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The word Detox or detoxification stands for the removal of toxins from the body. There are various ways one can achieve this. The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) defines detoxification as “the process of removing a toxin or poison or the effect of either from an individual or an area.”
• Allow the body and organs to rest by fasting
• Consume products that stimulate the liver and help in getting rid of the toxins
• Allow removal of toxins through feces, urine, and sweat
• Supply the body with healthy nutrients
• Improve blood circulation in the body
• Remove excess fat stored in the body
With worldwide internet access, detoxification has gained much prominence as many of the products we consume today contain unwanted toxins. The definition of detoxification has twisted over the years due to commercialization and the fact that Detox has become a product more than a solution.
With minimal understanding of detoxification and how it works, most people are found doing things that are not practically helpful.
Reading this article will help you understand why detoxification is important in today’s time, how to do it, what evidence has and what precautions you need to take.
With industrialization happening on a mass scale, the massive spew of synthetic chemicals and metals in our environment has led to an increase in the amount of persistent bio-accumulative toxicants (PMT). Today each one of us, irrespective of age, sex, and position in the society are exposed to these agents.
Certain persistent bio-accumulative toxicants (PMTs) can prove to be harmful, causing adverse effects including endocrinal damage, neurological and reproductive effects, and an increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
• Cigarette Smoke
• Air Pollution
• Food Additives
• Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP)
• Heavy Metals
• Other chemicals including detergents
• Pesticides and Insecticides
One doesn’t really have to do anything in order to Detox as the body does it automatically through various methods. A lot of doctors believe that body tends to purify and rid itself of the unwanted toxins. There isn’t anything as such in the body that needs to be removed through external diet or medication, and as a result, they believe that such foods are not contributing much to help the body.
Some common ways that the body removes these toxins are listed below.
• The body is highly capable of removing the toxins and by-products that are left after processing the food through urine, feces, and sweat.
• A study on toxin removal through bodily fluids resulted in the conclusion that sweat is an efficient source through which the body removes a multitude of toxins.
• The kidney helps clear the toxins in the form of urine by filtering the blood.
• One of the main organs associated with detoxification helps neutralize most of the toxins that enter the body, including drugs and alcohol. P450 enzyme plays a vital role in the synthesis of drugs through the liver.
• It also synthesizes protein and produces ammonia, which is then converted to urea and flushed out of the system in the form of urine, after filtration through kidneys.
• Controlling blood sugar levels and converting them to fat when there is abnormally high sugar is another function. It also turns fat back to sugar in case it goes too low in the blood.
Cilia, which are hair-like projections in the lungs, protect the lungs from various micro-organisms as well as pollutants that are often breathed in by us. They produce mucus, which tends to grab the particles, to prevent damage to the bronchi.
The last stage of digestion occurs in the colon, where all the toxins are excreted as waste from the body after the nutrients are absorbed.
Since the body is capable of efficiently getting rid of the toxins, it makes little sense in opting for different means to remove the unwanted substances.
There is little evidence to support the fact that there is any removal of toxins in the first place with these diets.
Many people might still want to partake in detoxification by following a diet, and it is only natural to tend to curiosity. This brings us to the aspect of how, why, and what, in the context of a detox diet.
They are a number of ways you may try to detox your body. You may opt for ceratin diets, supplements, routines, or even fasting to rid your body of the unwanted toxins.
Most of the versions that are modulated through food or diet contain consumption of certain types of juices, a certain variety of food, fasting, or drinking concoctions.
A list of popular technique includes:
Juice detox: consuming only a particular type of juices, whether it be fruit or vegetable, for a specified period (maybe a few days to a week)
Fasting: maintain a period of either complete or partial fasting for a pre-determined amount of days to let the body eliminate the toxins
Water-based drinks: this includes consuming certain drinks with an increased intake of water, which supposedly flushes out the cumulated toxins from the body, lemon water, and green tea are types of water-based drinks that often find themselves in the detox diets
Medications and supplements: a lot of people often visit a nutritionist or read about supplements and incorporate them as part of their detoxing plan, which can lead to unwanted results
The detox diet works by either consuming things that encourage the body to accelerate the process of detoxification or by allowing the body to recover by consuming things in a particular fashion.
Certain food types aid the process by stimulating the liver or improving the digestion process.
Increased fiber intake improves the digestion process and cleanses the intestines of unwanted toxins.
Limited studies have shown that commercial detox diets may improve liver detoxification and remove persistent organic pollutants (POP) from the body.
Some studies done on animals have revealed that eating certain food types like coriander, nori, and olestra helps in detoxification.
