It seems everywhere you look in the media these days there is talk about the newest Detox program.
These programs are popular this time of year as people try to recover from the excesses of the holidays, lighten up their eating habits, and “get back on track.” They instruct you on what you should be eating, when you need to eat it, and how much. By definition, detox diets last a short period of time and may involve periods of fasting, drinking only fluids, eliminating certain foods, adding herbal supplements, or even cleansing your colon. All of these measures are supposed to help flush dangerous toxins from your body and "restore health. 1
Sometimes a short detox (also called a cleanse) can be helpful. But a detox alone is not a permanent fix. Your organs need constant care to keep functioning properly.
Let's take a very brief look at how the body eliminates toxins, what happens in the body during a detox, and some foods that we should all be eating to help us cleanse naturally!
Detoxification, or cleansing, is a "process that requires the circulation of detoxifying liquids through the body, so that the organs which are responsible for these functions (like the liver, kidneys, lungs and skin) can fulfill their tasks more easily, without being overloaded."2
Is a Detox right for you?
In other words, the body is uniquely adapted to rid itself of toxins on its own. If you are eating foods and living a lifestyle that naturally support this cleansing process, a detox is not necessary. But this is not easy to do.
We live in a world where we are constantly exposed to chemicals in the environment (and in our food), and tempted by processed foods that tax the body's ability to eliminate toxins naturally.
The Body Will Detoxify Naturally
The body is a remarkable organism. Despite being constantly bombarded by these toxins and stressors everyday, it is able to survive because it has its own means of cleansing itself.
There are several organs of the body that help it rid itself of toxins including the kidneys, colon, and even the skin.
But one of the main organs of detox is the liver.
The liver has many important jobs. You may already know that it helps with digestion by filtering the blood from the stomach and intestines. It also produces bile that breaks down fats. But did you know it helps to make proteins used in blood clotting; regulates the glucose levels in our blood 3; manufactures cholesterol that is used by the brain and to make hormones 4; and keeps us healthy by filtering bacteria from the blood? The list goes on and on.
With all the amazing things the liver does, one of its most important jobs is to detoxify the body. It does this in two steps. The first step uses enzymes and oxygen to make toxins more water soluble, thus easier for the body to eliminate. The second step processes these toxins further so they can be removed from the body through bile or urine. 5
It's important that both of these steps function properly for detoxification to occur. If one isn’t working correctly, toxins can recirculate throughout the blood or build up in bodily tissues causing further damage.
One way to ensure that these pathways function correctly, is to provide the liver with the proper nutrients it needs through a healthy diet.
So why bother with a Detox?
If the body can detox itself why would we to go through a cleanse at all?
The function of the cleanse/detox is to take the pressure off the organs of detox, especially the liver. A good cleanse will include foods that are proven to assist the liver and avoid foods that make it work overtime.
Some foods that help the liver do its job are:
- Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, collard greens
- Bitter greens like parsley, arugula, dandelion leaves, kale
- Green tea
- Citrus fruit (especially lemons! Grapefruit is good too.)
- Foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, like salmon, sardines, and chia seeds. Omega 3s are healthy fats and should be added to your diet whenever possible.
Foods that harm your liver and make it work harder:
- Foods high in added sugar and unhealthy fats. This includes fast foods, and most processed foods. Fried foods such as French fries are cooked in unhealthy fats and high in salt, another liver offender.
- Alcohol: Too much alcohol can lead to liver disease.
- Salty foods: This includes most processed foods, fast foods, deli meats, bacon, and sausages.
- Artificial Sweeteners: Aspartame, Splenda, NutraSweet, and Equal can all create toxic reactions in the body. 6
- High Fructose Corn Syrup: According to a recent research from Duke University Medical Center published in the Journal of Hepatology in 2008, high fructose corn syrup may be linked to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. 7
The purpose of a detox/cleanse should be to give your body and your liver a little rest. By allowing your detoxifying organs to rest, they will be better able to do all their jobs.
In Summary: To detox or Not to Detox
Weight loss should not be the main goal of a detox, although it is usually a happy consequence. It is not a quick fix for everything that ails your body. Keep this in mind if you are planning on doing a detox this season.
