The Truth About Pre-Pregnancy Detoxes

Should I Detox Before Trying to Conceive?

Before I give you my answer, let me apologize. If there's one thing that drives me bonkers it's having someone answer a question with, "it depends" or another question. Which is what I'm going to do now.

So, should you detox before trying to get pregnant? Well, it depends. What exactly do you mean by "detox"?

If what you mean is following a highly restrictive juice cleanse, drinking laxative teas, or chugging charcoal, then my answer is, "No, just don't." If you mean treating your body to deliciously nourishing food, movement you enjoy, and saying farewell to stress, then my answer is, "That sounds like a great idea."

What Does Detox Mean?

Detoxification is how your body neutralizes and dumps dangerous substances, which we typically call toxins. Some of these toxins come from the outside in things like the foods you eat, the air you breathe, and the products you put on your skin. Others your body makes all on its own as it carries out a head spinning number of  processes to keep you alive.

Your body has a whole detoxification system in place that allows it to flush out harmful and unwanted stuff. Your job is to support it with healthful habits. 

Usually when someone says they're detoxing or on a detox diet, they mean they're eating a very limited number of foods, taking supplements, and drinking juices, smoothies, or detox drinks in an attempt to get rid of impurities. Unfortunately, a lot of detoxes and cleanses don't improve our ability to detoxify.

What's Wrong with Most Commercial Cleanses and Detoxes?

They're too restrictive

Most commercial cleanses and detox protocols limit perfectly healthful foods. And in most cases eliminating those foods means you'll be going without the nutrients your body actually needs to properly detoxify itself, not to mention the nutrients needed to promote fertility and have a healthy pregnancy.

You can't eat like that forever

Temporary fixes, like most detoxes, are just that, temporary. They often don't address the root of the issue and deal with why it is we feel we need to go on a "cleanse" in the first place. It's impossible to live on cayenne pepper, maple syrup, water, and lemon juice indefinitely, so what will you do when the detox diet is over? 

They cost too doggone much

Seriously, this one's a big deal. Those fresh pressed juice cleanses are far from cheap, even if you make the juice yourself. The amount of vegetables and fruit you would need to use to make one full meal of juice is astounding. You could just as easily make two salads and stay satisfied for far longer with the same amount of produce and reap even more benefits. 

Some are downright dangerous

I swear I'm not a fearmonger, but I am a truth seeker and sharer. And the truth is some of these cleanses and detoxes are dangerous, especially if followed for too long or without proper supervision. The ones to be most cautious about are any that restrict fluids or require you to take unverified supplements, herbs, or substances (yeah, I'm looking at you activated charcoal.)

Cleanses and Detoxes to Avoid

Master Cleanse

I know it worked for your favorite celebrity. I know she dropped 20 pounds in 2 weeks. But just because she lost the weight doesn't mean she kept it off and it sure doesn't mean she was any healthier or happier at the end of those 2 weeks.

Why is the master cleanse such a bad idea, you ask? Well, for one it's woefully lacking in fiber, protein, fat, calories, and most vitamins and minerals. And your body needs those things, especially if you're preparing for the hugely taxing job of knitting together another human being.

Water only for extended periods of time/ No fluids or foods without medical supervision

It's even more restrictive than the master cleanse (who would have thought it was even possible to be more restricted than spicy lemonade?) Water only fasts and total fasts are not a good idea for prepping for pregnancy. Conception and pregnancy require a lot of nutrients. Not getting enough of them does not cleanse or detoxify your body, it starves and weakens it.

Juice Only Cleanse for extended periods of time

Juice, even when freshly made with a good balance of fruit and vegetables, lacks one of the most important things to support your body's ability to detox: fiber. Fiber is invaluable for regular bowel movements, and bowel movements are one of the main ways your body filters out waste. 

Activated Charcoal

Good googly, where do I even start with this one? Because charcoal is used by doctors to treat some types of poisoning, many people think it must be great at ridding their bodies of toxins.

Doctors use it because it's extremely effective at trapping certain chemicals when those chemicals are still in the stomach and small intestine. The only problem is, charcoal's action stops there. It does not get absorbed and float through your blood, drawing toxins out of your organs and blood the way some of its proponents suggest.

