You’ve heard a whole lot about the benefits of detoxing, and the many suggested cleanses and detox programs available. But, how do you know if these programs are right for you? What are the signs that you truly need a detox?
In order to understand if we need a detox, we should definitely have a solid understanding of what a detox is, and which are actually shown to be helpful rather than harmful. A detox might be a short, dietary intervention that aims at ridding the body of toxins through a more extreme method such as fasting (with juice, water, broths, etc), and/or using a combination of supplements and herbs. It might even include more invasive methods such as enemas or colonics.
These are the detox methods that you need to be very careful about, as often they can actually do more harm than good. One Korean study did find significant benefits in a lemon-juice based detox program (1), but this should be undergone only with the guidance of a trusted professional. A much better and safer method is a whole foods based plan, which can also include certain herbs and supplements, along with teas, juices, etcetera.
Detox programs and cleanses claim to do the following:
- Support and stimulate the liver (our major detoxification organ).
- Allow the body time to rest and rejuvenate without the task of constant digestion.
- Provide the body with a high amount of key nutrients for optimal health.
However, whether they do or not, is another question entirely, and partially depends on the individual’s specific needs.
Is a detox right for you?
Let’s look at some of the signs and symptoms that you could benefit from a detox program, and then we’ll dig deeper into which is the right plan for you.
Dr. Sara Gottfried, best selling author of The Hormone Cure and The Hormone Reset Diet, describes the following symptoms as being sure signs that a detox is in order:
- A white or yellow coating over your tongue
- Bad breath
- Consistent cravings for sugar and refined carbohydrates/blood sugar dips and spikes
- Increased fatigue even after a good nights sleep
- Bloating and gas
- Increased moodiness, irritability and anxiety
- Inability to lose weight
Another indicator of whether a detox can help you is that of age. Naturally with age our liver function isn’t necessarily what it used to be, and it is therefore not as effective at processing and ridding the body of toxins.
So, if you suffer from some or all of the symptoms listed above, consider doing a detox program. And remember, a good quality detox is hopefully a catalyst for long-term healthy eating, which is the most important detox plan of all. If we can successfully break our addictions to toxic substances such as sugar, this will set us up for the ability to make better choices long after our official detox has ended.
8 Tips for Detoxing
1. Incorporate coriander and chlorella
The traditional Indian spice coriander and the blue-green algae, chlorella, have both been shown to aid in the livers ability to clear toxins (2). Chlorella can be added to a smoothie or juice, and coriander can be used a spice with your favorite vegetables.
2. Consider intermittent fasting
There has been a lot of hype (and research) about intermittent fasting in recent years. While there are several ways to go about it, this detox method involves short term fasting on a semi-regular basis. For example, it could be as simple as skipping breakfast every day or certain days of the week (or a different meal), or it could be water fasting one full day each week (only consuming water). Some studies have shown that intermittent fasting can actually improve insulin and leptin sensitivity (3).
However, any sort of fasting should only be done by otherwise healthy, fit individuals. If underlying conditions or blood sugar problems are present (such as adrenal fatigue), fasting can do more harm than good.
3. Eat antioxidant rich foods
Antioxidants are essential for proper detoxification, as they fight free radical damage. Free radicals are particles that are known to damage our cells and DNA, and have a role in the formation and proliferation of cancer (4). Vitamins E, C, flavonoids and carotenoids are excellent antioxidants, and foods that are high in these compounds include berries, citrus, green tea, onions and dark chocolate. In general, any foods that are dark and bright in color (think beets, carrots, plums, dark leafy greens, etc), have a high antioxidant content and should be eaten daily.
4. Eliminate coffee
Don’t panic, it’s not forever. While coffee does offer some health benefits, while undergoing a detox plan it is advised to eliminate all caffeine. Giving your body a break from caffeine metabolism, and work on breaking any addiction you might have. Replace with herbal teas. If cutting out caffeine feels absolutely impossible and is the one thing holding you back from a detox, go ahead and include green tea with lemon.
5. Cut out refined sugar and carbohydrates
Refined and processed sugars are a definite no on any good detox program. This includes table sugar, baked goods, candy, sodas, and most processed and packaged foods. These put a major toxic burden on the body, and are best replaced with real, whole foods during your detox program.
6. No alcohol or cigarettes
Considering that a high percentage of heavy drinkers go on to get alcoholic liver disease (5), this one should be a no-brainer, as alcohol directly and negatively impacts our liver. On a detox, there should certainly be a zero-alcohol policy. Cigarettes are known carcinogens that also exacerbate nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (6).
7. Stick to whole foods
Focus on high quality proteins such as lean meats that include organic chicken and turkey, lean, grass-fed beef and wild caught fish. Pastured eggs and legumes (in moderation) are other acceptable and nutrient dense protein sources. The centerpiece of your detox should be 6-9 servings of fresh (preferably organic) vegetables per day, and a serving or two of organic fruits, as well. Last but certainly not least, moderate amount of good fats are key, such as olive, coconut and flax oils, avocados, raw nuts and seeds, ghee and grass-fed butter.
8. Eat lots of cruciferous vegetables
The cruciferous family of vegetables supports Phase 1 detox, and includes broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage and brussels sprouts (among others). Strive for 3 servings per day (one serving=one cup cooked or two cups raw).
While this type of gentle, food based detox is safe for everyone, you should NOT undergo a more extreme detox if you are:
- Pregnant or breast feeding
- A child or adolescent
- You are malnourished
- You have an existing medical condition such as diabetes
For everyone, before undergoing any sort of extreme detox or fasting program, you should always consult with a trusted medical provider.
Detoxing can have serious benefits, and just might be what your body needs. By undergoing a smart, safe and effective detox plan, you can support all of your bodies symptoms and restore energy and vitality.