Updated: Sep 20
Detox diets are popular, but do they work and are they necessary?
We are often inclined to do an annual ‘spring clean’ of our homes, but what about our bodies?
Spring is a time when we move out of a period of conservation and into a more active time. It is the perfect time to give our body’s detoxification systems a boost with a gentle cleanse. Just as the birds, insects and animals come out of hibernation, so too does the human system shake off the cob webs in preparation for a busy summer period.
We don't really need to 'detox'. The body has a fabulous, intelligent detoxification system already installed. The liver, kidneys and other organs of the digestive system spearhead the major detoxification processes. When working as they should, they effectively rid our bodies of toxins.
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How does detoxification work?
The liver is crucial in getting rid of toxins. First, it breaks down toxins and then packages them into forms that can be excreted by the digestive system or kidneys.
B vitamins, zinc, sulphur, amino acids and the anti-oxidant vitamins E and C are required by the liver to do its work properly. If you don’t get enough of these nutrients, the process of detoxification will be compromised.
The liver also synthesizes and secretes bile which is used to carry the toxins to the intestines to be excreted. Bile is also important for emulsifying fats and fat-soluble vitamins (A, E, D) and improving their absorption.
The final step in detoxification is elimination. The kidneys and the bowels need plenty of water to flush toxins out of the body. In addition, adequate dietary fibre is required to excrete the products of detoxification in the faeces.
The Western diet is at odds with detoxification
Western diets are typically low on fresh organic produce, low in fibre and high in sugar and preservatives. As a result, our systems of detoxification are often short of the nutrients, water and fibre they need to operate effectively.
When the detoxification system is not working adequately, toxins can accumulate and start causing health issues.
Some symptoms of a sluggish detoxification system include:
· Low energy levels
· Bad breath
· Foul-smelling stools
· PMS or other issues related to hormonal imbalance
· Low immunity (more than two colds per year)
· Brain fog, or inability to think clearly
· Worsened hangovers
Support your organs of detoxification all year round!
If you look after your liver, kidneys and gut every day, you shouldn't need to embark on harsh cleanses or detox diets.
Here are five things you can do daily to optimise detoxification pathways:
Eat at least 6-7 portions of fresh vegetables and fruit daily – favouring vegetables. Vegetables provide the nutrients your liver needs to do its job. Vegetables from the brassica family such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale and cabbage are excellent as they stimulate the phases of liver detoxification. Smoothies are a great way to pile in plenty of nutrients while keeping in the plant fibre.
Focus on eating plenty of fibre-rich foods to establish good digestive elimination. Oats, lentils, chickpeas, brown rice and quinoa are excellent sources of fibre and B vitamins.
Drink 1.5-2 litres of filtered water daily. Decaffeinated teas such as fennel, ginger, nettle mint and liquorice count as part of this total. Proper hydration is essential for the kidneys and digestive system to operate properly.
Eat portions of raw food daily. These contain powerful enzymes that help you digest food more easily, and provided the best sources of antioxidants your liver needs to neutralise oxidative toxins.
Limit caffeine and alcohol and stop smoking. These all give the liver and kidneys extra work to do and can reduce the absorption of certain nutrients.