There is a common misconception around what it means to “detox” and why we would even want to do it in the first place. We often think that our bodies are “dirty” and in need of a “clean”, however, this cannot be further from the truth!
The human body has 5 detoxifying organs and systems:
The digestive tract
The role of these organs and systems among many other functions – is to keep our bodies free of waste, drugs, toxins and excess hormones that may accumulate over time. Many people believe that the liver is the “dirtiest” organ in the body, when in fact it is one of the cleanest organs and is considered a nutrient-dense superfood when consumed (obtained from animal dietary sources).
Why would we feel the need to detox our bodies?
Due to unhealthy dietary choices (fast foods, processed foods, sugary foods, fried foods, alcohol etc.).
Due to a combination of unhealthy dietary choices and a lack of exercise.
Due to habits such as frequent drinking, smoking and recreational drug use.
Due to having symptoms which indicate a high toxic load and therefore, a burdened detoxifying system.
Or simply because summer is approaching or because you have recently come out of a relationship. Perhaps you have changed jobs or relocated to a foreign country and want to support these positive changes with a “detox”. Even women at certain times of their menstrual cycle will feel the urge to detox (spring and summer) and women who experience period pain and mood swings may need to detox their systems.
The reason or urge to “detox” can be quite limitless and can be done by anyone at any time for any period of time!
Types of detoxes:
There are many different types of “detoxes” which range from gentle to more aggressive. However, the gentle route more often than not is the safest and most effective place to begin a detox journey.
1) Diet and Lifestyle adjustments.
2) Specific detox diets: fasting (16:8), juice cleanse or water fast.
3) Specific detoxifying supplements which support or speed up the ability of our detoxifying organs to function optimally. Detoxifying supplements may also be used to target certain organs to achieve desired outcomes and to provide specific symptomatic relief.
All of these detox methods are great but are only successful in order – some people neglect the first and most important step – diet and lifestyle adjustments and therefore, rely on more aggressive detoxifying supplements to “clean” their bodies, which may be counterproductive and even harmful in some situations.
Symptoms that indicate the need to detox:
Blood sugar crashes/ sugar Cravings
Problematic skin (acne, rosacea, itchy skin)
Excess sweating/ body odour
Yellow coating on tongue/ bad breath
What are the desired detox outcomes?
Increased and consistent energy
Better skin, hair and nails
Better mental clarity (focus, attention, memory)
Less sweating/ body odour
How to detox safely and effectively in steps:
STEP 1: Diet and Lifestyle Detox
1) Remove any inflammatory foods from your diet:
Processes foods/ simplex carbs (anything that cannot be found naturally in nature – bread, pasta, bakery goods, flour, vegan alternatives etc.)
Sugar (use honey or agave syrup instead and in moderation)
Bad fats (trans fats, omega 6 fats, hydrogenated fats).
Fast foods/ ready-made meals (microwave foods).
2) Remove any inflammatory habits:
Avoid alcohol, tobacco, recreational drug use
3) Ensure you drink 2L of filtered water per day
4) Remove the use of plastics that leach xenoestrogens (do not purchase any foods/ drinks that are contained in plastic).
5) Shop organically as much as possible
6) Change all household cleaning detergents, cosmetics and make-up to 100% natural (chemical-free) alternatives.
What foods to include?
1) Include anti-inflammatory foods:
Organic fruits and vegetables
lean organic grass-fed protein (turkey and chicken)
3-4 portions of wild-caught oily fish (salmon, anchovies, mackerel, herring, sardines).
Essential fatty acids (omega 3, 7, 9).
Gluten-free whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat, sorghum, millet, amaranth, oats).
1) Get a minimum of 8-9 hours of sleep per night.
2) Include daily exercise of 30 minutes per day.
3) Include time in nature (parks, hiking, swimming in the ocean etc.)
4) Include frequent socialising (friends and family).
5) Avoid negative self-talk.
6) Practice spirituality (reading, writing, painting, dancing, yoga, meditation, cooking, music etc.)
7) Declutter your life and environment (throw out unnecessary things, keep your environment clean and organised – to your liking).
8) Sort out any mould problem or pollution (noise).
STEP 2: Specific Detox Diets
Fasting is a great way to detox the body. I recommend a 16:8 fast, which means no eating (only water) for 16 hours and then a window period of 8 hours for eating.
2) Green powders:
Green powders such as, chlorella, spirulina, barley grass and wheatgrass – all contain chlorophyll which helps to alkaline the body. A more alkaline body is far superior at detoxing itself than one that is more acidic. Green powders help to provide the body with more oxygen, providing increased energy and mental clarity. Green powders are excellent at cleansing the liver and blood by removing heavy metals and toxins from the body.
