Detoxing and Fasting while Breastfeeding or Pregnant
Detox in the Childbearing Years
Whether it's routine seasonal cleaning or a general new awareness of the importance of detoxification - detox programs are a hot topic for millennials and the foundation of so many modern health trends. Reducing toxins improves whole body function, including optimal immune function. Get sick a lot and/or generally feel run down? Check your toxin load.
NOTE - The following information is for informational purposes ONLY. Be intelligent, please. Use information provided to you after your own research and thorough understanding for your personal situation. You are the only one that can truly make decisions for the health of yourself and your children. Thank you for being responsible.
Are detoxification programs safe while breastfeeding or pregnant? The more in-depth question is, are detoxification programs safe, or necessary, at all?
First things first - your body detoxes (or should detox) every single day....errr.... night. What goes in during the day should digest (read: provide nourishment to your body and eliminate any toxins) every 10-24 hours. Ever seen the half life of medications stretch out over a day or more? The liver and kidneys are the main organs that have to process these medications... as well as everything that is ingested through the intestines, lungs, and skin. The longer it takes the organs to process a chemical (which is any food/nutrient or toxin), the harder it is on your body. This is partly because some toxins (medications, supplements, synthetic foods, sugars, processed foods, "junk" foods, environmental toxins...etc.) reduce the function of one or more systems of the body and partly because digestion is stagnant. Ever eaten beet roots and pooped red for 2-3 days? If so, you need to improve your digestive system.
During breastfeeding, the biggest influence of fasting programs is on milk supply due to lowered food intake. There are some programs that dump too many toxins into the system without eliminating them adequately, and thus increasing toxins in the breastmilk. Simply downing a bunch of green juice isn't necessarily going to get the digestive tract moving. We'll talk more about this below.
During pregnancy, we need to be careful of reducing overall gestational function, increasing toxin loads that can cross into the placenta, and making blood sugar levels totally out of whack. This is why it is important to eat when you're hungry - even if you're doing an adaptation of a fasting program, because overall you need to listen to your body. For more information about prenatal blood sugar levels, check out the research on gestational diabetes from Dr. Tom Brewer.
Improve Detox Systems within Your Body without Harming your Baby
Step 1. The best way to remove toxins from your body, whether pregnant, breastfeeding, or otherwise, is to improve your body's assimilation of nutrients and digestive system. This is achieved #1 by reducing the toxins you put into your body through your intestines, lungs, and skin. This is a CHOICE, no matter how hard you imagine it to make, that you have almost 100% control over. You choose what you eat (where you buy it from, what types of food you choose, the time you take to prepare your food, synthetic vs. real food, sugars, balanced foods, lab-extracted foods...etc.). You choose the products you put on your skin (shampoo, lotions, sunscreen, tattoos, cleaning chemicals...etc.). You choose most of the air that you breathe (smoke of any kind, candles, essential oils - yes these have to be processed by your liver also), although the location that you live and possibly work are probably the two choices that make toxins through the lungs harder to control and unfortunately there isn't a place on this whole planet that isn't polluted - some moreso than others. Luckily, the body can process these unchosen toxins, usually better, if the other choices we make are more ideal... and you can increase the amount of time you spend surrounded by wild plants to increase your healthy air intake.
Step 2. Improve digestive flow and bowel transit time. Did you follow along the 10-week Esali Birth Prep Challenge? If not, enroll in this FREE course and review! If you have a stagnant digestive tract, toxins will not only be unable to be eliminated from the system, they actually recirculate through the body trying to be detoxified and also get stored in every single cell - your brain, your nervous system, your circulation system, your fat, your baby's milk, your skin, your joints, your muscles, your liver, your baby's placenta...etc. Slow to go bowel movements also trigger dehydration as hydration is needed to "store" fecal matter in the digestive tract where it becomes harder. Move more to improve digestion. Eat balanced (which often means retaining the water you drink and eat through hydrating foods, high mineral foods, and healthy fats).
