The Guardian released an article entitled: You can’t detox your body. It’s a myth. So how do you get healthy? In the article, the author says that:
“…detoxing — the idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs squeaky clean and raring to go — is a scam. It’s a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you things.”
So is this true? Can you really not detox your body? As you go into the New Year, during which detox diets and claims are sure to surround you, it’s important to know the truth about detoxing, and in this article, you’re going to discover whether detoxing is really a myth and right after that I’ll share with you 5 quick ways to detox.
If you are in a hurry to check the ways you can detox naturally just scroll to the bottom of this article but I highly recommend you read the next lines because you will get to know how your body actually detoxes itself.
What Are Toxins?
It’s important to begin with an understanding of what toxins actually are. No matter how “clean” you live your life, just about everybody shows some evidence of a buildup of toxins. When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted the Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, they found some pretty shocking results.
On average, the CDC’s report found 212 chemicals in people’s blood or urine, 75 of which had never before been measured in the U.S. population. The chemicals included:
- Acrylamide (formed when foods are baked or fried at high temperatures, and as a byproduct of cigarette smoke)
- Arsenic, found in many home-building products
- Environmental phenols, including bisphenol A (found in plastics, food packaging and epoxy resins) and triclosan (used as an antibacterial agent in personal care products such as toothpaste and hand soap)
- Perchlorate, used in airplane fuel, explosives and fireworks
- Perfluorinated chemicals, used to create non-stick cookware
- Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, used in fire retardants found in consumer products such as mattresses
- Volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), found in paints, air fresheners, cleaning products, cosmetics, upholstery fabrics, carpets, dry-cleaned clothing, wood preservatives, and paint strippers
When you put all these together, these chemicals represent can potentially present a toxic burden to the human body, and (as the CDC has found) can accumulate in your body’s blood, urine and tissue — possibly one reason why the plastic-based versions of these chemicals are sometimes referred to as “obesogens,” due to the suggestion that they may somehow accumulate in fat tissue. While your body does actually have detoxification organs (your liver and kidney) that can process many of these chemicals and toxins, they can potentially cause medical problems if your liver and kidneys are not functioning properly or are overburdened with a poor diet.
How You Detox
While the kidneys are indeed important for acting as a filtration mechanism for your blood and removing wastes and excess water from the body, it’s the liver that has an incredibly important job when it comes to detoxification. Along with filtering your blood to remove toxins, your liver uses a two-phase process to break down chemicals and toxins. During phase 1, toxins are neutralized and broken into smaller fragments. Then, in phase 2 they are bound to other molecules, creating a new non-toxic molecule that can be excreted in your bile, urine or stool.
But order for this liver detoxification to work properly, your body must have adequate nutrients. If not, the phase 1 and phase 2 processes may not work adequately, which can leave toxic substances to build up in your body. There are specific nutrients that support both pathways. For example:
- B-Vitamins (B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid)
- Flavonoids, found in fruits and vegetables
- Foods rich in vitamins A, C and E (eg, carrots, oranges, wheat germ, almonds)
- Glutathione, found in avocado, watermelon, asparagus, walnuts, fresh fruits and veggies, and the nutrients n-acetylcysteine, cysteine and methionine.
- Branched chain amino acids, found in animal protein (dairy products, red meat, eggs and whey protein)
- Phospholipids, found in eggs, lean meats, organ meats, fish and soybeans
- Indole-3-carbinol, found in cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts
- Limonene, found in oranges, tangerines, caraway seeds and dill seeds
- Glutathione, found in avocado, watermelon, asparagus, walnuts, fresh fruits and veggies.
- Fish oil
- Amino acids from protein
Multiple studies have demonstrated the efficacy of these nutrients for supporting proper liver detox pathways.
Does The Colon Store Toxins?
The article in The Guardian then goes on to address colon cleanses, noting that:
“…proponents will tell you that mischievous plaques of impacted poo can lurk in your colon for months or years and pump disease-causing toxins back into your system. Pay them a small fee, though, and they’ll insert a hose up your bottom and wash them all away.”
“Some colon-cleansing tablets contain a polymerising agent that turns your faeces into something like a plastic, so that when a massive rubbery poo snake slithers into your toilet you can stare back at it and feel vindicated in your purchase.”
When you think about it, the idea of toxins being somehow reabsorbed by your body as they sit in your colon actually makes some sense. After all, rectal suppositories are used to rapidly administer drugs — so if drugs can enter your bloodstream from your colon, it’s certainly possible that toxins could be entering too.
However, your colon is equipped with several natural mechanisms to keep toxins from building up. For example:
- Natural bacteria in the colon can detoxify food waste.
- Mucus membranes in the colon can keep unwanted substances from reentering the blood and tissues.
- The colon sheds old cells about every three days, preventing a buildup of harmful material, and even allowing for expulsion of parasites
. I personally suspect that if colon cleansing or enemas have any effect in making you feel like you have more energy or have been “cleansed”, it is more likely to do with an activation of specific reflexes in your gut that cause your nervous system to relax, along with stimulation of bile production by the liver, which can indeed improve digestion, have a laxative effect, relieve constipation and cause you to go to the bathroom. Sure, this could potentially make you feel better by allowing you to better digest your food, or to even pass some feces that may have built up over the past few days, but I’d have to agree with the article in The Guardian that there is no evidence that poo can simply sit inside you for years, slowly rotting and toxifying your body.