Once your detox is over, you are not done. You’ve just begun to help your organs function their best. Now you need to continue so that they stay in prime condition by eating whole healthy foods.
If you do this, your body will continue to absorb nutrients from your food more efficiently giving you more energy and keeping you healthier. With better nutrition, your skin will take on a rosier glow, your hair will be shinier, and you may even have a more positive outlook on the world.
It doesn’t happen overnight. But it will. Just trust that it will in time.
Have you done a detox? Did you find it helpful? Please share your experience!
Yours in Health,
PS. If you would like to start a program to assist your liver and other organs, but not ready for a restrictive detox, you might like to try my Eating for Your Best Self program. This self-directed 21 day program is designed to have you looking and feeling your absolute best without feeling hungry or deprived. Look here for more details or email me to find more about how I might help you accomplish your goals.
3 RECIPES FOR A HAPPY LIVER
Salmon in Parchment
This recipe can also be made with halibut or any other fish, but salmon gives this dish a wonderful flavor and color. It is a fail proof recipe good enough for company. I have made it many times and it always comes out perfectly.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
4 (12- x 18-inch) sheets parchment paper
4 (6-ounce) halibut fillets
1/4 cup commercial pesto (note: contains cheese, if eliminating dairy, see Traditional Pesto or Carrot Top Pesto recipes. Note: If you are in a hurry, you can substitute chopped basil with garlic anda bit of olive oil in place of the pesto, but the pesto really adds a great flavor. I have even used a sprinkle of dry basil!)
1 cup shredded carrots (2 medium)
1 cup shredded zucchini (1 small)
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
4 teaspoons olive oil
4 teaspoons dry white wine
- Preheat oven to 450°F. Cut parchment into 18-inch long pieces and fold in half.
- Unfold parchment paper, and coat lightly with cooking spray, leaving a 2-inch border ungreased at edge.
- Place fillet on one side so that it touches the fold, but not the ungreased border. Spread 1 tablespoon pesto over fillet; top with 1/4 cup carrot and 1/4 cup zucchini. Sprinkle with one-fourth of salt and pepper. Drizzle fillet with 1 teaspoon oil and 1 teaspoon wine.
- Fold paper; crimp edges with narrow folds to seal. Repeat with the remaining parchment paper, fish, and vegetables.
- Place packets on baking sheets. Bake at 450° for 15 minutes or until puffy and lightly browned.
- To serve, open packets and transfer the fillets with their vegetable topping to plates; pour juices over top. Or serve right in packets; carefully transfer to plates and pierce each to allow steam to escape.
Perfect Detox Salad
This is a delicious salad that is perfect for lighting up your diet for spring! Mint, beets, and cucumber are particularly good foods for supporting liver function. Liver loving foods also include Omega3-rich wild salmon and alkalizing greens. Avocado and olive oil add additional heart healthy fats. You can also use chicken or chickpeas for your added protein, making this a complete meal.
1 (8-12 oz.) piece wild salmon, 2 small or 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, or 1∕2 cup cooked chickpeas
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 carrot, grated
1∕2 cucumber, finely chopped
1 beet, grated
2 cups bean sprouts, washed
1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
Juice of 1∕2 grapefruit
Sea salt, to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 avocado, halved and sliced
- Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add salmon or chicken, and cook for 5 minutes (salmon) and 10 minutes (chicken.) Turn and continue to cook until the salmon is flaky but still pink in the center or chicken juices run clear.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix carrot, cucumber and beet. Add bean sprouts and mint. Set aside.
- In a jar with a lid, mix grapefruit juice, salt and oil. Secure the lid and shake vigorously. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss.
- To serve, divide vegetable mixture between 2 plates. Divide chicken or cut salmon in half and place 1 piece atop each plate. (Alternatively, add the chilled or gently warmed chickpeas to the vegetable mixture.)
- Top each plate with half of the avocado.
A Detoxifying Beet Salad for Spring
This simple recipe by MindBodyGreen provides all the benefits of liver cleansing beets with a satisfying crunch! Additionally, it has cucumbers and lemon juice.