12 min read
TO DETOX OR NOT!
Can you support the body WITHOUT the use of ‘detox’ pills and potions?
As we emerge from the festive and holiday season around the world, inevitably ‘detox’ diets and ‘cleanses’ jostle for space in our news feed. It’s tough to not be sucked in, especially if you’ve over-indulged in food and booze, and burnt the candle at both ends in recent weeks. Let’s face it, you’re going to feel less than optimal if you’ve been eating too much while not moving enough, especially if much of your fare has been processed and refined. Then there might have been the alcohol?
Are detoxes and cleanses the answer to a replenished you?
There is no one answer to this question as detox diets, pills and potions cover a host of different things. It’s fair also to say that there is little in the way of scientific evidence showing that short-term or fad diets and cleanses offer much in the way of clear benefit. But then again, we should appreciate that studies are few and far between and tend to be limited in scope. What can be teased out of the confusing and sometimes conflicting science is that the various and complex detoxification systems in our bodies are enhanced or protected by a diverse range of nutrients and plant based ingredients. We also benefit by making sure we minimise our daily exposure to range of environmental chemicals that we readily absorb through our food and drink, skin and lungs.
So what can we do to make the most of our innate detoxification systems?
- Much weight loss on some detox fad diets is caused by water loss. If fat is lost, it is most likely the result of calorie restriction,
- In a healthy body with the right nutritional support, the liver and kidneys do a great job detoxifying metabolites and other chemicals created internally, as well as ones to which we’re exposed in our environment.
- Our in-built detoxification system can benefit from some protection and support
- We should try to reduce the toxic burden on our system by removing unnecessary exposure to environmental toxins
One of the reasons people feel like they need to ‘detox’ is because they are introducing environmental toxins to the body through smoking, drinking and washing water, in certain foods, through food contact materials and plastics, via airborne pollution and through excessive drinking. In these cases, one fix is clear—do what you can to remove these sources of exposure! That means stopping smoking, avoiding overcooking or burning foods, storing foods in inert materials such as glass, avoiding hyper-ventilating city air—and reducing your alcohol intake to safe amounts.
Support and protect your body…
Our bodies need to detox (‘biotransform’) all the time in order to avoid a build-up of internally produced metabolites and toxins. That’s before you look at how well we’re managing to cope with the burden of toxins we absorb from the outside world through our mouths and guts, skin and lungs. Owing to our genetic individuality and different lifetime exposures, we don’t all have the same capacity to detox. Better than a 7- or 30-day, extreme, detox regime with sometimes questionable rationale or products, we all benefit from long-term, ongoing pragmatic lifestyle changes that include minimising our exposure to environmental toxins while making sure we stay well hydrated, eat a balanced and varied diet along with ample vegetables and fruit, and support our bodies with the addition of health-promoting nutrients that include ones known to support detox (biotransformation) pathways in the body. Additionally, to help support our natural, innate detoxification system, we need to stay physically active, ensuring at least an hour of moderate activity each day, and sleep as much as we need.
Natural detox support tips:
1. Don’t overindulge
The simplest way to not suffer the damage associated with toxicants is to avoid ingesting them! Since alcohol and tobacco are the two greatest, harmful sources of environmental chemical exposure, quitting smoking, avoiding second-hand smoke and limiting alcohol to safe amounts are key to your ability to detox naturally.
Read about safe drinking levels:
2. Get enough sleep
We all know the importance of sleep for overall health but recent research also suggests that waste products of metabolic processes in the brain are removed at a faster rate during sleep11. Different people have differing sleep requirements, these also varying according to emotional, physical and other stresses. For most people, somewhere between 6 to 9 hours of quality sleep in a darkened room is ideal.
3. Eat 80% whole, unprocessed foods (preferably organic)
Focusing on whole, unprocessed foods 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 pesticide residues. Adults should consume at least 5 portions of vegetables and two portions of fruit daily, making sure these cover all six phytonutrient colour groups (green, red, yellow, orange, blue/purple/black and white/tan) each of which support different metabolic functions in the body. Think of this as ‘eating a rainbow’ every day!
