There are so many different detox programs and detox supplements out there, but do they work and are they necessary?
This guide to detoxing will explain what it means to detox and who will benefit from a detox program.
Plus I will explain why you don’t need to do any of the “fad” detox programs that are out there.
One argument that is given to explain that “detox programs” are not necessary is that our liver is always working to detoxify our bodies - and while this is true, never before have we been exposed to so many different toxins.
The detoxification system of the body cannot process and get rid of artificial chemicals that don’t occur in nature on its own.
“In a healthy body, the process of detoxification runs smoothly. When we are toxic, though, the mechanism for detoxification in the liver gets sluggish, and certain toxins can remain active longer than we want or than our systems can handle. This makes us sick and impedes normal metabolism.” - Mark Hyman, M.D., functional medicine doctor and New York Times best-selling author
Environmental problems have reached a new level, our bodies constantly absorb industrial chemicals, pesticides, and other pollutants from the air, water, food, and many items such as cosmetics and household cleaners.
It is impossible to fully avoid toxins, and that is why we need to help our liver with detoxification.
Polluted or tainted water:
lead and arsenic, mercury, and other environmental contaminants.
Air pollution: industrial fumes, vehicle exhaust (carbon dioxide and monoxide), asbestos, smoke from cigarettes, paint and solvent fumes, cleaning chemicals
lead (paint, lead pipes, aviation fuel), cadmium (synthetic fertilizers and industrial waste)
Phthalates are a group of dangerous industrial chemicals that are used to make plastic more flexible. Unfortunately, it can be found almost everywhere.
Products with phthalates: shampoo, perfume, nail polish, hairspray, sanitary pads, wallpaper, raincoats, medical equipment, plastic pipes, shower curtains, food packaging and many other items that we use every day.
Health effects of phthalates: these toxins can negatively impact your hormonal balance and potentially cause reproductive, developmental and other health issues.
Flame retardants are used in many household items to prevent fire.
Products with flame retardants: furniture, carpets, curtains, appliances, electronics, automotive parts, toys, baby products.
Health effects of flame retardants: These toxins can damage the liver and hurt your thyroid function and the endocrine system.
PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are widely used to make surfaces resist stains, water, and grease.
Products with PFAS: non-stick cookware, stain and water repellents, furniture, waterproof clothes, pizza boxes, popcorn bags, take-out containers, food packaging, carpets, rubbers and plastics, electronics.
Health effects of PFAS: It causes liver toxicity and kidney damage, immune system disruption, thyroid disease, decreased fertility and increases risk of cancer
Bisphenols (BPA) has been used to make numerous commercial plastic products.
Products with BPA: food and beverage can liners, receipt paper, food packaging, DVDs and CDs, medical equipment, toys, automotive parts, water bottles, dental sealants.
Health effects of BPA: Contamination with these toxins can interfere with the endocrine system, cause reproductive toxicity, birth defects, and increase the risk of cancer.
More than 90% of human exposure is through food, mainly meat and dairy products, fish and shellfish.- World Health Organization (WHO)
The fact that we load our bodies with large amounts of toxins through the food is undeniable.
The most common toxin that people consume through the diet is dioxin.
Dioxins are found in air, water, and soil. That is why plants and animals can easily absorb dioxins from the environment. As a result, people consume a lot of products with dioxin too.
The major dietary sources of dioxins: seafood, meat, poultry, milk, eggs, etc.
The health effects of dioxin: It can impact the immune function, cause hormonal imbalance, and problems with the reproductive system.
Many foods contain harmful artificial dyes, preservatives, and sweeteners which intoxicate the body causing numerous health problems
The health effects of dyes and sweeteners: The consumption of foods with these additives can lead to liver and kidney problems, high blood pressure, negatively impact your gut microbiome, causing indigestion, bloating and weight gain.
Arsenic, mercury, and aluminum are a few more dangerous toxins that can be found in the foods you consume every day.
Health effects of arsenic, mercury, and aluminum: these toxins can affect hormone health cause brain diseases, bladder and kidney diseases. Mercury is especially toxic and dangerous for pregnant women, causing problems with fetus development. and lung cancer, as well as affect your hormone functioning.
Another problem that our body faces is the toxicity of EMF exposure.
The main sources of EMFs radiation: cell phones, laptops, Wi-Fi modems, smart meters, hotspots, and phone towers.
Health effects of EMFs: overall weakened immunities, accelerated aging, mood disorders, hormonal imbalance, Increased oxidative stress, low testosterone and decrease fertility.
