It is that time of the year when we are already looking back at our New Year resolutions, the ones we have kept, the ones we are still intending to keep and the ones we have already forgotten about.
Yet, it seems that ‘Detox’ – and perhaps a little bit of exercise – is the resolution healthy (and less healthy) – people tend to choose and keep.
The information available from naturopaths, nutritionists, health advisers, and medias abound, and quite rightly, in a contradictory fashion.
It seems that some give advice, deeply rooted in scientific knowledge, and other repeating what they have read or heard, like miracle-potion-salesmen of the early XIX century, because let’s face it, trends are money-making.
Again, it is not only health advisers; health food shops too are selling cheap nutritional products claiming to give you a ‘good detox’.
Who can you trust?
Can you really use your common sense when it comes to detoxification?
We are individuals and at such should we not have a personalised detox program, if needs be?
When it comes to Free-radicals, heavy metals, toxins, and other chemicals, it seems that our body can get rid of it all, and somewhat, on its own.
Surely, our body is a sophisticated enough ‘machine’ to do the job, to heal and repair itself, and protect from further ‘poisoning’, and diseases.
As a machine our body is not unbreakable, and it needs our constant help, first by minimising the ingestion of ‘poisons’ or toxins and assisting our body to get rid of it, naturally.
It is true that our body has a very sophisticated system of circulating fluids, to collect and transport harmful compounds to key organs – such as the liver – that in turn detoxify our body by neutralising and promoting their elimination. Our skin and kidneys also play a vital place in the detoxification of the body, as lungs and bowel.
Already, it seems that detoxification is a crucial process for our body, with such major organs involved.
Detoxification is more than a lifestyle choice; it is a natural physiological process to rid the body of unwanted chemicals capable of harming the body, such as food additives, fumes (including traffic fumes, burning oils, etc…), metals, overheated oils, recreational drugs, pesticides, plastics, and chemicals produced by our body’s own metabolism.
Modern environment, stress, excesses (including junk food, fatty food, alcohol, smoking, etc…), our modern lifestyles as a whole, affect our body’s detoxification processes, and at times we need to step away and give our body a much needed break.
Detoxification is therefore, the ‘spring-cleaning’ of our body, to get rid of the accumulated toxins hidden away in the body’s fatty tissues.
But it should be managed carefully to avoid the overwhelming release of toxins.
The body needs and wants to get rid of toxic wastes (so again it is about more about prevention than cure), because it wants to be healthy; however, naturally occurring detoxification symptoms will worsen before improving. Symptoms may include inflammation, joint and muscle pain, and skin rashes. Deep and rapid detoxification is therefore dangerous; it should be a gentle process over a consequent period of time, supervised by a qualified practitioner.
Often people undertake such regime on retreat or spa, without truly realising, and the process may bring the body into shock.
By changing diet and habits, it may be possible to minimise the ingestion of toxins and the slow release of toxic waste, without much harm on the body and principals detoxifying organs.
Firstly, it is important to understand that food is required during a detox period, and since detoxification of the body can never occur in a short space of time, Fasting does not promote effective release of toxins, even though, it make sense that it may discontinue the ingestion of toxins. The body is in constant needs of antioxidants to fight Free-Radicals at the cellular level (cell structure and cell enzymes are at once at increased risk from free radical damage), repair and protect the body – Breathing on its own creates Free-Radicals, and cells and detoxifying organs may not have the necessary tools to rid the body of toxins.
Second, The true process of detoxifying begins within the living cells; therefore, it is important to look at that level. Each cell of the body has to resist the uptake of toxins, in the case of intoxication has to detoxify and dispose of those toxins. It comes down to the liver and kidneys to excrete those toxins, and envisaging that they are not heavily burdened, then the excretion of toxins can be maintained.
Let’s take a closer look at organs and their role in day-to-day detoxification.
The lymphatic system is a secondary circulating system running throughout our body (working alongside the cardiovascular system) fighting infection and keeping our body fluids in balance, controlling the amount of blood in our body, helping to transport fat around the body and destroying old and damaged cells, including red blood cells.
Unlike the cardiovascular system the lymphatic system does not have a pump, such as the heart, therefore, the lymphatic fluids circulate with the contraction of the muscles in our body, with the spleen acting as a filter – filtering impurities from our blood.
Operating as a chemical factory, the liver is one of our most important organs, breaking down substances so the body can excrete them, including cholesterol.
(Watch out for our upcoming article dedicated to Liver functions, and how to look after it).
Kidneys are the last line of defence for detoxification and elimination, and are working extremely hard to process and excrete a vast amount of chemicals to balance the fluids of the blood, and therefore cells. Sodium and Potassium create an osmotic exchange between blood and the cell, therefore, blood balance is vital. It is the role of the kidneys to maintain homeostasis, despite the food we eat – especially, that our modern diet is often overloaded with sodium.
Skin and Lungs
As a result of our modern diet, when both of our detoxifying organs – the liver and kidneys – are struggling, water soluble toxins may be excreted from the body by alternative channel: perspiration and respiration.
