We hear of detoxing everywhere – from friends who are doing a cleanse, flipping through a magazine or on most lifestyle blogs online. There are so many different reasons people do it as well, like finding the best detox to lose weight fast, resetting after indulging excessively or simply to feel better and boost your immune system.
Some travel overseas to exotic retreats to do a detox that include yoga, meditation, meals plans in order to help them set a new routine avoiding alcohol, curbing sugar cravings all while getting plenty of rest. Others may buy detox kits and do it at home – this could include supplements, juices, shakes, the works. With so many ways to detox, ranging from juice cleanses, eating only raw foods to even colon cleanses, it's important to understand why detox is a friend, not a fad.
What does detox do for your body?
With the fast-paced lives we live, we're exposed to so many toxins – chemicals that can harm the body's cells, organs and ability to function optimally.
Toxins that affect our bodies could be either exotoxins and endotoxins. Exotoxins come from sources outside of the body, such as pesticides, inhalants, foods, drinks, drugs, body products and cleaning products. Endotoxins are waste products from our cell’s normal activities, and it’s the build up of these that can cause us harm, like uric acid and lactic acid.
The main organs responsible for eliminating toxins and waste are the liver, digestive system, the skin, the kidneys, lymphatic system and the lungs. The body naturally cleanses on a daily basis, however at times these channels of elimination may not function at their best. This may be due to many factors including underlying medical conditions, stress, environmental toxins or food and drink that we consume.
If these organs are not cleansed the toxins accumulate and can affect our health. For example, Bisphenol A (BPA) is a synthetic estrogen found in plastics and we're exposed to it when we eat or drink foods contaminated with it. In one study, higher BPA exposure resulted in higher urinary concentrations of BPA which was associated with cardiovascular diagnosis, diabetes and clinically abnormal concentrations of key liver enzymes (1).
In a study that compared the difference between conventional foods and organic foods found that preschool children who had conventional foods had more exposure to organophosphorous (OP) pesticides (2). The research deduced that consumption of organic produce appeared to provide a relatively simple way for parents to reduce their children's exposure to these pesticides. And in a separate study, the results showed that having organic foods significantly lowered the children’s exposure to OP pesticides (3). It was therefore intuitive to assume that children whose diets consisted of organic food items would have a lower probability of neurologic health risks, a common toxicologic mechanism of the OP pesticide class.
It's safe to say that there's a clear association between our health and the toxins we are exposed to in the environment or those we consume. Since it's not possible to avoid toxins altogether, it's necessary to support the detoxifying of organs by eating clean and reducing our exposure to toxins as much as we can. We have to take it into our own hands!
Detoxifying your body
There are many who question the need to do a detox as the body naturally detoxifies. However, it's essential to take into account our individual lifestyles and diet and what we are exposing ourselves to by indulging in alcohol or processed foods that are high in sugar, preservatives and fats. We also have to look at how we compromise our health if we smoke, live in a polluted environment, are under constant stress or don’t exercise for example.
There are many detox plans advertised that are extremely restrictive, promising to show you how to cleanse your body or lose weight fast, in one day even, since they advocate eating very differently from our regular way of eating. These may be dangerous so always consult a nutritionist or physician before you take on something you heard is, 'the best one day detox home remedy '. Be aware of juice cleanses too, you might feel good for a few weeks but after some time you may find it challenging to keep at it and resort back to old patterns and bad habits.
If you're looking to detox your body to lose weight for example, if you are considered obese, it may increase the plasma levels of toxic pollutants. Studies found that weight loss increases plasma and adipose tissue concentrations of potentially toxic pollutants in obese individuals (4, 5).
Instead of making drastic changes, the best way to detox and cleanse the body is by supporting your body's natural cleansing process. You can do this by reducing exposure to toxins and including foods that support detoxification.
The best way to self-detox cleanse
1. Stay well hydrated
Water helps to remove toxins out of the body through the kidneys, so make sure you're having plenty of water. The amount you need will depend on your age, climate, diet, medical conditions, if you are breastfeeding, etc.