For guidance on healthy eating, refer to the Alliance for Natural Health’s Food4Health plate [HYPERLINK TO http://anhinternational.org/wp-content/uploads/old/sites/default/files/150122-ANH-Intl_Food4Health-Plate.pdf].
4. Reduce your environmental chemical load
We are exposed to a plethora of human-made chemicals every day in our food, beverages, drinking water, toiletries, cosmetics and cleaning agents, as well as in the air we breathe. Depending on our genetic and physiological capacities, different people have differing abilities to cope with this burden. We all benefit from doing what we can to reduce our daily burden. It’s therefore prudent to select consumer goods that minimise your chemical load.
A good resource to help you with this is the US Environmental Working Group website (www.ewg.org).
5. Supplement your diet with a comprehensive blend of plant-based nutrients, vitamins and minerals
Many of us still do not get enough of many essential vitamins and minerals (including Vitamins A, B1, B6 and B12, and zinc and selenium) from diet alone12. Taking a broad spectrum multi-nutrient formula like Nuzest Good Green Stuff, that also includes supportive nutrients (such as bioflavonoids), whole plant foods, and some of the oxidation reducing herbs and spices (curcumin, milk-thistle, dandelion) can help to support the body’s own detoxification systems.
6. Eat sufficient protein
Several amino acids from protein are required for liver detox pathways. If you are active or aging the RDA amount of 0.8g of protein per kg bodyweight per day is unlikely to meet your needs. At least 1.5 times this amount is considered sufficient to meet your needs. Eating a portion (1-2 palm sizes) of a quality protein food (meat, chicken, fish, eggs, sprouted lentils, tofu or tempeh) will help you meet this requirement. For convenience a quality protein powder such as Nuzest Clean Lean Proteien can provide a protein-based meal in the form of a smoothie.
7. Balance your fats
Omega 3 fatty acids and foods rich in monounsaturated fatty acids help your body to regulate inflammation. Most people consume too much Omega-6 fat, with their ratio of Omega 6 to 3 being in excess of 15 to 1, when it should ideally be below 4 to 1. Good sources of Omega-3s include fish oil or microalgae supplements, oily fish, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds. Unfiltered, cold pressed extra olive virgin oil, avocadoes, macadamia nuts and almonds are good sources of monounsaturated fat that also help maintain a healthy inflammatory response. Increasing evidence suggests that medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) can help manage inflammation in the body, and coconut oil is good source of MCTs that is heat-tolerant and therefore useful as a fat for cooking purposes.
Does meditation aid detoxification? There is no evidence that it does…but it’s clear that mindfulness exercises help us to maintain healthy dietary and lifestyle practices, as well as reducing stress and improving the quality of sleep
Exercise helps to encourage efficient lymphatic clearance of metabolic waste products. It can also help to improve blood sugar control over time and thereby reduce excessive glycation and oxidation that can further damage cells. What’s more, sweating helps remove toxins13 and exercise can also increase the exhaled elimination of some toxins 14, 15
Research shows that BPA (bisphenol A) used as a plasticiser to soften plastic food storage products, some sports water bottles and other food contact materials, act as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), affecting oestrogen receptors, thyroid hormone receptors and others parts of our hormonal system. Experts in the field of EDC science have found that extremely low levels of exposure may cause adverse effects so argue there are no known safe levels of consumption. BPS and BPF are increasingly used in place of BPA, so while it is too early to know for sure, because they are chemically very similar to BPA, it is likely that in time their endocrine disrupting effects will be shown to be similar.
Read about plastics and toxicants: http://www.holisticperformancenutrition.com/articles–media/safe-use-of-plastics-with-food
Help support biotransformation processes in your body, and take a serving of Nuzest Good Green Stuff daily, in conjunction with a balanced, varied diet, ample hydration and regular exercise practice
Dr Mark Donohoe, Australian GP and integrative medicine practitioner, articles on Toxipedia.org:
The Detoxification System Part I: the Human Liver
The Detoxification System, Part II: Hepatic Biotransformation
Functional Medicine University module on the Physiology and Biochemistry of Biotransformation/Detoxification