Aside from doing nothing to help your body clean out toxins, drinking charcoal can worsen or cause constipation. Which isn't going to help anyone dispose of waste. Plus, it can interfere with your ability to digest and absorb food, drinks, herbs, supplements, and medications.

How to Detox Properly

The best thing any of us can do to detox is support our bodies' innate detox system by doing what we can to live an overall healthy lifestyle.

Eat More Plant Based Foods

This is one of the most important keys to supporting your body's ability to handle the toxins it encounters daily. Plant based foods are high in fiber, which keeps things moving along the poop shoot. Proper digestion and elimination are vital for proper detoxification.

Plant based foods are also loaded with the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients your organs use to neutralize and flush out toxic substances. 

Aim to eat foods like legumes, whole grains, cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, and berries often. 

Drink Plenty of Water

Water plays a role in every process in your body. Without it your liver, kidney, intestines, lymph system, and skin are not going to work at their optimal level, which means your ability to detox will not be as efficient as it could be. Water:

  1. Cleans the pipes, so to speak. Water is necessary for bowel movements and urination, two ways your body says "bye bye" to byproducts of metabolism and other waste.
  2. Is a major part of sweat. Sweating is one way your body releases unwanted substances.
  3. Is important for liver function. Without water NONE of the pathways your liver uses to neutralize and kick toxins out would be possible. 
  4. Is the fluid part of lymph fluid. Lymph picks up dead cells, waste, bacteria, and viruses as it travels through your body so those little nasties can be filtered out. 

Use Plenty of Herbs and Spices

This is an often overlooked key to detoxing and wellness in general. Use herbs and spices in and on everything you can think of, every single day. Not only do they provide additional phytonutrients and fiber, many of them also directly support our detox organs or boost detoxification. Some of my favorite flavor enhancers that double as detox enhancers are onions, ginger, and garlic.

Sleep Well

While you rest, your body is busy repairing, replenishing, and tidying up. It seems our brains are especially busy clearing out toxins while we sleep. Not getting enough sleep? You may not be giving your body enough time to expel waste. Here are seven tips to help you catch up on your beauty sleep.

Get Moving

Regular activity pumps lymph around your body, keeps your bowels moving, makes you sweat, causes you to breathe deeply, and improves circulation. All of which means your body is better able to remove harmful substances. If you need some new fitness ideas, here are 110 fun options to choose from. 

Destress

Psychological stress causes your body to form toxins, can interfere with normal bowel movements, and leads to shallow breathing. It also makes it far more difficult to eat well, sleep well, and feel motivated enough to get moving.

Managing stress can go a long way in helping your body to rid itself of rubbish not contributing to its fertility and wellness.

Some of the best ways to destress are incredibly simple and incredibly effective:

  • Journal
  • Go for a walk
  • Practice meditation

Decrease Your Toxic Load

Aim to reduce the amount of "toxins" you're exposed to. Simple as that. Well, almost as simple that. The truth is there are some things we simply can't get away from without living in a bubble (and who knows what that bubble would be made of anyway.)

The goal here is not to be "perfect" or become fearful of every chemical. The goal is to take steps to reduce your exposure where and when possible.

Some simple ways to decrease your toxic load include:

  1. Using glass or stainless steel containers to store and heat food in (don't put steel in the microwave) place of plastic.
  2. Switching to glass bottles in place of plastic water bottles.
  3. Choosing body care items without parabens and artificial fragrances.
  4. Washing your hands after handling receipts, especially before eating.
  5. Installing water filters on your kitchen sink and bathroom showers.
  6. Eating organic, pasture raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs, plus choosing low mercury wild caught seafood and fish whenever possible.
  7. Opting for organic produce if your favorites happens to be on the Dirty Dozen list or sticking to produce lower in pesticide residue.
  8. Avoiding artificial sweeteners, colors, and flavors in your drinks and foods.

Just remember, detoxing isn't something you have to force your body to do through deprivation. It's a process your body carries out all on its own. Give it what it needs to perform at its highest level and thrive.

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