Many products in the health food stores and on the internet promote detoxification (or detox) diets that yield many health benefits, usually by eliminating compounds and toxins trapped in your body for which are not cleared efficiently over time. While attractive in its claim, and generally well intentioned in outcome, detox products and diets should be utilized as an intervention with your healthcare provider, and not as a shortcut to make up for poor healthcare habits, a reckless diet, and exposure to chemicals (that you know of, or are within your control).
Our bodies are actually built with a robust internal sanitation system that can detect toxic compounds, dead cells, and foreign materials including viruses and bacteria that penetrate our perimeter. Our bodies also sub-contract some outside help from “good” bacteria that reside synergistically in our digestive system. These bacteria (pro-biotics) assist with vitamin absorption, digest food, protect our gut lining from sewage leaks, and defend against “bad” intestinal bacteria. Like any biological systems in our body, our detox system can become overwhelmed and function inefficiently which can lead to symptoms of fatigue, cloudiness in thought, a weakened immune system, fluid retention, pain, and weight gain. When this sanitation system is ineffective, other systems such as immune function and organ dysfunction can lead to diseases such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, fatty liver disease, and even declining mental function.
So who should detox?
Those with known diseases or conditions previously mentioned can probably benefit from a guided detox intervention with their healthcare providers. But for most people who are generally healthy, bad habits and poor lifestyle choices can affect our internal detox system. The following suggestion is not comprehensive, but addresses the majority of domains that need to be addressed in order to allow our internal system to cleanse and restore itself for normal physiological function...all of which are free!
Eliminate toxins (that you know of) from invading your body.
Try to avoid microwaving with any plastic containers or products, wear gloves when you are in contact with chemicals, keep your home air clean using plants and/or air purifiers, drink clean water, eat food that is not sprayed extensively with herbicides or pesticides, avoid smoking or second hand smoke whenever possible, are just a few to consider.
Eliminate processed or packaged foods.
If you read the ingredient list of packaged foods, you’ll notice food coloring, preservatives, and other artificial products intended to enhance flavors or maintain shelf life. These compounds can strain the liver and kidneys as they try to remove these products from our bodily system. The less of these compounds you ingest, the less your system has to detect, process and eliminate...thereby un-burdening the body’s detoxification process.
Perspiration is an autonomic response to an elevated core temperature. Exercise and movement, hot showers and saunas are examples of ways for your body to eliminate compounds from your body. Frequent and purposeful sweating is healthy and allows for excess fluid to leave the body thereby regulating blood pressure, swelling and pain.
Sleep causes your parasympathetic nervous system to engage. When this system is firing on all cylinders, your body will detect, package, and eliminate foreign material from accumulating. Digestion is optimized, absorption of nutrients is accelerated, tissues repair, and endogenous vitamins, enzymes, hormones and proteins are produced to meet the next day’s quota for body function. Sleep allows our body to adapt...regulating what is necessary for normal biological function. Pretty amazing process!
Your liver is the main detox organ in the body. Alcohol is broken down by liver enzymes and this places increased demands on its function, not allowing it to detox other compounds.
Avoid sugars and salts.
These compounds increase fluid retention. Frequent sugar loading stresses the pancreas. Sugar is also known to also increase cell inflammation and increase pain.
Drink more water.
Water mobilizes compounds within the bloodstream, allows for blood pressure to regulate, and encourages elimination of metabolic byproducts through the excretory system. Do this often.
Eat raw foods rich in color and foods rich in good fats.
Fruits and vegetables will provide high concentrations of antioxidants, nurtrients, vitamins, and pre/pro-biotics. If you are trying to reduce calorie intake, choose vegetables over fruits, as fruits contain more calories from sugars. Good fats, such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids found in avocados, walnuts, salmon, and various seeds can sustain energy while having an anti-inflammatory effect.
Identify stress sources.
Stress is a reaction that can be self-imposed or cued by external demands. No easy answers here, but the less stress you have, the less your hormones fluctuate, especially cortisol levels. Cortisol is necessary, but in excess amounts over time causes rapid aging and reduced immune system function!
Although you can start or prioritize any of the above habits at any time, I would suggest doing ALL OF THE ABOVE at the same time, for a period of several days up to even a few weeks. It will maximize the detox effect and allow the body to self-regulate and adapt to what is internally needed for body to repair, rebuild, and thrive!
Dr. Adrian Pujayana has been providing drug-free solutions for health and wellness to adults, athletes, and youth since 2000 through his private practice at Family Chiropractic Center of South Pasadena, a place for strength training and nutrition based health care.