In conclusion, Detoxification of the body is very important, and it may be necessary to undergo a supervised ‘Detox’ period to completely and efficiently rid the body of toxins.
In order to remove these toxins they need to be altered chemically. Enzymes are essential to the chemical alteration; however, they require the presence of many nutrients. Therefore, fasting should never be an option.
When considering that chronic illness may be the result of intoxication (through an inadequate diet) or detoxification mechanisms failure, it seems natural to want to promote natural detoxifying of the body, and undergo detox phases.
In a few words, a cell that is toxic (acidic) does three things:
Furthermore, the build-up of toxins in the body reduces cell oxygenation and toxins may also damage DNA of the cell.
To understand detoxification it is vital to understand how the detoxification of the body works. As explained, detoxification is more than getting the body, and essentially body cells, rid of toxins, it means for the body to convert the toxins into something else to excrete them. This process requires two steps:
Both steps require specific enzymes, and those enzymes needs specific nutrients (such as Iron, Magnesium, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, Selenium, Caratenoids* (especially, Beta-Carotene, Alpha-Carotene, Lutein and Lycopene), Cysteine and Methionine (Sulphur amino acids)*, Choline (see coming article), Glycine (one of the amino acids), Folic Acid, Vitamins B6 and B12, Polyunsaturated fatty acids (Omegas), Vitamins B1, B2, B3 and C. Supplementing may be necessary for some people:) that are available only through ‘good nutrition’; therefore, it is vital to implement them in the diet, while avoiding further avoidable intoxication. Further intoxication while detoxifying the body will be counterproductive.
Does it mean that a healthy diet may be enough to assist detoxification?
The answer is yes.
As long as salt and sugar intake are reduced to a minimum (and may be excluded from the diet during a ‘detox’ period, as of all wheat and dairy products), and saturated fat (from red meat) intake are reduced while keeping an acceptable ratio (no more than 20% of the total calorie intake) and balance between Omega-3s and Omega-6s, and that Proteins intake are diversified (many cereals such as quinoa contain all of the essential amino acids, this can be also obtained by a combination of rice and beans/lentils).
Even though, it does not sound very restrictive, it may be impossible to follow this diet regularly. Therefore, undergoing a detoxification period under the supervision of a nutritional practitioner is a necessity.
A healthy diet should also include, in order to promote natural Detoxification, fibre and food categorised as ‘Superfoods’ (See article:‘Superfoods: The truth’) or nutrient-dense foods: antioxidant-rich and Chlorophyll-rich foods (cereal grasses, spirulina…) and foods containing pectin (apples, sunflower seeds…), but also kale, collards green, broccoli (and all other vegetables from the brassica family), freshly chopped coriander, buckwheat, miso, seaweeds, mung beans…
Yet, a healthy diet may not necessarily supply enough nutrients needed for a complete ‘Detox’, and supplementing may be a practical option. Nutrients are listed above. It is important to remind you that Iron, in the version found in tablets, counteract the action of Vitamin E; therefore, Iron should only be supplemented in the event of a deficiency, and such supplement should be taken at least 2 hours apart from Vitamin E supplement.
A ‘Detox’ program will be established according to the individual needs and his ability to handle the treatment, written over a long period of time including gentle to more powerful techniques.
It is important to take into consideration that the rate of release of toxins should correspond the rate of elimination, and that detoxification often results in symptoms worsening before improving. Unsupervised deep detoxification can be extremely dangerous.
A program should follow the following steps:
1 – Strengthening the digestion system
The Bowel is the main channel to evacuate toxins from the body. A poor digestion and food not chew thoroughly promotes stagnation and prevent the body to excrete toxin waste. As a result, food will ferment and bacteria will proliferate, intoxicating the liver and resulting in liver stagnation. Eliminating foods such as Wheat and Dairy products during a ‘Detox’ may work against the stagnating effect.
2 – Improve Elimination trough the skin
Brushing (may be done daily, yet, to effectively promote detoxification (by stimulating the flow of lymph under the skin and aiding the skin to excrete toxins), it has to be done the right way, starting by extremities first then going towards the heart, and it must start by the left foot then working up (always brushing upward) the leg, then rigth side, then from the hips to the sternum. Then following to the left hand up to the shoulder. Same process with the right hand. Then shoulder to the chest.), steam bath and Epsom salt baths can promote natural elimination of substances through the skin.
3 – Improve Liver function
Once all of the elimination channels have improved, the program can include a gentle detoxification of the liver.
4 – Improve Detoxification at the cellular level
Finally, the cells, supported by fully working detoxifying organs and a ‘clean’ lymphatic system, can eliminate toxic waste with the use of key minerals, correctly balanced with other nutrients.
During a program, lifestyle changes are vital; eating exclusively Organic food to avoid the further ingestion of pollutants, pesticides, insecticides and other harmful chemical.
But changes are more than the food you eat:
You may consider supplementing the following food during a program for their assistance in detoxifying the body:
. Juices: Raw vegetable juices, packed with enzymes, are the ideal way to bring precious nutrients into the body, and probably the most efficient way to help the body detoxify. They also stimulate bowel, liver and kidneys function, promoting better elimination of toxic waste from the body. Cucumber, Celery and Cabbage are well known to reduce acidity from the build up of toxic waste in the body.
