Should you "detox"?
Updated: Jan 5
Yes, it's that time of the year when everywhere you look there are posts and articles about detoxing. Surely our livers know what to do, right? Whilst genetically our bodies haven't changed that much over 100,000s of years, our diets and lifestyles have changed dramatically and we're exposed to more toxins than ever before.
Whilst I don't advocate extreme detoxing or juicing programmes, (especially for people with fatigue as these protocols can be tough on the body), there are many simple dietary and lifestyle changes we can make to support our natural bodily processes.
FIRST, WHAT IS DETOXIFICATION?
Detoxification involves a number of processes that are taking place in our bodies all of the time to remove toxins safely. These processes are impacted by what we eat and drink, how we live and what we're exposed to. Whilst the liver usually takes the spotlight, the skin (perspiration), lymphatic system (excretion of waste materials), kidneys and digestive system (excretion of urine and faeces) also play an important role.
WHAT IS A TOXIN?
Toxins are substances that may damage health, especially in large quantities and/or if the body cannot process and eliminate them safely. They can be found in food or drink such as alcohol, trans fats, food additives and mercury in some fish. In our environment, it's thought we're exposed to 100s of toxins every day including in toiletries, perfume & make-up, non-stick coatings, plastics, cleaning products, paint, pesticides, chemicals used in furniture production and heavy metals.
Medications and hormones also need to be excreted safely from the body, and bacteria, parasites and mould which may overgrow in the gut produce toxic metabolites. So you can see modern life with its potential toxins may be increasing the workload for our livers.
DO YOU HAVE A SLUGGISH LIVER?
Fatigue, insomnia, sleep problems
Thyroid dysfunction - 60% of inactive hormone T4 is converted to active T3 hormone in the liver (more about thyroid function here)
Poor digestion - constipation, indigestion, bloating
Weight gain, food cravings
Headaches, brain fog
Anxiety & depression
Hormonal imbalances such as PMS & PCOS
HOW TO LOVE YOUR LIVER (& OTHER DETOX ORGANS!)
Stage 1: What to minimise:
Minimise or eliminate alcohol - it is a toxin after all
Reduce sugar and refined carbs
Only take over-the-counter medicines when needed (but don't change prescribed medications)
Stage 2: What to increase:
Water - it's the most abundant nutrient in the body and helps our organs eliminate waste and toxins. Aim for 1.5-2L per day, including herbal teas.
Plenty of vegetables for fibre, phytonutrients and natural antioxidants to support liver function - see the image below
Up your intake of liver-loving brassicas - brocolli, brussels, kale, cauliflower
Include sulphur-containing foods such as eggs, onions and garlic
Avoiding eating after 7pm to let you body do its work
Consider dry body brushing before a bath or shower - start at the feet and brush upwards towards the heart, and from the wrists to the shoulders. This helps get the lymph moving around your body so it can be eliminated.
Try magnesium baths (Epsom salts) - ideally 20 minutes in a hot bath to promote sweating for toxin release, and another 20 minutes to absorb the lovely magnesium
Prioritise sleep - your body is still working hard whilst you slumber
Investigate more natural personal care and cleaning products to minimise toxic load
This is a lovely image from Dr Jockers showing how many nutrients are needed for liver detox pathways:
People with diagnosed medical conditions, nutrients deficiencies and/or genetic factors which may impact detoxification capabilities may need more targeted help.
If you're taking prescription medication(s), please speak to your GP or a qualified practitioner before taking any supplements or herbal remedies as they may affect liver function and/or interact with your medication(s).
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The content on this webpage is not intended to constitute or be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.