Consultation and results from various doctors and practitioners revealed that 92% of them used detoxification techniques in their practices.
More than 75% of these doctors used dietary measures as part of the detoxification process, which included:
• Cleansing foods
• Increasing fruit and vegetable intake
• Vitamins, minerals and antioxidant supplementation
• Consumption of organic foods
• Following an elimination diet
• Consuming probiotics
• Reduced environmental exposure
• Consuming Cholegogue herbs (herbs that promote the secretion of bile)
• Consuming Lymphogogues (herbs that promote lymphatic flow)
1. Water-based diet
2. Food sources
3. Ways other than eating food
Most of the water-based diets promote the idea of completely cutting out any food source and being reliant on just water for a few days as part of the detox diet.
Calorie requirement: Considering the fact that humans, in general, require about 2000 kcal per day, starving the body of any calories can often lead to undesirable consequences, and people with other medical issues can face fatal outcomes.
Precaution: There is limited proof that any of this really works, and cutting down calories so drastically will lead to weight loss due to the removal of fat and stored water in the body. This quick weight loss might often encourage people, but one should keep in mind that it could very well be water weight, and upon resuming a regular diet, one might gain all the weight.
• This involves the consumption of nothing but water with squeezed lemon.
• One can opt for maple or palm syrup to sweeten the drink.
• Lemon can be advantageous in many ways as it is a good source of vitamin C, antioxidants, and potassium.
• Lemon, paired with iron-rich food, aids the absorption process of iron in the blood.
Results from Tests:
• Studies conducted on overweight Korean women who followed the lemon detox diet for seven days saw a considerable change in their body weight, body mass index (BMI), percentage body fat, and waist to hip ratio.
• A stable level of hemoglobin and better insulin sensitivity was observed.
• The study concluded that the lemon detox diet could reduce body fat, provide reduced insulin resistance with calorie restriction, and can be beneficial against risk factors of cardiovascular disease.
Safety: There is no doubt that water is necessary for the body by all means, but consuming nothing but water and lemon can be very difficult and sometimes starve the body of all the necessary nutrients it needs, in case it is followed for a week.
Functions: Apple cider vinegar has been used for centuries, and it contains good bacteria that promote a better digestive system.
Health benefits: There are many listed benefits of consuming it from providing a healthy stomach function to clearing acne, increasing immunity, and helping with weight management.
• The process involves adding a few tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar with a glass of water.
• One can add honey, maple syrup, or palm syrup to sweeten the concoction.
Precaution: Always be cautious when using apple cider vinegar as it can damage the teeth upon increased usage. It can also cause damage to the throat and tongue if it is not diluted.
One can also opt for cucumber or mint-infused water, which provide their own set of benefits.
Cucumber: which is rich in potassium, helps remove salt from the blood, thereby helping maintain blood pressure.
Mint: on the other hand, it helps with digestion and is a good source of antioxidants and vitamin A.
These are the most advanced of detox diets, and one should not opt for this without consulting a medical practitioner, otherwise, it could lead to unwanted health adversities.
Water is critical when detoxing, as a lot of waste is often cleansed with excess water. If one is opting for a healthy detox with meals, one should choose food rich in fiber and avoid refined sugars and caffeine.
A list of food items is mentioned below, which will make the process of eating during a detox diet easy.
• Mustard Leaves
• Fenugreek Leaves
Spices and Herbs:
Most of the nuts and seeds: are a good source of various vitamins and antioxidants and can be used as an addition for breakfast. Chia seeds and flax seeds are a good option for smoothies as well.
Fruits: are also a decent addition since they contain fiber and vitamins. Banana, coconut, mango, orange, avocado, pear, apple, guava, and most of the berries are all good sources for Detox.
Brown rice, whole grains, legumes, and lentils are also a great addition to a change in the meal plan.
One can also opt for white fish, antibiotic-free cage-free poultry, and avoid red meat and eggs.
Fruit and vegetable smoothies are a great idea for a quick meal and can keep one feeling full for a longer duration.
By curbing from ingesting toxins and indulging in healthy habits, one can always aid the process of detoxification. It is a natural function of the body and can be accelerated by certain means, without going on a juice diet or stopping the consumption of food altogether.
A list of alternatives to improve detoxification are mentioned below.
Reason: Alcohol is a toxin that is mainly neutralized by the liver. The liver is also the body part that detoxifies most of the food and liquids, including drugs before it leaves the body.
Functions: Consuming alcohol puts more load on the liver, which will try to remove the ingested toxin, in this case, alcohol, from the body first, while the other things are neglected. This excess load increases the time consumed by the liver to remove all the toxins from the body, thus slowing the process.
