In terms of detox diets and cleanses, there’s very little evidence that suggests that they offer any clear benefit. The various ‘detox’ diets and ‘cleanses’ on the market preach bold claims that are not backed by any amount of credible evidence or even plausible science.
Firstly, let’s clear a few things up…
- Weight loss on detox diets is likely due to calorie restriction, not elimination of toxins
- In a healthy body the liver does a great job of detoxification
- ‘Poison is in the dose’ – there are few if any ‘bad’ foods and all chemicals only become dangerous at a particular dose and exposure
Just Don’t ‘Tox’
Oftentimes, after the festive season, people feel the need to ‘detox’ due to the guilt surrounding the ingestion of toxic chemicals. Whether it’s through eating nasty foods, smoking, plastics exposure, or excessive drinking, in all of these cases, the fix is clear—make better food choices, stop smoking, reduce your use of plastics (especially for storing and cooking food), and reduce your alcohol intake to safe amounts.
You’re not toxic anyway…
There is a concerning mindset that surrounds detoxes and cleanses… The idea that the world around us is a frightening place, filled with deadly, toxic chemicals infiltrating our bodies, where they get ‘stuck’, leading us to resort to extreme measures to dislodge these dietary and lifestyle demons. But this is FAR from the truth.
Sure, there are potentially toxic chemicals in our environment and in the food we eat (technically called ‘toxicants’) but they are found in relatively small amounts and our body is really good at processing and eliminating them.
By simply having a liver you are doing an amazing job of detoxing! And if you don’t have a liver… well, you’re not doing much of anything!
Support the body… don’t ‘detox’
The body does a great job of detoxing itself and the research shows that the instead of extreme diets and cleansing programs, the addition of health-promoting nutrients and pragmatic lifestyle changes provides exponential benefit.
Furthermore, many ‘detox’ diets unnecessarily remove foods that may be beneficial (such as coffee, meat, eggs) or are simply starvation diets. Taking an additive, rather than a subtractive approach to nutrition, exercise and sleep is the best way to support natural, innate detoxification…without detoxing.
Take home tips:
1. Don’t overindulge
The surest way to avoid the damage associated with toxicants is to not ingest them! First and foremost, stop smoking and limit alcohol to safe amounts.
2. Get enough sleep
Recent research suggests that waste products of metabolic processes in the brain are removed at a faster rate during sleep.
This one doesn’t have the research backing (not yet)… but, it’s clear that mindfulness exercises help us to stick to healthy eating, exercise and reduce stress.
4. Eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods
This is a proven way to improve satiety and lose weight. It also provides many of the beneficial nutrients that help support the body’s own detoxification pathways and is likely lower in chemical residues that may be harmful.
5. Eat plenty of vegetables each day
Many of us don’t eat enough vegetables. We need to ensure we’re eating enough of the micronutrients that aid detoxification in the body, along with resistant starches and gut-supporting fibres.
6. Eat sufficient protein
Liver detox pathways require several amino acids from protein. The current RDA amount of 0.8g of protein per kg bodyweight per day is unlikely to meet your needs if you are active or aging; you’ll need at least 1.5 times this amount to sufficiently meet your needs. Eating a portion (1-2 palm sizes) of a quality protein food (meat, chicken, fish, eggs, sprouted lentils, tofu, tempeh, or good quality protein powder) will help you meet this requirement.
7. Eat extra omega 3 fats
Omega 3 fats help to regulate inflammation. Try oily fish, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds.
Exercise aids the removal of metabolic waste products via lymphatic clearance. What’s more, sweating has also been demonstrated to be a viable way to help remove toxins, and exercise can also increase the exhaled elimination of some.
9. Reduce use of plastics
Research shows that BPA found in plastic storage products is a hormone disruptor, affecting oestrogen receptors, thyroid hormone receptors and others. BPS and BPF are increasingly used in place of BPA, but they are chemically very similar and their effects may be likewise very similar.
Most of the detox products on the market are based on weak evidence at best. The body has a wonderful capacity to rid itself of toxicants acquired from the environment and remove toxins created endogenously by normal metabolic processes.
An ‘additive’ approach to nutrition and lifestyle in which we support our own internal detoxification pathways to work ‘as nature intended’ seems to be the most healthful solution.
Eating a varied, nutrient-dense diet, exercising and getting enough sleep can help us to eliminate and reduce damage from toxins and toxicants in the body.
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