Clean beginnings: All about detoxing

Think of any celebrity and they’ve recently been on some sort of ‘detox’. But what is the difference between a detox and a fad diet? And is there really a thing such as ‘detoxing’?

Let’s try to demystify a couple of those thoughts, shall we?

Fad diet versus detox?

The dictionary defines a fad diet as “a reducing diet that enjoys temporary popularity, a diet designed to help you lose weight”. Detox is defined as “a process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances”.

In the medical and dietician fields, detoxing can become a hotly debated topic – especially when people get technical. Some are of the opinion that it’s just another ‘fad diet’ and that you can’t ‘detox’ your own body – that’s why you have a liver and kidneys. Others believe you can avoid eating certain foods and increase your intake of other foods and nutrients to rid your body of unhealthy toxins.

Edzard Ernst, Emeritus Professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University indicates that there are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t. According to him, the respectable one is the medical treatment of people with life-threatening drug addictions (as we’ve seen in the original definition of the term ‘detox’). “The other is the word that is being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated,” he says.

Ernst is of the opinion that, if toxins did build up in a way your body couldn’t excrete, you’d likely be dead or in need of serious medical intervention. “The healthy body has kidneys, a liver, skin, even lungs that are detoxifying as we speak,” he says. “There is no known way – certainly not through detox treatments – to make something that works perfectly well in a healthy body work better.”

It’s safe to say that he is specifically referring to special herbal blends, colonic cleanses, or other gimmicks people try to sell in the name of ‘detoxing’. If you’re simply wanting to support your liver and kidneys in all the hard work they’re doing by avoiding foods that strain them and naturally increase your intake of what supports them, you can probably call it ‘detoxing’.

The body does detox itself, but you can help

As mentioned briefly, our miracle-working organs, namely the liver and the kidneys play a vital role in detoxifying our bodies. The kidneys act as a filtration mechanism for your blood and remove wastes and excess water from your body.

The liver, in addition to filtering your blood in an aim to remove toxins, undergoes a two-phase process to break down chemicals and toxins. During phase one, toxins are neutralised and broken down into smaller fragments. During phase two they are bound to other molecules, creating a new non-toxic molecule that can be excreted.

This two-phase detoxification process, however, requires that the body has adequate nutrients which support the process.

What you can do to help

To support your system with the two phases mentioned above, you can increase your intake of the following:

  • Vitamin B2, B3, B6, B12, Folic Acid
  • Water
  • Flavonoids (found in fruits and vegetables)
  • Foods rich in vitamins A, C, and E (e.g., carrots, oranges, wheat germ, almonds)
  • Glutathione (found in avocado, watermelon, asparagus, walnuts, fresh fruits and veggies, and the nutrients n-acetylcysteine, cysteine and methionine).
  • Branched-chain amino acids (found in animal protein – dairy products, red meat, eggs and whey protein)
  • Phospholipids (found in eggs, lean meats, organ meats, fish and soybeans)
  • Indole-3-carbinol (found in cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts)
  • Limonene (found in oranges, tangerines, caraway seeds and dill seeds)
  • Glutathione (found in avocado, watermelon, asparagus, walnuts, fresh fruits and veggies).
  • Fish oil
  • Amino acids from protein

In addition, to support your liver, try to replace processed and pre-packaged foods which usually have high amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, with fish, meat, seeds, and nuts. Avoid high amounts of fructose and sugar, limit alcohol, and consume plenty of egg yolks (because they contain choline that your liver uses to process fats).

When it comes to your kidneys, one of the best things you can do is drink plenty of water. Also, remember to limit your alcohol as well as your fructose corn syrup intake.

Many people testify to the benefits of healthy, natural ways of detoxing the body. Who knows, maybe trying to ‘detox’ once in a while can have some benefits such as reducing inflammation, boosting your immune system, increasing energy levels, or aiding in better sleep patterns.

You won’t know if you don’t try!

About My Health and Fitness

My Health and Fitness is a rich source of articles to help you become the best version of yourself. From diet to exercise and general health, our content contributors (including Biokineticists, Physiotherapists, and Fitness Professionals) will cover all your frequently asked questions and more!

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Disclaimer: Our articles are not meant to replace any medical advice as given to you by your doctor or healthcare specialist. Always consult your doctor before embarking on a new exercise routine or drastic changes in your diet, especially where pre-existing conditions are applicable.

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