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Monday Health & Wellness: How (and Why) to Detox After Vacation

admin November 5, 2012

November 2, 2011

Image by Flood G. via Compfight

Last Saturday, we had our annual “Family Christmas.”  This is where all my husband’s family gets together — his grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and all their children.  At this point, there are over 30 people in this group (though not everyone made it).  We rented out a church basement and there was tons of food to eat.

However, because most of the family does not eat the way we do, we were left with mostly “compromise” choices.  I brought a few things (some dried apples, bananas, nuts, and a pan of scalloped potatoes), but for the most part, we were at the mercy of the others.  It was not that important to us to make a big deal about it, although we did try to select the best options we had.  There were two types of plain (factory-farmed) meat and cured ham; “loaded mashed potatoes” (unfortunately made with store-bought mashed potatoes), corn, green beans (both from a can), and various types of bread, fresh veggies, and desserts.  We selected plain meat, fresh veggies, and potatoes, and each had a little dessert just for fun.  We stuck to water or fresh-brewed iced tea to drink, ignoring various “punch” options.

Even so, it wasn’t really ideal for our family and no one felt quite well after.  At least twice my kids told me their stomachs hurt after eating.  They also didn’t get naps because we were there 10:30 – 7 and the boys had already had slight colds when we arrived.  I knew when we were driving home that I would need to detox them.

Why Detox?

Unfortunately, our “food” supply (and I use the term loosely, when describing conventionally-farmed and processed foods) are both devoid of necessary nutrients and filled with chemicals, preservatives, and all kinds of other junk.  It makes me really sad that we can’t just walk into a party, a person’s home, or even a regular grocery store and have any easy options.  But that is the way it is.

These additives really wreak havoc on peoples’ bodies, lowering their immune systems and causing inflammation as the body tries to deal with the junk and get it out.  People who eat these foods on a regular basis do not notice this effect because the body has become accustomed to dealing with it (they probably have chronic inflammation and may have some chronic pain or other conditions they’re dealing with that they have not realized are related to food, though).  People who do not eat these foods on a regular basis will feel sick pretty quickly.

Since we don’t always have control over what’s available to eat, we sometimes eat what we’re given and then deal with any consequences later.  I would not worry too much about just a snack or even a small meal, but when you’re away from home all day, or for multiple days, and several meals in a row consistent of “junk,” helping the body to detox is a good idea.

If you have been away from home and eaten very differently before, then you know how you feel the next day — you may experience fatigue, headaches, diarrhea, constipation, and so on.  Those symptoms are a sign that your body is trying to deal with the “junk.”  However, your body might need some help.  Our bodies do have natural detoxification systems, but when overloaded, they can use a boost.  So that’s our goal — boost our body’s natural systems.

In my children, I have noticed an interesting sign of a need to detox — strong ammonia-smelling urine.  It is very different from the ammonia smell from diapers sitting in a pail or from a sopping-wet overnight diaper (in which cases it can be completely normal).  In a case where there is a food intolerance or reaction occurring, the baby or young child (someone still in diapers) will usually pee once in a diaper.  It will not be that wet.  They will act as though they are in pain (they are) and will scream until the diaper is changed.  Despite that it is not very wet at all and the urine is fairly fresh, it will smell so strongly of ammonia it is like “waves” of it are coming off the diaper.  If the diaper is not changed immediately, this can cause open sores on the baby’s bottom.

In my experience this super powerful ammonia is always a sign of either dehydration or a food reaction, and especially outside of summer is a good indication of a need to detox.  If your baby is experiencing this, you may want to investigate.

How to Detox

If you’ve determined that you or your family needs to detox, the next thing is to know how to do it.

The body’s major detoxification organ is the liver.  The liver filters all the junk that comes through and helps excrete it from the body.  The kidneys, as the organ that filters liquid waste, are also involved.  Finally, the gut flora in the small and large intestine can be affected by the junk.  These are the three systems we want to focus on.