These are best added to breakfast bowls, smoothies and vegetable juices.
3) Juice cleanses:
Juice cleanses include; water, tea and juices comprising of both fruit and vegetables. The most important thing to remember when doing a juice fast is to use organically grown fruit and vegetables only and to drink a rainbow of juices to obtain a variety of different nutrients and phytonutrients.
Juice fasts are done to achieve “detox” outcomes such as weight loss, better immunity and increased removal of toxins. People also believe that because juice contains no fibre – your digestive tract gets a “break” and that nutrient absorption is improved.
However, juice cleanses have been shown to cause detox symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, constipation and diarrhoea. We need fibre to maintain proper bowel function and without enough fibre per day we can experience constipation, furthermore, juices can cause diarrhoea due to their acidity. We also need optimal levels of protein, fat and fibre to balance our blood sugar levels but because juice is almost devoid of these macromolecules – people can experience dizziness and fatigue, which is further intensified due to the lack of calories in juice. Juice is also high in the sugar fructose which can lead to weight gain and poor dental health.
I believe drinking vegetable juices in moderation and only eating whole fruits with skins still intact is a much healthier way to maximise your nutrient and antioxidant intake.
4) Water fast:
Due to the health concerns with juice cleanses I don’t believe water fasts are safe neither. I do believe fasting is an excellent way to detox the body and to support weight loss however a ratio of 16:8 (16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of eating) is a safe and effective way to fast. The most important thing to remember when fasting is to ensure that when you do eat, you make the right food choices, which include foods that contain a good ratio of protein, fats and complex carbs (in every meal) to support blood sugar balance and optimal energy. During hours of fasting ensure you drink plenty of filtered water to stay hydrated and energised.
STEP 3: General Detox Supplements
To boost your detox plan, you could add nutritional supplements. As mentioned before these should be supplementary to your pre-existing food and lifestyle adjustments and not in replacement of this. Here is a list of nutrients which have been shown to support the body and its detoxifying organs and systems as a whole.
B vitamins: P5P (active B6), methylcobalamin (active B12), LMTHF (active folate - B9), choline.
Amino acids: cysteine, glutamine, and glycine = glutathione (master antioxidant), methionine is crucial for our methylation cycle
Herbs: Milk thistle and curcumin
Fibre: 25-30 grams + 2L of water (most people do not consume more than 15 grams) = SCFA = produces protective mucus coating and pathogen-killing proteins we need.
Probiotics: synthesize vitamin K, folate, biotin, and B12. When the microbiome becomes imbalanced, levels of the enzyme beta-glucuronidase rise. This enzyme breaks the conjugate bond formed during phase 2 of liver detoxification, allowing toxins and hormones to be reabsorbed into the bloodstream.
STEP 4: Specific Detox Supplements
A liver detox can be one of the most effective ways to “detox” the body as it acts as a filter – cleaning the blood of toxins, drugs and excess hormones. The liver has three phases of detoxification, but we have the most control at upregulating the first two phases and therefore, I will explain these in more detail. Because almost all toxins, drugs and hormones are fat-soluble, they cannot leave the body, this is because the kidneys and bowels can only excrete water-soluble substances. Therefore, the main aim of these liver phases is to convert unwanted substances from fat-soluble to water-soluble so that they can be effectively removed from the body by the bowels (in bile) or kidneys (in urine).
B vitamins, Glutathione, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin D3, Quercitin, Calcium
Calcium D glucurate, Glutamine, Cysteine, Lysine, Glycine, Carnitine, Taurine, MSM
Diuretics (dandelion root, horsetail, parsley, hibiscus, green tea)
Dry brushing (lymph + skin)
DIM (extract from cruciferous vegetables – broccoli)
MSM (sulphur from Methylsulfonylmethane)
Vitamin C (increases collagen production)
Water (filtered 2 L)
(aim is to achieve a minimum of 1x bowel movement per day)
Prebiotics (legumes, beans, peas, oats, Bananas, Berries, Jerusalem artichokes (not the same as regular artichokes), asparagus, Dandelion greens, garlic, leeks, onions).
Fibre (psyllium husk or inulin = 25-30 grams + 2L of water)
Bitters (increases bile production which supports the emulsification – digestion - of fats)
Aloe Vera juice
NAC (N-acetyl-cysteine = precursor to glutathione, the body's master antioxidant)
Vitamin C + other antioxidants (rainbow of fruit and vegetable)