Detoxing: Myth, or Marvelous?
Now that January has rolled around you're probably being inundated with social media posts, blogs, and emails about detoxing.
Everyone likes to get a fresh start after the holidays, so it makes sense to go on a healthy eating kick at this time of year.
That being said, I get a lot of questions in my clinic about whether detoxing is a real thing or not - my patients want to know whether expensive detox products are worth the money, time, and (often, unfortunately) deprivation.
Is detoxing something that will whip you back into good health, or is it a bit of a myth?
What are "toxins," anyway?
Let's start with what toxins actually are, and how they affect your health.
The traditional definition of a "toxin" was an organic (meaning derived from a plant or animal) poison or venom that caused sickness in the body.
Nowadays, however, when we talk about toxins we're usually discussing chemical components found in things like cleaning products, makeup, car exhaust, and even our drinking water, etc. These harmful chemicals build up in the body and tax the liver and kidneys, and are sometimes called "environmental toxins."
When these chemicals end up in the body in high quantities, they have the ability to stress our our systems, lower our immune function, and make us really sick.
How the body naturally detoxifies
We're already equipped with everything we need to rid our body of harmful toxins. Our liver and our kidneys are specifically designed to remove harmful substances from our blood and tissue.
Your kidneys act sort of like a filter, removing waste and excess water from your system.
Your liver has a far more in-depth role in detoxifying the body: it uses a three phase system to remove harmful substances.
Phase 1 - Toxins are neutralized and broken into smaller fragments.
Phase 2 - These smaller fragments are bound to other molecules to make new, non-toxic molecules.
Phase 3 - These new molecules are excreted through bile, urine or stool.
Lovely, eh? The point, however, is that your body naturally detoxifies itself every day, without any fancy products or special diets.
Why your body may still need a boost
Okay, so we've established that your body naturally does the detox thing... but this doesn't mean it never needs a helping hand.
If our diets are poor, and/or we consume alcohol on a regular basis, we're actually taxing our liver and kidneys and taking away from their ability to clean our systems.
Also, because we're faced with WAY more environmental toxins than people were even 40 years ago, sometimes we need to give our detoxing organs a bit of a boost. The prevalence of pollution, and the inclusion of harmful chemicals in everyday household products, means that our livers and kidneys are more taxed now than they ever have been in history.
How to help your body detox
If you're feeling sluggish and tired, or if you find you're catching every little bug that the people around you catch, you may want to consider helping your body with detoxification.
Here's the thing about detox products like teas and juices: while they may be chock full of great nutrients, usually it's what you cut out of your diet - rather than what you add in - that really gives your liver and kidneys the break they need to function optimally.
Cutting things like alcohol, deep-fried food (which are usually fried in rancid oils!), and refined sugar, will free up all kinds of energy for your body to focus on flushing harmful environmental toxins.
There's also a lot to be said for choosing to use products in your home that are free of toxins. Joyous Health recently put together a detox kit that I LOVE, because it includes her harmful-chemical-free products, as well as a cookbook of liver-supporting recipes.
I'm also a big fan of Julie Daniluk's Hot Detox book and program - it's a holistic look at wellness that goes beyond detoxing (as I've explained it in this blog post) and tackles subjects like inflammation and digestion.
And yes, there are definitely some foods you can include in your diet that will support the phases of liver detoxification. Stayed tuned for those in a post all their own!
So, in conclusion, yes - detoxing is an important part of keeping a body healthy. The most important take-away, though, is that the body is already equipped with a super-efficient detoxification system. Cutting out foods and substances that tax that system, though, can be incredibly beneficial to overall well-being.