Endotoxin is a lipopolysaccharide or LPS, a substance produced by Gram-negative bacteria (for instance, E. coli). When endotoxin enters our bloodstream or spinal fluid, it causes inflammation and fever as an immune response to the abnormal growth of harmful bacteria.
However, endotoxin contamination can be fatal, it can lead to anaphylactic shock, organ failure, and even death of the patient.
While a short term detox program can be beneficial, there are also many things we can do from day to day to help minimize toxins and improve our bodies natural detoxification capabilities.
Our bodies are designed for regular physical activity. Regular exercise supports detoxification by allowing the lymphatic system to carry toxins and wastes out of the body.
You should aim for 30 to 40 minutes of exercise a day, this can be going for a relaxing walk, doing stretches or mobility exercise all of this is great for the mind, body and circulatory system.
A couple of times a week start lifting some weights or doing bodyweight exercises that don’t require any equipment. Once your fitness level increases doing something called high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
It sounds super scary but you can do it at whatever fitness level you’re at. If you are just starting, it could be walking up and down one flight of stairs 3-4 times, basically, whatever it takes to get your heart rate going for a few minutes.
One of the easiest ways to improve your detoxification capacity is to drink plenty of water. Get a water filter and drink only clear, free of contaminant water.
It is recommended to drink at least 2 liters of water per day, or more if it is hot or when you are exercising. The best thing to do is to start your day with a large glass of water before you do anything else.
Recreational drugs (including cigarettes and alcohol) interfere with your detoxification processes and should be avoided to ensure you get the most out of your detoxification program.
Enjoying a glass of wine occasionally is ok but while you’re focusing on a detox it is better to avoid. Also, if your a smoker it is important to do everything to help yourself stop, whether that is hypnotherapy, counseling, herbal therapy or strong will power, do whatever it takes!
Many health spas offer treatments such as traditional and infrared saunas, hydrotherapy baths, marine algae wraps, skin exfoliation, and mud treatments. These procedures are not only pleasant and relaxing but have great detoxing effects.
Also, massage techniques may accelerate detoxification, particularly lymphatic drainage. These treatments have a long traditional use for detoxification and will certainly leave you feeling relaxed and stress-free, they can be a great way to treat yourself to something special.
Your skin is a major organ of elimination. Dead skin cells can accumulate and prevent the skin from being able to remove toxins effectively. Before you shower, spend five minutes with a firm bristled brush or loofah brushing the skin of the arms, legs, and back briskly in the direction of the heart.
1. Most of the mass market products of personal care and cleaning products contain parabens, sodium laurel sulfates, diethanolamine, and phthalates.
These chemicals can be easily absorbed by the body and enter the bloodstream, slowly intoxicating the body. Make sure to search for brands that offer organic and natural products that don’t contain toxins.
2. If you cannot avoid make-up and hairstyles, try at least sometimes, for instance, on the weekend, not to do makeup and let your skin breathe and detox.
3. As for the household cleaners, you can replace them with lemon juice, vinegar, and baking soda. Instead of traditional fresheners use essential oils, and instead of dishwasher detergent, you can use castile soap which is biodegradable and non-toxic.
Detoxification is not only about a healthy diet, using eco-friendly products, it is also about your mental health. How you think and feel can profoundly influence your health.
While there are toxic chemicals, there are also so-called mental and emotional toxins such as loneliness, anger, jealousy, which all affect our health.
Choose to be positive, optimistic and focused on improving your health. If you have major stress in your life, enlisting the support of others to help can be useful.
If you have lots of little stressors, practicing a relaxation technique is a must.
The most important: keep your distance from negative people that are criticizing you for adopting healthy habits.
You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. - motivational speaker Jim Rohn.
The nutritious diet is an important part of the detoxification program. When creating a grocery list, focus on fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins and antioxidants, high-quality protein, healthy fats, and non-starchy foods that don’t cause your blood sugar levels to spike, and instead improve your metabolism and satiety reducing cravings.
Here is the list of vegetables and fruits that can help expel toxic waste from your body.
Organic grass-fed beef and wild-caught seafood - the source of protein which helps support detoxification function of the liver
Foods that are rich in soluble and insoluble fiber, which help cleanse intestines, lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Legumes: beans, lentils
Nuts and Seeds: almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and flax seeds
Consuming a low number of calories on the detox diet doesn’t mean you have to fully avoid fats. What I’m driving at, that you only have to eliminate trans fats, so-called “bad” fats, which are found in processed foods.
