Is detoxification all hype or does it really offer some health benefits? That is a question many people ask and has been debated among the health community ever since these programs whether they be 3 day juice fasts, master cleanses or products designed to cleanse the body became main stream. The truth is that most detox plans are not supported by research and science or they are incomplete, allowing only for partial detoxification which essentially can be a major waste of time, effort and money.
Your Body is a Highly Efficient Machine
The body has a built in detoxification system that is complex involving the kidneys, liver, skin, lymph system and lungs. Your liver is the most important organ when it comes to detoxification and functions in two phases to eliminate waste and toxins from the body, it is also the organ that should be the focus of any "detox" or cleansing program as it has the ability to transform toxins so that they can be eliminated from your body.
Your Liver, a Master at Detoxification
In the first phase the liver takes fat soluble toxins such as medication, alcohol, food additives and pollutants and coverts them via enzymes into water soluble chemicals that can be eliminated. This process involves oxidation which produces free radicals and other harmful compounds which need to be neutralized in the second phase of liver detoxification. This process is fueled by a specific set of nutrients such as B vitamins, folic acid and antioxidants such as Vitamin C and E among others.
All those now water-soluble chemicals and free radicals get sent down the line to become neutralized by the liver in phase 2. This process is made possible with support from nutrients such as amino acids and phytochemicals. Once they have been safely neutralized the body will then eliminate them through feces, urine and sweat.
Slow and Steady Doesn't Always Win
If your liver is sluggish due to an overload of toxins (medications, pesticides, alcohol, food additives) they can build up overtime, causing inflammation and oxidative stress. Toxins which are not eliminated return to the bloodstream and are eventually stored in fatty tissues where they pose less of an immediate threat. In the longer term, however, the slow release of these toxins back into the bloodstream can lead to a number of diseases.
So is it worth it to detox? Yes, and no. Most detox programs do not offer the correct nutritional support for complete liver detoxification. Many detox programs have little to no science or research behind them and although they may include cleansing herbs or foods to support your natural detoxification process they just aren't doing much for you in the long or the short term.
On the other hand, detox programs often eliminate inflammatory foods, help to get over addictions to certain foods or additives and as a pleasant side effect they help kick start weight loss. People associate detox symptoms (headaches, irritability, muscle pain) with the idea that massive amounts of toxins are rapidly being flushed from your body but, these symptoms are usually attributed to a restriction of calories or simply withdrawing from caffeine and sugar. They also report having great energy and less fogginess. There is a powerful mind-body connection tied to detox programs, they will often lift your spirits, make you feel like you're taking measures to quickly improve your health or you may see the scale drop and feel an overall sense of airiness and wellness. You are generally eliminating all "bad" foods so of course you are going to feel good! The problem is that these feelings will quickly dissipate once the cleanse is complete.
Taking the Plunge
We definitely recommend a detox program whether short or long in duration that is properly formulated nutritionally to support the entire process your body is naturally built to do. Otherwise, you are just speeding up the process but, not actually allowing your body to complete it which could be causing more damage than good.
Detox protocols (the right ones) are not about magical supplements or starving yourself. They are about helping people to regain control of their nutrition, their weight and their overall well being by using something that will maximize short term benefits and start the path to the long term ones. They are great for people who want to kick start a weight normalization program, have a general feeling of malaise, those who want to feel lighter and gain more energy, those who have possible food sensitivities or poor bowel habits and especially those who want to start a new healthy lifestyle regimen. Ensure you always talk to someone who has an education in nutrition and the biological process of your body's natural detoxification process to ensure you are getting the best program.