Originally published 11 January 2019. Last updated 17 November 2020. On how to cleanse and detox from holiday indulgences.
From experience, I can tell you that 2-3 months of consistent overeating can lead to some significant weight gain. There was a time in the not-so-distant past that I was able to gain 8 lbs. between Halloween and January 1st.
A weekend or two of binging won’t make a difference, but consistency is key–whether it comes to gaining or losing weight.
How do you “reset” your body after the holidays and possibly undo some of the things you did to your body? Here’s the good news — you don’t need to worry about purchasing any detoxifiers or internal body cleansers.
The key on how to cleanse is to get back to the basics.
5 Ways to Detoxify and Cleanse Your System After the Holidays
1. Consume Whole, Minimally Processed Foods. One of the best ways to keep your body functioning optimally is to consume more fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. I know I sound like a broken record. Why whole foods? They are great sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Imagine your body is a car. The quality of fuel we put into it may help it run more optimally. Think of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains as fuel of the highest octane. These foods help keep our body running smoothly.
2. Get Up and Move. When it’s cold outside, it can be so easy to want to stay indoors, sit by the cozy fire, and catch up on all of those Netflix shows that your friends keep bugging you to finish. Here’s the good news: you don’t have to brave the cold to move. Within the comfort of your home, you can:
- Walk or jog in place
- Jump rope (or if you don’t have a real jump rope, pretend!)
- Perform push-ups or sit-ups
- Shadow box
3. Stay Hydrated. We often think that dehydration most often occurs in warm weather. Believe it or not, you’re also likely to be dehydrated when it’s cold outside. Don’t forget to keep your cells functioning their best by consuming enough water. Notice: I said enough. No need to consume too much! If you do, you might end up excreting some of those vitamins and minerals that you spent so much time and care consuming from tip #1.
4. Relax. The body does need both rest and sleep. Finding time to rest the body and mind is important, especially after the holidays. You may have spent the past two months with the front door of your home acting as a revolving door with family and friends coming and going as they please. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about social support, but too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. There may be a point where you just need your own space and quiet time. Finding some real quiet time to breathe, and possibly even meditate, can help you recharge.
5. Sleep Well. Rest and sleep are two different concepts. I used a car analogy a second ago, but I’m going to switch for a moment use a computer analogy here. Sleep, particularly deep sleep, is like providing your brain with software updates and providing it with a hard reboot. A large misconception is that when you’re asleep, you’re giving your brain a rest. This is not true.
The brain is actually quite active while you're asleep. It’s sorting things, cleaning out junk files, and making sense of the events of the day. These are all important tasks for feeling your best when you wake up. Furthermore, your body can use this time to repair damaged muscles and replenish your immune system. The immune system helps cleanse the system by killing harmful microbes.
How to Cleanse: Summary
The best ways to cleanse the body after a prolonged period of not-so-healthy behaviors would be to restart some of these healthier habits.
If you're looking for a quick special cleanse that you can buy from a store, think again. Researchers have found that within a couple of weeks after quitting smoking, someone that has smoked cigarettes for years and years can have their body repair itself in some incredible ways. This is without any special cleansing agents.
The same can be said for other habits. After the holidays have ended, go back to some of the healthier behaviors I mentioned, and give your body a jump-start to cleansing itself.
Reducing the Effects of Alcohol: Are There Supplements for Hangovers?
Speaking of the year-end holidays. While they are now behind us (where it seems as though alcohol flows like water), we are rapidly approaching SuperBowl Sunday, Valentine’s Day and, of course, St. Patrick’s Day, where alcohol will also be quite plentiful.
Can anything be done to prevent some of the effects of consuming too much alcohol?
You may have heard about staying hydrated (namely, drinking plenty of water) after a hangover.
Supplements for Negative Effects of Alcohol Consumption
With the advances in nutritional biochemistry, we are learning more and more about how the body processes the foods we consume.
Sometimes this knowledge leads to real breakthroughs. But other times, it leads to theories that don’t always pan out.
Where do we stand when it comes to using supplements to help prevent some of the negative effects of alcohol consumption?
Let me start with what we do know about how the human body processes alcohol. The word “alcohol” is really just a nickname for the stuff we actually consume. When we take a swig of wine, hard liquor, or beer, we’re actually consuming something called ethyl alcohol.
I make this distinction because there are different types of alcohol. For example, rubbing alcohol, which you would NOT want to drink, is made of something called isopropyl alcohol.
Supplements for Negative Effects of Alcohol Consumption
Whenever we eat or drink anything, the body has to break this stuff down into something usable. Whatever can’t be used gets excreted.
In the case of ethyl alcohol, we all have a specific protein in our bodies right now that help break down ethyl alcohol–something called alcohol dehydrogenase. Don’t let this fancy name fool you. All alcohol dehydrogenase does is help break down ethyl alcohol in the body.
But when this happens, one of the byproducts of this process is a known cancer causing agent: something called acetaldehyde.
Have you heard that consuming too much alcohol may lead to increased risk for cancer? Part of that is due to this bugger called acetaldehyde, which again is made when the body tries to break down alcohol.
Why did I bother going into all of these details? Because here’s the kicker… when it comes to vitamins C, B1, and l-cysteine, it turns out that these nutrients tend to help our bodies fight off the effects of acetaldehyde.
What Does the Research Say?
Before you run out and buy Costco-sized bottles of these vitamins, we need to stop for a second and think about whether research supports this claim.
Unfortunately, at this time, the majority of research on whether vitamins C, B1, and l-cysteine help slow the effects of alcohol has been studied in animals, like laboratory mice. As I’ve said on my podcast many times before, animal studies are ok, but humans are built differently than animals.
Furthermore, we consume foods in different quantities, we follow other lifestyle behaviors that animals don’t, and so on. In fact, a separate but interesting finding was that vitamin B6 may also help the body process alcohol.
Tip: Drink in Moderation
What to do? The best thing is to follow the advice of most health agencies: drink in moderation.
For men, this means consume no more than 2 drinks per day. For ladies, no more than 1 drink per day.
An example of 1 drink is a 12 oz. beer., 6 oz. of wine., or 1.5 oz. of hard liquor like whiskey or gin. Notice I said “or.” This means each of those examples counts as 1 drink.
By sticking to these recommendations, you will likely reduce your risk for some of these negative effects of over-consuming alcohol.
If you do end up going a little overboard, drink plenty of water, get some rest, and let the body do its thing. An occasional night of heavy drinking won’t cause cancer…just try not to make it a habit.