Ode to the mighty incredible, hardest working organ in our bodies, I detox for thee. (And all the other systems in my body.)
Recently I had a required detox retreat for class. I’m in my second year of school, and it’s no less intense as last year, and I had the brilliant urge to get a puppy on my month break between terms. Really, what the hell was I thinking? He’s a sweetie bug, cutie, snuggler, goofy ball dork, and I am happy to have and love him. But, still, puppies are a huge responsibility and a time suck: what was I thinking? Hahaha. “Just keep moving forward”, I tell myself. Needless to say, the ‘required’ part was adding a considerable stress load to my brain ‘plate’ of daily To Do items. What to do with the puppy, Jones, my other dog, Indigo, and the books that need to be read for my other classes, and my own health and race training. Insert elevated stress levels here.
Detoxes are important to help flush our systems of harmful toxins, be them from the air we breathe, food we ingest, or chemical processes in our bodies. It also, as I learned, has an element of emotional detoxing. Stress, which shows up as cortisol in our system, is detoxed from our bodies. I learned later that this is a chemical reason behind the reactions I had. This was also my biggest challenge for this detox retreat: relax. I had been craving knitting, it being fall and all. I started a very small knitting project, which had a beneficial side effect of occupying my hands during the long discussions.
The assignment was to detox for 7-10 days. We were given a few products to try, packed with supportive nutrients for phase 1 & 2 liver detox. The dietary guides weren’t too restrictive for me. I already have a pretty sugar free diet, no gluten, dairy, eggs, no alcohol. Basically, for me this meant I had to eliminate eggs and wine. I didn’t expect to have any standard detox symptoms (insert hindsight snicker). Little did I know.
The biggest challenge, as it turned out, for me was reducing stress from my life, which shows up as a chemical (cortisol) that works its ‘magic’ in the body. I fought it, resisted the retreat experience as much as I could, thinking I had bigger and better things to be doing, until I realized that I needed to experience this. I needed to heal my body, and I needed to know what it was like for myself and future clients I work with. Stress was clearly something that I wasn’t dealing with as well as I thought I was. I thought I was all mellow and organic in regards to dealing with all the stressors in my life. I was wrong, very, very wrong. I’ve come to accept that I am much more stressed than I thought, and it has a profound effect on my health. I eventually ‘let go’ and grabbed my knitting (pre-retreat instructions said ‘no homework…only relaxing activities like hand knitting’). There’s a detox reaction from stress too (more to follow, see Day 7). Following is a sample of what I ate and what I experienced.
Day 1: smoothie with the supplements (Vital Nutrients, ‘Vital Clear’), blending with water and some fruit, per the protocol I was given. Plus its ‘Fiber’ supplement that should have been named “Omega”, since there wasn’t that much fiber (less than 5 grams) and made up with mostly chia and flax seeds (good sources of omega 3s). It’s always a little angst inducing taking a new supplement. Any sort of a plethora of digestive results can result. Fortunately, nothing! Huzzah! And whew!
Day 2: craving some dark chocolate, at least. And the monster started to set in.
Day 3: I replaced the water with almond milk, to add some substance to the smoothie. And smoothies were upped (per the protocol) to two times a day. The monster, Ms. Cranky Pants, arrived by evening. My poor pups had to endure my cranky butt. I did roast a chicken that was very yummy. My best educated guess is that toxins were starting to be expelled from my liver, from my cells.
Day 4: about the same, but the cranky feeling was more intense.
Day 5: start of the detox weekend. We met at the school at noon. All meals from this point on were prepared by the chefs, with focus on our detox. The meals were about half the normal caloric intake I was used to. All vegan, gluten free. And, as a side note, very fresh and delicious; lots of cruciferous vegetables, soothing/healing soups, and juices.
Day 6: full on retreat mood. Yoga was offered for each day. Treatments of acupuncture and lymphatic massage were offered. I took advantage of all. The massage was toward the end of day 6, and helped tremendously. My headache went away and I felt revitalized. This is saying a lot. Due to type of foods, and the lower caloric intake, very little protein and fat, my mind was foggy and everything was tired. I did run about 7 miles that morning, but I was much too tired to just blame the run. The brain fog was apparently common among everyone. Fortunately I didn’t share the constipation that a lot of people seemed to have. At least in that area: ‘all systems go’, thankfully.
Day 7: the last day of the retreat. I was tired, had some brain fog. We met, had breakfast, a light soup, “congee,” that was supposed to be healing for the digestive track and yet filling. It was my least favorite of the meals. But it did fill me up for quite a while. In addition to the physical symptoms, I had emotional symptoms.
Physical: Brain fog and headache. For all days I had a low grade headache, which could have been due to the low estrogen levels that week and the focus on foods that detox estrogen.
Emotional. Clearly the Ms. Cranky Pants me was one, but by the weekend, I had some very significant emotional surges, which were almost alarming. During one of our yoga sessions, I was nearly overcome by an opening feeling. It was a very strong feeling of gratitude. I pretty much wanted to start sobbing, tears, cries. But, yet, still all very positive, like something was being shed, and a new openness was becoming available to me. It was strange, but completely real. Tears during yoga?!? It was a positive experience, so no complaints here.
We mostly had discussions this last day, in which we also discussed how we were feeling at different points in the detox.
Everyone was different. Everyone’s detox experience was different. I think this is an extremely important point. I’ve been through this process. I have my own reactions, experiences, and thoughts; however, my experience will be different from my colleagues and for everyone with whom I work. These experiences will all be different. Why? Because we are all biochemically unique: we all have our own unique biochemical signatures. These unique signatures come from our environment, our families and what we experience: allergies, genetics, and injuries, or experiences make our bodies and how they process toxins, food, air, we are all biochemically unique.
Have you tried a detox? What did it require? How did it make you feel? Or have you been interested in trying one? I’d love to hear your stories!