How and why to detox.
Our world is full of toxins, both natural and manmade. Sometimes, our bodies need extra help cleaning house, which is where detoxifying cleanses come in. Cleanse diets and supplements are definitely trendy, but are they safe and do they work?
Doing a cleanse or going on a detox diet can include a wide range of approaches, but overall, they can be defined as some sort of change in your dietary habits in an attempt to remove or cleanse toxins from the body (1). More specifically, a cleanse is the process of cleaning the digestive system of impurities like fecal matter and toxins for the purposes of supporting regularity, healthy energy levels, weight management or overall health. A common misconception arises when people believe that cleansing is a crash diet or a bandage to cover unhealthy choices, when in reality, cleansing and detoxifying principles should be an addition to an already healthy lifestyle.
When cleansing, the goal is to clean a specific organ and aid it in its natural detoxification process (2). You could argue that in order to cleanse, you need to incorporate detoxing elements and vice versa.
Considering this connection, there are specific organs that are targeted during detox. Your liver, kidneys, colon and lungs are responsible for filtering out all the harmful substances from the body and need to be healthy to function at their best (3). To ensure the health of these organs, they need to be provided the proper nutrients. That is where cleanse treatments and detox regimens come in.
What Are Your Options?
Juicing. Perhaps the most popular cleansing method, juicing is great for those who find it tough to eat enough vegetables regularly. Juicing relieves your digestive system of having to break down whole foods, resulting in better absorption of nutrients necessary to cleanse the body (3). It is best to always use organic produce when juicing, as well as incorporating vegetables.
Water. Considering that humans are mostly made up of water, it shouldn’t come as a shock how crucial water is for your body’s natural cleansing and detoxification processes. In addition to helping push along waste out of the body, water helps deliver the nutrients needed for your organs to function optimally. Pairing water with organic fruits, veggies and herbs— widely known as infused water—is a tasty way to enhance your water routine.
Milk thistle. Well known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, milk thistle protects cells in the liver from toxic substances and enhances the liver’s detoxing abilities (4).
Dandelion root. Celebrated for its liver cleansing properties, dandelion root is a great ally for your liver and overall detox efforts. This antioxidant-packed plant works great as a tea, in addition to your juicing routine or even as a supplement (4).
Vitamins and minerals. The body must be fueled by the vitamins it needs for ensuring that the organs’ cleansing processes can be naturally carried out on their own (3). A daily multivitamin makes a great addition to any cleanse or detox effort.
Spices and herbs. Several spices also aid with detox and cleansing, and are often available in supplements or can be added to juices and foods. Herbs like cayenne pepper are well known for their antifungal and digestive properties, which are helpful for cleansing. Another great herb for the liver is turmeric. Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric protects the liver and rejuvenates liver cells. According to a study done by UCLA, turmeric has even been found to fight carcinogens (4).
Peppermint, famous for its ability to relieve digestive discomfort, is also great for supporting the health of the kidneys and gallbladder as well as promoting the breakdown of fat (4). It does this by helping create more bile, which aids in the digestion process.
Probiotics. Keeping your gut active is crucial when it comes to cleansing, especially for your colon. Good bacteria aids in digestion and helps to pass waste in addition to aiding the immune system. Probiotics can be consumed in supplement form, live culture yogurt products and kombucha drinks.
Psyllium husk. As one of the most powerful fibers in the world, Psyllium husk is great for cleansing the colon because of its ability to remove impacted food matter (5). Make sure shoppers increase their water intake when using a psyllium husk supplement.
Chlorella. This green algae is packed with protein and helps to eradicate built-up toxins by bonding with them and getting them out of the body. Japanese studies have also correlated chlorella intake with fat reduction and type-2 diabetes management (6).
Aloe. Another great help to cleansing or detoxing efforts is aloe vera. Similar to probiotics, aloe has digestive benefits and aids in flushing out bad bacteria from the colon.
These are just a sample of the many detox/cleansing options on the market. Be sure shoppers understand their options and consult with a medical professional before taking on any cleanse or detox regimens.
Pros and Cons
Pros. Perhaps the most widely valued result of doing a cleanse or detoxifying is healthy weight management. When done properly, cleansing can help shoppers temporarily shed pounds accumulated by waste or toxins, and can help improve the body’s metabolizing functions. Other benefits include support for those with bloating, constipation, chronic fatigue, headaches and increased vitamin and mineral absorption. Helping the body get rid of harmful chemicals and waste can aid in the prevention of chronic illnesses induced or worsened by toxins.
Cons. It is important that those who choose to do a cleanse or detoxifying regimen only do so after already applying a healthy diet and lifestyle—and with the okay of a healthcare provider. Shoppers should not cleanse or detox while in poor health, if they have blood sugar issues, are pregnant or have other health problems (3). WF
See WholeFoodsMagazine.com/Supplements for more coverage of the supplements category.
1. ScienceDaily, “Detox diet,” http://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/detox_diet.htm, accessed 10/28/15.
2. A. Nakayama, “What’s the Difference Between Detox and Cleanse?” www.replenishpdx.
com/2012/04/detox-cleanse-whats-the-diff, accessed 10/28/15.
3. Mercola, “Should You Detox to Get Rid of Chemicals?” http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/05/23/should-you-detox-to-get-rid-of-chemicals.aspx, accessed 10/28/15.
4. Dr. E. Group, “The Top 9 Herbs for Liver Cleansing,”www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/top-9-herbs-for-liver-cleansing, accessed 10/28/15.
5. Patient One MediNutritionals, “C-Cleanse,” www.patientoneformulas.com/index.cfm/product/86_1/c-cleanse.cfm, accessed 10/28/15.
6. Mercola, “Chlorella: Use This Superfood to Help Remove Mercury From Your Tissues in Weeks,” http://articles.mercola.com/sites/
articles/archive/2012/02/01/is-this-one-of-natures-most-powerful-detoxification-tools.aspx, accessed 10/28/15.
Published in WholeFoods Magazine December 2015