My primary goal was to boost liver function.  Secondary was to boost the overall immune system (which was also because of their colds).  Third was to get probiotics into them.

Here is what I did:

  • Catnip, clove, and ginger tea (the first two are for peaceful rest and teething; ginger is for a cold as well as boosting liver function)
  • Kombucha (for liver function and probiotics)
  • Crushed ginger (I mixed with sweet almond oil and applied to the feet.  You can use any food-grade carrier oil)
  • Scout Out (for colds and general immune boosting)
  • Soup made with bone broth (to draw out toxins and soothe the system)
  • Epsom salt bath (about 2 c. epsom salts in a warm bath tub)
  • Lots of water
  • Extra rest

This is what I chose to do.  These are all safe for small children, starting around 6 – 12 months.  Had I been working only with older children or adults, I may have also chosen:

  • Bentonite clay (consumed internally; about 1/2 tsp. in 8 oz. of water or take 2 – 4 capsules, or in a bath)
  • Dandelion root tea (2 – 4 cups over the next 24 hours)
  • Additional forms of probiotics, like plain yogurt, kefir, fermented veggies, etc. (this is okay for small kids too; I just didn’t do it)
  • Steam/sweating (for teens/adults only)
  • Fresh juice (homemade; carrot, ginger, beet, greens, mixed with pineapple, apple, blueberry, or other fruit)
  • Magnesium oil spray (actually I did personally use this)
  • Herbal multivitamin (extra nutrients will boost your body’s ability to fight)
  • FCLO (we are still out! ah!)

What to Expect

As you are detoxing, your body will produce “symptoms.”  This is actually a good sign!  You may experience:

  • Fatigue/tiredness
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Minor acute illness (like catching a cold even if you normally wouldn’t)

These are signs that your body is clearing the junk out of your system.  They should last no more than a day or so and should not be severe.  If they last longer or are severe, then something else may be going on and you may ask for help from a medical professional.

A detox from a short-term stint away from home (1 – 3 days) should not take more than a day or two to recover from.  Longer times may take longer.  If you need to do a “serious” detox because you are just switching to real food, please seek the advice of a medical professional.  This advice is meant to be what works for our family on a very temporary basis.  As always, those with more serious concerns may need professional advice.

Do you detox after a brief vacation away from home?  How do you do it?

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  1. Ah! Perfect timing! I’m going out of town this weekend and will be the mercy of the loving hands preparing my mostly-processed food. I would never complain because the volunteers who prepare this food for us are precious, but my body always feels rough afterward. Good to know this now and be able to do some advance preparation by making sure I have the necessary remedies on hand. Thank you.

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  2. Great post and thanks for the recommendations. Lately I’ve been trying to remember to take some activated charcoal shortly after eating junk on the rare occasions that I eat out to keep it from getting into my system as much as possible. I need to remember to take some to leave at my mom’s house since that’s where I run into compromising the most with processed food.

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  3. Very interesting article–especially the part about the ammonia since I was just asked a question about that a few days ago.

    I want to add a caution to the end, though: Do not detox while you are nursing a baby–the toxins will also come out in your milk and affect your baby.

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  4. What kind of magnesium oil spray do you use? Where do you purchase it? Thanks!!! – Christin

    Reply

  5. I have been putting Epsom salt in the bath recently. I was told that if my water is chlorinated that it won’t work. I am assuming that most water is chlorinated. Do you know anything about this? Thanks for your help!

    Reply

  6. I love bentonite clay baths to detox. This is a great idea!!

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  7. Is the catnip real catnip? Like the kind you give cats? I am being serious, so if this is a dumb questions, try not to laugh too hard. Thank you 🙂

    Reply

  8. […] prepared that if you’re not used to this, you might get sick after…and think about a nice detox when you get home!  (We found ourselves in just this position last […]

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  9. Is it safe to detox while breastfeeding? Also do you have any suggestions on detoxing due to under active thyroid?

    Reply

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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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