EASTER IS A TIME WHEN MOST OF US OVER-INDULGE IN HOT CROSS BUNS AND CHOCOLATE. SYSTEM CLEANSES OR DETOX DIETS BECOME POPULAR AFTER THE CELEBRATIONS, BUT ARE THEY REALLY NECESSARY – AND DO THEY REALLY WORK?
bM contributor and Nutritional Medicine Expert, Fiona Tuck answers all your detox questions
What is a detox?
The body is naturally designed to be able to clear waste materials such as toxins, chemicals, and old hormones in order to prevent an accumulation of potentially toxic and harmful by products building up in our systems, otherwise known as detoxing. The term detoxing however has become a popular phase usually used in reference to “going on a detox” which means eliminating the toxic substances from the diet e.g. drugs, cigarettes, processed foods, high sugar and salt intake, artificial chemicals etc. Usually this is in response to an unhealthy lifestyle or period of ‘partying’ and the person is feeling less than energised, possibly bloated and or wanting to shed extra weight.
How do our bodies naturally detoxify?
Our body is designed to eliminate toxins to prevent them from over loading our system and potentially causing cell or organ damage. We have 5 major detoxification organs in the body:
The liver acts as the main detoxifying organ of the body. It’s role involves removing toxins and waste material from the blood. The liver also activates and regulates some hormones so liver function can also play a role in hormonal balance.
The digestive system breaks down and absorbs the food that we eat which then gets transported to the liver for filtering. The liver separates the nutrients the body needs from the waste products. Basically the liver accepts, filters and then repackages what it receives to either be used in the body if required or to remove waste products that are of no use. Waste materials are carried out by bile into the small intestine or by the blood to your kidneys. There are two phases of liver detoxification which are called the Phase 1 and Phase 2 detoxification pathways. These pathways rely on enzymes and nutrients to be working effectively. Some foods and drugs may affect these pathways and this is when a change in diet and professional supplement support may be of benefit.
How do I know if I need to detox?
When these detoxification systems are working in perfect harmony we feel fit, healthy and bursting with energy. If any of these systems however become overburdened from poor lifestyle choices, poor diet, environmental pollutants, medications or genetic weaknesses we can find ourselves feeling below average and at worst on the brink of disease.
The purpose of a cleansing diet is to ease the stress of the body’s organs and aid the removal of toxins. Environmental factors, stress, poor diet, medications, smoking etc. can all add extra stress to our detoxification systems, especially the liver.
Signs that your body may need a cleanse include feeling sluggish, a low mood, a lack of energy and having general malaise.
If you experience the following symptoms it may be time for a gentle system cleanse:
•Dark circles around the eyes
•Brown spots or liver spots on the skin
•Tree trunk legs (liver legs)
•Sensitivity to sulphites in wine and champagne (this can also be due to a deficiency in the mineral molybdenum).
Do detoxes really work?
If someone eats a healthy diet, full of fresh wholefoods with plenty of fibre rich vegetables and they do not ingest many toxins such as highly processed foods, alcohol, cigarettes, recreational drugs etc. then unless there were a health reason there would be limited benefit from going on a ‘detox’. Detox diets such as juices, liver cleanses, herbs may be beneficial to help relieve boating and that blah feeling after an indulgent period over Easter however there appears to be little scientific evidence to back this up. If someone has an indulgent lifestyle and goes on a major detox or has poor liver function strong detoxes can produce adverse side effects such as fluid retention, headaches, lethargy and nausea. A detox diet should never be undertaken without full medical supervision as juice fasts for instance can affect blood sugar levels and contain minimal if any protein so they are not suitable for everybody.
How do I detox safely?
A variety of lifestyle and dietary changes may be required to cleanse the body naturally e.g. Increase fibre rich foods such as brown rice, whole fruits and vegetables and slowly reduce intake of tea, coffee, alcohol, gluten, sugar and processed foods. This will reduce possible side effects and withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, sugar cravings, nausea and headaches. Be wary of miracle detox products promising weight loss and an abundance of good health. There are many detox/diet products available that are misleading and not really supporting weight loss or detoxing. There are some products such as health powders and herbs that may be beneficial in supporting liver detoxification but these need to be carefully formulated to support both phase 1 and phase 2 liver detoxification and aid clearance in order to be effective and safe. Always follow the advice of a professional health care practitioner prior to taking any supplements, herbs or tonics.
The best advice I can give is to eat a wholefood diet full of nutrient and fibre rich plants and limit processed foods, alcohol, and sugary drinks. If you look after your body well, and avoid eating that Easter Egg all in one go, there should be no need for extreme detoxes.
Read all Fiona’s bM posts HERE
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