Have you every thought that you need a good detox to get you back on track?
Or, perhaps you detox a couple of times a year to ‘spring clean’ your body of nasties.
Detoxing has become big business. Whether it’s a ‘7-day detox diet’ or foods to help you detox, or skin products designed to ‘detox and purify’ your skin.
But guess what, there’s no such thing.
The idea that you can use these products to flush out impurities from your system and leave your body squeaky clean, vibrant and full of energy is just wrong.
If you feel you’re overwhelmed or confused about all the information out there about detoxing, then this week’s blog post: Do you really need to detox? should help.
I’m looking at the origins of detox, busting some detox myths, looking at how your body detoxes naturally and finding out what you can do to help your body to detox.
What does the word detox actually mean?
The word detox refers to a ‘treatment designed to rid the body of poisonous substances, especially alcohol and drugs’. Its original meaning in the medical setting was to wean addicts off drugs and alcohol.
In the 1970s and 80s, the word was hijacked to suggest that if you over indulged, you could ‘go on a detox’ to rid your body of waste products and toxins that were harmful.
It suggested that our body accumulates these toxins and it can’t get rid of them by itself, so it needs helps.
It suggests that going on a detox may help you to lose weight, get rid of your cellulite, bloating, fatigue and general ill health.
This simply is not true.
Your body is incredibly powerful and can get rid of all the waste it doesn’t want, all by itself. That’s why your liver, kidneys, gut and lymphatic system are so important. They are highly efficient at eliminating ‘toxins’ due to your over indulgence.
Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University says:
“Let’s be clear, there are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t.”
The respectable one, is the medical treatment of people with life-threatening drug addictions.
“The other is the word 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.”
Busting the detox myth
There’s a lot of money to be made in the detox industry, but when you dig a bit deeper, you find that there’s little evidence to support the detox claims that the industry makes.
The charity, Sense About Science, an organisation representing young scientists made up of biologists, chemists and physicists, investigated products marketed using the word ‘detox’.
They found that the manufacturers of various ‘detox’ products such as shampoos, smoothies, detox plans, patches, body brushes, and skin products, couldn’t explain what they meant by ‘detox’ and they couldn’t provide reliable evidence on what happens when you use their product to detox.
Harriet Ball, a biologist, said: ‘Detox is marketed as the idea that modern living fills us with invisible nasties our bodies can’t cope with unless we buy the latest jargon-filled remedy. Our investigation has convinced us there is little or no proof these products work.’
How does your body deal with the natural process of detoxing?
Your major organs such as your liver, kidneys and colon are brilliant at getting rid of ‘toxins’ that have built up in your body.
They work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s a full time job for them. They never stop.
It simple isn’t possible to improve their function without medical assistance.
Edzard Ernst, goes on to say: “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.”
Why your liver is super important
Your liver is crucial to getting rid of these toxins from your body. It contains enzymes that convert toxic substances into less harmful ones. These are then dissolved in water and removed in your urine.
Did you know that your liver is so powerful that it will clear a potentially lethal does of alcohol in 36 hours?
But your liver isn’t the only essential organ needed in the detoxification process.
Your kidneys are super important too. They act as a sieve, with any unwanted chemicals being removed in your urine within hours to prevent them building up in your body, but any essential chemicals that are caught, are reabsorbed. How clever is that!
Did you know that very few chemicals can penetrate your skin? If you massage ‘detox’ creams in to your skin, they’re highly unlikely to work as they can’t get into your body.
As Sir Colin Berry, pathologist says:
“It’s easy to detox; just let you body use the great systems it has evolved over thousands of years to get rid of whatever is harming you. But if it’s booze, drink less as well.”
Toxins and myths
Whether it’s toxins from the air we breathe, what we drink or what we eat, your body can get rid of most of them by itself.
If you’ve been told that you can ‘sweat out your toxins’, you can’t!
You sweat because your body needs to cool you down. The American College of Sports Medicine explains that sweat is the body’s natural reaction to a rise in temperature.
The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences states in an article:
“Sweat is 99% water combined with a small amount of salt, proteins, carbohydrates and urea, says UAMS family medicine physician Dr. Charles Smith. Therefore, sweat is not made up of toxins from your body, and the belief that sweat can cleanse the body is a myth.
“You cannot sweat toxins out of the body,” Dr. Smith says. “Toxins such as mercury, alcohol and most drugs are eliminated by your liver, intestines or kidneys.”
The only way to get rid of toxins from your body is by going to the toilet – the urine and faeces/poo you expel each day is the only way your body has of expelling waste.
How to improve your natural ability to detox
It’s pretty simple to help your body to detox. If you’ve over indulged for a few days, or for a lifetime, your body will react very quickly and positively to changes you make to what you eat and drink.
Start by avoiding processed and junk food as they contain many ingredients that just don’t support a healthy body or mind, cut down on excessive amounts of alcohol, caffeine and sugar.
Stop or avoid cigarette smoke and pollution. Drink plenty of water, take exercise and try to get a good night’s sleep.
All of this will support your body and will quickly normalise it after a period of over indulgence.
You just don’t need an expensive detox to get your body back to normal.
Focus on eating from the four food groups: vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes.
These foods will give you all the protein, carbohydrates, unsaturated fats. amino acids, fibre, starches, vitamins and minerals to keep your body – and your immune system, the biggest protector from ill-health – functioning fantastically well.
A little extra help
Cruciferous vegetables such cauliflower, kohlrabi and broccoli can help with detoxification naturally.
Just remember to chew your broccoli as sulforaphane, which is great at boosting your liver’s own detoxifying enzymes, isn’t in broccoli… until you bite it.
Eh? What do you mean?
Well broccoli keeps myrosinase, an enzyme, in one part of it’s cells and glucoraphanin, in another. When you chew your food the two mix and produce sulforaphane.
Adding lemon juice, some garlic or a little tahini will help counteract the bitter taste that some people have when they eat cruciferous veg like broccoli.
Temptation and marketing hype
So if you see a product marketed as a “5 Day Detox Plan”, or “Spring Detox for the Body” or any other product proclaiming that it can detox your skin and body, stay clear. It’s all just marketing hype.
The only people to benefit are the manufacturers who will make money from you.
As Edzard Ernst, says: “It’s a scandal. It’s criminal exploitation of the gullible man on the street and it sort of keys into something that we all would love to have – a simple remedy that frees us of our sins, so to speak. It’s nice to think that it could exist but unfortunately it doesn’t.”
The ultimate lifestyle ‘detox’ is not smoking, exercising and enjoying a whole food, plant-based diet.
If losing weight for your summer holidays is one of your goals, then consider following a whole food, plant-based diet and you’ll not only be able to help your body to detox daily, but you’ll be able to lose weight too!
Ready to get started? Be one of the first to hear about my new, whole food, plant based course coming in the next few weeks. Click here to register.
I’d love to hear how what you think.
Let me know in the comments section below. Thank you!
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