Detoxing: Does it work and is it safe?
“Detox” – A process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances.
What an intense word. And it gets thrown around A LOT these days. Especially when it comes to diet / nutrition and I have absolutely been guilty of it.
But the key to a proper detox is understanding what you are trying to detox and subsequently how to “detox” it. Originally this concept applied to substance abuse, but somehow turned into a general fitness term or rather a verb – I’m detoxing. I have to ask or rather as you to ask yourself… detoxing what??
Unless you have issues with mercury poisoning or drugs, in which case you should be seeing a specialist, your body is ALWAYS “detoxing” on it’s own without your conscious intervention. And in fact, your intervention can actually create more problems for your health than you are helping.
So first, what is it that we should be intending to detox – the answer: chemicals and crap in our air, water, and food that doesn’t belong in our system. How does the body detox this? Here are some of the most popular “detoxing” trends:
Not eating / fasting? Not only does this not work, it can result in all kinds of health problems. Not eating only compromises healthy tissue like muscle and bone because the body thinks it’s starving and literally starts to cannibalize itself. Plus, it slows your metabolism down because your body knows it must conserve energy as incoming energy is scarce. So you run the risk of re-feeding syndrome – which means you can gain 5 to 10 pounds from this “cleanse” that will be extremely difficult to get off because you have slowed your metabolism down.
Juice cleanses, where you consume nothing but juice for days on end? If you don’t consume enough calories you run the risk of all the aforementioned. Plus, a juice cleanse inherently cuts out fiber. Fiber is a critical component in helping your body “detox”. It provides a platform to remove waste and it’s a prebiotic, food for healthy gut bacteria, that also play a role in helping your body remove crap from your system.
Cutting out major food groups for a period of time like dairy? Once again, no. Dairy, carbs, proteins etc. are not the enemy. The enemy is the garbage that is put into processed versions of these foods. So when you cut out major food groups you run the risk of creating nutrient deficiencies. The goal here is to consume organic versions of these foods. Not to remove the whole food group. This way you eliminate the toxin, but not the nutrients in the food.
Oh wait I know, sticking a hose up your bottom and blowing water up there to give things a good rinse? Dear God, absolutely not. Not only does this do absolutely nothing good, it can do a heck of a lot that’s bad. It can perforate your bowel, cause electrolyte imbalances, and damage the health of your microbiome (good gut bacteria).
Sweating in a fitness class where the heat is cranked up to 115 degrees? Sweating doesn’t detox the body and anyone who says it does has literally not a clue what they are talking about. Your body sweats to cool itself. Period. And when we sweat excessively it can dehydrate us, which again impairs the function of our kidney and liver, which are the organs responsible for “detoxing” you. Plus, it lowers your energy, slows your metabolism, makes your workout suck, and your skin look dull – pass.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way… let’s discuss how you actually do detox your system. Detoxing is already handled for you. For the most part, it’s the job of your kidney, liver, spleen, and lungs. And the best way you can support your body in this process is the following:
- Clean up your act. The best way to “detox is to stop putting crap into your system whenever you can. So let’s go organic when possible and eat foods in their most whole form to help reduce the toxic load you are subjecting your body to. Consider an air purifier and a water filter to help reduce toxins you are breathing and drinking in.
- Hydrate. Hydration helps optimize the function of the aforementioned organs. So drink until your pee looks like lemonade.
- Eat foods high in fiber, digestive enzymes, and amino acids to help the body remove waste and toxins via urine and excrement aka poop. So, papaya, pineapple, banana, kiwi, mango, kefir, garlic, beets, apples, walnuts, any and all green vegetables, and avocado are great.
- If you want to go the extra mile to detox, supplements can help. In particular you are looking for things that support the function of your vital organs in doing their job. So laxatives like sennacot, which you will find in many products labeled detox are NOT the answer. Instead you are looking for a product that simply helps provide what you might not be getting enough of in your diet. For me I look to my super greens powder with enzymes and adaptogens. This is essentially a safety net for the days my diet isn’t as good as it could or should be. It’s loaded with antioxidants, fiber, enzymes, etc. to support my system across the board. You guys know one of my favorite brands is Alaya Naturals because all the products are organic and made from only the highest quality ingredients. Plus the blends essentially multi-task (so I don’t need to take everything separately). This product has everything from dandelion (specifically for the liver) to ashwagandha, turmeric, maca, chlorella and more.
So, again, if you want to go the extra mile to detox, this is the way to do it. Not by putting your body through hell.