How to “detox” your body without the juice cleanse
With the holidays coming to an end, that post-holiday feeling of fullness can be an uncomfortable one. These feelings often lead to thoughts of wanting to restrict foods or commit to a tendy diet like a detox. The term detox can mean something different to a variety of people and has often been used as a buzzword in the health and nutrition industry. Chances are you have heard the term detox before or know someone who claims they are absolutely essential to a healthier life. Unfortunately, the term detox has been hijacked by companies and influencers essentially turning it into more of a selling tactic rather than an actual health betterment exercise. Those who promote detoxes will claim you must drink certain juices or have particular smoothies to begin the detoxification process for your body. While juices and smoothies can be a great addition to your diet, if done correctly, they are not necessary to be used as meal replacers to detox your body.
A detox diet claims to reset organ function, stimulate liver activity, rid the body of toxins, and assist in weight loss. As of recent, there is little to no evidence that suggests detox diets actually do this. Processes our bodies do naturally such as normal liver and kidney functions, using the bathroom, and sweating all count as detox procedures our bodies do on a daily basis.
Our livers and kidneys are special organs that work hard to keep our body free from toxins. They are our natural filters that keep our body clean on a daily basis. While the liver holds many roles, all important to a healthy dietary system, its main function is to act as a detoxifier. Everything that we eat, drink, and consume is processed through the liver. That includes everything from broccoli to chicken wings to alcohol and even medicines. Once the substance is broken down in the stomach and enters our blood stream, it must go through the liver for filtration. Here the liver has the essential job of sorting the good stuff from the bad stuff. The liver has the double function of expelling toxins from our bodies via urine and stool while also distributing important vitamins and nutrients to our other organs to promote their normal functions. This constant expulsion and distribution of good and bad substances is what keeps our bodies running optimally.
In addition, the liver also creates bile. Bile helps with digestion and absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins. Our body produces waste products such as bilirubin. Bilirubin is an orange-yellow substance created after the break down of red blood cells. Too much bilirubin is toxic to us and indicates liver disease. Bile is what keeps our bilirubin levels in check and properly balanced.
Another important function of our liver is that it helps filter our blood. This is especially important for when we consume alcohol. An enzyme in our liver breaks down the alcohol rapidly into water and carbon dioxide to be excreted. This is why it is vital to keep our liver healthy to ensure the excretion of these products.
Our second detox organs are the kidneys. Our kidneys help keep our bodies in balance. Our bodies play a constant game of balancing what we need vs what we do not need. For example, our kidneys filter out our electrolyte. Electrolytes are broken down minerals dissolved in our body fluids. Examples of electrolytes are potassium and sodium. If we have too much sodium or potassium within our system, it is our kidneys job to detect too high levels of certain minerals and vitamins and excrete them from our bodies. This is why it is essential to stay hydrated throughout the day as well, especially if you are living a more active lifestyle. A person can become dehydrated way faster than you think, so be sure to consume adequate fluid that fits your needs! Also proper hydration allows for proper waste disposal, in other words, going to the bathroom. Our bodies cannot excrete properly if we do not use the bathroom regularly!
There are ways to help support this natural detox system and help our organs perform optimally day in and day out. Here are five ways to ensure your doing your best to help our organs detox:
Drink water! Our bodies cannot excrete and eliminate toxins or excess nutrients if we do not. Water also helps with keeping our bowels regular and moving things along when paired with fiber. Make sure to hit your target water goal by using the tracker on the Tone & Sculpt app!
Consume fiber to help keep bowels regular. Fiber is found in any fruit, vegetable and whole grain. Do not skip out on fruits and vegetables!
Limit alcohol. Our liver is forced to work extra hard when we consume alcohol. Enjoy in moderation but over indulging will hinder and possibly hurt our liver. Let's keep our liver happy so it can keep us happy!
Consume prebiotics to keep your gut healthy and regular. Our intestinal cells have a system that filters and excretes toxins from our organs naturally. Prebiotics feed the good bacteria in our digestive system. If the bad bacteria take over, our immune system and detox system weakens. Great natural sources of prebiotics include onions, garlic, bananas and oats!
Increase your consumption of antioxidant rich foods by eating five to nine servings of vegetables.
A big reason for this fifth suggestion is that many studies have shown how antioxidants aide in the detoxification our organs do. Earlier the functions of the liver were discussed; here is how these functions work with the help of antioxidants. Our liver uses different enzymes to function such as converting fat-soluble substances to water-soluble substances so that they are excreted from our body and excess does not build up. This process requires carotenoids, Vitamin C and E as well as sulphur-based nutrients. All of these nutrients originate naturally from fruits and vegetables.