2. Eat organic (as much as you can)
Yes it's more expensive but you can use the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) list to avoid the Dirty Dozen. Some fruits and vegetables have more pesticide residue. For instance, the EWG reported that spinach samples had, on average, twice as much pesticide residue by weight than any other crop (6)!
3. Use paraben-free products
Parabens are used as a preservative in cosmetics, shampoo or other personal care products and are hormone disruptors, which mimic estrogen and can be linked to more serious health issues like breast cancer.
4. Reduce exposure to BPA
Instead of using plastic containers and bottles, try to use those made with glass or stainless steel.
5. Pile on the fruit and vegetables
The brassicas family of vegetables that include cauliflower, kale, broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts has been shown to induce detoxification enzymes, stimulate immune systems, reduce cancer risk and prevent oxidative stress (7).
6. Sleep well
We’re often told to get sufficient rest but did you know that sleep facilitates the clearance of metabolites from the brain? (8)
7. Stay active
Exercising and walking supports your lymphatic system, and one of its functions is to remove toxins from the body. The lymphatic system does not have a heart to pump it, but needs movement to support it flowing.
8. Exercise or have saunas
Sweat out and release toxins through the skin. There are various studies that have shown that sweating is a super effective way to remove toxins from the body (9, 10).
When considering a detox, don’t rush into doing one that's very different from your regular diet as you may find it difficult to do, then have withdrawal symptoms when you remove your favourite foods. Instead do a detox that allows you to create healthy habits that you can continue with as part of your lifestyle to support the body to detoxify naturally.
If you have any medical conditions, please consult with your wellness team before embarking on doing a detox or cleanse.
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Lang IA, Galloway TS, Scarlett A, Henley WE, Depledge M, Wallace RB, Melzer D. Association of urinary bisphenol A concentration with medical disorders and laboratory abnormalities in adults. JAMA. 2008 Sep 17;300(11):1303-10. doi: 10.1001/jama.300.11.1303. Epub 2008 Sep 16.
Cynthia L Curl, Richard A Fenske, and Kai Elgethun. Organophosphorus pesticide exposure of urban and suburban preschool children with organic and conventional diets. Environ Health Perspect. 2003 Mar; 111(3): 377–382.
Chensheng Lu, Kathryn Toepel, Rene Irish, Richard A. Fenske, Dana B. Barr,and6. EWG's 2017 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides 2006 Sep;16(9):1145-54.Obes Surg.. Increased plasma levels of toxic pollutants accompanying weight loss induced by hypocaloric diet or by bariatric surgery5. Hue O, Marcotte J, Berrigan F, Simoneau M, Doré J, Marceau P, Marceau S, Tremblay A, Teasdale N.
2000 Oct;24(10):1272-8.Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. Body weight loss increases plasma and adipose tissue concentrations of potentially toxic pollutants in obese individuals.4. Chevrier J, Dewailly E, Ayotte P, Mauriège P, Després JP, Tremblay A.
2006 Feb; 114(2): 260–263.Environ Health Perspect Roberto Bravo. Organic Diets Significantly Lower Children’s Dietary Exposure to Organophosphorus Pesticides inProduc https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php
Kapusta-Duch J, Kopeć A, Piatkowska E, Borczak B, Leszczyńska T. The beneficial effects of Brassica vegetables on human health. Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2012;63(4):389-95.
Mendelsohn AR, Larrick JW. Sleep facilitates clearance of metabolites from the brain: glymphatic function in aging and neurodegenerative diseases. Rejuvenation Res. 2013 Dec;16(6):518-23. doi: 10.1089/rej.2013.1530.
Margaret E.Sears, ,Kathleen J. Kerr and Riina I. Bray. Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, and Mercury in Sweat: A Systematic Review J Environ Public Health. 2012; 2012: 184745.
Genuis SJ1, Birkholz D, Rodushkin I, Beesoon S. Blood, urine, and sweat (BUS) study: monitoring and elimination of bioaccumulated toxic elements. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2011 Aug;61(2):344-57. doi: 10.1007/s00244-010-9611-5. Epub 2010 Nov 6.