‘I’m doing a detox’ said the patient in front of me, and despite all of the hype about how good he should be feeling by consuming little more than water and a few expensive herbal tablets he just didn’t understand why he felt like crap.
The purpose of this short article is to get a bit of common sense back into the ‘detox’ debate, we will look at what we should be doing and more importantly what we shouldn’t be doing when it comes to detoxing.
The generally held theory of a ‘Detox’ is that unless you’re lucky enough to live somewhere rural, eating organically, working in the fresh air and surrounded by nature you are constantly exposing yourself to poisons, pollutants, pathogens, and man made products that can be really harmful to your health and only a regular (sometimes extreme) detox can rid you of these deadly toxins.
I’ve seen people go to great lengths to improve their health, for some ‘doing a detox’ is certainly not as good for their health as they think, over the years I’ve met people who have literally tried to turn themselves inside out with laxatives, others who have starved themselves for days, whilst others have thought that having a hose pipe inserted where the sun doesn’t shine can ironically and colonically improve their health.
In my experience so far none of these extreme efforts (unless coupled with some more common sense and lasting lifestyle changes) have had the magical results sometimes promised.
So let’s start with a good piece of advice that;
‘Too much of anything is not a good thing’.
And this should be the overriding principle of any detox, just stop the excess what ever it is, for most of the population I’d say that 80% of the benefits of a detox would come from cutting out the rubbish that you intentionally put in your body, the biggest culprits being; nicotine, alcohol and excess sugar caused by smoking, drinking and eating too much of the wrong things.
Most of the rest of the 20% benefit would come from drinking more water, eating more ‘clean food’ especially fruit and vegetables (i.e things that have once grown on a plant rather than being made or processed in a factory) and you will go a long way to making yourself feel a lot healthier.
After this we are on diminishing returns when it comes to detoxing, but the good thing to bear in mind is that our bodies are ‘actively’ detoxing all the time, the kidneys and the liver do a pretty good job of filtering the blood, and breaking down stuff that we have eaten, in addition the colon does a pretty efficient job of literally getting rid of the residual crap we just don’t need.
I’d say that helping these organs work effectively is the way to go, drinking enough water helps the kidneys work better, then ensure you have enough vitamins and minerals in your diet to help support your liver in the metabolic processes of breaking down harmful things absorbed from the gut, we also need to eating enough fibre which can bind some of the poisons and heavy metals that we don’t need in the gut whilst also encourage a more regular transit time.
The next step I’d say to help you detox is to do a bit of exercise, get your blood pumping to improve your circulation, breathe deeply, and even sweat a little. It might be dubious how many toxins our skin actually eliminates in sweat although turning this around the our skin does a pretty good job of stopping toxic stuff getting into the body.
So what about supplements that can help you detox, that’s simple, essential vitamins like A,C,E and the B vitamins can be found in most vitamin pills, then you can supplement the glutathione pathway (one of the main detoxifying pathways in the liver) by having a good quality protein source in your diet that also contains the sulphur containing amino acids which are also needed for a load of metabolic processes. Then because free radicals are produced by your body particularly the liver breaking stuff down you also need antioxidants in your diet to soak these free radicals up and prevent tissue damage. These antioxidants are commonly vitamins, minerals, proteins, and good fats, found in fruit, vegetables and a healthy balanced diet.
Some of you may may already see a trend here, a good healthy (and non excessive) diet of food that is nutritious with some good quality protein and fats with perhaps a little supplementation from a quality vitamin and mineral supplement is really all you will need to effectively detox.
The paradox is that most of the extreme detox diets actually deplete your body of what it needs to detox, they make you feel terrible and are nothing short than a recipe for disaster.
If you feel you have been poisoned with something really toxic, exposed for example to a lot of heavy metals, i.e. from blowing glass, licking old lead paint, breathing in fumes, or eating too much soil, or if you have a metabolic problem that has caused a slow build up of stuff that your body doesn’t need then perhaps some focussed chelation therapy could be considered, although I’d only do this if it can be proved that there is a problem, and then only with drugs given with specialist advice especially if you want to resort to pharmaceutical chelation therapy.
For most of us and certainly the far majority of the population that haven’t recently been poisoned, or have a metabolic disorder, the herbal and more natural route to help you detox and rid yourself of heavy metals would be to simply take some spirulina which does a pretty good job of chelating (binding to) a lot of the stuff we don’t need when it is released by the liver to stop it being reabsorbed back into the body, there’s also some evidence that taking milk thistle can also help the liver to rid us of toxins a little bit more effectively.
But remember as with everything too much of anything is a not good for you, taking milk thistle, and spirulina for a week or two whilst eating healthy and non excessively is certainly a lot more better that a week of starvation and purging.
So what else, is that it, you may ask, what about bathing in natural oils, what about the magical antioxidant properties of the seeds of the fragrant bhuulshit bush found only in the Andes grown by 150 year old monks, well all I can say is don’t believe the hype of most of the self proclaimed experts out there, an extreme detox is stupid and also dangerous, although if you are really daft enough to go to the detox extremes maybe a good colonic is the wake up call you need.
For those wanting to detox with a common sense approach;
- Don’t over do it, avoid excess.
- Eat healthy and drink enough water.
- Take some basic vitamin and mineral supplements, a healthy diet should provide the rest.
- Occasionally take some spirulina and milk thistle.
Bibliography and References
“BBC NEWS | Health | The Dangers Of Too Much Detox”. News.bbc.co.uk. N.p., 2017. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.
“Doctors Issue New Year Detox Health Warning – BBC News”. BBC News. N.p., 2017. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.
Toovey, Oliver T R, Ian R Edmond, and Nikolaos Makris. “Acute Severe Hyponatraemia Secondary To Polydipsia And Associated Herbal Remedy Use”. N.p., 2017. Print.