Do you really need to detox? And when you hear the word ‘detox’, what does it make you think? Does it make you think of juice or tea diets, deprivation and hunger? Or perhaps it makes you roll your eyes and think “What a crock of … Our bodies already know how to detox!”?
There’s certainly some truth here. Our bodies do know how to detox (more on that in a moment). And if you’re unfortunate enough to do a juice or tea-based ‘detox’, you probably will be hungry and feel deprived!
But it’s not all bad!
The term ‘detox’ has had a bad rap. It has become an umbrella term encompassing all manner of ‘diets’ and fads. Most of which hold little long-term benefit (if any). They will help you to lose some weight in the form of water. But they may also cause you to break down muscle, as your body looks for fuel – so, yep, guaranteed weight-loss there! But not in a good way…
So, it’s no wonder they’ve gained a bad reputation. But a true detox really shouldn’t fall in the same camp as these kinds of ‘diets’. If done correctly, and in the right circumstances, detoxing can be a much-needed boost for your body. It all depends why and how you are doing it.
True detoxification is the process whereby your body removes toxic chemicals via the gut, liver and kidneys. There is also a thing called detoxication, which is the way your body prevents damaging compounds to enter. One example of this is via the gastrointestinal lining – the cells are tightly knitted to prevent anything getting through, unless the substance is allowed to via the cells themselves (like vitamins). They’re like teeny-tiny, miniature bodyguards: if your name’s not on the list, you’re not coming in!
We all know how we ‘should’ be eating. Nutritious (ideally organic) vegetables and fruits, along with some lean protein and healthy fats, and some wholegrains (depending on whether you can tolerate them). And we would all totally eat like that all the time, if it weren’t for our pesky modern-day way of life, and all its deliciousness! So yes, if you ate like this, even 80 per cent of the time, your body would undoubtedly have no trouble in detoxing the few toxins it came across.
Unfortunately, life is not like this. We don’t eat the way we did merely two or three generations ago. We encounter more toxins in our food, like pesticides. And we encounter more toxins in our environment, like xenoestrogens – chemicals found in plastics and toiletries, that act like the hormone oestrogen in our bodies, ultimately causing hormone imbalance.
In addition, we encounter fewer bacterium than we once did (thanks to our need to sanitise and sterilise) and therefore are experiencing an imbalance of good bacteria in the gut – ‘dysbiosis’. This leads to a compromised detoxification system, due to the impact gut bacteria has on your liver metabolism. Good bacteria are actually needed by the body to detox, as they help your liver process certain drugs and chemicals.
The role your gut plays in the need to detox
Your gastrointestinal tract (small intestine and large intestine or colon, aka your ‘gut’) plays a key role in helping detoxicate and detoxify. When it’s all working as it should (and your body is successfully removing toxins), then we don’t notice how busy the gut is working on this. But when toxins start to build up, we actually begin to notice that the gut is struggling to function optimally.
If we can just go back to the teeny-tiny bodyguards’ analogy for a moment… Some of us have the misfortune of not tolerating certain foods. Those foods can damage our intestinal lining. This causes the miniature bodyguards to stand further apart (aka intestinal hyperpermeability, or “leaky gut”). When this happens, uninvited guests (like food compounds and toxins) pass through rather than being removed from the party, adding to your body’s ‘toxicity’.
Another issue that can hinder successful detoxification is constipation. After toxins have been processed by the liver, they get packaged up to be removed (yes, in the poo). They sit in the lower intestine for a while until you’re ready to drop the kids off at the pool (can I say that here?!). However, if you have lacklustre teeny-tiny bodyguards, insufficient fibre and fluid intake, perhaps as well as dysbiosis, then you’re looking at constipation too. The problem with this is that the poo sits there longer than it should, giving those packaged toxins a chance to get out and be reabsorbed into the system! *facepalm*
Why do you need to detox? Needless to say, our bodies have not yet evolved to cope with the additional toxins they are exposed to, and the gut issues being faced. What’s more, it’s not just chemical toxins you need to think about. Your body must also control hormone levels, including ‘detoxing’ and excreting them. Hormonal issues are becoming more prevalent in today’s women. But men can suffer too, and are prone to oestrogen excess (think ‘moobs’).
So, a helping hand in healing the gut and supporting the detoxification process is a no-brainer, surely? But you can also see that just drinking juices or teas is probably not going to fix the problems. It requires a multi-faceted approach, tackling food intake, gut healing, intestinal function, and liver function. From a general perspective, detoxing falls in to two categories: the once-in-a-while gentle detox or ‘cleanse’; and the full heal-the-gut, liver-supported detoxification.
The gentle cleanse or the full detox?
The gentle cleanse is great if you’re feeling a bit ‘blah’, a bit bloated, a bit like you overindulged at Christmas. It helps your body to process all the stuff it had recently, by not overburdening it with heavy foods and booze. It gives your natural detox system a chance to recover and get back on track. And you will feel better for it! You may or may not need some additional gut help, depending on your own personal symptoms.
The ‘full detox’ is for those with a build-up of hormones, toxins, heavy metals, or who have issues in the detoxification process. It helps your body get rid of the build-up by gently encouraging the detoxification process in the liver (which can be sluggish in some people). However, healing the gut, correcting the microbiota balance and removing health obstacles like constipation, are all key components of the process too.
So, do you need to detox?
It’s a case of changing how we look at detoxes. Be aware that they are not all the same. Be mindful of what you want to achieve. Drinking tea for three days before you walk the red-carpet at the Oscars probably will achieve a flat stomach. Oh, and hunger, and very little nutrition, and possibly bowel issues, but not much else.
The “need to detox” is forever debatable. However, a proper, supported detox may help you if you:
- are feeling ‘blah’, sluggish or tired;
- have overindulged recently;
- are suffering with constipation or ‘slow bowels’;
- have other gut-health issues;
- are struggling to lose weight;
- have a poor immune system;
- are noticing some hormone-related issues;
- have been exposed to toxins/heavy metals;
- have issues with your liver; or
- have compromised detoxification function.
I can help you with tailoring a detox to suit you and your requirements. Get in touch to enquire about a personalised detox, or book in for a ‘Cleanse & Reset’ programme.