Step 3. Detox through body support and fasting adaptations. This is where things get a little different for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Unloading a lot of toxins all at once can increase toxins for a gestating baby and into milk of breastfeeding mothers. What is also important to keep in mind is that you might unload a large amount of toxins all at once for a few days, but that doesn't regenerate your liver or overall improve detoxification every other day. Liver regeneration takes approximately 5-6 months (i.e. it will take that long on a healthy lifestyle for your liver to start fully functioning again). You have to make healthy choices or your detoxification system won't work and you'll constantly repeat the cycle of toxin buildup both from adding toxins to the body and the body not being able to eliminate it.
Furthermore, approximately 300 extra calories a day are required for the functions of single gestation. Approximately 500 calories a day are required for the functions of making breastmilk for one baby. This means that no matter what you do, you have to be sure to sustain your body's ability to make breastmilk and gestate a baby. It also isn't as simple as just eating extra calories - the numbers are provided as an understanding for the fact that you need to eat - but in addition to simply eating, there are specific nutrients needed for whole body function and a prenatal vitamin isn't going to provide all of that. I would not fully recommend this step for a pregnant mother or mother breastfeeding a baby under 1 year as breastmilk should be the main source of nutrition at that point as a general rule. This also means to look at your baby as this is a general time frame. If your 18 month old is relying on breastmilk as a main source of nutrition (this could be a tongue tie or other issue, get in touch) - or if you generally have milk supply issues...etc., then skip this step for now.
Just to reiterate the amazingness of your body, remember that Step 1 (healthy input) and Step 2 (healthy output) with healthy sleep habits are biologically designed to support detoxification, no added anything needed. You naturally fast every night which allows a healthy liver to do its detox thang followed by breaking the fast which stimulates digestion and metabolism in the morning. Healthy input means proper liver and body function and full liver regeneration twice a year. What a beautiful design, right? This brings me to the point of why do any sort of sort "detox" or fasting program at all?
Detoxing, first of all, means removing toxins, so essentially any sort of "detox" program is focused on not adding toxic chemicals in the first place. Reducing food intake altogether triggers your body to mimic the liver's function it partakes in during your resting night time and therefore detoxing is ultimately in some form a fasting program. This doesn't really mean to stop eating all together (aside from the regular night time fasting your body needs routinely when many body systems reduce function). A good fasting "program" should be designed to support the elimination systems of the body first. It should also subsequently remove strong cravings that are cramping your body's natural detoxification system, immune system, and your mental ability to stick with healthy food choices. Many cravings, like sugar (not just "white sugar" but foods that are quickly recognized as sugars in the body systems) - are diminished after about a week of elimination from the lifestyle and a few days of fasting can help with these cravings.
The main difference between detoxing programs and a fasting program is that a detoxing program typically increases the green food intake to a level much higher than you'd eat on a normal, healthy basis in order to push toxins through the system more quickly while fasting reduces food intake altogether - some to the degree of providing no nourishment at all - to encourage the liver to remove and eliminate the toxins. Greens are typically our best detoxifying foods because of their ability to improve the detoxification systems of the body and overall antioxidant amounts. All vegetables and fruits - specifically when grown well and properly prepared - support this system in varying degrees. A detox program that is juicing-oriented may increase this toxin elimination from various organs, but if the digestive system is not functioning well you'll just circulate these through your body (and into baby or breastmilk) without actually eliminating them. Futhermore, with juicing and other detoxification programs, fiber is usually significantly reduced and sugar levels are highly increased. This can cause some staggering blood sugar issues, especially during pregnancy.
For these reasons, a modified fasting program is a more natural way of simplifying your intake without overloading your system, or your baby's system, in any way. The focus is on improving the digestive and elimination system so that it detoxifies in a more natural manner. The key during pregnancy and breastfeeding is to alter the program enough so that you're still getting the nutrients you and your baby needs and not overloading your systems with toxins through a few days of super simple eating and adequate hydration.
