What is detoxing?
'Detoxing' is definitely a buzz word and this time of year (post-Christmas), detoxying is on the minds of many of us. But what does it mean?
Everyday, all day, our cells are metabolizing the foods/ingredients we take in and removing waste for optimal functioning. Detoxing is ALSO known as 'biotransformation' and this is a 2 step process in which our LIVER metabolizes food ingredients, supplements, medications, etc., and REMOVES the metabolic by-products from the body. Our liver is CONSTANTLY detoxifying our blood.
What are our detoxification systems other than our liver/gut?
1) Our cardiovascular system - removes toxins from the blood
2) Our lymphatic system - removes toxins through lymphatic circulation
3) Our kidneys - removes waste in urine
4) Our skin - removes heavy metals and PCB's
How can we SUPPORT our liver for optimal biotransformation and detoxification?!
1) Reduce exposure to overt toxins. Use medications only as needed (cut back on the tylenol, for example, if you have headaches and drink more water, etc.) - To do this of course, we need to get to the ROOT CAUSE of ailments in order to TREAT them, not mask with medications. Other ways to reduce overt toxins - Reduce alcohol intake (1 unit/day or less), don't smoke, avoid FOOD ADDITIVES such as high fructose corn syrup, dyes, emulsifiers, pesticides/herbicides, and avoid INGREDIENTS such as shortening (trans fats).
2) Increase intake of fresh/frozen fruits and vegetables. Filled with nutrients and antioxidants, these foods keep our liver healthy for optimal detoxifying. Think 'yellow' - pineapple, yellow peppers, etc., 'red' - tomatoes, strawberries, red peppers, grapes, 'purple' - cherries, blueberries, pomegranate, plums, etc. The more COLOUR in our diet, the better.
*Choose ORGANIC when frozen and LOCAL when fresh to reduce pesticide/herbicice intake.
*Wash all fruits and vegetables well if eating the rind. Wipe clean with paper towel or a vegetable brush under running water OR add grapes/berries, etc., to a colander and shake well under cold water.
3) Focus on a high fibre intake from whole foods. Whole food sources of fibre include whole grains such as quinoa, rice, oats and millet, startchy vegetables such as potatoes, beets, squash, as well as nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, and fresh/frozen fruits and vegetables. Fibre improves liver detoxifcation AND promotes healthy bowel movements. Bowel movements are a very important method for removing waste from our bodies.
4) Eat high-quality proteins regularly. High quality proteins include all 'whole' foods proteins such as fresh/frozen meats such as loins, chops, steaks, and even including ground lamb, pork and beef (preferably organic / free-range WHEN & IF possible). Other sources of whole proteins include eggs, lentils, beans, tofu, cheese, and nuts & seeds. Proteins are VITAL for detoxification.
5) Use anti-inflammatory teas - such as peppermint tea, chamomile tea, licorice root, ginger/turmeric, dandelion tea, lemon balm, etc. All of these had antioxidants & anti-inflammatories to support the liver. Ensure to choose ORGANIC teas and LOOSE TEA if possible as plastic tea bags may have microplastics.
6) Drink water regularly - Preferably filtered/flat water. Water helps to remove waste and improves blood flow for optimal detoxification. Adding fresh lemon (organic) or organic lemon juice (such as from the brand 'Italiano Volcano' provides addition digestive and anti-inflammatory benefits.
7) Ensure to move your body AT LEAST 30 minutes/day. This is important for many reasons, but moving our bodies allows SOME toxins to be removed from sweat and improves blood flow and lymph flow so our liver receives and properly removes waste.
SHOULD YOU DO A 'DETOX CLEANSE'?
This is a VERY popular question. In fact, the 'detox' industry is a billion dollar industry! Detox diets, supplements, programs, etc... they sell well! But do we NEED to 'detox' for optimal detoxification and biotransformation?
My thoughts are this:
1) What we do MOST OF THE TIME is most important. SO if we are regularly eating junk food, drinking alcohol, and living a sedentary lifestyle, no amount of 'detox cleanses' are going to improve liver function or detoxification.
2) If the plan is just short and fun, like a '3-day cleanse' this is likely fine for most people.... but extended detoxes can actually be harmful. There are many reasons for this, but the one I like to mention is this... IF you are on a restricted intake (which generally leads to quick weight loss)..... you are at risk of an influx of toxins such as PCB's and heavy metals into the bloodstream BECAUSE fat-soluble toxins are STORED in our fat cells. Any plan that promotes detoxifcation through dietary restriction for any extended period of time COULD have risks, so that's something to think about.
3) If you're planning to 'do a cleanse' - the BEST option is REMOVING all processed foods and focusing on an ABUNDANCE of very clean and nutrient rich foods (See a list of foods as mentioned above) along with lots of water and anti-inflammatory teas incuding dandelion tea and turmeric tea. Expensive supplements and herbs may not be necessary.
***In saying that, MILK THISTLE and TURMERIC/CURCUMIN supplements are a great addition to a detox plan.
***Also, make sure to talk to your healthcare professional who has a strong understanding of detoxification and supplemenation before moving to a detox plan.
There are MANY environmental toxins that we come into contact with on a regular basis that can hinder detoxification.
Personal care products - Phthalates
Air pollutants & air fresheners (especially in the city)
Household cleaners (Windex, Clorox, etc.) - Choose natural products such as 'Downeast' instead.
Pesticides/herbicides - In food and in lawn care products, etc.
Plastics - BPA and others
It is VERY important that we support our liver on a regular basis for optimal functioning and optimal detoxification.
Thank you for reading!
Nicole Marchand, RD