The new year is often associated with new beginnings and new intentions. Everyone seems to be looking to hit the “reset” button by ditching the holiday treats and focusing on a new, healthier beginning. For some, this means working towards creating healthier habits, whereas for others it means eliminating certain foods or drinking certain (often green) drinks for a set amount of time, all in the name of “detoxing.”
Photo: Robert Gourley flickr cc
What is Detoxing?
The term detoxing refers to ridding the body of any toxic or unhealthy substances. When it comes to defining what that looks like, there is not one clear way to detox. There are many different interpretations – from strictly juice to strictly soup to strictly vegetables. Regardless of what detox approach you choose, the current research does not show any of them to be effective in improving health, nor in their removal of toxins from the body.
Does your body need to be detoxed?
The human body is extremely efficient and boasts it’s own top of the line defense system against toxins and invading pathogens – it’s very own immune system and organs!1
The immune system includes passive components (always working) and active components (working when needed). Passive immunity includes barriers and defense mechanisms set up to prevent toxins from getting into the body,2 this includes:
- Lymph nodes2
- Mucus lining in our respiratory, GI and urinary tracts1, 2
- Healthy gut bacteria2
Active immunity is our immune system’s response to a specific attack through both the removal of pathogens and the prevention of pathogen absorption.2
As well as our immune systems, the liver and kidney also work to prevent toxins from entering our systems. Nearly everything we take in (food, medicine, etc.) passes through the liver before moving into our bloodstream. The liver modifies or removes substances as needed to keep our bodies healthy. The kidneys work to filter all of the blood in our bodies and remove things that do not serve us – such as the dreaded toxins touted by many detox companies as being “trapped” in our system. Together, these two organs ensure that we have a healthy and balanced circulatory system.1
The average healthy person can count on their body to detox itself, particularly if it has been given the support of a healthy diet. There is no need to deprive yourself and/or pay large amounts of money to rid your system of “toxic substances.” It is also important to point out that when you are detoxing, weight loss may come as a result of restricting calories below your baseline caloric intake. If your goal is long-term weight loss, it is important to remember that any changes that you make to lose weight, need to be maintained over the long term. Green juice for every meal and snack? No thanks!
If you’re thinking about detoxing, think about approaching it from a different angle. Rather than depriving your body, give it the nutrients needed to support proper immune system and organ function to best protect itself. This means consuming whole, unprocessed foods that provide high amounts of beneficial substances like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals and fibre. Consistency is key, as the regular consumption of nutrient-rich foods will not compromise your body’s natural ability to detox. Be kind to your body and feed it well so it can better serve you!
1Harvard Medical School. The dubious practice of detox. Harvard Women’s Health Watch 2008. 15(9), 1 – 3.
2Chaplin DD. Overview of the immune response. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2010; 125 (2 Suppl 2): S3 – S23.