The Last Minute Spring Detox
There's that word again. Detox.
I have mixed feelings toward detoxing. I think there are huge misconceptions about detoxing that can cause a lot more harm then good. And we don't want that just before summer, so let's get some things straight. Let me first preface that I am in not a nutritionist or doctor, this is just a product of my research, experiences and opinions!
What most people think a detox is: a X-day long, strict regimen where either no food is consumed, only fruit & vegetable juices are ingested everyday, or a strict diet of only steamed vegetables and lean lean protein, and maybe a little serving of grains here and there, or just raw fruits and vegetables. Whatever the variety of 'detox', it usually involves strict diets with many food groups eliminated in order to 1). rid the body of excess toxins 2). give the digestive system a break or 3). to lose weight.
That's the issue. Many people go on a detox to lose weight before vacations, summers, events, etc. That's fine, and I totally get the idea. But did you know there's a better way to do that instead of doing a juice cleanse where you feel like you're going to pass out on the daily.
Here's my pitch for proving juice cleanses and low calorie, strict diets wrong for detoxing.
If you go on a 5 day long detox where you're only ingesting fruits and vegetables, often in juice form with no fiber, yeah you'll lose a few pounds the first couple days because of an extreme calorie deficit. It's not a healthy one though. First of all, once most people have finished the detox, their bodies are so hungry, that even when they eat a healthy healthy meal, they gain wait. Why? Because basically your body thinks it's starving, so it will store whatever you feed it so that if you starve it again it will at least have something to use as fuel. Long story short, don't starve yourself on a juice cleanse. And yes, going on a juice cleanse is basically starving yourself. There's a better way to detox your body, by amplifying the detox process that our bodies, specifically our livers, carry out on a daily basis.
There's two phases to the detox process in our bodies, specifically done in the liver. The first stage is to collect all the toxins within our cells and accumulate the sludge in the liver. Basically, the liver processes everything we ingest, toxins and all. Long story short, the liver cells work their magic on toxins and make them less toxic through many chemical reactions (this gives off free radicals which damages the liver over time). To make this process easier for your liver, you have to stop ingesting the foods that contain those toxins! Ha, detox made easy. Those typically include: coffee, alcohol, pesticides, fumes, NSAIDs (tylenol, ibuprofen and other pain killers) and other unpronounceable things.
The second phase is to actually get rid of all this toxic waste. The liver basically makes the formerly fat soluble toxins water soluble, so that they can be excreted through your body. The liver specifically needs sulfur containing amino acids to carry out this process, so it's vital that you ingest those nutrients to make the detox process that you're body undergoes daily easier. You can find sulfur in so many yummy foods. Think eggs, cruciferous vegetables (brussels, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower), garlic, onion, all the stinky stuff. In addition, starvation and fasting (when we're not ingesting fibrous, solid food) depletes specific enzymes and antioxidants that the liver needs to carry out these detox processes.
If you think about it, a juice cleanse isn't helping much with this. I mean, who drinks cabbage juice? Your liver is going to clean up those toxins anyway (the less you have the easier it will be!) but if you're not ingesting these nutrients and fiber (to get it out) in your diet, there's no way for these toxins to be eliminated from your body. So, then they just accumulate more in your body or are reintegrated into your cells. No good.
So what's awesome about the human body (that we don't give our bodies credit for) is that it will carry out these powerful processes regularly. It's doing it right now -- so thank your liver. But, if we overload it with toxins (don't read this on a Sunday morning), from alcohol, pesticides, NSAIDs, and conventional meats and veggies, it won't work as well. We accumulate the toxins in our fat cells (an in our brains and endocrine systems) and they turn into carcinogens and free radicals. That's when we feel sick from brain fog, fatigue, headaches, holding on to water weight, bloated, etc.
The good news is that we can definitely turn this around and make the detox process easier for our bodies. Hint: it doesn't involve spending $300 on juice!
We can supplement the detox process our liver already does. This is the best way to detox the body, get rid of unwanted toxins that make us feel tired, sluggish and puffy, and get things back on track so that toxic waste is properly eliminated from our bodies! Here are my tips to clear up the detox pathway, they're a lil weird:
-Eat more cruciferous vegetables: this will give your liver that sulfur to speed up the chemical reactions that make toxins available to be excreted in phase 2.
-Load up on the citrus: Grapefruit juice in particular slows down phase 1 of the detox process (so that phase 2 can keep up!) so that we aren't overloaded with toxins all at once. Add lemon and grapefruit slices to your water!
-Drink more water: duh. this allows the toxins that become available to be excreted to actually leave your body.
-Eat more fat: If we don't eat fat, our gallbladder's don't excrete the bile that it stores. When we don't have bile, our food isn't properly digested as bile is a necessary fluid in the digestive process. And when we don't excrete bile, it builds up and thickens up in the gallbladder causing disease and the inability to produce it when we finally eat fats.
-Get in extra vitamins: Vitamins B2, B6, B12, folic acid, zinc, copper, magnesium are all cofactors to the detox chemical reactions -- aka they speed it up to get those toxins out.
-Load up on liver loving foods: beets, carrots, onions, eggplants all contain flavonoids which are antioxidants, bitter vegetables are great because they promote production of bile and stimulate liver cleansing (dandelion greens, dandelion tea, mustard greens, chicory) and fiber (great sources are flaxseed, chia seed, avocado, hemp hearts, artichokes to name a few) to assist in the elimination of toxic waste.
-Limit fructose: I'm not for any sugar in particular, but fructose is particularly damaging. Unlike glucose, fructose is metabolized only by your liver. And due to the overdose of fructose the liver receives due to the way we eat these days, the liver gets overloaded and toxins build up. Fructose is stored directly as fat, rather than used as energy like glucose. Many doctors claim fructose to be just as bad for our metabolisms as alcohol. Fructose is found in fruits, honey, agave*. Yep, all that stuff you thought was healthy! *in excess.
-Ingest less toxins!! This just makes the whole process easier because the liver has less toxins to process! Buy organic/pasture raised/grass fed meats and poultry, buy your fresh fruits and vegetables organic (if they are susceptible to lots of pesticides), cut down on coffee (try organic), and limit the alc.
Bottom line: It's more important to continuously detox your body than to go on a detox.
If you think about it, you can be detoxing your body everyday without thinking about it. If you make the right food choices and limit the toxins you put in your body, your liver will be processing those toxins already in your body easily. The liver contributes so much to our bodies, that it really deserves a break from processing all those chemicals we absorb regularly. When we give our liver some love, we will feel vibrant, happy, not starved and energetic the whole way through because we are still nourishing our cells with the good stuff. There really is no need to stop eating and just drink juice to detox, trust me. Eating a ton of yummy vegetables with heart healthy fats sounds a lot better to me than drinking kale juice 5x a day all week!
Hopefully you've learned a few things about detoxing and are ready to implement these tips into your lifestyle. You'll be giving your liver some much needed love and you'll feel better than you'd ever feel after a 3 day juice cleanse, promise.
Have a great week!