Alternative 3 Day Fasting Program for Pregnancy (2nd trimester only) and Breastfeeding (after latch and supply is well established only)
- Do NOT starve yourself. Listen to your body and eat when you need to eat. Gestation and Breastfeeding come first. Additionally, if at any time this program feels wrong or you feel sick, stop immediately and resume a varied diet. In some cases, fasting can elicit a healing crisis if too many toxins are eliminated at once which these adaptations should avoid - but everyone is different especially their toxin intake and you ALWAYS need to listen to your body, first. While in a normal TCM fast this is often desired as an indicator of toxin release, we are not looking for this result during pregnancy and breastfeeding. We simply want to increase digestion, improve the elimination system, and decrease unhealthy cravings. You can research further into a typical TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) fast for more in depth understanding and programs that more closely align with TCM practices. Here we are adapting a basic fast to support adequate levels of nutrients for pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Choose a schedule that works for your lifestyle. I like to start a fast on a Friday when the week is coming to a close so that I have more support at home and don't have as many tasks to focus on while also having the luxury of distraction a little more accessible when a craving kicks in... sunshine help, too. I also like to fast in the spring when everything is coming alive or fall when I have better access to weather that soothes my soul. Many of the best detoxification supporting plants start popping up after the winter season (dandelion, chickweed, docks...etc.), and pop up again in autumn and I take this as a sign its time for me to replenish as well.
- Fasting is done for 1-2 days followed by a day of increased light eating to slowly break the fast. Normal eating (though I hope healthier selections) is resumed on Day 4. Adapt this time frame for what is comfortable to you. Any amount of light simple eating once a week, once a month...etc. helps to improve elimination function and a shorter version of this adaptation can be done regularly for not only simple eating, but inexpensive grocery bills now and then. Brown rice is a very balanced and very nourishing food on its own. Remember, we are only focusing on simplifying our eating, improving elimination, and overall supporting our body's natural ability to detoxify.
- Be sure to move your body - especially the pelvis area - daily. Don't overdo your activity levels, but be mindful of utilizing multiple positions throughout the day and squatting when you use the bathroom and for getting up and down...etc.
- If you lean on the dehyrdated side with slow bowel transit time normally - you'll want to drink more juice than rice. If you lean on the hydrated side with looser bowels or a regular bowel schedule normally, you'll want to eat more rice than juice.
- At minimum, the night before you begin your fast, eat a bone-stock based soup (no pasta, no breads, no crackers...etc. a small amount of rice is fine). No closer than 2 hours before you desire sleep, decoct for 10 minutes a cup of herbal chai tea made with a pinch each of: cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and cayenne blended with a teaspoon of rooibos. Enjoy.
- Optionally, daily add to a smoothies, water, or juice 1 tsp. THRIVE Green Smoothie Powders
- If you can focus on simple meals the week prior to your fast - especially reducing red meats, processed foods...etc., this will improve the fast adaptation and reduce the amount of toxins you have in your system prior to starting a simplified meal plan.
For Days 1-3 (modify the number of days to your comfort level)
- Drink 8 oz. Glass Prune Juice upon waking
- Take 1 teaspoon of olive oil with an optional tiny pinch of cayenne 2-4 times per day
- Drink 1-3 Glasses of Herbal Tea (1 Tblsp of equal parts (or 1 tsp. of any on their own): Red Raspberry Leaf, Nettle Leaf, & Strawberry Leaf per 1 cup of water) throughout the day
- Drink up to 8 oz. of fresh unfiltered apple juice every 4 hours
- Eat up to 1/2 cup steamed brown rice (steamed in homemade bone stock without letting it get too dry) every 4 hours
- If you're feeling hungry at any time, eat 1/8 C steamed brown rice and an ounce of apple juice as needed
- Drink water to thirst as needed
- Drink 8 oz prune juice upon waking (optionally add 1 tsp. THRIVE Green Smoothie Powders)
- Take 1 teaspoon of olive oil 2-4 times per day
- Drink 1/2 tsp. of Dandelion Root with 1/2 tsp. Milk Thistle seed in 1.5 cups water - decoct for 10 minutes
- Drink 1-3 cups herbal tea throughout the day (Red Raspberry Leaf, Nettle Leaf, & Strawberry Leaf)
- Eat only steamed or baked fruits and vegetables and soupy grains (oatmeal, rice...etc.) - as desired
- Drink water to thirst as needed