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.
What is Detoxification?
Detoxification is the removal of toxic substances from the body. A detoxification program involves a combination of some or all of the following:
- Removing toxic 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 too hard. There are many signs that you may need to detox, including:
- Sensitivity to smells
- Increased allergic reactions
- Skin conditions like acne or eczema
- Frequent constipation or diarrhea
- Feeling hungover when you’re not
- Confusion or brain-fog
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.
Diet is the most important part of a good detox program. You can take all the supplements in the world, but if you’re still eating junk food every day, then you are counteracting all of the cleansing benefits of the detox program. There are two parts of diet changes that are important: removing toxic foods, and adding in foods that help your body detoxify.
Removing Toxic Foods
Toxic foods can include junk food and processed foods high in chemicals, and it can also include foods that are toxic specifically to your body. Sometimes, a full elimination diet is appropriate, where all of the most common allergenic foods, like wheat, dairy, and soy, are removed for a period of time and re-added slowly to find out which foods are causing you trouble. Other times, through food allergy testing, you can determine which foods you should be avoiding and just cut those ones out. The idea is to give your body a rest from things it has to work hard to break down.
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 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.
IV therapy is a great way to detox! B-vitamins and amino acids that directly aid in supporting your liver and proving your body with energy can be delivered directly to your bloodstream. This reduces the work your digestive system and liver have to do. Glutathione is a strong antioxidant that is used directly by your cells, and IV glutathione is a great addition to most detox programs. You can read more about IV Therapy here.
Some people have high levels of heavy metals (no, not Ozzy), like lead or mercury, and need to detoxify. If your naturopathic doctor thinks you have symptoms of heavy metal toxicity, they will order a test to confirm their suspicion before starting a detox program with you.
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