Originally published in the White Rock Sun, Dec 2015.
Detoxification diets aim to cleanse the body of food that is often “contaminated” by various unnecessary, potentially harmful ingredients. This includes processed sugars and other highly processed foods, trans-fats, added salt, food colourings, pesticides, preservatives and other chemicals. Common sense should tell us not to eat these foods. Yet we do. And then we think a "detox diet” is going to fix in and get to the root of the problem. Nope.
Detox advocates claim a toxic sludge or mucoid plaque builds up in the colon, making it a breeding ground for parasites, yeasts like Candida, and even “rope worms.” But mucoid plaques, toxic sludge and rope worms do not exist. They were created by clever marketers selling detoxification treatments. Gastroenterologists (who explore colons for a living) have never seen intestinal plaque or sludge, because it is impossible for that to happen. The lining of your intestinal tract is the same as the lining of your mouth. And layers of waste matter do not build up in the lining of your mouth.
Detoxing does not teach us anything. We detox for a few days, then go right back to a “normal” toxic way of living: like eating all those processed foods. And if weight loss was the goal of the detox, the weight is usually regained – with extra.
Eat healthfully and your body is able to “cleanse” itself. That’s how we are designed: Our major organs of detoxification include the digestive tract, kidneys, skin, lungs, liver, lymphatic system, and respiratory system. These systems break down compounds into other forms that we can eliminate via feces, urine, sweat, or respiration.
Detox diets can be expensive. In addition, they are deficient in many nutrients your "cleansing organs" need to function properly. But more important, you won't learn to fix the poor habits that lead to your need to detox. Instead of a pricey “three-day cleanse,” we should be eating and living in a way that promotes a detoxifying environment for the body all the time. When the body is strengthened from good nutrition, it is much more able to function efficiently and therefore withstand the environmental pollutants we can’t control.
Choose to mostly eat non-processed foods and don’t overeat. A weekend juice cleanse should not be necessary. The best “detox” diet is to stop eating junk and eat lots more vegetables (a natural internal “cleanser” with its fibre and other beneficial nutrients).
How to detox naturally (no blender required).
Here are several steps you can take each day to promote a lifelong detoxifying environment in your body . . .
Eat reasonable amounts. Almost everything is toxic at some level. We can’t avoid it. All plants contain protective “elements” that may be toxic in large amounts (nature’s design to protect the plant). And then, add to that all the crap in our processed foods! So eating one cookie, instead of eight, is basically a detox diet.
Get more fiber by eating more plant foods. Veggies, root vegetables and fruit contain compounds, like fibre and antioxidants, which help the body deal with chemicals. Think of fibre as a scrub brush: an internal cleanser.
Eat organic fruits and vegetables when you can, or when your budget allows. Far fewer contaminants have been found on organically raised foods than conventionally raised. Google the “dirty dozen,” a list of foods that more readily absorb pesticides. You may want to consider buying these as organic.
Avoid processed foods and focus more on whole foods. Processed foods are typically high in fats, sugars, and other man-made chemicals and additives your body really doesn’t need. And they are low in nutrients. Whole foods – unchanged by humans – should be your main dietary focus.
If you consume animal sources of protein, choose free-range, grass or organically fed, and wild fish sources to reduce your ingestion of hormones, antibiotics, and other contaminants. More often, opt for smaller fish (like sardines) for less mercury.
Reduce use of canned foods to reduce the amount of chemicals you absorb, such as the cancer-linked BPA (which may line the insides of cans). More often, buy foods in glass jars, foil, or tetra (cardboard) packaging. Be careful using plastic storage containers: wait until hot foods have cooled before filling the plastic container and avoid microwaving foods in them.
Don’t smoke. Avoid or cut back drastically on alcoholic beverages. Neither of these practises are natural. Your body doesn’t need the chemical burn-off from tobacco and alcohol can negatively affect the liver’s ability to help cleanse the body.
Stay lean. Chemicals and other harmful compounds can accumulate in body fat. With less body fat, there will be fewer storage areas for these unwelcome chemicals.
Drink enough fluids. The kidneys are major organs of elimination: Keep them functioning efficiently by staying hydrated. Forget all the recent controversy about water consumption: Eight cups daily was never a strict recommendation, it was merely a guideline. We’re all different and you’ll have to decide how much you should be drinking. If your urine is regularly very dark yellow in colour, it could be an indication of dehydration.
Exercise and sweat regularly. Our skin is a major elimination organ.
Question what you apply to your skin. Chemicals in cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, deodorants, even the laundry soap residue on your clothes, are all absorbed into your body via the skin. Cotton or other natural fibre clothing (Rayon, hemp, linen, etc.) will also limit the amount of unwanted chemicals your skin absorbs. Read labels. Make better choices.
Eve Lees is a Health Writer & Speaker and a Nutrition Coach. www.artnews-healthnews.com
“Detox” every day the sensible way. Which would you choose more often? . . .