Already known for its wide range of pharmacological activity such as anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, Aloe Vera also contains cleansing saponins (glycosides (sugar based molecules) with a distinctive foaming characteristic – found in many plants – known to increase and accelerate the body’s ability to absorb calcium and silicon, thus assisting in digestion) and antioxidants (known to cleanse and protect the bowel). Other compounds found in Aloe Vera are also known to support wound repairing properties and the cells in the digestive track to renew themselves.
. Linseeds/Flaxseeds tea (1tbsp for 1 litre of water. Bring to boil. Let to rest overnight. Bring to boil again. Let to cool. Drink). Also Psyllium Husks, acting like fibres, add mass to stools, aid mobility of the gut and lift impacted matter from the bowel wall. Dry linseed/flaxseeds may have similar properties by bonding to toxins and promoting the excretion out of the body.
. Milk Thistle. Silymarin, the active constituent of milk thistle, helps liver cells to regenerate, and protect them from toxins. It also increases function of the antioxidant enzyme glutathione; therefore, destroying Free-Radicals.
. Calcium and Magnesium are vital minerals. Magnesium makes sure that the osmosis process between Sodium and Potassium is maintained at all times, and is a powerful detoxifier, when balanced with Calcium.
. Caster Oil Packs, consisting to place a cloth with caster oil on the liver side, and applying pressure usually with a warming bottle. It encourages lymphatic circulation; therefore, elimination of toxic waste.
A tasty and simple liver ‘detox’ juice:
Mix together Apple, Ginger, Collard Greens, Fresh Parsley, Fresh Coriander, Lemon juice.
To preserve ion present in the vegetables, the use of a conventional juicer should be abandoned. Replace your juicer, or invest in a juicer that crush the vegetable instead of spinning, as the speed heat and break the molecules, killing all nutrients beneficial properties. Therefore, your juice is dead. It is also possible to use a blender and add a little water to aid the process.
In conclusion, answering to questions at the top of the article:
Who can you trust?
It is a question of feelings. It has to feel right. You have to feel in control and you have to be able to approach your practitioner without holding back. Always, say how you feel, and if there is something wrong always bring it at the earliest convenience. You should not feel pressurised, and evacuate all stress the best you can.
The practitioner should be certified and do not hesitate to ask for credentials. If needs be look online in forum websites for feedback.
Can you really use your common sense when it comes to detoxification?
The answer is simple. After reading this article, it is clear that ‘Detox’ is a complex and long process, that needs to be done right, as it can be very dangerous with huge consequences on the body. Therefore, it has to be supervised by a qualified practitioner.
We are individuals and at such should we should have a personalised detox program, if needs be?
The answer is yes. A program may be generalised but it has to be applied to your body and with a constant look on how it reacts to the program.
* Glucuronic acid (Glucuronides), derived from glucose, is very important in detoxification. Can be found in Grapes, Lettuce, and three times as much in Broccoli and Apples. When acting as a ligand, it is attached to thyroid hormones and many drugs, chemicals, environmental pollutants, alcohols (Phenols generally, also present in sore throat lozenges and mouthwash) and carboxylic acids (from gases: methane, propane, butane and ethanol. Also found in Aspirin, Tartaric acid and citric acid).
- Carotenoids, fat soluble pigments, found in Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Spinach, Kale, Collard Greens, Papaya, Peppers and Tomatoes, are extremely important for their role as antioxidants, fighting Free-Radicals while the body is detoxifying.
- Glutathione, also acting as an antioxidant, found in Asparagus, Avocados and Walnuts, and only to give a very few, help detoxifying the body from Heavy Metals (such as lead), Arsenic, Aflatoxins (moulds growing on peanuts), Methylmercury, polycyclic hydrocarbons (potent atmospheric pollutants), acetaminophen (present in anti-inflammatory medicines), heavy metals such as lead, peroxides (present in sanitising and antiseptic chemicals)…
Glutathione to be efficient requires the presence of Vitamin C, and Bioflavonoids such as Quercetin (maintains the tissue levels of Glutathione, and also act as an anti-inflammatory (including inflammation of the Prostate gland) and antihistaminic), a plant pigment also found in Onions, Citrus Fruits, Apples, Parsley, Sage, Berries, Tea and Red Wine.1
- Cysteine and Methionine, Sulphur amino Acids, when acting as ligands help detoxifying the body from Paracetamol, some alcohols, and the female hormone Oestradiol. Both are found in Poultry, Pork, Eggs, Cheeses (such as Ricotta and Cottage Cheese), Oats, Yogurt, Broccoli, Wheat Germ, Red Peppers, Onions, Garlic, Brussels sprouts.3
For more and much deeper information on Detoxification please visit:
1. University of Maryland Medical Center
2. Nutrigold, Detoxification Issue 1.
3. The Chemistry of Amino Acids, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, University of Arizona.
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Registered Naturopath, Nutritional Therapist, Iridologist, Lecturer, NLP practitioner and Personal Performance Coach.