Instead, you should add to your diet routine healthy fats that help keep inflammation at bay and boost detoxification.
Finally, add some unique taste to your dishes with fragrant herbs and spices with strong detoxifying properties.
The diet should be customized for your personal needs. It is always recommended to consult a physician or naturopath before starting any diet and especially detox diet.
What makes the detox diet different is that it is low in calories and high on laxatives and diuretics. If not to plan your diet properly you might experience some side effects.
To prevent the possible side effects, here are a few tips for you:
Note: Pregnant women, children, underweight individuals and people with specific conditions like diabetes, cancer, kidney or liver disease, and hypothyroidism and heart disease shouldn’t experiment with strict detox diets.
Are you overweight or do you feel sick? Bloating, headaches, fatigue can be the first signs of toxicity and that your body is experiencing difficulties removing toxins and absorbing vitamins and minerals.
Here are a few cases when a detoxification lifestyle will benefit you and help you revive your health.
A well-thought-out detox program helps your organs function properly and boost your immune system. By getting rid of unwanted toxins you let your body absorb important nutrients and enhance your lymphatic system, which is an important part of your immune system.
If you suffer from constipation, indigestion and excess weight, the detox program might help you out. It enhances the function of your liver, kidney, and colon, relieving symptoms of digestive problems and promoting weight loss.
Even if you use the high-quality face masks, scrubs, cleansing products that remove sebum and polluting particles from your pores, it might not be enough to maintain your skin smooth and bright.
Cleansing your body from the inside is crucial for your skin health. A detox program can help treat skin issues such as acne and relieve symptoms of chronic skin diseases, such as eczema and psoriasis.
Except for detox diet, infrared sauna and sport can speed up your toxins-elimination process through the skin.
If you feel tired and sluggish all the time and struggle to focus, it means you are full of toxins and following a detox program would be useful for you.
Eliminate from your diet sugar-packed foods and stimulants like coffee and caffeinated beverages and you’ll see the difference. No more energy crash, fogginess, and fatigue interfering with your goals and productivity.
The reason why you experience headaches and migraines is your lifestyle habits and diet. By eliminating high carb foods from your diet, you’ll manage to maintain blood sugar stability and reduce the risk of migraines.
In other words, a well-balanced detox program is a great way to embark on your journey to migraine freedom.
A detox program can help not only with weight management but with fluid retention. By cutting down on processed foods full of sodium and consuming foods with detoxifying properties, you can effectively get rid of water retention and toxin buildup, the natural way.
Autoimmune diseases are often painful, disruptive and they usually associated with immune system failure and inflammation.
Though a detox diet can help treat autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid disorders, relieve pain, reduce inflammation and protect against oxidative stress.
After avoiding certain foods by following your detox diet, you’ll not only feel better but may identify food intolerance that has wreaked havoc on your GI health.
Food sensitivity can be an underlying cause of your bothersome symptoms and eliminating harmful foods is key to your health and rejuvenation.
Make sure to control what you eat and jot down all the changes in how your body reacts to the food. Everything you notice, discuss with the doctor to optimize the diet and achieve the best results in detoxification and healing your body from the inside.
As I’ve mentioned above, the liver constantly works to remove toxins from the body, and before going through any of the detox programs, it is important to understand the three phases of liver detox. Knowing more about your liver function, you can help it with the cleansing body from toxins and prevent toxin build-up.
Phase one is a combination of such processes as oxidation reduction and hydrolysis. During these processes, free radicals are produced. If not to remove them through the detox pathway out of the body, they can cause liver cell damage. Enzymes known as the cytochrome P450 enzyme group, convert toxins into smaller substances of less harmful metabolites.
In order to support the first phase of liver detox, it is good to consume more antioxidants (vitamin C), polyphenols and flavonoids. Also, it is useful will be cruciferous vegetables and minerals such as iron and magnesium.
Liver cells use glucuronidation, acetylation, esterification, amino acid conjugation, sulfation, and glutathione conjugation to make toxins water-soluble and excrete them through bile, urine, and stool.
This phase requires sulfur, amino acids, molybdenum and vitamin B12 and foods rich in flavonoids.
The last phase if the elimination of toxins from cells.
Way 1: The toxins may go to the kidneys to get filtered and then out from the body through the bladder and urine.
Way 2: Toxins will go down through the GI tract and leave the body via stool.
In order to support the last phase of liver detoxification, you have to take care of your GI tract health and always be hydrated.
The Fasting Mimicking Diet is a type of intermittent fasting created by Dr. Valter Longo, Italian biologist and researcher, and longevity expert.
