Detox, short for detoxification, is the body’s natural, ongoing process of neutralizing or eliminating toxins from the body. Toxins are anything that can potentially harm body tissue, including waste products that result from normal cell activity, such as ammonia, lactic acid and homocysteine, and human-made toxins that we are exposed to in our environment, food, and water. The liver, intestines, kidneys, lungs, skin, blood and lymphatic systems work together to make sure that toxins are transformed chemically to less harmful compounds and excreted from the body.
What is a Detox Diet?
Although detox is primarily thought of as a treatment for alcohol or drug dependence, the term is also used to refer to a program of diet, herbs, and other methods of removing environmental and dietary toxins from the body.
There are many different types of detox diets. Generally, a detox diet is a short-term diet that:
– Minimizes the amount of chemicals ingested (such as, by eating organic food).
– Emphasizes foods that give the vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants that the body needs for detoxification.
– Contains foods, such as high fiber foods and water, which draw out and cut toxins by increasing the frequency of bowel movements and urination.
Why do People go on a Detox Diet?
A growing body of research suggests that many of the chemicals we ingest daily through food, water, and air can become deposited in fat cells in our bodies. Toxins include pesticides, antibiotics and hormones in food, chemicals from food packaging, household cleaners, detergents, food additives, heavy metals, pollution, drugs, and cigarette smoke. A diet that lacks certain nutrients may also impair our natural ability to detoxify chemicals, which further leads to their build-up in the body.
The cumulative load, called the “body burden“, is thought to lead to illness and has been linked to hormonal imbalance, impaired immune function, nutritional deficiency, and an inefficient metabolism. Signs are thought to include indigestion, poor concentration and sluggishness, headaches, bad breath, fatigue, poor skin, and muscle pain.
1) Brush up on the Basics of Detox Diets
Although there are many types of detox diets, most eliminate foods that contain potentially harmful substances and allow foods that support the body’s natural ability to rid it of toxins, such as dark, leafy green vegetables. Overall food intake is usually reduced, ranging from small meals to full-fledged juice fasts:
- The Master Cleanse – Also called the lemonade diet, a fast that involves drinking only lemonade, grade B maple syrup, and cayenne pepper.
- Juice fasting – A type of fast that calls for consuming only fresh vegetable and fruit juices, such as beet juice and wheatgrass juice, and water. Commercial juice fast programs include the Blueprint Cleanse.
- Smoothies and shake fasting – Involves drinking puree or blended vegetable and fruit smoothies, such as green smoothies.
- Commercial cleanse programs – Specially designed protein powders, vitamins, nutrients for detoxification. Examples include the Acai cleanse, Colon Clenz, and Bowtrol
- Raw foods detox diet – Based on the raw food diet. Involves only eating food that is raw or hasn’t been heated above 118 degrees.
- Ayurvedic detox diet – An Ayurvedic cleansing and rejuvenation plan called pancha karma.
2) Getting started on a Detox Diet – That works for you
This detox diet can be followed for 3 days, 5 days, 7 days, or longer. It is not as restrictive as a juice fast or the Master Cleanse, and people are usually able to follow it while continuing with their everyday lives. Fasting, however, often has the best results when a person is able to go on a retreat or take a break from their daily routine, because they can result in nausea, headaches, weakness, and other side effects of the intense detoxification process.
The diet eliminates potential dietary allergens, dietary toxins and chemicals (such as pesticide residues), and foods that have an inflammatory effect in the body. Processed foods are also minimized. There is an emphasis on reducing acidity and mucus in the body and creating a more alkaline environment.
Cleanses and detox diets have long been used in eastern cultures as a way to keep up optimal health and prevent disease. Knowing your Ayurvedic dosha, or “type”, can help you customize your detox diet, by allowing you to choose foods thought to support your type. Note that not all the foods on the Ayurvedic food lists are permitted during a detox diet.
3) Keep Things Running Smoothly – Have Regular Bowel Movements
Getting rid of stools and urine is your body’s main method of getting rid of toxic substances. Regular bowel movements are needed to prevent toxins that are released from the bloodstream into the intestines from being reabsorbed into the body. Getting fiber from food and eating other foods to prevent constipation are important. Senna tea is popular, as are supplements, such as psyllium, triphala, and other constipation remedies to ensure regular bowel movements. In some cases, a colonic is needed. It’s also helpful to know what healthy and unhealthy stools and bowel movements look like.
Get enough fluid by drinking plenty of filtered water, ginger tea, lemon water, herbal detox teas, fresh vegetable juices, or an alkaline broth.
4) Stock Up on Tools for Detox Success
The following tools can help you make the most of the detox diet:
- The liver requires certain nutrients to produce the enzymes and antioxidants needed for detoxification. Herbs such as chlorella and burdock can be used to support detox.
- Dry skin brushing can help remove dead skin and promote the elimination of toxins through skin.
- Help yourself stay focused, motivated, and calm during the diet. Learn how to breathe with your diaphragm and learn a simple meditation skill to practice anywhere.
- Detox Days – Internal Spring Cleaning (hofholistichealingcenters.com)
- Detox Diets Done Right (massageenvy.com)
- To Cleanse or Not to Cleanse What happens when you detox on juice, teas, potions and pills – and nothing else (theinsider.retailmenot.com)