Detox (more popularly referred to as a cleanse) is all the rage these days, and with that popularity comes a whole lot of misinformation. It’s hard to know what suggestions are actually beneficial for your body. A detoxification program, when done safely and under guidance, can be radically transformative for your health giving you more energy, increased focus, and even help you lose weight (never mind getting rid of those toxicants in your body!).
What is Detoxification?
Detoxification is the removal of toxicant substances from the body. A detoxification program involves a combination of some or all of the following:
- Removing toxicant or allergenic foods from your diet
- Adding in healthy foods that help with detox, especially for your liver
- Adding in supporting supplements that help your liver function better
- Exercise and/or infrared sauna
Do I Need to Detox?
Usually, your body will alert you and your doctor that it’s in need of a deep detox. These symptoms indicate that your body is overloaded and your liver is working overtime to keep up. There are many signs that you may need to detox, including:
- Sensitivity to smells
- Confusion or brain-fog
- Increased allergic reactions
- Frequent constipation or diarrhea
- Feeling hungover when you’re not
- Skin conditions like acne or eczema
- New allergies you’ve never had before
Some people like to detox once or twice every year, as a kind of reset for their bodies. Even though the first few days are usually hard, the rewards are well-worth it. Symptoms like headaches and acne can disappear after a good detox program, and most people report a general sense of well-being that extends far beyond the end of the detox program.
Avoidance is the most important part of a detox. We can do all the detoxing we want, but if you continue to be exposed to things that are building up in your body or causing harm, we’re fighting an uphill battle. This is why I’m such a huge advocate of ensuring that what we’re eating, putting onto and into our bodies and our homes are as toxicant free as possible. Make sure you watch for more blogs, webinars and programs that help with this part in particular.
Diet is a really important part of a good general detox program. You can take all the supplements in the world, but if you’re still eating junk food every day, then you are overworking your body in a non-ideal way. There are two parts of diet changes that are important: removing toxic foods, and adding in foods that help your body detoxify.
Removing Irritant Foods
Common irritant foods can include junk food and processed foods, and it can also include foods that are irritating specifically to your body. Sometimes, a full elimination diet is appropriate, where all of the most common allergenic foods, like wheat, dairy, soy, and others are removed for a period of time and re-added slowly to find out which foods are causing you trouble. Other times, through food sensitivity testing, we can determine which foods you should be avoiding and just cut those ones out. The idea is to give your body and immune system a rest from things it has to work hard to deal with.
Adding in Foods That Help Detoxify
The most common group of foods that is used for detoxification is the Brassica family. This includes cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, mustard, and turnips. These foods are high in compounds that help your liver detoxify your body. One of these compounds is called sulforaphane, which helps cause that sulfur smell when these veggies are cooked.
Another good thing to add in is more colourful fruits and vegetables. We always recommend to eat the rainbow!
- Berries are high in antioxidants that keep you safe from toxins
- Carrots and yams have beta-carotene, which helps protect against cancer
- Leafy greens are high in nutrients and phytochemicals that help neutralize toxic compounds during a detox program.
The more colours of real food you eat, the larger the range of nutrients you are obtaining. Including a rainbow of foods is also a good way to ensure that you’re getting lots of servings of low-calorie – but nutrient dense – vegetables, which can help reduce your carbohydrate load and help with weight loss.
Because your liver is the main organ responsible for detoxification in your body, most detox programs we may consider together place an emphasis on liver support. Herbs like dandelion and milk thistle help protect the liver from oxidative damage and optimize its function in removing toxins from your body. Supplemental B-vitamins and proteins support the different phases of detox, and compounds like curcumin can help reduce inflammation in your body.
Why Environmental Medicine?
Environmental Medicine is my absolute favourite area of medicine and I would encourage you to check out more info on why here!
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