Thanksgiving may be over, but our bodies are still recovering from the holiday-amount of alcohol and food we consumed last night. And while it's not necessarily the quality and substance of food that causes concern, it's the portions that the holiday has become notorious for that worries health professionals.
"The traditional Thanksgiving dinner of turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce and potatoes isn’t necessarily unhealthy, especially if cooked from scratch and accompanied by lots of veggies," said Hannah Braye, registered nutritionist and senior technical advisor at ADM Protexin to AOL Lifestyle. "However, the issue is usually the volume that people eat. Thanksgiving dinner is reportedly the largest eating event in the United States, with people eating more than on any other day of the year."
Explains Braye, overindulging can occasionally consequent in a plethora of health complications, including increased pressure on the digestive system because the stomach has to expand to make room for all the food, which then leads to things like a spike in blood sugars and discomfort.
But there are ways to ensure your body is well equipped to handle and digest the mass of foods at last night's meal through detoxification. "Detoxification is therefore not a quick fix, but something which we need to support through diet and lifestyle on a continuous basis, all year round," the expert maintains.
Stay well hydrated
An important function of the kidneys is the removal of a wide variety of potentially toxic metabolites and metabolic wastes from the body. Elimination of unwanted substances via the urine depends on several variables that are, in turn, highly dependent on hydration status. Because of this, detoxification is commonly associated with fluid intake or hydration. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is around 3.7 liters for men and 2.7 liters for women, with around 20 percent of this expected to come from food, and the rest from drinks. The best way to judge whether you are drinking enough water is to monitor the color of your urine, which should be a pale straw color.
Looking after your microbiome
One of the largest detoxification components of the body is the trillions of bacteria found in the digestive tract. Therefore, supporting a healthy microbial balance by consuming traditionally fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, live yogurt and miso and taking good quality probiotic supplements (Bio-Kult Advanced Multi-Strain Formulation is recommended). Having a balanced gut flora is important to ensure healthy regular bowel movements, as well as improve overall digestion. Certain strains of gut bacteria are able to bind to toxins from food and water. For example, probiotic bacteria have been found to bind heavy metals such as cadmium and lead at the levels commonly found in foods. They also play a role in helping to support the health of the gut lining and the gut-liver axis by reducing levels of circulating endotoxins.
Eat more fiber
As a primary detoxification route, we need to ensure we are passing regular bowel movements (naturopathically, one to three well-formed movements a day is considered optimal), so eating sufficient fiber is important. This is often overlooked by people following water or juices fasts, who are best advised to supplement with gentle fiber while fasting. Fiber is found in high amounts in fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and beans, nuts and seeds. When increasing fiber in your diet, it’s advisable to do this gradually to avoid aggravating the digestive tract.
Eat a varied diet
Research shows that numerous nutrients from food can modulate detoxification processes. Following a mixed, varied diet, full of different plant-based whole foods is thought to be more beneficial for detoxification than taking high-dose supplementation of single nutrients or the repeat, daily ingestion of large quantities of the same food. Dietary diversity is also beneficial for the gut microbiome, with studies showing that those who eat over 30 different plant foods a week have much higher microbial diversity in the gut (a hallmark of good health).
8 foods to regularly eat more of
Cruciferous vegetables (especially watercress, garden cress and broccoli)
Allium vegetables (such as leeks, garlic and onions)
Apiaceous vegetables (celery, carrot and parsley)
Resveratrol (from red grapes)
Omega 3 (from oily fish such as mackerel, wild salmon, anchovies and sardines)
Quercetin-rich foods (apples, apricots, blueberries, onion, kale, alfalfa sprouts, green beans, broccoli, black tea and chili powder)
Daidzein-rich foods (traditionally fermented soy products such as tofu)
Lycopene-rich foods (cooked tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon)