To detox - or not to detox?
The detox ‘concept’ continues to divide opinion. Is it unfounded nonsense or can it really revive and rejuvenate?
Is detoxification necessary?
Detoxification is an essential natural process. The body is continually detoxifying on its own accord and is usually pretty efficient at metabolising and eliminating small amounts of potentially toxic substances.
It’s a good job too. We are all exposed to many toxins in our daily lives from medications, chemical-laden skincare, cigarette smoke, pollution, alcohol, over exercising to over eating, not only junk food, but hormone-laden meats and plants coated in pesticides.
Thanks to the body’s premier cleansing organ, the liver, most people can safely handle a degree of toxin burden. We can enjoy a couple of glasses of wine or a sugar-loaded cake on occasion with no major detrimental effects.
However, if the toxic load becomes too great then we risk overwhelming the body’s natural functions. In the case of alcohol this may be blood alcohol poisoning, or with sweet treats it may be elevated blood sugar or triglycerides.
What is a detox diet?
Well, there is no universal formula! We all accept the underlying principle is to cleanse the body and eliminate toxins – but there is a plethora of different approaches, programmes and products, mostly capitalising on the short-term opportunity to ‘clean-up’ and improve your health.
These include juicing cleanses, fasting diets, meal replacement, laxatives and other regimes involving certain foods, teas or supplements, and excluding other certain foods and drinks to different extremes.
So, are detox programmes beneficial?
The case against…
Some extreme detox regimes may have unfavorable effects, for example, severe calorie restriction may cause the metabolism to panic and slow. Meanwhile, short-term weight loss can often be attributed to water and intestinal bulk
There is a lack of evidence to support the claims of many detox products on the market and they may not help the body get rid of toxins any faster than generally eating and living cleanly and healthily
Some plans focus on very a restricted number of foods or juices. Consequently they can be low in protein, nutritionally imbalanced and lacking the nutrients needed to support the body’s natural detoxification process or protect against free radicals generated during the process
By their short-term nature, some detox solutions may inadvertently endorse a quick-fix approach to health, and may perpetuate faddy eating habits
The case for…
If you have symptoms related to toxic distress or hormone imbalance, or there is reason to believe that the body’s natural detoxification function may be impaired due to a lack of nutrients or constipation, there may well be a place for a considered detox and liver support strategy.
However, in these instances, you may do better to seek out personalised nutrition advice to get the optimal guidance and support to benefit you - rather than opting for a one-hit-wonder solution.
For most people, the real beauty of a good detox programme is that it can be a great motivator. The energy and feeling of clarity that comes with being toxin-light can help break old tendencies for junk food and alcohol, and some plans can help kick-start healthy new eating habits by encouraging you to load up on colourful vegetables, drink more water or herbal teas, and introduce new nutrient-rich ‘super-foods’ to the diet.
Taking care of your body by reducing your toxic load will undoubtedly bring short and long-term benefits to your health and wellbeing. But what if instead of spending money on a quick-fix detox diet, you aim to eat and live in a way that promotes a detoxifying environment for the body – all the time?
Next time, I’ll be writing about how to eat to support the stages of the body’s natural detoxification process.