Should You Detox?
Ultimately, as the article in The Guardian alludes to, your body has it’s own powerful methods of detoxification — and can activate these methods without the use of fancy diets or fancy detox spa visits. These methods primarily come in the form of your liver and your kidneys.
For example, your liver prevents pathogens from passing into your bloodstream, processes environmental toxins for safe removal, and helps to rid your body of excess nitrogen that build up from the breakdown of proteins and amino acids.
Your kidneys filter blood, remove excess water, pass urea (which is a toxin that builds up as a byproduct of protein breakdown), and sends this all out of your body via your urine.
So if you eat foods that support your liver and kidneys, or avoid foods that stress your liver and kidneys, you’re already detoxing every day — and unless you’ve gone through something like a serious bout of alcoholism or heavy metal toxicity, you don’t really need any fancy herbal blends or colonic cleanses.
For your liver, you can do things like avoid high amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fats from processed and packaged foods like canola oil and French fries, and instead eat those type of fats from fish, meat, seeds and nuts. You can avoid high amounts of fructose and sugar, limit alcohol, consume plenty of egg yolks (which contain choline that your liver uses to process fats), eat good, organic liver every now and then and pay attention to what kind of soaps and shampoos and household cleaners you’re using.
For your kidneys, you can limit intake of high fructose corn syrup, drink plenty of water, limit alcohol intake, and — if you are predisposed to renal issues — limit excessive protein intake (e.g. more than 200g/day of protein).
As The Guardian article notes, many popular detox and cleansing diets probably feel beneficial because of what they eliminate, and not because of any magical ingredients. All that lemon juice, cayenne pepper, maple syrup, and fancy water is probably not doing much when it comes to cleansing and detoxifying, but all the processed fats, high fructose corn syrup, alcohol, candy, soda, commercial meat and snack foods you’re eliminating on a detox diet are giving your liver and kidneys a chance to step up and do their normal detoxification duties, since they’re no longer overburdened with bad food and not enough micronutrients and minerals to support their normal function.
The good news is that healing your body doesn’t have to be a challenge. With a few simple steps, all of which take less than 10 minutes each, you can get on track to feeling better and get rid of the toxins your body has stored.
With so many other approaches out there to consider such as a liver detox, lemon detox, or colon detox, it can be overwhelming at times. Below is a great place to start.
- Overdose On Vitamin C
Okay, while you don’t actually want to overdose to the point where you become ill (which for most people, would be very hard as this is a water soluble vitamin and you need 2000 mg to reach a toxic dose), you do want to take in a very potent dose.
Vitamin C serves as an antioxidant in the body, which can help combat free radical damage and oxidation. These are what will eventually cause premature aging to occur, so defending against them is vital for your health.
For a few days, include an abundance of vitamin C rich foods. Don’t rely on supplements to get the job done here. Real foods will supply top level nutrition along with many other vitamins that your body needs.
Perfect detox foods include:
• Red peppers
2. Hydrate The Smart Way
By now you should know that one of the best ways to do a body detox is to consume plenty of fresh water. This will help wash away extra toxins and waste materials currently residing in your system.
Want to take that one step further? Green tea is an excellent alternative to plain water. Green tea is rich in antioxidants, which combat aging and defend against oxidative effects.
Green tea also contains catechins, which studies demonstrate can help speed up the metabolic rate and may help accelerate the fat burning process as well.
Try drinking two or three cups of this per day along with a little lemon for best results.
3. Go Organic
A large dose of the toxins that you are putting into your body on a regular basis are coming from the pesticides that are being utilized on the produce that you eat.
While you definitely don’t want to be deterred from eating as much fresh produce as possible (as noted above!), you do need to keep yourself safe from those unwanted toxins.
Choosing organic produce whenever possible is a wise move. If you can’t choose all organic produce, try at least choosing them for the ‘dirty dozen’, which are the most contaminated varieties.
This includes strawberries, apples, nectarines, peaches, celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers.
4. Pop A Probiotic
Probiotics are the healthy bacteria that naturally reside in the gut and help keep your immune system strong while improving your overall process of digestion.
Sadly, due to the high consumption of overly processed foods and the day to day stress we experience on a regular basis, our natural levels of probiotics have started to decline.
In their place are harmful bad bacteria, which can cause digestive distress along with put us at a higher risk of health woes. On top of this, because our immune systems are weakened, this also puts us more at risk for toxic overload.
Fortunately, this problem is a relatively easy fix. By taking a good quality probiotic once per day, you can replenish these healthy good bacteria in your gut, bringing your health to tip top shape.
5. Hop In The Sauna
Few things are more relaxing than sitting in a sauna after a long hard day and now, there’s yet another reason to pamper yourself. Sauna’s are a great way to sweat out the toxins residing in your system, cleansing your body and improving natural energy levels.
Sit in the sauna for about 10 minutes and then once finished, be sure that you re-hydrate with plenty of water. This is an important step that most people forget.
Remember that you’ve just lost a high amount of water and now that water must be replaced. Adding more water to your diet is the perfect way to do that.
There you have five great ways to kick-start your body detox process. Try one or more of these today and you’ll be feeling better tomorrow.
Dulloo, Abdul G., et al. “Efficacy of a green tea extract rich in catechin polyphenols and caffeine in increasing 24-h energy expenditure and fat oxidation in humans.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 70.6 (1999): 1040-1045.