07 Sep Detoxing: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
There is a bit of an issue with the ‘detox culture’ that seems to be rife in the health industry. This notion of ‘dirty-then-clean’ and that a 3- or 5-day cleanse will make all things in your life better is problematic. It completely misses the bigger picture of how the body functions.
Now, I’m not saying we should shove detox-plans in a dark corner and never speak about them again. What I’m saying is there is a smarter way to understand your individual needs, support your liver and enhance your body’s natural detox processes.
In a healthy body, the process of detoxification runs smoothly; but the truth is our bodies might not be fully equipped to deal with the toxic burden of modern living. Today, more than ever, we’re bombarded with toxins; from pollution to preservatives, pesticides, hormone disruptors… the list goes on and on. And while we want to avoid additional toxins and look for non-toxic alternatives, it’s unrealistic for us to believe that we can avoid every single toxin that comes our way. In fact, our bodies produce their own toxins as part of our day-to-day metabolism and it’s completely natural. That’s why we have wonderful organs like the liver and lungs which get rid of these toxins.
Although we can’t always control the world around us or our exposure to all pollutants and chemicals, we can make strategic dietary and lifestyle changes that can help counter their effects by supporting the liver, healing the gut, and lightening our overall toxic load.
This is what a healthy detox plan should do. And the slower, more consistently this is done, the better for your body.
Why You Need to Find the Right Detox Regime for Your Genes
Have you ever wondered how one person can drink coffee at 9pm and fall asleep by 9:30pm while another person can’t have coffee after 3pm because they’ll be up all night? Well, it’s probably because of their genes.
And you might think that the person who can drink coffee at all hours without worrying has hit the genetic jackpot, but that same individual may struggle with breaking down excess estrogens or medication.
Genetic variations from one person to the next causes detoxification to be highly individualised, which is why mass-marketed short-term detox programs aren’t the wisest decision if you don’t know what’s going on at a genetic level. You are unique. You are complex. There are several hundreds of genes involved in detoxification and your genes don’t work in isolation – they work with each other and your environment. What we eat, how we move, our stress levels and our emotional lives affect how our genes behave.
We can’t change our genes, but we can influence how our genes express themselves.
Do you actually need to go on a ‘Detox Plan’?
You might feel like a seasonal detox is a must-do because every person you know goes on a 5-day juice cleanse in September. And, although the detox industry is booming, there is actually very little clinical evidence to support them. A handful of clinical studies have shown that commercial detox diets enhance liver detoxification, but these studies have flawed methodologies and small sample sizes.
To reiterate: There is very little clinical evidence for commercial detox diets. This doesn’t necessarily mean that detox plans don’t work and are a waste of money, but they should be well thought out under the guidance of a qualified healthcare provider.
The question you should be asking yourself is “Why do I feel like I need a detox?”
Most of all, don’t ever undergo a detox for the sole reason of weight loss. We can often feel pressurised by what we see in the media or how people we know have had such great results after undergoing their 3-day ‘cleanse’ and feel energised, lighter, healthier etc. but did you know that there’s a serious risk to your mental health? Always keep in mind that any kind of restrictive eating, has the potential to overflow into an eating disorder long-term.
I’d love to sit here all day and deep dive into diet-culture and how we’ve been programmed into believing that there is some food/diet that is better than others and that if you eat a certain way, you’ll never achieve optimal health, but that isn’t the point at hand. But maybe, it’s something that we need to think about with detoxes. Could diet-culture be the underlying reason you’re wanting to undergo an extreme detox plan?
Physical Signs That You May Need A Detox
Remember that I said we shouldn’t just shove detox-plans into a dark cupboard? That’s because many people actually do struggle on a physiological and genetic level to eliminate toxins. BUT THAT’S NOT EVERYONE.
If on some level, you think you’re experiencing some of the symptoms below, please see a professional healthcare provider before buying a product off the shelf/internet. There are some excellent products and supplements available, but they are not for everyone.
- Constantly waking up around 2-3am and struggling to fall asleep
- Exhaustion (mental or physical)
- Digestive issues like IBS, indigestion, constipation
- Hormone imbalances (you can find signs & symptoms here)
- Skin conditions (eczema or dry, inflamed skin)
At The End Of The Day
Anybody can undergo an extreme diet for a short period of time and experience “improvements” in their health. But when we take a longer-term approach and start to fully understand our own bodies and the food we eat, that’s when true healing takes place.
The bottom line is that you can trust that your liver and kidneys are more than capable enough to eliminate (detox) any substances that are not needed for healthy functioning in your body. Any substances that your body isn’t able to naturally eliminate will cause some sort of medical problem and require consultation with a healthcare provider.