In a follow-up to my previous post on Spring Cleaning, I thought I'd go a bit more in-depth to explore the Detox. This is a hot topic these days, with many products on the market claiming to be rapid ‘cleanses’. Are these useful? How useful are they? Are they even needed? Let’s explore.
Our bodies do, indeed, have ‘self-cleaning’ mechanisms. As we go through our busy days in the city toxins can store up in the body. The powerhouse organ of detoxification is the liver, but the routes of elimination (large intestine, kidneys, and skin) are equally as important. You must get the garbage to the curb and not let it pile up under the sink!
What does detox mean
The basic principle is this: toxins in must be less than toxins out. Adding in a supplement will not decrease the amount of toxins in, hence there must be a dietary component.
If we can get a bit technical for a moment, the purpose of a detox is to aid the body in clearing toxins. Now, the extent to which we need to help the body out depends on the person. Those with histories of long-term toxic burden (environmental exposure, oral contraceptives or other liver-taxing medications, for example) may need some help, but for most of us still carrying around the weight of winter hibernation, our bodies are quite capable on their own.
Many supplements or cleanses provide liver support to increase the efficacy of liver function, that is, to speed up the liver to clear toxins faster. They often contain many of the required nutrients as well as liver boosting herbs such as Milk Thistle and Dandelion. The rendered non-toxic metabolites are excreted either through the kidneys as urine, through the skin as sweat, or through the bowel as, well, poop. If these organs don’t have a chance to do their jobs effectively, all the liver’s hard work won’t pay off and the trash piles up under the sink.
Many of the products on the market have similar formulations, though some are better than others in terms of therapeutic dosing of liver supporting herbs and required nutrients. Many, especially rapid cleanses, are simply laxatives.
Do I need to detox?
That depends. Refer to the previous entry on Spring Cleaning and then decide. If you think a detox is right for you, speak to your ND. These protocols are not without side effects, are not right for everyone, and should not be taken lightly.
People often experience headaches, fatigue, lethargy, and dizziness, particularly during the first few days of the protocol. This is common as the stored toxins begin to mobilize and make their way to the curb. It’s important that you drink plenty of water during the process.
Ideally the detox should last about 2-3 weeks. These should always include dietary modifications similar to the Spring Cleaning post. Remember, toxins in must be less than toxins out.
The bigger picture
There’s no easy way to categorize who are candidates for a detox vs who could just use a dietary clean-up. I always suggest starting simple and gentle. If that does the trick, great. If you’re still not feeling quite right, it may be time for the big guns. Until then, eat as healthy as you can, laugh as often as you can, and aim for at least one bowel movement per day.
Feeling like your insides are holding on to a bit too much? Feeling sluggish, fatigued, and just not quite right inside? An internal clean-out may be just the thing you need. Some people may flock to the term “detox”, and we’ll go over many of those basic principles here, but often a fancy protocol is just not needed. For many people, cleaning things up and cleaning things out is really simple and with no fancy supplements.
We have a natural rate at which we can efficiently detoxify before any storage happens. We tend to get bogged down when the amount taken in is greater than the rate of this process. A detox or 'spring cleaning' serves to redistribute that burden, so that we take in less that we can detoxify, allowing the body to play “catch up”.
The simplest of spring cleaning protocols uses the body’s own detoxification processes without much intervention. This is mainly done through diet and a few other easy tips.
First and foremost, drinking lots of water and consuming lots of fiber are absolutely key. You must be able to “flush out” the bad through the kidneys and bowels. Without this step, you’re putting the garbage in the closed garage without taking it to the curb. The next key is diet. This is your basic whole-foods diet rich if fruits and vegetables. The simpler the food the better.
Tips for an easy spring cleaning:
Foods to avoid:
This “diet” is the basics of a whole-foods diet. The simpler the better, and better for you. Remember, our bodies aren’t built to eat from a package.
If you feel you need a bit more than a spring cleaning and more of a detox protocol, it’s best to contact your Naturopathic Doctor for advice. Stay tuned for a detox-specific entry soon!