Traditionally the Fasting Mimicking Diet lasts five days and contains only healthy plant-based ingredients. You can try this diet yourself by ordering prepackaged meal kits of ProLon Fasting Mimicking Diet.
These five days you’ll have to keep your fat intake high and carb, protein, and calorie intake low. The difference of this diet from normal fasting is that it is less stressful for your body and keeps you nourished at the same time.
Note: If you want to track your fasting results, it is recommended to assess certain biomarkers such as blood glucose, ketones, and measure weight changes every day.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women and underweight individuals shouldn’t follow the Fasting Mimicking Diet. If you have kidney disease or diabetes, you should consult your doctor first.
Also, ProLon program won’t work for you, if you are allergic to nuts, soy, oats, sesame, and celery, which are some of the ingredients.
Whole30 is an elimination diet designed by Melissa Hartwig. This diet, as you may guess from the name, lasts 30 days and helps to literally reset your body.
When the 30-day food challenge comes to an end, you can slowly add different foods to your diet back and identify your food sensitivities, foods that negatively influence your physical and mental health.
Unlike many popular diets, the Whole30 program doesn’t require you to constantly measure, and count calories. Moreover, it is one of the rules:
Don’t step on the scale and take body measurements!
This program is not only about weight loss, but changing your food routine.
You are not limited to a specific amount of calories per day, but you have to follow the rules and do not eat the prohibited foods for 30 days.
Exceptions: Fruit juice, vinegar (but not malt vinegar), green beans, sugar snap peas, and snow peas, Ghee or clarified butter, coconut aminos ( including coconut nectar or coconut syrup), salt.
When following the rules of the Whole30 diet, you reduce the consumption of fiber, vitamin E and B vitamins, iron, folate, and magnesium. If you have conditions like diabetes or heart disease, make sure to consult your medical practitioner first.
The first thing I want to highlight is that juice detox is not for everyone and it is not a long-term diet for weight loss. I do not recommend to practice juice detox for more than 3 days, as it may cause certain side effects.
The idea of this diet is to load the body with vitamins and minerals and flush out toxins build-up.
It is harmful to people with kidney disorders and diabetes.
A low-calorie diet such as juice detox can cause fainting, weakness, headaches, unstable blood sugar levels and low energy.
Some people do quite well with dairy and gluten and don’t need to eliminate these ingredients from the diet. However, for many people, gluten and dairy are not useful but toxic.
They can trigger an inflammatory response, headaches and digestive problems such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, and cramps. If you experience those symptoms, no gluten and no dairy diet will help you restore your health.
If you fully eliminate gluten and dairy, it may lead to deficiencies in essential nutrients and fiber. On the other side, you can replace gluten and dairy with other foods that contain all the needed nutrients for optimal functioning of the body. To avoid possible side effects of a gluten-free and dairy-free diet.
The autoimmune protocol (AIP) is a strict diet that aims to reduce inflammation, heal holes in the gut and relieve symptoms of autoimmune disorders.
The main idea of this diet is to consume only nutrient-rich foods and eliminate inflammatory ones for a couple of weeks.
Foods to Avoid on the AIP diet:
Grains, dairy, eggs, legumes, nightshade vegetables, sugars and sugar replacements, butter and ghee, all oils, food additives and alcohol.
You can consume avocado, coconut, and olive oils and you can also use organic honey occasionally.
While some people will feel relief from the inflammation caused by gluten or dairy sensitivity, other people might experience some bothersome symptoms. Such a radical change in your diet may cause low blood sugar, adrenal fatigue, and mood changes.
When you feel like your health levels are going down, discuss it with your doctor in order to adjust the diet.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a specific approach to eating that restricts not where calories come from but the time when you can eat. Basically, intermittent fasting is all about cycles of fasting and eating.
Nowadays there are many intermittent fasting methods. Here are the three most popular ways:
You have to skip breakfast, restrict your daily eating period to 8 hours and then fast for 16 hours in between. In order to make this diet less stressful, you can start with 14 hours for fasting and 10 hours for eating.
Once or twice a week you have to stop eating for 24 hours.
You can consume only 500–600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week, and eat normally the other 5 days.
Intermittent fasting is not beneficial for women who are trying to conceive, pregnant or breastfeeding. Also if you take medications, have diabetes or struggle to regulate blood sugar level, you should consult your doctor before trying such an extreme type of diet as intermittent fasting.
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Michael is head consultant at Planet Naturopath - Functional Medicine and Nutrition Solutions. As Seen