Detox programs are everywhere and are marketed to the general population as being a necessary evil to rid ourselves of the toxins we are exposed to in daily life. They are often a week of drinking only juice and teas, while having regular colon hydrotherapy and practicing yoga all day. But are these popular juice fasts, master cleanses and expensive detoxification programs really necessary?
One of the reasons that so many people embark on cleanses and detox plans is that there are a lot of overweight and obese people in our society, and people who are looking for the quick fix. Detoxes and cleanses often promise quick weight loss. This desire to lose weight is combined with the paranoia in today’s culture that our bodies are full of toxins and that we must detox in order to rid ourselves of these offensive chemicals.
But is it paranoia if it’s true? Since the industrial revolution and WW2, we are exposed to more environmental persistent organic pollutants (POPS) than our grandparents ever were. Team this ever-expanding repertoire of POPS with genetic single nucleotide polymorphisms (you can call them mutations if you want to) that mean that our liver cannot effectively remove the build-up and this can create a form of toxicity in the body that can feel like brain fog, joint pain and hormonal imbalances.
So we know our exposure is greater than it’s ever been, but I ask again, do we need these juice fasts and detox programs? The simple answer is maybe, but that it really depends on your exposure and genetics. Mostly though, you can support your bodies natural detox process by ensuring you have a diet that has plenty of fibre in the form of moderate consumption of fruits and plenty vegetables as well as good quality protein (because phase 2 detox is an amino acids dependant process). It’s the phytonutrients in the plant foods that support your immune system, your liver, kidneys, lungs and other organs so that your body can naturally do its job to detox you on its own.
The fact is we have a natural detox system in our body that works very well when fed the right ingredients. The liver does a great job of flushing out waste every day, our lungs breathe out pollutants, our kidneys filter out toxins, and our digestive system lets things pass through that we don’t need.
Detoxing has also become the umbrella term for a lot of different diets. Sometimes the word may be used positively, as in feeding your body a healthy diet of natural whole foods, but other times the word means drinking nothing but a fluid concoction of lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper or some such for days, which is supposed to flush poisons from the body. The latter detox diet and any that are high in fruit juices are the ones to skip.
If you do feel you need to better support your bodies natural detox system then ask a qualified functional nutritionist to help you with a program that will support you by supplying the necessary protein, plants and fats you need. It is always best to embark on this under supervision because when you’re not eating and you’re taking in very few calories, you start to break down muscle mass, which creates nitrogen compounds that your body has to excrete.
You may also lose fat, which sounds like a bonus, but fat is one of the places that stores POPS and other potentially harmful substances, so losing the fat without supporting your detox system may actually end up making you more toxic!
I will say that the good side of short, supervised cleanse diets is that when they are done for short periods they may inspire people to improve their eating habits or inspire a healthier way of living but a better practice would be to have healthy daily habits that include avoiding toxins and eating well.
Bottom line: Detoxing or cleansing is not a sustainable weight-loss technique. You may however be one of those people who accumulates toxins and you may need some assistance to help your body rid itself of those toxins. There is no one size fits all advice when it comes to toxic burden as we all have different exposures and we all have different genes.
The body is essentially a self-cleaning machine, but it does need help in the form of good food and good habits. This is best done on a daily basis, so you probably don’t need the 7-day juice retreat in Ibiza, but if the 7-day retreat includes good, healthy food and mindfulness practices, why not? It is Ibiza after all!