Health effects: Consumption of alcohol also causes other major diseases. A study related to alcohol consumption saw deaths due to coronary heart disease, cardiovascular diseases, alcohol-related diseases, and all-cause mortality.
Reason: Since an adult’s body comprises 75% water, it more than important that one stays hydrated for the optimal function of all organs.
Function: It also is a major source of toxin removal since a lot of waste is removed from the body after filtration in the form of sweat and urine. This water removal must be compensated with extra consumption on a regular basis.
Health Effects: Reduced water in the body can cause severe dehydration and extreme weakness, among other significant problems.
Remedy: One needs to consume at least 1.5 liters of water a day to avoid dehydration. It can increase depending on the circumstances, including weather and physical activity.
Physical activity is associated with the overall fitness of the body and promotes a healthy lifestyle.
Reason: Physical activity reduces the stored fat as well as helps the body sweat. Sweating is one of the significant ways through which the body removes its toxins. Performing physical activity aids this process, as well as increases water consumption, both of which lead to better detoxification.
Health benefits: Many studies show the health benefits of exercise or physical activity. They have shown improvements in cardiovascular health as well as mental health. Exercising as few as 150 minutes per week, which is less than 30 minutes a day, has shown improvements in health conditions.
Reason: Excess salt or sodium in the body causes a multitude of problems, including high blood pressure and water retention.
Effects: Increased water retention due to sodium prevents the excretion of water in the form of urine from the body. This hampers the detoxification process, as urine is a major source of toxin removal.
Remedy: One can opt to consume potassium-rich food like cucumber or banana, which helps reduce salt in the body, thereby improving water excretion.
Reason: Consider sleeping well, as this is the time the body gets its’ rest, and this helps improve the physical and mental functions.
Functions: Studies also show that during sleep, the exchange of cerebrospinal fluid takes place in the body. This also causes a lot of neurotoxins to be removed from the body, which otherwise accumulates during the day.
Health effects: Reduced sleep (less than 7 hours a day) has also shown to be associated with many major diseases, including hypertension and inflammation. More than 8 hours of sleep also cause cardiovascular issues, all-cause mortality, and the development of diabetes.
Reason: High sugar foods are a major cause of obesity, which causes many significant complications, including diabetes, heart problems, and impaired liver and kidney functioning.
Function: Liver and kidney are both very important for the process of detoxification, and hence it is important that their function well.
Remedy: Include antioxidant-rich food in the diet to improve the digestion and body functions. All sorts of spices and herbs are high in anti-oxidants. Berries, nuts, chocolate, fruits, and vegetables are all good sources.
Since this diet is not evidence-backed and it has become very popular, it is possible that many things available in the market related to this diet might not be as healthy as it seems. One should be careful and here are some things to keep in mind before thinking of a detox diet.
Always be careful of the products available in the market and of their claims. Many products are sold under false pretense that they can cure certain diseases or often contain harmful products that are not good for the body. Research about the products beforehand.
Juices that are readily available for detox diets can sometimes be unpasteurized, leading to severe medical conditions in kids, elderly or people with a weak immune system
Some foods also are high in oxalate content, which can increase the risk of kidney problems. Some examples include spinach and beetroot. Consuming juices on a regular basis with these ingredients should be avoided.
People with underlying conditions can face major problems with such a big change in diet. Patients suffering from diabetes can face an imbalance in sugar levels and thus may land up in complications. Consult a doctor before opting for a diet.
Detox diets that heavily restrict food intake can often cause lack of nutrients in the body. A heavy reduction in calorie intake may lead to initial weight reduction but it may come back as soon as a normal diet is resumed and quick weight loss can give rise to additional medical issues.
Consuming laxative products or colon cleansing products, thinking it may help in detoxification, can have adverse effects. These products can often lead to diarrhea which can be severe enough to cause dehydration as well as electrolyte imbalances.
If following a calorie-restricted diet that reduces the intake to less than 800 kcal per day, there is a very good chance that the body might not be able to keep up with the functions. Such a large reduction can often leave one energy-less throughout the day and cause other issues including headaches and irritability.
When one thinks of a detox diet, weight loss is what comes to the mind. However, it is supposed to remove toxins from the body with weight-loss being a byproduct.Presently, there are limited studies on the effect of the detox diet. However, some of the studies have shown promising results in reducing toxins in the body as well as improving body weight, body fat mass, fasting glucose, LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and blood pressure over a period of 3 weeks.
It might sound like a great way to achieve the physical bliss but one should know how to follow it. Consultation with a nutritionist or a doctor is a great way to do it and get the best result.
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