My advice is to think again…
After the holidays when we often overeat and overindulge, following a cleanse or a detox may seem like a good idea to get back on track, or even kick start some weight loss. There are a multitude of detoxes and cleanses available on the market from full meal replacements to teas, all making claims to cleanse your whole body or even specific organs.
FACT: there have only been a limited number of studies on ‘detoxification’ programs on people. A 2017 review of these studies concluded that there was no compelling research to support the use of these types of diets for weight management or eliminating toxins. Further, it was suggested that these diets may appear to work (people lost weight temporarily) only due to the lowered calories consumed while following a detox but, gained the weight back after the diet was finished.
Just to be clear, the Centre’s for Disease Control and Prevention define detoxification as the ‘process of removing a poison or toxin or the effect of either from an area or individual’.
So, what I think we should be asking is does your body need detoxification and, if so, what is the best way to do it?
Does your body need detoxification?
Simply stated, yes.
However, other than in cases of acute poisoning we’re pretty much equipped to deal with this on our own, without special potions, juicing fasts, and magical recipes involving lemon juice, cayenne pepper and maple syrup…
Our bodies collect toxins over time as well as from direct exposure. For example, you have probably heard that eating too much tuna can cause a build-up of mercury in our body. These types of toxins are called Persistent Organic Pollutants and include:
- dioxins (used for bleaching feminine hygiene products and diapers included),
- biphenyls (PCB’s that have been banned since the 1970’s but are still found in the air, soil and food today),
- chlorinated pesticides (like DDT, now banned but still found in the environment)
- flame-retardants (mattresses, carpets, furniture and even that ‘new car’ smell).
FACT: we have a built-in safety system in place for dealing with these toxins – they get stored in our body fat which protects the rest of your body from harmful effects. The problem is that as toxins accumulate your fat eventually releases them back into your body which, over time, is associated with diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and obesity.
What is the best way to detox?
It’s as easy as 1-2-3
1. Decrease your exposure
You may not think about your lungs when you think of detoxification, but our lungs are our primary detoxification system for anything airborne. Ensure your home has proper ventilation and ideally an air purification system to reduce airborne pollutants like smoke, smog, and chemical fumes. And remember to breathe. Taking slow, deep breaths that fill and empty your lungs not only aids with detoxification, but also lowers heart rate and blood pressure, regenerates white blood cells, and reduces stress hormones.
Buy organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible and rinse, and peel your produce. The Environmental Working Group is a great resource. Each year they test fruits and vegetables and create a list of the ‘Dirty Dozen’ that contain the most pesticides and the ‘Clean 15’ that contain the least.
Check the ingredient labels on your cleaning and bath products. The Environmental Working group warns that ingredient labels are mandatory for food, cosmetics and drugs but not for cleaning products. Manufacturers aren’t required to disclose all ingredients in their cleaners which may contain formaldehyde, 1,4-dioxane, chloroform, quaternary ammonium, sodium borate (borax), just to name a few. All of which are all considered to be human carcinogens which means that they cancer.
2. Support your liver so it can do its’ job of eliminating toxicants
Science has proven certain compounds can support and improve your liver’s detoxification process: sulforaphane (found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables), organosulfur in alliums (found in garlic and onions), acynarin and silymarin (found in artichoke,) catechins (found in green tea), curcumin (found in turmeric). There are also specific supplements such as, Milk Thistle and NAC that have also been proven to support liver detoxification.
Consider giving your liver a boost by cutting out foods and beverages that can be inflammatory. My clients have found great success by following medically designed whole food plans specifically developed for supporting detoxification by eliminating inflammatory foods. The key to this is individualization – what is inflammatory to you may not be inflammatory to your friend.
Drink plenty of purified water. The baseline I have been taught is your body weight in kg X 0.033 = litres of water to be consumed throughout the day. This means an 80kg person would require around 2.5 litres a day.
3. Enhance your body’s ability to eliminate toxicants
Eat your vegetables. Fiber, especially soluble fiber found in apples, carrots, citrus fruits, beans, peas and lentils is particularly effective for eliminating toxins. I recommend eating 8-10 fistfuls (or cups) of vegetables a day with a focus on eating green: broccoli, spinach, lettuce, asparagus, artichoke and cabbage.
Eat clean protein. Despite of what juicing enthusiasts purport, you can’t optimize detoxification on fruits and vegetables alone. Protein, specifically the amino acids cysteine and methionine are required to pull toxins out of the body. Without it, toxins build-up. Of particular benefit, are beef, chicken, turkey and also Brazil nuts, chickpeas and lentils. If you can find it and are tolerant to it, grass fed, pasture raised, hormone free whey protein is another good protein option.
Sweat. Sweating has been shown to help particularly with the elimination of heavy metals.
Take a nap. Sleep is often overlooked but is critically important because it not only supports detoxification of our body, but also our brain.
If you would like some guidance on how to support your body’s natural detoxification system without potions, or magic pills, I’m here to help!
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