The new year is a popular time to explore the idea of doing a detox. Although in holistic care circles, you often hear about juice detoxes or colon cleanses, that is not what we’ll be discussing here.
The basic premise of a detox is that you remove a harmful substance from your body. This can be a substance you eat, drink, put on your skin, or use in your home. As it turns out, children can participate in detoxes as well because simply removing a harmful substance or substances is not unsafe. In fact, it could be a helpful tool to bring your child’s wellness to the next level and it is something I often recommend in my practice.
What are some benefits of having your children do a detox?
Give them a mind-body reset: Doing a detox can reset taste buds and help kick cravings.
See how much better they can feel without certain substances keeping them down: We don’t often realize that a substance is causing harm to our bodies until we remove it.
Give their weight loss a jump start: The childhood obesity epidemic is real, and it’s difficult to combat. However, having your child detox from certain foods like sugar, grains, dairy or processed foods, can push their weight loss journey into high gear.
Help them discover some amazing foods they didn’t know they’d love! Choosing to eliminate certain foods like bread/pasta or animal products from your kids’ diets for a period of time can get them out of the habit of eating the same sorts of things all the time.
Bring them in on your health journey: Since many parents embark on their own detoxes during the new year, why not include your kids on that journey? It will make cooking easier if you’re just creating one meal for all, and they’ll experience their own health benefits too.
Now that we’ve established that a gentle detox is safe and can be beneficial to your child, let’s talk about how to go about it.
First you pick what you’re going to remove – This can be one item, a category of items, or several items. It’s always a great idea to speak to their pediatrician before making a sudden change like this just to make sure that there’s no contraindication. For instance, even as an Integrative and Functional Pediatrician, I would never approve certain food-based detoxes for a picky-eating child who is already having trouble maintaining or gaining weight.
Next, you pick for how long. I suggest at least 3 weeks because that’s how long it takes our bodies to readjust. For children and food-based detoxes, you may want to pick a period of time when you have the most control over what they eat, like breaks from school or times when you’re around more to help with their food preparation.
Finally, you help them avoid the item(s) as close to 100% as you can manage for the amount of time you’ve chosen.
When the time period is over, you can reintroduce the item(s) they avoided. For some things, you may find that you never want to reintroduce them, and for others, you may choose to reintroduce them only in moderation.
Ideas for things you can eliminate from their diet:
- Added sugar
- Artificial sweeteners
- Sugary drinks like sodas, sports drinks or juice
- Processed food
- Artificial colors or flavors
- Fast food
- Gluten-containing grains
- All grains
- Animal products
Ideas for things you can eliminate from their bodies:
- Conventional skin products
- Conventional hair products
- Perfumes/scented body products
Ideas for things you can eliminate from their environment:
- Synthetic scents (in laundry detergent, soaps, shampoos, air fresheners)
- Harsh cleaning chemicals
Ideas for things you can eliminate from their daily lives:
- Social media time
- Phone/tablets in the bedroom at night
- Screen time (TV, computer, phone, tablet) after dark or even altogether
Whenever you take something away, you’ll want to replace it with something wholesome. If we take an integrative approach to your child’s detox, we can help support them during this time by adding in some foods, activities, and essential oils to make it an amazing experience for them.
- Make sure they drink lots of water! For added detox support, add some organic lemon or lime slices. Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants to help the body rid itself of toxins.
- Get lots of leafy greens into them. Try to add at least 1 packed cup of leafy greens each day. They are rich in folate, dietary fiber, calcium and powerful antioxidants – super important nutrients for our overall health, but particularly important for aiding in detoxification. The great part is that they can get their greens in so many ways: raw, cooked, juiced, or in a smoothie (great place to hide them for the kids who just don’t love them!)
- Be generous with the garlic, onions and cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables include arugula, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, radishes and turnips. They’re rich in folate, vitamins C, E, and K, dietary fiber, and antioxidants that help protect our cells from DNA damage. Garlic and onions don’t just add flavor, they help your body detoxify, stimulate immune response, and reduce inflammation. They contain flavonoids, which stimulate production of glutathione, an important antioxidant and detoxifier.
- Use essential oils that aid in detoxification. Whenever using essential oils with children, I ALWAYS recommend either diffusing them in a room with open doors, or diluting them at least 1:4 with a carrier oil (such as fractionated coconut oil or sweet almond oil) for topical application. For the purposes of detox, applying them topically to the abdomen and/or the feet is a great way to go. Some oils that help support detoxification areRosemary, Cilantro, Juniper Berry, Geranium, Clove, Thyme and Lemongrass essential oils. Other great choices are the citrus oils like Lemon, Grapefruit, Orange or Tangerine.
- If you’re removing screen time, replace it with other fun activities like family game night, reading books, coloring together, doing yoga or meditation.
As you can see, a gentle detox can be a wonderful, health-changing experience for your children. You may even discover that they embrace the changes and carry them forward for a healthier tomorrow.
|Dr. Jamilet Alegria, M.D., joined the CentreSpring MD team of providers in the fall of 2016 after spending years as a Pediatric Hospitalist at both CHOC Children’s in Orange County and at the Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center Inpatient Pediatrics Unit in Southern California.|
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Categories: Pediatric Wellness