wort
In our 10-day Vibrant Health Winter Reset, kicking off in January, you’ll learn the complete list of essential nutrients you need to support each phase of the detoxification process.
10-Day Vibrant Health Winter Reset
Our Vibrant Health Winter Reset is designed to set you up for success, supporting healthy inflammation, blood sugar balance, gentle detoxification and warmth during the cold winter months.
Here are just a few of the strategies Sarrah and I plan to offer in the [Vibrant Health Winter Reset]:
Throughout the detox enjoy simple meals, including soups, steamed vegetables, comforting breakfasts and sweet treats to keep you motivated and energized each step of the way.
Warm soups. Soups and broths are inexpensive and easy to prepare, providing you with the essential nutrients and electrolytes to keep your cells happy and energized while you detox.
Bieler’s Vegetable Broth Recipe
Enjoy this warming broth daily during your detox.
Bieler’s Vegetable Broth Recipe
From Nutrition Therapy Institute Natural Foods Chef Program
Ingredients (makes 8 cups):
4 cups water
3 medium zucchinis, roughly chopped
4 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 pound string beans
1 bunch parsley, stems removed
up to 1⁄4 cup each nettle leaf and dandelion greens (optional)
1-2 cloves garlic
1. Place water, celery, zucchini, string beans, nettle, dandelion, and garlic if using in a large pot and bring to a boil.
2. Boil for about 10 minutes or until all vegetables are bright green and tender.
3. Remove from heat and add parsley.
4. Use an immersion blender or food processor to blend until smooth.
For a more nourishing and filling soup, use broth instead of water. You can use vegetable or bone broth as desired. Feel free to add any desired spices, though for illness and allergies, I find that the bland and basic soup seems most calming.
Meditation. You’ll be encouraged to include 10 minutes of meditation each day. Meditation calms the mind and is effective at reducing the mind chatter that causes anxiety and stress. My favorite app for guided meditations is the free Insight Timer. Sarrah will also be guiding us through a meditation to help connect with your soul intentions for the new year.
Lifestyle adjustments. Warmth is key during a winter detox. Dress in warm, comfortable clothing, drink hot herbal teas like dandelion, milk thistle and ginger, aim for 7-9 hours (or more) of sleep each night, and follow a gentle exercise routine like yoga, walking or restorative movement classes.
Shower hydrotherapy. Although I recommend warm baths and showers during the winter season, short bursts of cold water on the body can activate the system and stimulate lymph flow, helping you detox. Shower hydrotherapy can also be beneficial if you struggle with depression. Once you’re warm in the shower, turn the water as cold as you can tolerate for 30 seconds. Then, turn it back as hot as you can tolerate until your warmed up. Do this two more times. End on really hot.
Tech detox. Choose at least one day during your detox to avoid all screens and technology. Shut down computers, turn your phone off or silence all notifications except necessary phone calls. Also, if possible, avoid technology in the evening to better support sleep.
Prep for your detox. During your detox, you should avoid sugar, including naturally added sugar, refined grain products, alcohol, caffeine and processed foods. Wean yourself off of caffeine three to five days leading up to the start of the program. You may drink a cup of green tea each day during the detox since green tea contains nutrients that support detoxification.
For more tips on quitting caffeine, check out my article Kicking Caffeine for Coffee Lovers!
How will a detox make you feel? In any detox, the body is encouraged to release and eliminate toxins, which can cause reactions in some individuals. Common symptoms can include headaches, nausea, fatigue and generally feeling under the weather. I want your detox to be gentle so if these symptoms arise for you, I offer interventions that help you detox at the speed and degree that is appropriate for you.
While the first few days of a detox might be a little challenging as your body adjusts, the rewards will last long after your detox is over. You’ll feel less sluggish, more energized and enjoy greater mental clarity as you embrace the new opportunities coming your way. I can’t think of a better way to kick off the new year!
To learn more or to sign up for the January Vibrant Health Reset go HERE. There’s an option to include detox supplemental support with the program. You can learn more about that HERE.
*Please consult your health practitioner before beginning a detox, or contact me to learn the best approach for addressing your personal health situation.