Antioxidants also protect our cells from damage. An antioxidant that aides in liver detox is glutathione. Glutathione contains three amino acids; cysteine, glycine and glutamine. The sulfur chemical in glutathione allows it to attach to harmful chemicals in the body and excrete them. Glutathione also strengthens our immune system which is why it is important to include it in your diet. Eat more sulphur containing foods such as broccoli, brussels sprouts and cauliflower. There are many other nutrients with antioxidant activity. Here are a few key ones to continue to include in your diet.
-Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an electron donor that helps stabilize free radicals in your body. Free radicals can damage our DNA. Vitamin C helps eliminate them from our body. Some sources of vitamin C include broccoli, strawberries and oranges.
-Vitamin E: Vitamin E stops the production of reactive oxygen species or ROS. ROS is an oxygen molecule that can damage our DNA much like free radicals. A build up of ROS can kill off our cells. Sources of Vitamin E can be found in things like avocado, swiss chard and sunflower seeds.
-Carotenoids: Carotenoids include many of the orange, yellow or red vegetables. They also assist in protection from ROS. Beta carotene and lycopene are considered carotenoids. Sources include carrots, peppers and squash.
-Phenolic Compounds: Found mainly in plant foods. It is unclear as of now how phenolic compounds protect us from chronic diseases but research has shown that an increased intake of plant based foods decrease chances of chronic diseases. These compounds are typically found in apples, red wine and tea, phenolic compounds activate enzymes and protect against ROS.
It is important to have a variety of antioxidants in your diet and more specifically have them naturally sourced from whole foods. Many may be surprised at the fact that supplementing with antioxidants is not recommended. In fact, very high doses of antioxidant supplementation can be harmful. Just as we explained before, everything is a constant balancing act, too much or too little of something can ultimately prove to be counterproductive as opposed to helpful. This is why experts suggest mainly consuming antioxidants from whole foods and not very concentrated supplements. For example, consuming excess beta carotene has been shown to increase chances of lung cancer in smokers. A high dose of vitamin E has been found to increase the risk of prostate cancer. Furthermore, the use of antioxidant supplements has been linked to a greater risk of tumor growth. Some examples of antioxidants include beta carotene, lutein, lycopene or selenium. These are some to avoid supplementation on.
To counter these possible harmful effects, whole foods offer compounds that interact with each other naturally. For example, when you take a supplement, say Vitamin C, you are only receiving a concentrated dose of Vitamin C. Now if you were to eat a whole food instead, like a serving of blueberries, you are receiving not only a helping of Vitamin C but also polyphenols. A supplement will only contain Vitamin C and not produce the same benefits when paired with polyphenols. When paired together, optimal absorption happens and stronger antioxidant activity. This is why the combination of vitamin C and polyphenols are beneficial. Antioxidant supplements may also interact with medications. For example, Vitamin E supplements can interact with blood thinners and cause a person to bleed more.
This may seem contradictory to what we have said in the past, as we have learned that antioxidants are beneficial, but taking antioxidant supplements in high concentrated dosages is not recommended. While we do want to decrease the amount of ROS in our body, we do not want to completely eliminate it. Some studies have actually shown that there are benefits to having some ROS remain in our systems, however the exact amount of acceptable ROS is still unclear.
Taking supplements changes the chemical compound of the antioxidant as well. For example, there are eight known chemical forms of vitamin E present in whole foods. A Vitamin E supplement will typically only include one of these forms. Due to the continued research antioxidant supplementation constantly needs, it is not recommended to start an antioxidant supplement without doctor approval or recommendation.
In conclusion, try incorporating a fruit or vegetable with every meal and snack. Make your plate colorful. Drink tea for phenolic compounds. Use spices in your meal, many spices contain nutrition properties, like turmeric for joint health. These small additions to your day can increase antioxidant activity and help maintain appropriate levels of ROS. ROS can accumulate from every day exposure of pollutants such as air pollution. Therefore it is important to ensure we are helping our bodies combat this everyday. By aiding our bodies in its natural processes and encouraging natural dietary functions, we are effectively “detox” dieting. This helps “reset” our cells naturally, as many of those fad diets claim to do for you. Instead of eliminating foods and turning to liquid calories; try adding foods in your diet such as these antioxidant options. Detox diets advertised on Instagram are not needed to perform a reset, as our body has its own highly efficient detoxification system. The best thing we can do day in and day out is introduce a sustainable balance of whole foods, staying hydrated and getting active!