The words “detox diet” or “cleanse” often make us dietitians cringe. There’s a lot of confusion surrounding detox diets and how they work.
The goal of a detox is to completely rid the body of toxins in a short period of time. The belief is that cleansing the body will resolve many problems and that the results will be systemic – more energy, better sleep, clearer skin, less bloating, fat loss, a winning lottery ticket, etc.
Remember that when things seem too good to be true, they often are.
Detox diets range from complete starvation to juice fasting to eating only raw produce while taking various herbs or supplements. The detox period is thought to give your organs rest and stimulate the liver to filter out and eliminate toxins. Sadly, there is little to no evidence that a detox diet removes any toxins from the body.
A detox can actually do more harm than good. Extreme restriction can lead to fatigue, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, dehydration, cramping and bloating.
THE TRUTH IS, OUR BODY IS ALREADY DETOXIFYING AROUND THE CLOCK.
Toxins come from normal processes in the body, such as lactic acid and urea. Toxins also come from outside the body, such as pesticides we eat, alcohol we drink or car exhaust we inhale.
Toxins are a normal part of life, so we’ve got a pretty evolved system for eliminating them. The liver takes these toxic substances, makes them harmless and releases them in pee, poo, or sweat.
Over time, if the toxins we produce or take in from the environment exceed the body’s ability to excrete them, they are stored in bones and tissues. Fortunately, the liver will continually cleanse itself and there is no evidence that starving or juice fasting has any impact on speeding up that process.
As an RD, I believe the right way to approach a detox effort is to reduce the amount of toxins you take in while also providing your body with nutrients to optimize the natural detox process.
The focus should be on whole, unprocessed foods that nurture the body.
TOP WAYS TO HELP OPTIMIZE YOUR BODY’S NORMAL DETOX PROCESS:
- Minimize exposure to toxins. Wash produce or use primarily organic produce, choose antibiotic & hormone-free meat, and avoid processed foods that contain artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.
- Drink plenty of water. At least 8 glasses a day! You can’t pee out toxins if you don’t have to pee.
- Eat lots of clean fruits & veggies. These are filled with detox-supporting nutrients and fiber. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts are especially effective at helping the body naturally eliminate toxins.
- Eat fermented foods. Things like kimchi, yogurt and kefir help promote healthy gut bacteria, which also do a lot of bodily housekeeping.
- Reduce inflammation. Inflammation can impede all body processes, including detox. Choose anti-inflammatory foods such as omega-3 rich seafood, flax and chia seeds, lots of fruits and vegetables, and spices such as ginger and turmeric. Avoid gluten, dairy or soy if those tend to be inflammatory foods for you. And if you need an assist, tag in Territory. We curate our menus to help continually reduce your body’s inflammation week after week.
- Get a sweat on. Sweating is another way that toxins leave the body. Exercise also gets the blood flowing, which speeds up toxin transport to the liver and then out of the body.