To Detox or Cleanse: That is the Question

To Detox or Cleanse: That is the Question

We hope everyone had a restful and happy holiday season filled with family, friends, relaxation, and good food. Since we were able to enjoy all of that good food (possibly to excess?) we might be feeling the effects today, and with the new year quickly approaching, we may be feeling reflective and resolute to embark on a healthier path. The post-holiday bloat and feelings of grogginess are real, and many of us have heard of various cleanses or detox programs out there which you may be considering. Today we will be discussing what these really mean, and help you consider what is right for you.

Luckily for us, our bodies are constantly performing detoxification. Through our daily lives, we are exposed to various substances that need to be removed from our systems, and our body has developed a pretty good method to deal with them. When we breathe in nicotine from second-hand smoke, or ingest even small amounts of metals in our drinking water or fish, or are exposed to environmental toxins from various plastics or pesticides, these all need to be removed before they are able to cause too much harm. In addition to these “exotoxins,” or substances that are produced outside the body, our body also detoxifies the substances that are natural byproducts produced within the body. These “endotoxins” include, for example, the lactic acid produced by our muscles or waste products created through our normal metabolism.


The organ that is most responsible for this detoxification process is the liver, whose job it is to breakdown these harmful substances into water soluble substances that can easily be excreted. Therefore, there are no substances being stored in the liver that need to be removed through a cleanse program. Cleanses of the colon, which usually result in pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are not actually actually helpful in removing harmful substances from the body, and may actually do more harm than good due to the loss of electrolytes and fluids that result. We can, however, focus on healthy ways to enhance and improve the function of the liver to aid in the body’s natural detox process. The following outlines five easy recommendations on how to do so.

Consume adequate amounts of water.


In order for our organs to operate efficiently, we need adequate water supply. Water is the basis for the acids and juices in our stomachs that metabolize the foods we ingest. Ample amounts of water help transport nutrients throughout our bodies, and flush out toxins in the liver. There are various recommendations for the exact amounts of water that are recommended. For example, The Institute of Medicine recommends 11-16 cups (one gallon!) of water consumption per day for aiding in the detoxification process.This sounds like a lot, and may not be realistically achievable in our daily lives. If we are able to be conscious of the amount of water we are drinking, and conscious to increase that amount, any improvement in the amount of water we drink will be beneficial for our livers.

Eat 7-13 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.


In order to ease the burden on the liver, consuming the majority of our nutrition from fruits and vegetables ensures a diet low in the substances that are a challenge for the liver to process. Fruits and vegetables also contain high amounts of fiber, which helps the detoxification process. Additionally, fruit has a high water content, and therefore naturally provides many of the benefits discussed above. Citrus fruits, specifically, enhance the enzymes in the stomach, and for this reason are a cornerstone of many “detox diets.” Chlorophyll helps to boost detoxification, so green vegetable are specifically beneficial for aiding the liver. As an easy way to add the benefits of fruits and vegetables to your diet, we recommend the Juice Plus products. These provide the benefits of 17 fruits, vegetables, and grains, in an easy to consume form that ensures you are receiving the benefits discussed above. Please find more information here and let us know if you have any questions.

Maintain a protein rich diet.


When embarking on a “detox diet,” the impulse may be to only focus on eating fruits and vegetables. It is critically important to ensure we are still consuming enough protein in our diet. Glutathione is an enzyme that catalyzes, or aids, the detoxification reaction in the liver. This is a protein that our body generates on its own by using other amino acids available from our diets. Because proteins are made up of amino acid “building blocks,” it is essential that we consume adequate protein, so that our bodies can break the ingested protein down into these “building blocks,” and reassemble them into the protein needed to carry out this reaction. If needed, N-acetylcysteine (NAC) can be used as a dietary supplement, as this is a derivative of the amino acid that is essential to build the protein glutathione. If you have any questions about encorporating NAC into your diet, please do not hesitate to reach out to us for recommendations on how to do so to meet your individual needs.

Reduce or remove exposure to exotoxins.


This should be intuitive. If there are less toxins that our liver has to work to remove, it will be easier for our liver to function more efficiently. Easy fixes include stopping consumption of alcohol, processed foods, and foods high in refined sugars, nitrates, and trans fats. In addition to diet fixes, we can also focus on reducing toxins from other outside sources, such as in the air we breathe, and anything else that comes in contact with our bodies. It may not be possible to completely eliminate all toxins we encounter, but if we are able to be conscious of what we are putting into our bodies, even reducing toxins will have an extensive effect on reducing the strain on our livers.

Eat naturally fermented foods.


The most notable and beneficial effect of eating fermented foods is balancing the bacteria, or flora, in the gut. The fermented foods both contain “good bacteria,” and also prevent the growth of the “bad bacteria” by out-competing them for the resources available in our digestive tracts. Ample amounts of healthy bacteria aid in digestion and enhance the absorption of nutrients. Not only do fermented foods enhance the gut flora, they are known to help draw out heavy metals and breakdown pesticides that may have been ingested. Additionally, the fermentation process helps to break down the cellulose content in the vegetables, making the nutrients more bioavailable, and making the foods themselves more nutrient dense. The most notable sources of naturally fermented foods are yogurt, kefir, kimchi, or saurkraut (there may be a reason this emerged as a traditional food to consume at the new year- to help deal with the bloat from holiday eating!).


It is important to note that any detoxification process should only be embarked upon with the guidance of a health professional, to ensure safety and effectiveness in meeting your goals. If you are interested in embarking on a detoxification regime, please let us know so that we can support you in doing so in a healthy way that is tailored for your needs. What do you think of these detoxification recommendations? Let us know in the comments!
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