After any holiday, it seems like everyone is going on some kind of detox. It is definitely the latest trend of quick fixes to lose excess weight. Rarely do people really think about what they are detoxing from, why, and how. The end goal is to fit back into your clothes, and that is good enough for most of us, who want instant gratification. However, if you have ever been to my detox cooking class, you will have heard me talk about the dangers of this trend. But let’s start from the beginning…
Is there a difference between a cleanse and a detox?
In the wellness industry, you will see both terms being used interchangeably. A cleanse is the system you use, for example a juice cleanse, salads, soups, herbs, supplements or even just pure water. Detox is what happens to the body while you are on this cleanse. The body is supposed to rid itself of toxins, leaving you feeling more energetic, alert, with healthier looking skin, and less pounds weighing you down.
What are you detoxing from?
The first question we have ask ourselves is, what are the actual toxins we want to get rid of during a detox? On a daily basis, we come in contact with plenty of pollutants that our bodies can’t use for healthy energy. These can be environmental pollutants from the air and water, it can be pesticides and hormones from our food chain, but also an unclean diet can bring toxins to our body: too much white sugar, unhealthy trans fats, coffee, and alcohol. Even excessive exercising can cause an unusual build up of lactic acid, acting as a toxin in our body. One of the main factors most people overlook that causes toxins inside the body is actually stress. But that is a whole other topic to talk about :-). The reality is that we are never pure and completely clean, we always have a certain amount of toxins swimming around inside of us.
What do these toxins do?
If toxins build up to an unusual amount in our blood, we tend to feel fatigued, burned out, and just in general like we have lost the spring in our step. Our skin may look dull, the digestion doesn’t work properly, and joint problems such as arthritis are more common. On a deeper level, toxins are aggressive and attack our internal linings of arteries, organs, and muscles.
Our body can not maintain a lot of toxins in our blood, so will always try to send it to other organs, muscles or into fat storage. If you lose body fat, you will automatically release a lot of toxins as well. If we are extremely overloaded with toxins, our body will start to build small “garbage dumps” in our body, placing all toxins into one contained area, so they can’t harm us. These areas are called tumors and may eventually grow into cancer.
How do we detox?
Unlike what most people believe, we don’t actually need to go on a detox in order to get rid of these toxins. Our bodies are amazing organisms, build to detox us 24/7… otherwise we would have all already died from the build up of toxins throughout our lives. The liver is the main organ responsible for breaking down toxins into less toxic waste, and then sending it to different organs for elimination:
kidneys eliminate through the urine
large intestine eliminates through the stool
lungs eliminate through exhalation
skin eliminates through sweat
It is absolutely possible, that the liver is too overloaded to deal with the amount of toxins coming in. All toxins have to go through two pathways in the liver to get eliminated. The second one takes a bit longer, so often toxins will go through the first one, then realize that the second one is still busy, and so they will get released back into the blood stream to swim around wait. In this changed form, however, they are even more toxic than they were originally.
On top of that, your liver has a very clear priority list of what needs to get detoxed first, depending on how much damage toxins can cause. Old, stored toxins are not as high on the priority list as for example alcohol.
Going on a detox
Popular cleanses are meant to help the body get rid of toxins. They are supposed to help wiggle toxins from the storage areas (out of the organs, muscles, and fat), place them into the blood, and then have the liver deal with them for elimination. This is where the biggest problem lies: if your liver is already clogged up and too busy to handle the current load, how is it going to detox all the added toxins released from storage? Suddenly, you are swarming with even more toxins in your blood stream, that can not be eliminated properly. Your liver gets even more clogged up, and your symptoms will get worse, and as soon as you done with the juice cleanse, the toxins will all go back into storage.
Take care of your liver
When wanting to detox, we need to address the bottleneck part of our detox system: the liver. It needs constant love, not just when we want a quick fix detox but on a daily basis. If your liver is clean, you then don’t need a harsh cleanse system to detox the rest of you. Again, our bodies are amazingly smart. Once the liver is cleaner, it will automatically call for other toxins from storage to be released and detoxed. We don’t necessarily need a juice cleanse for this. What we do need is a cleaner lifestyle in general. I always talk about eating clean in any of my talks or sessions. This means making sure we get nutrient dense foods into our diet, that will help us to take a load off the liver, and keep our body functioning on a higher level of energy. Yes, this includes cutting back on processed foods, alcohol, and caffeine, and introducing more wholesome foods, foods that come from the earth with life in them. This is not a quick fix that can happen from one day to the next, but it requires baby steps. It is a journey of health after all.
While cleanses may have a place in a healthy diet, sadly today they are just another fat diet trend. We use detoxes as quick fixes for weight loss, rather than for a healthier overall lifestyle. And with all fad diets that have come and gone over the decades, it is our health that usually loses out in combination with even more weight gain for most of us. Only long term lifestyle changes truly change our health and our weight, there is no other way around this.
To a healthy life!